Wildfires Burn North of LA...
Joe Klein on "Bipartisanship" in Health Care Reform

Firearms Are Tools; You Carry Tools When You Think You Might Use Them... (Atlantic Montly Crashed, Burned, and Smoking Watch)

Faisal Jawdat emails:

A friend's father waited 20 years for an opportunity to say "Hey, they shot 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They,' didn't they?" Another friend was then able to remark, "He said, 'hey, they shot 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They,' didn't they?' didn't he?" Of course then someone asked "You said, 'he said, 'hey, they shot, 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They,' didn't they,' didn't hey,' didn't you?"

With that in mind, I read John Cole reading Thomas Levenson reading Megan McCardle so, uh, no one has to:

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Dirty Jobs: Thomas Levenson deals with McMegan so you don’t have to.

Another Reason Why My Doctor Tells Me The Nation Shouldn’t Read Megan McArdle… « The Inverse Square Blog: [P]ieces like this actually evoke more of a sense of wonder than anything else — not merely at the banality and evil so neatly conjoined in its content, but at the astonishing reality that anyone who routinely writes such…how to put this…bonecrushingly stupid; water-her-twice-a day dumb; the wheel is spinning but the hamster’s dead material, still has a job, much less an apparently appreciative audience.... Her post is so full of different instances of nonsense, bad faith argument, sheer failure to understand what she seems to think she is talking about that she achieves a certain effect:  by seeding her post with so much to be debunked, she increases the odds that one whack-a-mole notion or another will slip past the defenses of rationality and real-world experience....

Where to begin? Oh yeah — keep it short....  [P]rotest may not satisfy the kool kid McArdle appears to imagine herself to be, but people have died in proving her wrong time and again within even her callow memory.  I’d add that he dismal track record of which McArdle writes exists, but should be sought in her own archives.

But I think people have a perfect right to do it, including with guns, though I also think the secret service is within its rights to ensure that they don’t have a sight line on the president.

That’s “Secret Service,” a proper name, not some generic function; and I’m sure its brave members sleep a little more soundly now that they know that Ms. McArdle has acknowledged her belief that they have the right to perform their duty.

But the hysteria about them has been even more ludicrous.  Numerous people claim to believe that this makes it likely, even certain, that someone will shoot at the president.

I call Inigo Montoya on her use of the word “ludicrous” in this context. And as for the “numerous people...” sentence... this is both a logical fallacy — the straw man again, in her assertion that the claim has been made that the presence of guns at rallies make it “certain” that someone will shoot President Obama.... I guess worrying about the fate of the president is risible to some, the real kicker here, of course lies with the remarkable statement that it’s ok to bring a loaded gun to protest a presidential visit because “most” won’t be “near” President Obama himself. It pains me to say something so utterly obvious and predictable but, if I may break the fourth wall for just a moment:  Ms McArdle.  Are you awake?  Sentient?  Even a little?  Remember, when it comes to bullets... It Only Takes One. And as for “near.”  I’m guessing that McArdle’s upbringing/background is once again suckering her into the realm of unknown unknowns here... guns are not in fact solely short-range weapons. The AR-15 rifle carried to the rally in Phoenix is a derivative of the military M-16... [with] an effective range of over 500 meters in its most common forms.  While I hope indeed that the Secret Service does indeed manage to control all the sightlines to the president, half a kilometer is not what I would call near... and McArdle, whatever she actually knows of modern firearms, certainly manages to convey in this post complete ignorance of the subject.


It is, I suppose, more plausible to believe that they might take a shot at someone else.  But not very plausible:  the rate of crime associated with legal gun possession or carrying seems to be very low. Guns, it turn out, do not turn ordinary people into murderers. They make murderers more effective.

Species of logical fallacy:  biased sample.  The relevant sample is not all those bearing guns legally, but all those bearing guns in a political context, and perhaps in the specific context of Presidential appearances. However you might want to begin analyzing it, the group of those who consider it a form of acceptable democratic speech to bear a loaded gun at a political rally is a distinct subset of gun owners, and the assertion that their behavior will track that of the group at large is both bad statistical reasoning and bad-faith argument, all rolled into one....

There is a false equivalence at work, to begin with. Birther and 9/11 conspiracy beliefs do not derive from the same underlying logical or empirical structure that the argument that the repeated incidence of bearing loaded firearms within the context of purportedly peaceful protest increases the risk of violence in the future. The prediction may be wrong — that is, we may go through an entire eight year Obama Presidency with nary a hint of gun violence in political contexts. But the argument that such violence is a reasonable thing to fear is a qualitatively different one from that required to believe in the face of all evidence to the contrary that Barack Obama is not legally the President of the United States.... Those who suggest that the presence of guns openly carried implies a series of risks — how many concealed weapons might be present; how much organization there might be in the insertion of armed protesters into the fabric of peaceful protest; how long it will take for over-the-top violent rhetoric to find a truly receptive ear amongst all these “patriots” — are not saying that any individual gun-toting asshole is a thug bent on murder. They are saying that the more useful idiots like McArdle legitimize the presence of guns in political discourse, the greater the risk we take that the guns will stop being symbols, and will reappear as the tools they are…tools that are capable of dealing deadly violence at a distance.

McArdle would rather not dwell on that ugly fact of guns.  They are not toys.  They are not megaphones.  They do not utter cute or funny or pointed commentary on the state of American polity today. They dispatch useful weights of metal at high speeds across considerable spaces with an accuracy restricted by the quality of the machine and the skill of its operator. Reality matters....

I was born in 1958.  Since then, there have been ten presidents who have served before the current incumbent:  Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II.  Of them, one was killed by a rifle.  Another had guns drawn on him twice in two weeks. A third was shot outside a Washington DC hotel by a deranged celebrity hound.  Three out of ten. More: Over the history of the presidency, ten out of the first 43 presidents were subject to attempted or successful assassinations.  Political violence is a fact of American history. Taking note of that risk is not mere mental masturbation, pleasuring ourselves in the contemplation of the demonic nature of the opposition. It is simple prudence.

Let enough people with guns get close enough to powerful people, and the American experience is that something bad will happen…at a rate approaching (and in recent times exceeding) one time out of four.  (And yes — I know about the sample size and so on...) Let’s add to that. You may have noticed that the current President doesn’t look like his 43 predecessors.  He is, not to put to fine a point on it, black, African American. McArdle may not wish to dwell on the subject, but there is something of a history of violence imposed on African American leaders in this country.  There is as well a hint of a racial overtone (ya think?– ed.) to at least some of the commentary around the Obama administration from the right. Put that together:  Obama is in an office that is historically a target; he is a member of a group that has been preferentially selected for deadly force in the context of political action; and there has been a demonstrable escalation of rhetoric against his policies and his person.

And thus the ironic (and that’s putting it nicely) grotesquery that is McArdle’s last line, a castigation of people like me who are, in her view, merely enjoying our fantasy of potential assassination:

Unfortunately, these sorts of fun pastimes are horribly corrosive to civic society.

Well, so they are, in the form committed by the disastrous McArdle.

And Josh Micah Marshall:

Gun-Toter From Obama Event: I, Like My Pastor, Want The President To Die : Chris Broughton, the man who brought an AR-15 rifle and a handgun to an Arizona Obama rally earlier this month, says he "concurs" with his fundamentalist pastor's prayer for President Obama "to die and go to hell."...

[P]astor Steven Anderson himself elaborated on his statement to TPMmuckraker that he would prefer Obama to die of natural causes so "he's not some martyr." "I don't want him to be a martyr, we don't need another holiday. I'd like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer," Anderson now says....

Broughton said of Anderson's controversial August 16 "Why I Hate Barack Obama" sermon: "I concur, I think we'd be better off if God would send [Obama] where he's going now instead of later. [Obama] is destroying our country." And when a reporter followed up with, "you're not advocating violence against the president?" Broughton, who has previously said his weapons are for defense, says "I'm not going to answer that question directly. I don't care how God does it, I'm not going into further detail than that," Broughton says. "It would be better now than later." In fact, Broughton added, he moved to the Tempe area to attend Anderson's storefront church, which is an "old-fashioned, independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, separated Baptist church." Roughly 24 hours after attending Anderson's anti-Obama sermon, Broughton made national headlines when he showed up heavily armed to an Obama event in Phoenix.