Guns Don’t Kill People, Statistics Do

PrintThe primary reason given for gun ownership is protection. That is one valid potential use for a gun. But that is not the only way that a gun can be used. Here are common uses for a gun:

  1. Protection
  2. Intentional self-harm
  3. Accidental self-harm
  4. Intentional other-harm
  5. Accidental other-harm

On this list, protection is statistically the least likely. Uses 2-5 are much more common than is protection. So, when a gun is introduced into a home, it is significantly more likely to be used for unintended reasons than for the intended reason.

That would be true in a home of one person. Now let’s multiply the above list by the number of people who have proximity to that gun:

  1. Self
  2. Family Members
  3. Visitors to the home
  4. Thieves

None of us can predict future circumstances or know of future mental states. None of us can predict the potential for mental illness (either permanent or temporary) either in ourself or in those with proximity to the gun.

Gun x Unintended Uses x Others x Unknown Future = Danger

Take the statistically more likely uses for the gun (2-5) and multiply that by the number of people proximity to that gun, and multiply that again by the unknown future mental state of any of those with proximity, and you begin to understand why a gun in the home is significantly more likely to be used in a manner that is not intended.

Homes with a gun are more dangerous than homes without a gun.

The Misinformation Age

boat-storm2This age may not be as good for humanity as is commonly assumed. We are in grave danger of being harmed by too much information.

Information, on its own, is neither good nor bad. Rather it is either valid or invalid.

Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. In communication theory, this indicates the amount of valid information (the signal) to the amount of invalid information (the noise).

Signal can’t be analyzed apart from noise. An increase in good signal does not automatically mean we are better informed; if there has been an even greater increase in bad noise, we are less informed.

The current presidential campaign is instructive. Turn on any news channel; by the end of the program, you will be left with more questions than answers. This is due to being given more noise than signal. And each day is increasing the noise, and thereby decreasing the signal.

Brandolini’s Law: The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it

News and journalism should increase signal & decrease noise. There can be no doubt news is now increasing noise. In fact, most journalism now revels in noise, because noise can create controversy, and controversy can increase viewers and readers.

It may be that humanity has not evolved in a way that allows us to process information as quickly as it is being presented. We have not been adequately educated to separate signal and noise.

The point is this: we are less informed today than we were yesterday. But, you may respond, what about all the new information we have received!?! It’s true; we’ve been blessed with unprecedented levels of good information in the recent past. But if in that same period we have been flooded with misinformation, the net result is a reduction in knowledge, not an increase. If there is more noise, there is simply less signal.

This is not a small problem. It may very well be the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. And we are losing.

Judging Hillary: They Who Are Without Sin…

hillaryI became angry at a fellow Democrat this weekend…

She’s a solid Hillary Clinton supporter, never a doubt that she was going to vote for her. But over drinks, she said what we all hear over and over again about HRC: “She’s a liar, she’s power-hungry, she’s…” You know the list.
Dear Everybody…Here are some things about Hillary Clinton you have insufficient evidence for:
  • She’s dishonest
  • She’s really in it for the power
  • She doesn’t really care about the issues
  • She doesn’t really love Bill
  • She’s a cold, distant mother
  • She’s a cold, distant grandmother
  • She’s shrill
  • She’s really in it for the money
  • She’s in the pocket of Wall Street
  • She’s really a Republican
  • She’s really a Socialist
We are all free to hold to the “who would you rather have a beer with” trope. We are certainly free to make the judgements I list above. But if you judge Hillary Clinton without acknowledging the systemic and cultural sexism through which we judge her and the relentless nearly three decade campaign of deliberate misinformation that she’s been subjected to, well then…
  • Who’s being dishonest?
Has Hillary Clinton lied? Yes. After years of scrutinizing every charge that has been leveled at her (I know, I need a life), here’s the one thing she’s said that I think was a lie: the incident of “sniper fire” on her 1996 trip to Bosnia.
But rather than implicating her as a “liar” I marvel at how under such scrutiny, recorded in detail far greater than nearly any other human in history (maybe Princess Diana?), how little evidence there actually is for the primary narrative about her. Being honest with myself, I’ve lied and exaggerated stories. Even so, I value honesty and integrity, and would consider any judgement that labeled me “a liar” unfair.
“They who are without sin…”

Hillary Clinton & Racism

06-hillary-clinton-black-voters-2.w710.h473.2xRecently, in a discussion on racism among recent presidential candidates, a friend asked me what level of racism I think Hillary Clinton holds. Here is my answer:

Building a Scale: 1 to 10, 10 being the most racist.

Clinton: 2 or 3

Let’s say there’s a dividing line at 5, and the dividing point is whether a person is teachable on the subject of racism; do they fundamentally understand racism and are open to learning and improving on their own biases as well as the systemic racism in our culture? The dividing line is where I think it is ethical to call someone racist; above a 5 they are fairly labeled a racist, and below 5 they are not.

Rather than answer from my perspective alone, let’s rely on the support that Clinton receives from the African American community (note, we could talk about minorities in general, including Latinos and Asians, for example, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus in on African Americans).

I’d place Clinton at 2 or 3 on the described scale. That means that she maintains the remnants of racism naturally inherent in all humans and the remnants of racism inherent in white privilege. But she’s also keenly aware of her own racism and the racism in our society, and more specifically, the systemic ways racism manifests in government.

Let’s look at how African Americans see her:

On the question of who they will vote for:
Clinton: 80 %
Trump: 3%

Let’s look at favorability:

While Ciinton’s favorability ratings among all voters sits at 41 favorable and 52 unfavorable, among African Americans, Clinton has an 83% favorability rating.

While one might conclude that she only does this well in contrast to Trump, I’d note that Clinton pulled similar numbers in her matchup with Bernie Sanders.

Finally, as a measure of her awareness on these issues, I’d direct you to read her policy positions:

Racial Justice
Criminal Justice Reform
Voting Rights

Polling taken from…/PPP_Release…

Wikileaks is not Journalism

woodward_184_2_650Wikileaks has been dubbed “Journalism” in an attempt to secure a measure of legitimacy for what they do. Recently, I heard the analogy that Wikileaks is like Deep Throat and Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame.

Wikileaks are not Deep Throat or Woodward and Bernstein. Wikileaks are the burglars who broke into the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate hotel. The info released by Wikileaks is the info stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Imagine if the Washington Post, instead of telling us the story of the break-in as THE STORY, published the information stolen from the Democratic National Committee. And then treated the burglars as Journalists.

That’s the state of both Wikileaks and our Press today. In the era of sensationalism, we’ve lost site of the real story. Let’s not crown the Burglers of Watergate as the heroes.



The Seven Social Sins…

  1. stormy-night-1920Wealth without work.
  2. Pleasure without conscience.
  3. Knowledge without character.
  4. Commerce without morality.
  5. Science without humanity.
  6. Worship without sacrifice.
  7. Politics without principle.

Attributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The Beginning of Life…

tVqNo1pDdutC5mdV9mqhUWfuAs for when “life” begins: The gametes that join to form the zygote that becomes the embryo are all alive. Life is no longer something that “begins.” It is something that is transferred from one living thing to another. You carry within your cells a genetic code that connects you with every other living thing on the planet—as well as every other dead thing that was once alive. Plants, trees, bacteria, human embryos, etc., they carry remnants of the same genetic markers that you do because you are all related by a common ancestor (or several). Life began on this planet over a billion years ago—it hasn’t begun since.”

— from an internet post by BreakerBaker (Andrew).

No More War?


We’ve all seen the picture. Heartbreaking.

A Washington State Delegate for Bernie Sanders posted this picture on Facebook and then stated “This is why we chant “No More War”. Because NO child anywhere should have to have these experiences. I don’t care who pulls the trigger, and I don’t care who has to give the order. Humans should be working together to make our world a paradise, not fighting about money, food, water, oil or lines on a piece of paper.”

In other words, he’s using this picture to justify disrupting the DNC with chants of “No More War.” He’s using this picture to justify labeling Hillary Clinton a “War Monger.”

Let’s analyze that. This boy was just bombed by the Russian-backed Syrian Air Force. It may have been Russian Planes.

The overly simplistic chant of ‘No More War’ says that there’s nothing to be done to come to the aid of this child and his family. It says that the U.S. should always stay out of such conflicts around the world.

How, exactly, would this approach help this child?

And this…

“Fifteen of the last 35 doctors in rebel-held eastern Aleppo have written a letter to Barack Obama with an urgent plea for intervention to stop the bombardment of hospitals in the besieged city by the Russian-backed Syrian air force.”

Would the ‘No More War’ crowd simply shout down these doctors with that chant?

Radical leftists claim a moral high ground through simply ignoring reality. By staying out of the complex problems that exist in the World, they pretend to be unsullied. By lobbing opinions from the peanut gallery, they pretend to be offering solutions. In reality, they offer nothing.

The world is complex. War and peace are complex. Anyone who tells you otherwise has nothing meaningful to offer to the conversation.

The irony of this Facebook post is that he is using this picture to justify actions that would do nothing to help this child.

Fix it.

957155The intent of the 2nd Amendment is to keep us safe.

The result of the 2nd Amendment is that we are less safe.

The 2nd Amendment doesn’t work.

Alan Turing, Transforming the System of Government

24turing1-popupAlan Turing was perhaps one of the greatest minds the human race has ever known. He transformed the way we think of systems, and is often referred to as the father of computer science. But even now, in death, he is helping us to analyze a different kind of system, the system of human governance.

Alan Turing was convicted of the crime of being a homosexual. The punishment for that crime led to his taking his own life. Many now understand how egregious such conviction was, and have worked hard to change the laws around homosexuality. We are witness to one of the great advances in human rights as the system of democratic pluralism is leading the way in recognizing the fundamental right to the free expression of sexual orientation.

Human institutions make mistakes. Recently, the Queen of England granted Turing a Royal Pardon. I’m glad to see this action taken. There are many acts that our Government has taken, much more horrific even than this, for which we have yet to make amends.

Most important is to learn the core lessons of such mistakes, and to implement changes to the system of government to avoid similar mistakes going forward. Alan Turing is a hero; we honor his sacrifice by learning and applying the lessons.

“Nearly 60 years after his death, Alan Turing, the British mathematician regarded as one of the central figures in the development of the computer, received a formal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II on Monday for his conviction in 1952 on charges of homosexuality, at the time a criminal offense in Britain.” New York Times

New York Times: Alan Turing, Enigma Code-Breaker and Computer Pioneer, Wins Royal Pardon



Destroying Plato’s Theory of Forms

This short video succeeds in destroying Plato’s Theory of Forms, Christianity’s idea of the perfect man, and Mormonism’s Proclamation On The Family. All in under 5 minutes.

On Transcience by Sigmund Freud

Note from Timothy: As a child in the mormon religion, it was drilled into me that absent that faith, life would be meaningless. Again and again I was told that only the eternity of life, immortality, would imbue the existence of this life, my life, with importance. That only the hope of heaven could assuage the pain of death and loss. For many years, I accepted this notion, simply because everyone I knew and loved told me it was so.

Later, however, upon leaving my religion, I found a different formulation of value. I found that the lack of certainty in my own immortality gave increase to the value of each day, each new friend, and each new experience. I had found that my joy had been amplified.

As I look back upon that time, as I have fewer and fewer conversations with those who are still within the faith of my childhood, it strikes me that they have yet to allow themselves to mourn for the losses that have and will occur in their lives; and absent that mourning, they are unable to accept anew and fully the emergence of new beauty, new love, new truth. By refusing to let that which we love perish, we miss the opportunity to experience it as it is, in its true nature. And in this way, we lose the value of everything. Freud had found the same idea.


Not long ago I went on a summer walk through a smiling countryside in the company of a taciturn friend and of a young but already famous poet. The poet admired the beauty of the scene around us but felt no joy in it. He was disturbed by the thought that all this beauty was fated to extinction, that it would vanish when winter came, like all human beauty and all the beauty and splendour that men have created or may create. All that he would otherwise have loved and admired seemed to him to be shorn of its worth by the transience which was its doom.

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Dan Savage in Conversation with Andrew Sullivan

This is an amazing conversation; perhaps the pinnacle of modern sexual morality presented by seasoned voices of reason.

What Is Your Relational Orientation?

Are you Monogamous or Polyamorous?

In addition to sexual orientation, humans can identify a relational orientation.

The mating and social behavior of animals is of particular interest to humans. In our effort to understand the animal kingdom, we classify and document behaviors and traits, labeling a species as either “this” or “that”. Leaving aside a Western or religious understanding of monogamy as lifelong and exclusive pair bonding, there are animals that tend toward monogamy (3-5% of the animal population) and animals that do not.

At best, these classifications give us approximations. Not every species fits nicely into categories, and individual members of a given species may behave differently than the norm. These qualifications aside, we’re comfortable taking a 30,000 foot view of animal behavior and classifying them accordingly.

We tend to wear blinders, however, when looking at ourselves, the human animal. It is, perhaps, simply bias that prevents us from studying ourselves in the same way we do birds and bees.

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How Much I Feel

As an overly romantic kid, I spent a good portion of my youth wearing bulbous headphones, analyzing the lyrical content of pop music. I once passed an entire family vacation listening to “Bennie and the Jets,” trying desperately to both memorize the lyrics and comprehend their meaning. The weird and the wonderful.

Religious leaders were scaring kids with stories of Satan-controlled rock stars and a nefarious tool called backmasking. Ironically, this made me certain the prophets of pop had access to deeper understanding. All I had to do was decode the hidden messages!

The influence of my sweet satan seemingly made me vulnerable to overwrought orchestrations of infatuation. Songs were my education in love. Imagine my joy when dad drove home in a new Chevy van! The things I imagined.

Over time, I began to develop a bullshit meter. For example, was there really a Mandy in Mr. Manilow’s life. I had my doubts.

How Much Do You Feel?

Ambrosia is the fabled food of Gods, famously used by Athena to affix beer-goggles on the suitors of Penelope. I knew nothing of Homer as a pre-teen. For me, Ambrosia was simply a band who understood true love and heartbreak, just like me. I bought all their singles.

Years later, I happened upon those 45’s, inserted the required yellow adapter (a satanic symbol for man on man on man love action) and began anew to analyze the lyrical content of their hit “How Much I Feel.” It’s widely counted as a beautiful blue-eyed soul love song. Even Casey Kasem thought so. But, is it?

Less than thirty-seconds in, the bullshit meter lurched full red. I grabbed the needle so quickly it sounded like tires screeching round Dead Man’s Curve. How Much I Feel? This guy was a lying, cheating bastard. Let’s break it down.

The Confrontation

[Note: each lyrical section of the song is presented in a short audio clip. Click on the triangle next to the title to play it.]

      How Much I Feel Pt. 1

I don’t know how this whole business started
Of you thinkin’ that I had been untrue

So, his girlfriend (wife?) suspects infidelity and confronts him. His response is classic misdirection: turn the accusation back on the accuser. The question is shifted from whether he cheated to why she doesn’t trust him. See how that works?
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Black Ace. Red Lady.

Vegas is a cold mistress. Loss expected, we sit at the table anyway. Whiskey and ice. Confident in our stack of chips, built slowly over time. We hold them close, tempting others to draw us in.

Check. Check. Fold. Fold. Check. Fold. Fold.

Bet small and lose on a weak hand. Just to show we’re willing to play. Just to be in the game.

Fold. Fold. Check. Fold. Waiting for anything worth the risk. Drinking. Playing. Tempting. Patience.

The cards come, eventually, but without guarantee.

Black Ace. Red Lady.

This. Temptation. The game begins. A big bet up front, just to see who stays, who leaves.

Cards flipped. Some help. Some hurt. Small bets. Fake confidence. Feign weakness. Push. Pull.

“All in,” she says. Question called.

You sat at the table. You ordered the free drinks. You traded sarcasm and banter. Tipped the dealer for luck. But, you didn’t sit at the table for these things.

All in? In a flash, you decide. You’re here to play. Risk.

“All in.”

Poker can be lost to greed or boredom. Sometimes we play because we’re tired of waiting. Sometimes we reach for too much too soon. Sometimes we sit at the table out of loneliness, letting our chips dwindle in small, predictable donations.

But, sometimes, knowing the odds, we choose to play.

“All in” I hear the words echo in my head. I feel myself push the chips. Time slows, cards revealed.

Win? Lose? Neither matters. Eventually, you’ll experience both and more.

What matters is that you sat at the table.

You played the game.

The Violence of Lines

“When people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. Suddenly it became crucially important to know where your field ended and your neighbor’s began. — Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. in Sex At Dawn

Whosoever Looketh On A Woman

As we closed our eyes for the congregational prayer, I could feel the closeness of her skin, electricity arcing as from one lead to another. Right hand folded tightly under left arm, index finger extended slightly. A hoped for inadvertent touch.

That act, however innocent it may seem, had the potential to cost me everything.

Three weeks previous, my mission companion and I were shopping at Sears in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I needed another white short-sleeved shirt, having lost one to bicycle grease.

As I turned to the counter, a moment cliches are made of: Eyes locked, time slowed. She smiled, I blushed.

It was easy to imagine that I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.

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