Control Loops, Chaos Theory, Endocrinology, Psychiatry, Economics…

Steven Den Beste, in his inimitable way, has a fascinating (Hey, I’m a geek an engineer…) new post up on, well, pretty much everything. But he eventually gets around to the main thrust of the topic and it has to do with Greenspan raising the interest rate by a quarter point in an effort to stave off inflation.

Generally, the Fed uses two main tools to try to control the economy. The Fed can pump new money into the system by “buying” federal bonds with money they conjure out of thin air. The Fed does this at a pretty regular rate, but generally they don’t like using this for primary control, and prefer to rely on the discount rate.

When the Fed changes the discount rate, in theory other kinds of interest rates tend to track it up and down. Of course, in practice it’s nothing like that straightforward. Sometimes they respond immediately and proportionally. Sometimes there’s a delay. Sometimes it has no effect. Sometimes other interest rates move in the opposite direction. Sometimes they move the same direction but less far; sometimes they move the same direction but much further. And in terms of larger effects, sometimes changes in interest rates affect overall activity and sometimes such changes don’t. And almost always it takes a long time.

The theory says that lowering the discount rate leads to lower interest rates overall, which tends to stimulate economic activity. But it doesn’t always work that way.

Now, I didn’t even get Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University education in economics (“Supply and-a Demand. That’s it.”) but I remember one thing I read long ago: The Fed has essentially only one control, and that control is like a rope around the neck of the economy. The Fed can pull on that rope and choke the economy with a fair amount of effectiveness – cut the money supply or raise the interest rates and the economy takes note right fast. But if it increases the money supply or lowers the interest rate, it’s a lot like pushing on that rope. The noose might not loosen, and the economy might not notice.

Hey, I’m my expertise is in gun control. Do you come here for economics dissertations? But that mental image stuck with me, and I thought you might find it interesting. And besides, I love Chaos Theory. I strongly recommend James Gleik’s Chaos: Making a New Science if you want to know more about this relatively new field in mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, medicine….

I Also Do Requests, Part III – More Deliberate Mendacity

Continuing with the dissection of the Brady Campaign’s CCW FAQ page, we come to the next question:

Q: Has any peer-reviewed academic research been done on the effects of weakening CCW laws in Florida?

Pretty simple question, no? And here’s their pretty simple answer:

A: Yes. In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide. The researchers noted that by weakening limits on concealed weapons, states may be giving up a simple and effective method of preventing firearms deaths.

This is the internet, ladies and gentlemen. ONE peer reviewed study? No link to said study or a third-party synopsis of it? No, we’re just supposed to take the Brady Center’s unimpeachable word that agendaless researchers at the unbiased University of Maryland did a detached scientific study of CCW and found that gun homicides increased after CCW laws – in three states – went up (by the scary number of 26%!) while other homicides “did not increase.”

That study, I am forced to assume, is one by the title “Easing Concealed Firearm Laws: Effects on Homicide in Three States” produced by David McDowall, Colin Loftin, and Brian Wiersema of the University of Maryland’s Violence Research Group. Problem is, the researchers didn’t study three STATES, they studied five metropolitan areas in three states, and they did so over a period in which national homicide rates were trending UP (see the Bureau of Justice Statistics graphs from Part 1 of this series.) Here’s what the paper says they studied:

We studied patterns in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon. In addition, we analyzed monthly homicide counts and examined only large urban areas within the three states. To find if the laws influenced gun deaths differently, firearm homicides were separated from homicides by other means.

We conducted analyses for Dade (Miami), Duval (Jacksonville), and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties in Florida, and for Hinds (Jackson) county in Mississippi. Because there were relatively few homicides in Multnomah county (Portland), we combined Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon. For each area, we used death certificate data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to count monthly homicides through December 1990. Health departments in Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon provided additional cases from January 1991, to December 1992.

For all areas except Miami, we studied the period between January 1973 and December 1992 (240 months). We confined our Miami analysis to January 1983 through December 1992 (120 months) because of an unusually sharp increase in homicide rates in May 1980 after an influx of Cuban refugees. In late 1982 the rates appeared to stabilize.

Well, gee, national firearms violence trends were UP during this period, and CCW laws were in effect in these three areas at the same time. OBVIOUSLY CCW made the homicide rates go up, right?


I’m not a statistician, but to me the answer appears to be “Not quite.”

Look at table 1 of the research paper. It’s a doozy all right:

Notice anything interesting? Notice the wide variations within the three cities studied. Miami – with a very high homicide rate, very little change (+3%), yet Jacksonville’s rate went up 75% (another scary number!) But Florida’s homicide rate overall after passage of their CCW law did what? That’s right – it went DOWN, except for that first year after passage while the permitting process was under way. Remember, the law went into effect OCTOBER 1 of 1987. By the end of 1988 the initial rush of everyone who wanted a CCW permit had been taken care of, and from 1988 onward, Florida’s homicide rates overall went DOWN. But by cherry-picking urban areas, our intrepid researchers made it appear that Florida’s homicide rates went up, did they not? Is that not what the Brady Center just said?

In March of 1995, a study was released by criminologists at the University of Maryland who examined the effects of the weakening of CCW laws in three states, including Florida. They found that gun homicides increased by an average of 26%, while homicides by other means did not increase. The study concluded that weakening CCW laws did not reduce homicides and could actually increase the frequency of homicide.

(Note the use of the weasle-word “could.”) This is known as deliberate mendacity. Because the report clearly states:

Despite this evidence, we do not firmly conclude that shall issue licensing leads to more firearms murders. This is so because the effects varied over the study areas. Firearms homicides significantly increased in only three areas, and one area witnessed an insignificant decrease. In combination, the increase in gun homicides was large and statistically significant. Yet we have only five replications, and two of these do not clearly fit the pattern.

The statistical significance of the combined results aside, the analysis implies that shall issue policies do not always raise levels of gun murder. Sometimes, at least, local conditions operate to blunt any effects. The areas without significant increases, Portland and Miami, may be unusual, but we lack the data to examine whether this is true.

Stated in another way, we cannot completely dismiss historical events as an explanation of the increases in firearms murders. One would need a complex theory to explain how history could mask a decrease in homicides after the laws. Historical accounts of the apparent increase might be much simpler. One would then be left with the hypothesis that the effects of the laws are nil.

In other words, “shall-issue” CCW laws don’t seem to affect homicide rates in any provable way.

Which means the Brady Center CCW FAQ page is lying. Boldly, blatantly, and with deliberate intent to mislead. They tell their readers that a research paper they didn’t name and gave no link to proved that “liberalized concealed carry” increases homicides, while the actual paper makes no such claim.

But “shall issue” CCW protects many people who jump through the hoops and actually carry. People like Barbara Holland. Ask her if CCW is a good idea.

How do you like being lied to? It’s a standard tactic in the gun control debate – both sides do it. They lie with statistics and expect you to just accept that their researchers are the unbiased ones. But if you bother to actually look it’s blindingly obvious which side is more deliberate, blatant, and outrageous at it. The gun-rights side tells you that CCW reduces crimes by some small but significant number, the gun-ban side tells you that CCW makes crime go UP by some scary number. But the facts show that CCW doesn’t seem to have much effect on crime rates overall. However, as each new state has considered and then passed “liberalized” concealed carry, the gun control groups have always predicted increases in firearm crime, “blood in the streets,” “Dodge City shootouts,” and so on. And they never happen.

But that’s how it works in this conflict. Supposedly neutral researchers do some “research” and come to some conclusion, generally vague and tentative, and above all deniable. Then advocates take those vague and tentative conclusions and blow them out of proportion – often without attribution – and the two sides start throwing bogus “facts” at each other, pissing off the vast middle ground who decide (and often rightly so) that both sides are lying again, and tune them out.

Now some questions: As a control, why didn’t our intrepid researchers look into homicides over the same period in urban areas in which CCW was prohibited or still highly restricted? Why did they not study the entire state rather than just the urban areas. Why was there no data on the number of CCW permits issued over the study period? Some estimate of how many, and where such permit holders lived? Were they mostly urban? Rural? Did it not matter, and if not, why? What was suggested to the reader when the report showed a 75% increase in firearm homicides in Jacksonville after CCW passage? Was there any effort to find evidence of CCW permit holders being involved in homicide?

This is the kind of thing that made me an advocate. I studied both sides. I concluded that one side was lying in order to deny me a Constitutionally protected fundamental right, and one side was lying to me in order to protect that right. Lying isn’t justified by the intent, in my opinion, but when it comes to my rights I’ll cut them a bit of slack. (John Lott excepted.) I will not forgive the other side.

And I don’t think Barbara Holland would either.

UPDATE: If you want a beautiful example of unattributed assertions of statistical “fact” that are complete and utter horseshit – by, of course, the Brady Bunch – please go read Phelps’s fisking of this op-ed.

Remember, it’s for the children!

They Still Haven’t Quite Figured it Out

Ravenwood finds another one.

It seems that the mothers of England have figured out that marching for gun control didn’t work. After they got all the gun control they seemed to want, things just didn’t get any better:



HUNDREDS of mothers are to march through Leeds to protest at gun crime.

The Mothers Against Violence group is being headed by Pat Regan, whose son Danny, 26, was blasted to death by three bullets.

Er, no. He was shot to death by someone who shot him three times thus ending his life. I thought the “marching against gunmen” part made that clear?

The march is part of a national campaign which aims to rid the streets of violence and gun-related crime.

I thought all that gun control was supposed to do that?

Mum-of-five Pat, 49, of Hyde Park, Leeds, a trainee community development worker, said: “So many lives are lost due to guns and violence. By carrying a gun many young people think they have some sort of standing or will gain respect but I can say that it will eventually result in death or injury.

I thought that young people were supposed to think that carrying a gun was going to get them five years in prison? I thought that the gun ban was supposed to remove access to the guns they carry?

Guess not.

She added: “My son was no angel and became involved in drugs. I would not want anyone to go through what I have been through.

“We want to put a stop to the wave of gun crime and street violence and will demonstrate this by marching through Leeds. We want people to join us.”

And this will affect the drug-culture criminals… how, exactly?

Danny was killed on December 12, 2002. He had moved to Merseyside to escape the West Yorkshire underworld but was shot dead in a house in St Helens.
Police have never caught his killer: “Danny knew the dangers he was facing. I was always waiting for a knock at the door.

“He came home in a coffin and his designer gear came home in big brown envelopes.”
Pat said she was also keen for any families of people who had committed gun crime to also become involved. The group is also applying for funding and hopes to establish offices in Leeds and a support network.

Crimes involving firearms have doubled in West Yorkshire in five years, from 1,062 to 2,044 for the year 2002/3. In 18 months between 2000 and 2002, 11 people were killed and 24 injured in shootings.

Wow. Gun control has been so effective in West Yorkshire, hasn’t it? Licensing, registering, confiscating, heavy sentences. They’ve managed to take a pretty tiny problem and make a significant one.

I have an idea! Let’s do it here! We can take a significant problem and make it an overwhelming one!

West Yorkshire police has received national recognition for its work with drugs and gun crime. The force’s Operation Stirrup has led to 425 arrests, 36 guns and £1.6m of drugs seized.

And a doubling of “crimes involving firearms.” Dont’ forget to “recognize” that. Congratulations!

The march is on August 7 from noon from Potternewton Park, Chapeltown, through Little London and Woodhouse to Hyde Park. Hundreds of mothers from across the UK are expected to attend.

Hundreds. Can they call it the “Hundred Mom March”?

Sorry about the snarkiness, but I’m just in that mood.

Sorry ‘Bout the Light Posting

Life interferes. I’ve been working a lot, today was my IHMSA match day, birthday party for my niece, and my belated Father’s Day gift came in – the entire 14 episode DVD collection of the Fox Sci-Fi series Firefly.

Damn, this show is GOOD! I hadn’t heard about it before it had already been cancelled, but apparently the DVD’s have been selling well enough by word of mouth to inspire Fox to make a 2-hour movie. Maybe they’ll bring it back. Great Western Space Opera. Good writing, good acting, good special effects, neat guns. What more could you want?

Anyway, I’ll try to post something pithy tomorrow. Maybe Part III in the Brady CCW FAQ fisking.

I Also Do Requests, Part II

More fisking of the Brady Center “CCW FAQ” page, per reader Sarah’s request.

Next up:

Q: What are the state laws that allow people to carry guns?
A: The carrying of concealed weapons is prohibited in the following 7 4 states:

Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin

The carrying of concealed weapons is permitted in the following 14 9 states, but only with a CCW license issued by police. These states allow local law enforcement authorities to approve or deny an application for a CCW license based on an applicant’s full record. Called “may-issue” licensing, an applicant must demonstrate a specific need (e.g. a security guard or merchant who transports money to a bank) AND these licenses are generally restricted to certain times and places. Because of the stringent “need” requirement, few CCW licenses are issued in most of these states:

Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina

In the following 29 36 states, practically all non-felons can obtain a CCW license and carry a concealed weapon. These states require law enforcement officials to issue a CCW license to an individual unless s/he is in a prohibited category (generally, a convicted felon). Called “shall-issue” licensing, applicants are not required to demonstrate “need” to be granted a license, and in most of these states, applicants can obtain a license by only claiming a lawful purpose such as basic “self-defense”:

Alaska*, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio

*Note: Although Colorado does not require a showing of “need”, law enforcement officials have considerable discretion in granting CCW permits. In practice, it is extremely difficult to obtain a CCW license in Colorado.

Then Colorado isn’t really a “shall-issue” state, is it? I’m actually uncertain as to the status of Colorado’s CCW laws. Perhaps someone out there can clear up the confusion.

In one state, Vermont, no license is required to carry a concealed weapon.

*Not quite. Alaska became, as of 2004, the SECOND state with “Vermont Carry” though for reasons of reciprocity with other states you can jump through the hoops and get an Alaska CCW. Overall, I don’t have a problem with this as it is factual, though badly out of date, and lacks the visual impact of the animated graphic from the previous post.
Next up, the meat of the issue:

Q: What happened in Florida after they weakened their CCW law?
Florida was the first state to pass a CCW law. Weakening CCW laws has not made Florida a safer place; in fact, the opposite is true. Florida’s CCW law became effective on October 1, 1987. Between 1987 and 1992, the violent crime rate in that state increased 17.8%. In every year since 1987, Florida has had the highest rate of violent crime in the nation according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. The violent crime rate is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; all of which involve force or threat of force according to the FBI.

Florida’s handgun homicide rate has decreased somewhat in the past few years – part of this may well have been a result of the strong gun laws enacted during that time. As the following chart indicates, the handgun homicide rate in Florida increased considerably after passage of the CCW law in 1987. Decreases in handgun homicide occurred only after tough new gun laws were passed:

Year Number of Murders Legislative Action
1987 569 CCW becomes effective October 1, 1987.
1988 N/A No data available.
1989 700 After a rash of unintentional deaths of children by firearms, the Florida legislature passes the first Child Access Prevention Law (CAP) in the nation.
1990 588 A background check on handgun purchasers passes in the Florida Legislature, effective October 1, 1990. A state-wide election on a Constituional Amendment (Article 1, Section 8) for a three-day waiting period on handgun purchasers passes by a margin of 85% to 15% effective November 6, 1990.
1991 565 In accordance with the Constitutional Amendment, the Florida Legislature makes it a felony to violate the three-day waiting period.
1992 554
1993 525*

The bottom line is that Florida, now the most violent state in the nation, has not seen the results promised by their CCW law. There has been an increase in violent crime with no corresponding increase in personal security.

These trends continue in Florida. According to 1994 FBI Uniform Crime Report data, Florida cities still rank high in terms of violent crime. In 1994, Tampa and Miami were the 4th and 5th most violent cities in America. Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Miami ranked 1, 2 and 3 respectively in the category of highest rates of property crime (which includes burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft).

Let’s look at ALL homicides, not just HANDGUN homicides, shall we? (All data from the CDC WISQARS tool)

Year Number of Homicides Florida Homicide rate National Homicide Rate
1987 1,480 12.34 8.59
1988 1,709 13.89 8.91
1989 1,593 12.61 9.15
1990 1,583 12.16 9.87
1991 1,460 10.92 10.38
1992 1,369 10.03 9.80
1993 1,374 9.87 9.87
1994 1,308 9.19 9.33
1995 1,230 8.46 8.47
1996 1,176 7.92 7.66
1997 1,115 7.34 7.15
1998 1,061 6.85 6.49
1999 964 6.12 6.05
2000 937 5.86 5.96
2001 969 5.92 7.12

Now, starting in 1989 the total number of homicides did nothing but trend DOWN, did it not? And meanwhile, what was the rest of the nation doing? National homicide rates continued to trend up for two more years. The Brady Center called Florida the “most violent state in the nation” but in 1993 Florida’s homicide rates matched the national average, down from 43% higher than the national average just five years before. And Florida’s homicide rate – continuously trending downward – hovered in close proximity to the national average from that point forward.

Yet weren’t the gun control groups calling Florida the “Gunshine State” and “Dodge City East” when the bill was being considered in the legislature? The Brady Center has to cherry-pick homicides committed with handguns to obscure the fact that initially, homicide trends in Florida were better than the national average, and later were at least equal to the national average. And the only thing that changed in 1989 was a “Child Access Prevention Law” that made it a misdemeanor to leave a gun where a child could access it. Yet we’re supposed to accept that THAT law was the “tough” one that caused the decrease in homicide rates after 1989?

If you believe that, I’ve got the title to this bridge in Brooklyn…

And what of that “most violent state” business? Well, check this page out for National rates of various types of (recorded) crime from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, and this page for Florida’s rates. Here’s a graph of Florida’s violent crime rates since 1994:

Photobucket pooped!

And one showing the percentage change from year to year:

Photobucket pooped!

I thought “liberalized concealed carry” was supposed to make violent crime go UP? Isn’t that what the gun control groups told anybody who’d listen? Isn’t that still what you see in the op-eds when another state looks at joining the 36 other states that have it? Florida’s ALWAYS been at the top for violent crime! Why do you think the people finally went for a “shall-issue” concealed carry law? They were tired of the high violent crime rates. They may still be #1, but the actual rate is far, far lower today than it was in 1987.

The gun control groups tell us that “liberalized concealed carry” legislation will result in “more guns on the street” and that more guns on the street will lead to “Dodge City” shootouts and higher crime. But it never happens. Gun rights proponents tell us that “shall issue” concealed carry laws will make the community safer. That hasn’t been (in my opinion) statistically proven, but the assertions of the gun control groups have been proven wrong over and over and over again. The worst thing they can honestly say is that liberalized concealed carry might not reduce violent crime.

I can live with that.

One more thing: It would be a relatively simple matter for the Brady Center to update this “FAQ” page. The data is out there. But it apparently suits their purposes better to use older data, since the later data doesn’t make their position look as good, does it?

(More to come…)

More Excellent News from the Youth Front

A week ago I got an email from a young reader. Here’s what he sent me:

Dear Sir,

I’m in 8th grade and visit your blog almost every day. I enjoy shooting my uncle’s handgun (a Smith and Wesson .44 special). I also like politics and am interested in what you have to say about current events. You’re definitely one of my favorite bloggers. (Sucking up never hurts.)

My 7th period Civics teacher assigned our class a writing assignment yesterday and, because I respect your opinion, I was hoping you could reply briefly.

She passed out columinst Ted Ralls article about Ronald Reagans death to the class yesterday and assigned us a 2 page paper that addresses a list of issues that the column mentions. She listed 10 questions but we only have to answer 3. These are the 3 that I decided to answer:

1. “According to the author, the Reagan administration slashed AIDS research budgets in order to fund tax cuts for the upper 2% of American taxpayers. As a result, AIDS research was set-back at least 8 years, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people and costing billions of dollars in health care costs. Knowing what we know today, what would you have said to Ronald Reagan about AIDS the day he was elected President?”

2. “The author notes that the Reagan administration illegally authorized the sale of 107 tons (!) of anti-aircraft missles to the nation of Iran in order to support an extremist right-wing insurgency in Nicaragua. Iran was – and remains – a staunch enemy of the United States. The author argues that because Mr. Reagan violated an act of Congress and provided material support to the enemy he should have been tried for treason and faced the death penalty. Do you agree that people – even presidents – who sell weapons to enemies of the United States should be prosecuted?”

3. “After retreating from Lebanon (a country in the Middle East) in 1983, Mr. Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. The author says that this was a way for him to “look tough” by bullying a country that couldn’t fight back. Do you agree with Reagan’s decision to invade a peaceful country most Americans had never heard of in order to “look tough?” Reference George Bush’s similar efforts to “look tough” after the tragic events of 9/11.”

I wasn’t born when Reagan was president, so I’m not very familiar with the background behind the questions. Ms. Hawthorne told me she supports gun rights, she is definitely a very smart teacher, and I respect her opinion. However I think the assigment is biased by the tone of the questions.

This is due Friday and I’m trying to find articles that argue with Mr. Ralls conclusions. I’ve googled “Reagan + AIDS”, “Reagan + Iran” and “Reagan + Grenada” among many others. Alot of what I found agrees with the author, more or less. If you have time before Friday, do you know of a link that deals with one or more of these topics and offers a counter-argument? I know you’re busy, so PLEASE don’t take any time to help unless you know of a link immediately. It’s not a big deal, I’ll definitely get the paper done regardless. Thanks in advance for any help.

Well, after sucking up, and then invoking the RCOB™ by mentioning that subhuman pustule Ted Rall, of course I had to help out. So I gave him a pointer to a site showing government spending on AIDS from 1981 through 1999, and a PBS (!) site for an overview of the invasion of Grenada. On question #2 I was not as sanguine. I told Mr. Pomeroy:

In regards to question #2, Ronald Reagan was, in my humble opinion, in the wrong.

Strategically I understand what he was doing, but he was doing it outside the law. The weapons were sent to Iran to be used in the then-raging Iran-Iraq war, not “to free hostages in Lebanon” – or at least not ONLY for that reason. Better, I assume, that they fight each other than sit and plot against us. Plus, the money from those sales went to fund support for the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua – people who were none too savory themselves. Had this gotten out, the scandal probably would have resulted in impeachment. As much as I hate to say it, he should have been prosecuted for it. As one of my favorite people to quote – Justice Louis Brandeis – said:

“Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subject to the rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.”

However, Reagan was successful in his effort to defeat communism both in South America and in the Soviet Union. To me, that mitigates the crime. But it does not negate it. If we allow leaders to violate the law, it does damage to the entire system. What good is it to defeat an external enemy if the system we are striving to save collapses from internal rot?

Well, he did more research and wrote his paper, which I will reproduce here in its entirety:

Analysis of “Reagan’s Shameful Legacy” by Ted Rall

1. “According to the author, the Reagan administration slashed AIDS research budgets in order to fund tax cuts for the upper 2% of American taxpayers. As a result, AIDS research was set-back at least 8 years, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people and costing billions of dollars in health care costs. Knowing what we know today, what would you have said to Ronald Reagan about AIDS the day he was elected President?”

The author writes that the Reagan administration “refused to do anything about the AIDS epidemic, all so they could fund extravagant tax cuts for a tiny sliver of the ultra rich.” However, he does not use any evidence to support his claim.

According to the “CRS Report for Congress, AIDS Funding for Federal Programs 1981-1999”, funding for AIDS increased every year Reagan was President. When he took office in 1981, funding for AIDS was only $200,000. When he left office in 1988, annual funding for AIDS was over 1.3 billion dollars. According to my calculations, that is approximately a 4000% increase in spending. In contrast, during Clinton’s presidency, there was only about a 100% increase in AIDS spending.

Although the author does not mention the “deaths of millions of innocent people”, the question does so I will address that. While some people definitely caught AIDS from blood banks, I would assume (though I don’t have any sources to back this up) that most caught it from unprotected sex and sharing needles. When you knowingly engage in high risk behavior, this does not make you “innocent”. They did not deserve to die but, if they had practiced some basic personal responsibility they probably would be alive today.

I would have told Reagan in 1981, based on what I know today, that he probably did everything he could by funding research. The only thing he should have done differently in my opinion, is also fund needle-sharing programs and condom programs which would have cut down on health care costs since less people would have caught AIDS.

2. “The author notes that the Reagan administration illegally authorized the sale of 107 tons (!) of anti-aircraft missles to the nation of Iran in order to support an extremist right-wing insurgency in Nicaragua. Iran was – and remains – a staunch enemy of the United States. The author argues that because Mr. Reagan violated an act of Congress and provided material support to the enemy he should have been tried for treason and faced the death penalty. Do you agree that people – even presidents – who sell weapons to enemies of the United States should be prosecuted?”

Based on my research, this is a complicated issue that the author simplifies in order to make a point. There were strategic and political goals besides supporting the Contras in Nicaragua that led to sale of weapons to Iran. At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war and supporting that conflict (rather than have them scheme to harm the United States) may have been in the best interest of the U.S. Reagan also compared the Contras to the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. This may have been an exaggeration or even completely incorrect but, it seems obvious that Reagan thought he was doing the right thing and decided to make painful compromises to achieve his goal. I also think it was a different time too. When Reagan was President, Communism was the biggest threat, like terrorism is today.

However, it is clear he did break the law by going around Congress and doing something he said he wouldn’t do (sell weapons to terrorists). He probably should have been prosecuted. However I think the death penalty is extreme in this case. If Reagan was just trying to put money in his bank account or sold weapons to be used against the United States, then maybe. But the evidence points to the fact that although his methods were wrong, his intention was good. In court, this probably would have been a “mitigating factor” that resulted in a much lighter sentence.

3. “After retreating from Lebanon (a country in the Middle East) in 1983, Mr. Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. The author says that this was a way for him to “look tough” by bullying a country that couldn’t fight back. Do you agree with Reagan’s decision to invade a peaceful country most Americans had never heard of in order to “look tough?” Reference George Bush’s similar efforts to “look tough” after the tragic events of 9/11.”

I do not agree that Reagan, or any other leader, should invade a peaceful country in order to “look tough”. Putting people’s lives at risk just to “look tough” is immoral and should be illegal. However, again the facts do not back up the authors claim. There were many other factors involved.

According to an article on the PBS website, the Grenada invasion had been planned long before the terrorist attack in Lebanon. The reasons included Cuban soldiers stationed in Grenada, a Communist coup, martial law on the island, and the construction of an airstrip that could have been used as a “Communist beachhead”. There were also the 800 medical students whose lives may or may not have been in danger. After the fact, some said they were in danger, others said they were not. After the invasion, U.S. soldiers found enough arms for 10,000 men. Although there is not anything necessarily wrong with being armed, it sounds like they were doing more on the island than just being peaceful.

In my opinion, the author is showing bias by only telling part of the story. If the reader did not research the facts, it would be easy to believe what he says. But once you do the research, there is a lot more to it. It makes me think that Mr. Rall is not informed or he is trying to deceive. In my opinion, neither option speaks well for him.

Comparing Grenada to Iraq and Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is difficult to do because, there doesn’t seem to be much connection. Although I have mixed feelings about the Iraq war, I fully support the war in Afghanistan. Also, we were attacked and I think we need to fight back out of necessity. There are also many strategic and political factors that influenced the decision including strict Wahabist Islam, countries in the region like Syria and Iran which support terrorism, and the flaunting of U.N. resolutions by Iraq for 12 years. There is a big difference between “looking tough” and “being tough” when it is necessary. For the most part, I think Bush is trying to do what is necessary.

Chris also sent me the other seven questions he had to select from:

According to the article, at the end of the 1980’s America was “buried in the depths of a recession and a trillion bucks in debt. It took us over a decade to dig out.” It wasn’t until the less-rightist Clinton administration took office that the economy began to improve. What does this tell you about Reagan’s theory of “supply-side economics”?

The author states that the Reagan administration “turned welfare recipients into homeless people” through welfare reform initiatives. Which do you think is more harmful to society as a whole: higher taxes that help provide necessities for the poor or lower taxes and millions of homeless families with nowhere to go? Would it affect your decision to know that a few welfare recipients took advantage of the welfare system?

The author reminisces about his time in college, when Reagan slashed education budgets, forcing universities to strip their best and brightest students of their scholarships. As a result, many had to take low-wage jobs and have never reached their full potential as members of society. Were tax cuts for the rich worth denying those students a future? Was it just those students who suffered or have we all lost something?

Twenty years ago, many people believed that war with Russia (then the USSR) was a real possibility. The author argues that the Cold War isn’t over. He asks “In which direction do you think those old ICBM’s (nuclear missiles) point today?” Did Reagan give us real safety from a nuclear war or just an illusion? Based on our reading, do you think the USSR was even a real threat to the United States, or was it “manufactured”?

The federal tax code was designed to redistribute income from the most wealthy to the least fortunate. Reagan took steps to dismantle this century-old social contract and now Bush is continuing his legacy. As a result, a tiny sliver of the population now controls 80+ percent of all the wealth in our country. Discuss how this affects our prospect for democracy. What can be done?

The author notes that Reagan, like Bush, “relied on Christianist depictions of foes as “evil” and America. as “good”.” Based on the passage we discussed from “A People’s History of the United States”, do our foes have any legitimate reasons to hate and fear us (excluding the fact that they’re all just “evil”)?

The author draws parallels between Reagan and Bush, including the fact that “both appointed former generals as secretaries of state and enemies of the environment to head the Department of the Interior.” Based on what we’ve learned, what do you think the most likely motive is behind appointments like these?

Chris and I discussed, as you might imagine, the teacher’s apparent leftist bent, despite her stated support for gun rights.

Well, now that you’ve read all that, I thought you’d like to know the last and most important part:

Just thought I’d let you know I got an A minus. She wrote that it was well thought out even though she wrote almost as much as I did arguing with me! Thanks again for your help. I’m very happy with my grade and the paper.


Congratulations, Chris. Glad I could help. And keep thinking for yourself. Perhaps you ought to correspond with Bryan Henderson for some ideas.

I haven’t felt this good in a long time!

Let’s Pick on the Amish

Just kidding. I came across an interesting thread in the rec.guns newsgroup on the Amish and firearms. It seems that the Amish, while pacifists, do use modern firearms for hunting. Learn something new every day. So, of course the jokesters came out to play. Here are some highly offensive jokes at the expense of another culture:

(Armed Amish homeowner confronting a burglar)
“I am Amish, and I cannot harm thee.

“But thou standest where I am about to shoot.”

What goes clippity-clop, clippity-clop, bang, clippity-clop, clippity-clop?
An Amish drive-by.

What do you call a man with his arm up a horses ass?

An Amish mechanic!

And then there was the Amish man who took his young son into the big city so he could see first-hand the temptations of Mammon.

They walked into a large modern building and watched as a shriveled, decrepit old lady hobbled into a small room in the lobby. The shiny metal doors slid closed and an illuminated number above them counted up to ten and then returned back to one. The shiny metal doors slid open again and a stunningly beautiful woman stepped out of the small room.

The Amish man thought about this phenomenon for a few seconds and turned to his boy. “Son, go fetch your ma.”

I’m gonna smoke a turd in hell for this, aren’t I?

There is Still Hope

As you know, I’ve blogrolled near the top, as this group takes the fight directly to the Left. No passive response here, they get right in their faces and force them to confront into congnitive dissonance by making them face their hypocrisy.

Well, there are still some young people able to think for themselves. I’ll have another example up later, but this one makes me want to stand up and cheer.

Go read Operation Tiger Claw. It’s worth every second of your time.