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AvatarComments by pillsy in reply to Andrew Donaldson*

On “Broken Elephants, Part II: Ben Carson, Frank Gaffney, and The Way to Make Your Mark in Today’s GOP

The robot is actually controlled by a surgeon; it isn't wholly automatic. Neat technology, but not cheap. Oh no.

On “What If…?

If these nincompoops were occupying the building without their guns, I suspect roughly nobody would care. It's not like the civil rights activists were packing when they had a sit-in at the Woolworths lunch counter, you know?

On “Broken Elephants, Part II: Ben Carson, Frank Gaffney, and The Way to Make Your Mark in Today’s GOP

I think Thomas is quite mad, but at least it's an interesting sort of mad. Scalia used to at least be entertaining, but increasingly he sounds like one of those guys who calls in to sports shows to yell about how the Illuminati are using fluoridation to keep the Cubs from winning the World Series.



Rather anecdotally, I have met some really idiotic engineers.

I'd bet a dollar at least one of them was a Creationist.

I've seen it in engineers, physicists, MDs, lawyers, economists, and so on. Arrogant, incurious gits can excel at pretty much any endeavor with talent, hard work and some good luck. It's the American dream!

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

Yeah, I'm not particularly vehement about opposing gun control in general, but "assault weapon bans" are, or should be, a textbook case on how not to craft public policy.

Also, I bet you'll appreciate this editorial, where a particularly confused law professor says that GCAs should give up on banning assault rifles.


Also, there's been lots more of it throughout the country, and it's happened along an overall decline in violent crime. There may be other social costs associated with single-parent families, but people shooting each other really doesn't seem to be among them.

On “Broken Elephants, Part II: Ben Carson, Frank Gaffney, and The Way to Make Your Mark in Today’s GOP

I don't know how good an example DeBlasio is, since he was kind of an insurgent (against Quinn) himself. Then again, I'm not really sure I buy the overall argument that there's any sort of equivalency to the way Dems are getting annoyed at big city Democratic mayors with the distrust of the national level party that we're seeing in the GOP. That kind of frustration just feels too familiar to me to really qualify as a trend.


And it likely says something ugly about Americans that the obvious rejoinder to any learned or scholarly black man one disagrees with is the automatic assumption that, despite his accomplishments, said black man must be unintelligent.

Another example is the common assertion that Clarence Thomas is just a puppet for Antonin Scalia.

As for Carson's bizarre performance as a campaigner, the truism that politics isn't brain surgery cuts both ways. He's surely not an idiot, but being smart really doesn't preclude incuriosity, hubris or even being able to handle a political debate.[1] To indulge in a bit of stereotyping, at he's just running a political campaign into the ground; surgeons usually do that with private planes instead.

[1] There are good and even great politicians who suck behind the debate podium.

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

The sense that these were "military grade" weapons was motivation, though I'd argue it was mostly rooted in aesthetics. Actual M16s, unlike the civilian market AR-15s, are selective fire, and thus were already very heavily restricted.

On “A Tragedy with Many Fathers

You mean by, say, blaming voters for the decisions made by an EM who took over the government from the officials that they actually elected? Yeah, people seem to do that sort of thing a lot.

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

I'm really confused now, because I was agreeing from the start that the AWB was dumb because it was trying to ban things on the basis of aesthetics. I was, perhaps foolishly, taking notme's question seriously and trying to explain why so many people wanted (and in some cases still want) to do such a silly thing

On “The Year of the Alt-Right

My only regret is I don't have any IRL friends who would get this joke.

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

You appear to be arguing that the term "assault weapon" was invented when the 1994 AWB was passed, but that wasn't the case. The idea that just because a marketing category is focused on aesthetics and too vague to be sensibly used as the basis of legislation[1] doesn't mean that it's something that nobody understands when you use the term. C.f., say, "hardcore pornography".

[1] Which is why they wound up with the weird checklist with bayonet lugs and stuff! You can't just ban guns that "look tactical" or whatever.

On “The Year of the Alt-Right

@Roland Dodds:

I know that the stories in the Bible are not real, but the outlook present in those tales provides a worldview and philosophical perspective that is worthy of consideration.

Sure, but it's primarily worthy of consideration because it is regarded as significant by billions of people, and informs their worldviews and philosophical perspectives (and culture and literature and so on) in many, often complicated ways. There doesn't seem to be any equivalent importance to the alt-right.


I agree pretty strongly with this. These guys are looking more and more like a white-supremacist PETA.

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

They existed as a marketing category prior to existing as a legal description, and they refered to a class of real things, which were (and are) primarily a matter of aesthetics or, I guess, ergonomics.

"'Assault weapon' is too vague to make the basis for a good law, and even if it weren't, such a law would be very silly," is not remotely the same statement as, "There is no such thing as an 'assault weapon'."


I think that may well be the case now, since support for the AWB is now in the minority, but at one point those kinds of bans were really popular[1] and what opposition there was came, understandably enough, from people who actually owned or wanted to own the weapons in question.

[1] Example: George W. Bush was in office when the ban lapsed in 2004, despite a promise to renew it during his 2000 campaign. For a while there, the AWB had genuine bipartisan support.


One, because--as I mentioned above--they were a highly publicized symbol of gun violence at a time when gun violence was at a crisis level, and then were reintroduced to the public consciousness through the AR-15's association with the Newtown attrocity. In both cases, the "military" and "bad ass"/"manly" aesthetic had an effect not only on the people assault weapons were being marketed to, but also people who only really think about guns when they hear about people being murdered with them.

Second, the assault weapon is increasingly a part of the uniform for many of least hinged members of Team Red, like the guys who think they need to carry guns to protest a local mosque or who decided to occupy a federally owned bird-watching center and hold it by armed force.

If your only familiarity with a class of weapons involves the fact that they look intimidating, they are involved in rare but horrible murderous outrages, and that they're the favored fashion accessory of a bunch of wingnuts who probably shouldn't use scissors unsupervised, let alone firearms, well, it's an easy mistake to make to decide they're bad and dangerous, and you aren't harming anybody's legitimate interests or rights by banning them.


"Assault weapons" really aren't the type of weapons people use to shoot each other now, and they weren't twenty years ago, either. The type of weapon people used to shoot each other then, as now, is the handgun.


Of course "assault weapon" is a dumb term. It was a marketing term in the '80s that became the flashpoint of a moral panic over gun violence in the early '90s. What could be possibly be dumber?

On “William Voegeli: The Reason I’m Anti-Anti-Trump

I read this piece several times, and it took that many times to realize that the crazy details that Voegeli was mustering in defense of Trump supporters[1] were obscuring an even crazier premise. His argument is literally that the fact that Trumpistas are supporting an obvious knave that only an ignoramus or a bigot would want in the White House is evidence that their concerns are not ignorant or bigoted.

[1] E.g., one of the recent, memorable politically-motivated mass shootings was commited by jihadist lunatics rather than white supremacist or anti-abortion lunatics. This calls the fundamental legitimaticy of our government into question!


Voegeli himself seems to think that 15 murders, out of a population of almost 320 million, calls the legitimacy of the government into question, simply on the basis of the fact that those 15 murders were perpetrated by immigrants. They certainly aren't indicative of broader trends in rates of violent crime, which continue to be quite low. I'm not sure why I shouldn't dismiss Voegeli's own stated concerns as illegitimate and primarily attributable to bigotry.

To the extent that Voegeli is right about what's actually animating Trump's supporters, his own piece provides a pretty damning indictment of them.

On “Gun Violence: A Cultural Study

notme, now:

I’m not talking about grand sociological issues, just that no one has shown that gun control works.

Oh, of course you aren't. Where would anyone ever get such an idea?

notme two posts upthread:

We all know Dems won’t tell their inner city constituencies that they need to change the way they live.

notme about an hour ago:

No I’m suggesting that within certain inner city communities there is an acceptance of using guns to settle arguments that gun control hasn’t and won’t fixed.


Suggest all you want, but the numbers you cite seem to be doing nothing to actually support your suggestion, at least not without a great deal more argument.


My understanding was that "assault weapon" was originally a marketing category, too, prior to "assault weapons" being a political flashpoint and leading to the (really quite dumb) 1994 AWB and its various state-level clones.

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