The Big Think

December 30, 2012


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:09 pm

“This is, declared NYU professor Jay Rosen, “the dumbest media story of 2012.” Why? Because, as CNN’s Howard Kurtz breezily put it, everybody knows David Gregory wasn’t “planning to commit any crimes.”

So what? Neither are the overwhelming majority of his fellow high-capacity-magazine-owning Americans. Yet they’re expected to know, as they drive around visiting friends and family over Christmas, the various and contradictory gun laws in different jurisdictions. Ignorantia juris non excusat is one of the oldest concepts in civilized society: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Back when there was a modest and proportionate number of laws, that was just about doable. But in today’s America there are laws against everything, and any one of us at any time is unknowingly in breach of dozens of them. And in this case NBC were informed by the D.C. police that it would be illegal to show the thing on TV, and they went ahead and did it anyway

…To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?”

Laws are for the Little People

If we’re not going to enforce the laws we have on the books, of what good are new ones other than to pacify the people and convince them that “something is being done”?

We’re turning from a Nation of Laws back to a Nation of Men. The first sign is always that the King and his court get a pass.


December 29, 2012

Pesky Facts

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:40 pm

Seen onilne: “A Briton is 5 times more likely to die from government health care than an American is to die from a gunshot.”

But at least it’s their leaders doing it to them, not those pesky amateurs with their dangerous bang sticks.


*UPDATE* A friend of mine writes: “I’m coming down on the side of no merit to the comparison. There would only be hypocrisy present if there were some kind of causal link, which there is not. To the extent that preventable deaths are our metric (you chose the weapon) England wins on both health care and gun control, and to the extent that liberals want to move in a more “English” direction on both fronts we’re being self consistent both philosophically and on the evidence. (Separate discussion here, but I would disagree that socialized medicine is some kind of end game to Obamacare. Obamacare is if anything a definitive move away from socialized medicine, more the pity.)”

December 27, 2012

Forget Winter

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:07 pm

Math is coming.

The most amazing thing to me is that even with all the warnings for years and year, with all the graphs with easy-to-extrapolate asymptotic curves, people are still going to point fingers, act surprised, and scream “we weren’t warned!”

They’ve been warned. They’re just not listening.

December 22, 2012

Trash to Treasure

Filed under: Maker,Movies,Music — jasony @ 7:48 pm

December 21, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 12:45 pm

A journalist self-examines about the media vultures at Sandy Hill.

December 20, 2012


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:33 am

Something to ponder:

If you are instinctively uncomfortable with the thought of concealed-carry teachers — personally, I have difficulties imagining Ms. Fitzpatrick from my kindergarten reading Good Night Moon, packing under her green cardigan — I would first suggest you attempt to reconcile your objection to trained, armed teachers with your (statistically likely) support for air marshals.

Following 9/11, most Americans demanded an armed undercover marshal on every flight. Little resistance presented to the idea, and expeditiously it became law. The new job of air marshal itself drew tremendous interest, likely aided by the pride of profession applicants expected. Administratively, the program has not run smoothly: concerns have centered around cost effectiveness, the actual percentage of flights which have a marshal on board, and employee mistreatment and discrimination, among others.

Yet objections to the armed security presence have remained minimal. Airplanes in flight are likely never again to be “gun-free zones”; they will instead approach “gun-mandatory zones,” and you likely are pleased with this.

Schools fall under federal “gun-free zone” law. Far more Americans support gun-free schools than support gun-free flights; a segment of the U.S. population thus exists which supports undercover air marshals yet rejects undercover “school marshals.”

Leave aside the emotion: does logical reasoning present grounds for this divergence in opinion?

Even prior to 9/11, airplanes were certainly no soft target. Today, someone wishing to do harm to an airplane in flight must breach several layers of security to board with a weapon, and further, can be expected to face physical confrontation with other adult (or sufficiently large teenaged) passengers. The ratio of physically capable passengers to the helpless or infirm is generally large in all but the most unusual cases; four to one seems a reasonably conservative estimate.

Finally, the perpetrator must deal with that trained, armed marksman that most of America insists be there.

The death toll from 9/11 dwarfs that of all combined school mass shootings over the past couple decades. However, the frequency of school shootings dwarfs the frequency of attempted and successful incidents of in-air attacks. Even with the 18 hijackers of 9/11 included, the number of school shooting perpetrators is greater.

A more ghoulish comparison — figuring the potential death toll from either situation — certainly seems to fall in favor of the flight being the more high-value target deserving of greater security resources. A passenger plane may carry several hundred passengers, and a successful hijacking may murder them all, while the worst U.S. school shooting resulted in 32 murdered souls.

Yet — it is not clear from the Newtown massacre that the carnage might not have reached the unthinkable body count of a downed plane had the murderer not chosen to end his rampage by committing suicide. He had the ammunition to continue his spree, and he did murder at least one adult hero who, unarmed, attempted to physically stop him. Only his psychological state brought the horror to an end at 26 deaths.

In Newtown, had a more “stable” psychopath attacked — perhaps a murderer prepared to die, yet not by his own hand, like the Mumbai terrorists — well, G-d help us. Considering the difficulty in bringing down a plane and the ease with which all of Sandy Hook Elementary could have been slain, the potential for death in both incidents is logically equal: everyone present.

A school, contrary to an airplane, obviously has no comparable screening process for entrance; perpetrators contend only with possibly locked doors and closed windows. And the locked doors are only an issue if the perpetrator is not a familiar face nor already bearing a visible weapon that would prevent him from being buzzed in. Indeed, the killer is almost always familiar to the occupants of the building.The Newtown killer did need to contend with a locked door, but was quickly able to break the glass and to open the door from the inside.

Once in, the only remaining barriers to his massacre were the heroism of the adults present and his own mental capacity.

So — two situations comparable in attractiveness to a murderer and in vulnerability of the potential victims present:

– A large segment of society has demanded that one of these situations be secured with the absolute best available security apparatus, and further feels additionally safer with an armed undercover marshal present.

– This same segment of society does not demand the other situation be similarly screened and secured, and further feels more vulnerable by the thought of an armed undercover marshal present.

Are you one of these people? If so, have you taken your child on a plane since George W. Bush expanded the air marshal program, or taken them anywhere else with an armed guard, such as a museum or sporting event?

Why did you feel your child was safe there?

Is your rejection of school marshals logical, or emotional?

December 19, 2012


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 10:32 pm

“How small, of all that human hearts endure
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!”

Samuel Johnson

December 16, 2012


Filed under: Education,Science — jasony @ 5:21 pm

Diamond: “”If a meteor made out of diamond and 100 feet in diameter was traveling at the speed of light and hit the earth, what would happen to it?” “

“I’ve always thought that one of the the great things about physics is that you can add more digits to any number and see what happens and nobody can stop you.”

Bravo, XKCD!

December 13, 2012


Filed under: Music — jasony @ 6:34 pm

I have to admit, it takes a ton of time and delving into oscillators and such, but writing Dub Step is quite fun.

Here’s my screen:

WubWub 2.jpg

Heard Everywhere

Filed under: Business,Music — jasony @ 11:56 am

Just learned that the Rice project (STEMScopes) I’ve been working on for the past two years or so has been heard by over 1 million students (and counting)— just in Texas! So nice to have my work be so widely distributed. Thanks to Andrew Ginakis for the great opportunity, and for being such a wonderful collaborator to work with.

December 10, 2012


Filed under: Music — jasony @ 5:28 pm

AAARGH! My UPS battery has gone bad and the UPS is chirping once every two seconds. I can’t leave the house because I’m on a huge deadline and have to write music with a *chirp chirp chirp* going on ten feet behind me. HELP!

December 6, 2012


Filed under: Maker,Movies — jasony @ 11:38 pm

Phun Physics

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 10:46 pm

Matt’ll love this.

Way to LeGo!

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 10:05 pm

LEGO Finds Spare Discontinued Set So Boy Who Saved Up For 2 Years Wouldn’t Be Disappointed

*LINK FIXED NOW- Thanks, Josh*

December 5, 2012


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:42 am

“Bastiat wrote that the “socialist” confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education… We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

Sheldon Richman, Reason Magazine

December 3, 2012

So’s Your Mom

Filed under: Education,Friends — jasony @ 5:32 am

I just got into a disagreement with someone who made an easily refutable point. I brought up what I thought was a good example, then backed it up with another one, then tied it in with an overall principle I thought was pretty well-reasoned and historically supported (not to mention held by a pretty large proportion of people). His response?

“That argument is ludicrous.” No rebuttal. No counter example. No acknowledgement that millions of people and centuries of behavior might have some merit. Just an emotional appeal and that oh-so-easy CYA word that so many people think shuts down disagreement and wins an argument. Talk to the hand!

If by “ludicrous” you mean “I can’t effectively refute it with facts so I will demean it with language” then he’s right.

I get so tired of arguing with people only to have them effectively stick their fingers in their ears and shout “no, YOU’RE a poopie head!” It makes me grateful for the friends in my life who honestly listen to other points of view and are open to changing their thinking.

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