Saturday, May 12, 2018

Is Even One Mass Killing By Guns Proof That Gun Control Does Not Work? Day Two of Fund-Raising Week.

Why would the shooting deaths of seven people (six of them apparently killed by the seventh in what is so quaintly called domestic violence) in Australia (far away) end up on the pages of  the New York Times?  And why were those same deaths trending on Facebook in the US?

The answer, my friends, lies in Australian history about gun control and what that stricter gun control history could teach Americans:

The deaths represent the worst mass shooting in Australia since 1996, when a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania. That event was the catalyst for a significant strengthening of the country’s gun laws an ambitious gun buyback program.

American proponents of gun control, including former President Barack Obama, often point to Australia’s strict regulations and few mass shootings as a guide to limiting such events in the United States. But in the hours after the shooting in Osmington, those who oppose such strict regulations pointed to the tragedy as proof of gun control’s limits — prompting many Australians to argue against that conclusion.

It's not just the limits of gun control that was pointed out in various Facebook posts.  Rather, many used this awful killing in Australia as proof that gun control doesn't work at all.

I get that when people argue politics they often use dirty weapons and illogical tricks and do not care.  Finding even one mass killing as proof that gun control does not work would be such an illogical trick, because the correct comparison would be to juxtapose the Australian and US historical statistics about mass killings, the availability of guns and so on, and then use those properly controlled comparisons to see how many excess mass killings by guns the US might have because of its much laxer gun policies*.

But it's not at all uncommon to find people, in general,  using individual anecdotes to try to prove something about statistical averages.  All an individual anecdote can prove, if true, is that at least one such event happened.  It tells us nothing about average propensities. 

Similarly, many people simply assume that their circle of friends, acquaintances and relatives are representative of all Americans, and that this allows them to judge the validity of various statistical averages which pertain to the whole country.  But very few of us have a random sample from the whole country among our acquaintances.

Many also ignore the "all other things constant**" part of various comparisons in studies and in how to interpret various news items.   Here's one example of that (scroll down), but it also applies much more widely.

For instance, when progressives and liberals want to see if people from different demographic groups are treated equally fairly in, say, jobs, the people to be compared should be similar in other relevant ways except their demographic group memberships.  That could include education and work experience, as one example, unless unfair earlier treatment has caused those to differ between demographic groups.

And this post (go down to 4.) discusses a few other fairly common (but interesting) interpretation problems.


*  Note the question I asked there.  If our question is about general gun deaths then the answer may be more complicated, because most gun deaths are not mass killings but individual murders or suicides.

** The ceteris paribus assumption of economics, say, where our goal is to get as close as possible to analyzing a question in such a way that the only variable allowed to differ is the one we wish to analyze.  We can literally hold other variables constant in laboratory studies and some audit studies, but in most observational studies the control is achieved (if only partially) through statistical methods of analysis. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Time To Pay The Piper

That would be me, the piper, and this is the beginning of my annual fund-raising week for this blog and its expenses.

You can donate via PayPal, as explained in the left column, or if you wish to use other means (such as would be needed in shipping a Maserati or the property rights to a solitary island with a lighthouse or emeralds), kindly send me an e-mail.

If you don't have money don't worry.  If you do have money, though, please consider contributing.  My blog has a unique voice, right? 

My warmest thanks to all my readers.  Here's a picture of one of my plantings which nature decided not to sabotage:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is Anger An Emotion in Politics? The Answer Is Gendered.

In late April I read that the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had called women more emotional than men:

The report also includes accusations that Kelly made comments that belittled female staffers, saying women are more emotional than men and bristling in private about the accusations made against Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who was forced out after his ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.


But the Trump administration isn’t exactly denying the accusations of sexism. The unnamed White House officials who pushed back on the report said Kelly is a “gentleman” who won’t let men curse when “a lady is present,” and one spokesperson broadly defended the idea that women are more emotional than men (without confirming that the chief of staff said it).
I have written about that old saw many times before*.  It has been one of the handiest little tools history has used to keep women in their place.

It's usually presented in a slightly different package which says that women are more emotional and men more rational.  In that version emotions and rationality are assumed to be mutually exclusive, and if women, indeed, are more emotional then women must be less rational and should not have any important decision-making positions.   

Such as being responsible for the care of infants and small children, I guess.

But I digress.  One reason why the particular belief will not die is that certain emotions are not seen as emotions.  Anger is one of them, but only if expressed by men**.  Thus, this example, from the US House, is not viewed as an example of irrational emotional outbursts:

Two lawmakers on Tuesday evening erupted into a shouting match on the House floor over Speaker Paul Ryan’s firing — and then reinstatement — of the House chaplain, reigniting a contentious religious fight the Wisconsin Republican hoped would fade.
No. 4 House Democrat Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who is Catholic, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) got up in each other’s faces on the House floor and squabbled over the merits of a special investigation into the dismissal. The exchange was so heated that some lawmakers and aides watching worried they’d come to blows, though Crowley’s office said that was never going to happen.

I'm having fun with this post, because the current US president is obviously the most rational and least emotional of all presidents this country has had!  Just consider his decision to scrap the Iranian nuclear agreement.

Most people are not denying that Trump is both emotional and irrational; it's just that this has no effect on our general gendered beliefs about rationality and emotions.  The male examples of emotional behavior do not "stick" to create stereotype changes.

This is a good recent Twitter thread on the topic.  The most salient point for me is that those emotions which are coded female are seen as a weakness while those emotions coded as male are seen as strength.  But this has zero to do with rationality, and being callous is not exactly a desirable characteristic in leaders.

** Anger in women is certainly regarded an emotion and frequently an irrational one.  Just think of the stereotype of "an angry black woman."


Why Wages Do Not Rise In Times of Labor Shortage. The Hairy Fruit Dilemma.

New Zealand is wringing its imaginary hands over the tough problem of how to get more people to work harvesting the national fruit, the kiwi:

Kiwi fruit work is physically demanding, commands minimum wage (NZ$16.50 an hour) and requires workers to relocate on a temporary basis, making it an unappealing employment option for many New Zealanders, including those living on welfare benefits.

Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said the problem of filling seasonal vacancies forced growers to appeal for government assistance.
Demand for kiwi fruit has surged worldwide - particularly from China - with 19% more of the fruit produced this year and half still waiting to be picked on the vine.

There are 6,000 unemployed people in the Bay of Plenty region, and 1,200 workers needed on kiwi fruit orchards immediately.

Managing director of fruit company Apata, Stuart Weston, told Radio New Zealand raising payrates would not make a difference and the situation was “dire”.

The bolds are mine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Renegade Thinkers of The Intellectual Dark Web

Bari Weiss of the New York Times tells us that there are renegade thinkers hiding in the intellectual dark web (or perhaps just in the intellectual darkness).  That's because the mainstream media will not allow them to be heard.  Hence you have never heard of Camilla Paglia or Jordan Peterson or Steven Pinker or Sam Harris!*

Ladies, Housewives! The Founder of Proud Boys Speaks To Us.

Ladies, are you ready to find out what Gavin Innes,  the founder of Proud Boys, yet another misogynistic organization, thinks of you?

The guy is hilarious.  A little dense, too, but being a Proud Boy is very hard work as you shall soon learn.

Here's the start of Gavin's statement:

Ladies, housewives, we love the work you do. We venerate you. We love that you cook and clean, sure, that doesn't take that long. We love that you produce babies with your body then shape them and nurture them. We chide that, we don't have the patience. It's incredible the way you shape a home, you shape a family, you end up shaping a community.

A translation:  Women are of value only as housewives who cook and clean, but that doesn't take long at all.

And sure, women are also of value for giving birth to children and then for bringing them up.  But that doesn't take long at all, either!

And no woman ever has been in the labor force (!).  The labor force is where the Proud Boys are, because, as you will find out, it is they who created the world in which you (ladies, housewives) are just these rather pointless crappy and lazy appendices (though naturally worthy of veneration for the role biology and gods have decreed for you).

More from Gavin:

But it's not as hard as man's work. And that's fine. We don't mind getting our hands dirty. We don't mind losing our hands. We have way more workplace fatalities than women do, and we designed that system. By every metric, men have it worse, including rape, when you include prison. But that's our structure. We made that. And we're fine with it, as long as you keep using that magic baby machine that blows our minds. As Ann Coulter said, right-wingers are the only ones that see women as celestial.

I adore this!  The work the celestial beings, aka women, perform is only housewifery and child-rearing, but it's not as hard as man's work (and takes very little time).

Men get their hands dirty!  Changing diapers/nappies is like inhaling chocolate in comparison!  No woman ever got her hands dirty cleaning or washing clothes or cooking meals or while changing the bed sheets of an elderly patient in a nursing home.

And men don't mind losing their hands (or lives) in workplace accidents, as long as it's clear that men's work is harder and therefore men deserve to outrank women in the society.*  But at the same time men are worse off than women, by every metric, including rape, even though Gavin is completely wrong on that.**


I find the various patriarchal movements fascinating.  They can be ranked in the order of their misogyny: 

Incels are probably the most woman-hating of all groups, because they openly talk about death for the womankind,  but many other manosphere groups, such as pickup artists, come close.

Then there are the Proud Boys who plan to bring back the proper kind of patriarchy where Men are Men And Women Are On Pedestals (so that the men can look up their skirts and so that women can't move) Though Also To Be Despised.

Next comes Jordan Peterson Boys' Own Therapy Movement, based on the view of the world as an eternal fight between chaos (the eternal feminine***) and order (the eternal masculine), where hierarchies are both natural and to be welcomed, and where women's biology holds them back from climbing any of those hierarchies, what with the pregnancies and those babies hanging from their backs.

Peterson is a gateway drug to both the Alt Right in general and the misogyny sites in particular.

These guys tell us that they are going to take the world back.  So it goes.

Most normal people, men or women, don't live in that world and might not be familiar with it.  Hence these missives from me.


* Innes' arguments are the common ones the manosphere uses.  I have often read there that men deserve to earn more than women, because men are more often found in the really dangerous occupations. 

Never mind that the higher earnings of men are not because of those few dangerous occupations (fishing, say), but because stockbrokers, financiers and software programmers etc. earn so much.  And never mind that women are pretty actively kept out of the dangerous occupations traditionally coded male, such as fishing.

Finally, never mind that the one very dangerous occupation where women are the majority of workers, prostitution, is not counted in those dangerous-occupations statistics, because in most countries it is not a legal occupation, even though the exchanges in the sex work market are supposed to be mutually consensual.

Note, also, that there is no law which stipulates that men must pick the dangerous occupations.  If everything about sex differences in the labor markets is choice, as conservatives argue, then men are choosing the riskier jobs.

And, as a complete aside, if we accept Innes' inane idea that women only work at home then all domestic abuse ending in death should be seen as a workplace fatality.

** I have written a long post about this common argument in the manosphere: That if we include prison rape, then men are raped more often than women.  It is not true, and my earlier post explains why that is the case, with data and all.

It's also worth pointing out that the rapists in prison rapes are rarely women.

*** This is not just a symbolic choice.  Peterson's book is patterned around the assumption that women are a chaotic force which men must control.  To see how he does that and where he goes wrong, you can do no better than reading my three-part review of Peterson's book.  It begins here


Sunday, May 06, 2018

Echidne's Short Sunday Sermons

1.  When ISIS commits attacks of terrorism, no Western pundit suggests that perhaps we should give ISIS what it demands.  When incels commit attacks of terrorism,  some pundits and opiners suggest exactly that.  Weird, that.

2.  This NYT piece on cultural appropriation made me wonder if it is a mere accident that many of the little people (people who are not public individuals or owners of vast corporations or powerful politicians) Twitter decides to take down have been young women*.

The NYT case is about someone wearing a prom dress taken from another culture's traditions.  An earlier Twitter case I followed had to do with two white women starting to sell burritos after  acquiring (or stealing) the recipes from women in Mexico, possibly without compensating them.  That enterprise was rapidly closed down, but the Taco Bell, a giant corporation, doesn't seem to be accused of cultural appropriation, even though it was started by a white Anglo man called Glen Bell.

And last year a young German woman studying biology decided to live in the Finnish wilderness on her own, to experience nature first hand.  She fished, gathered lingonberries,  planned to eat insects and cooked with an open fire.  The owner of the forest where she stayed had given her permission.

A local television station broadcast a story** about her experiment.  It resulted in tremendous social media rage in Finland**.  The woman was threatened with rape and violence, so that she would really learn to understand who owns the Finnish culture and the Finnish forests, and various writers in social media tried to find out her exact geographic location.

The topic of cultural appropriation is an important one, of course.  But it should be addressed with proper nuance.  Social media in general and Twitter in particular are not good at nuance.

3.  Enough with the grouchy sermons.  Go out and talk to the trees.   Or even better, listen to them. They are doing their job to keep our world going. 


* A writer at the Guardian seems to wonder about something slightly related:  That fairly ordinary young people get severely chastised in social media.

Those individuals may benefit from various privileges, including racial ones or the privilege of belonging to the locally powerful cultures, but they don't have public power.  And the relative anonymity of social media doesn't let us compare the overall privileges of the individuals on various sides in these quarrels.

It's also worth noting that women of all races and from all ethnic groups tend to be attractive targets for social media anger, for many reasons that you can figure out.  One of them is certainly the lower likelihood of violent or wrathful responses from the targeted women which makes such attacks low-risk for those who practice them.

**  These sources are in Finnish.  The farmer who had given the German woman permission to stay in her forest argues that the hate comments came mostly from young people.