Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton supports coal and oil when her party does not

There is so much to take issue with in the Democratic Party it is difficult to know where to start. So why not start with what happened today?

According to the Associated Press report of the new party platform, the dreaded Trans Pacific Partnership might become a reality:
The panel, which is developing the party's platform ahead of next month's Philadelphia convention, instead backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the [investor deal] and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment."
To the well-trained ear this is a symphony of liberal ideals in action. We are considering diversity! We are protecting people! It's also an agreement that in its essence is about protecting investors from governmental regulation, not limiting investor power.

As can be expected, the environmental protection is compromised and flimsy, (via the AP article):
Working into the evening, the panel narrowly rejected amendments offered by environmentalist Bill McKibben, a Sanders supporter, that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national moratorium on fracking.

What's not mentioned is that the presumed nominee is also interested in subsidizing fossil fuels, and the platform naturally cannot overstep the (next) president too much. In other words, we have to accommodate the interests of the president and her very pro-oil friends before looking at the science. Isn't that horrible?

According to Hillary Clinton's website, we can expect oil companies to largely survive under her administration due to direct intervention from the state. We have to "modernize our pipeline system" and "repair or replace...pipelines," and "ship oil sands crude" so long as they pay a price. We will also institute what is called "capture" -- a strange Christ-like concept whereby fossil fuel companies save the world from their own dirtiness. Another piece of wisdom from is to work on "the deployment of renewable natural gas."

This directly contradicts the advice of the party's own experts who warn this will go nowhere. Probably better to address that now rather than later? Last winter, Democrats put in a lot of work into documenting the serious problems of fossil fuel industry. As they wrote in their findings:

Perhaps the most compelling finding of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project is that governments could easily flub the energy transition by failing to plan far enough ahead. Most countries are setting 10- and 15-year targets that can be met with incremental changes
Yet that almost guarantees that the toughest problems, like perfecting the carbon-capturing technology, will be tackled too late to meet the long-term goal of zero emissions, the researchers found.
Another potential dead end, the research suggests, would be an overreliance on natural gas. Gas is a lower-carbon fuel than coal, and switching power plants to run on gas can achieve big emission reductions in the short run. The Obama administration, with its Clean Power Plan, is trying to lock in such a switch in the United States.
But the deep-decarbonization research suggests that gas has to go away within a few decades, which means that heavy investment in natural gas pipelines and power plants now could wind up undermining the long-term goals.

But as everyone was told this election, it's nice to have these ideals of not dying from preventable dirty energy pollution, but maybe not practical.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Australia's gun buyback program stopped violence, their inequality increased it

According to the Guardian, since gun homicides were trending down already, the likeliness of helping Americans with such a program would not help. Obviously there are things that reduce homicides other than guy buybacks. But I'm concerned this is going against existing research.

First of all, it's noteworthy Australia can be an example for at least some of the US, especially since the bulk of our suicides are done with and facilitated by guns. The suicide rate of Australia in 2014 was 12.71 per capita and is worrying but the gun suicide rate is under 1 per capita.

However, Australia presents a second harsh lesson with suicide. Low suicide towns in Australia have seen "recent improvements in the availability and geographical access to focused mental health initiatives" that "were associated with a reduction in the historically high rates of both youth and farmer suicides" while "In contrast HS towns, publicly funded health services were described as being very difficult to access, poorly advertised, or as having prohibitive delays for acute care."

It's noteworthy that suicide is extremely correlated with systemic inequality like poverty, as well as gender and drug abuse but it is also correlated with age, and Australia is an aging country with worrying health indicators even with a strong health care system.

To what degree these issues are involved needs further analysis than a trend line. Australia did in fact introduce more access to health care in 1984 which, when put into policy here, does reduce suicides. But in 1996 it shifted to a private/public system, seemingly leaving behind those using the public one.

All of this is important -- for Australia. Consider however that the United States citizenry are at present not experiencing a hanging epidemic but a gun suicide one (and are hopefully moving towards greater access to health care, we'll see). Looking at overall rates of gun violence in Australia is not a bad place to start. So what did happen to the gun violence rates after 1995 in Australia?

According to only just-dated but possibly relevant research by the Medical Journal of Australia (1988-2007):

Considered nationally, the falls in male suicide were due to significant reductions in shooting, gassing and poisoning, and occurred despite an increase in suicide by hanging. There were similar changes in the methods of suicide used by females. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that that measures to control the availability of firearms, the requirement for new cars to be fitted with catalytic converters and the decline in the prescription of tricyclic antidepressants have resulted in a decline in total suicide rates.

Here is the per capita gun suicide rate following 1995's gun buyback program:

 That still looks like a good start to me.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

More Healthcare, Less guns

39,991 people who happened to have lived in the United States killed themselves in 2013.

Rather than yell at people on Twitter about things I decided to make some nice pretty graphs about this horrible sad topic.

What comes to mind is Bernie saying that addressing health care coverage would reduce gun violence. So I tested his hypothesis and it seems to work. States with worse health care coverage tend to have higher gun suicides. However, states with higher gun ownership also have higher rates of suicide.

This is health care rating graphed against per capita gun suicides. As the state moves down the rank, the gun suicide rate goes up:

These data were collected by Injury Prevention, Gun Policy, and Commonwealth scorecard.

It is also true that states with less guns per capita have lower suicide rates. Here are firearm suicides (red) showing an increase as you start measuring states where they become more available.

In fact, the highest states in gun ownership all had suicide rates of over 15 per capita. New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, Idaho, Arkansas and Alaska averaged 20 suicides per 100,000 people. In comparison the least armed states: Delaware, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire averaged 10.

The second dip is at Hawaii which has a medium-high amount of guns, but strangely a very low gun suicide rate. Even general suicide rates it ranks inside the lowest 13 states (although their prosecutor is rightfully concerned regardless).

This is likely because as guns become more available, guns move from 30-50% to 50-75% of all suicides:

So while still having guns, that slump you see at 16% is Hawaii keeping guns away from at least some people who want to shoot themselves. According to Wikipedia:

Acquiring a firearm in Hawaii requires a permit to acquire, issued to qualified applicants by the county police chief. There is a minimum 14-20 day waiting period for receiving a permit. A separate permit is required for each handgun(s) transaction to be acquired (valid for a period of 10 days), while a "long gun" permit can be used for any number of rifles or shotguns for a period of one year. In addition to passing a criminal background check, applicants must provide an affidavit of mental health, and agree to release their medical records. First time applicants must be fingerprinted by the FBI (fee applies). When applying to acquire a handgun, a handgun safety training course affidavit or hunter's education card is also required.[9]
To put it another way, if Hawaii somehow jumped to the gun suicide rate of Wyoming and Alaska, it would be about 3,700 more gun suicides (15.7/1.99 = 7x , 7x339 is 4129 total).

If it can be proven that policy changes will threaten or help people it should become a bigger part of our project. There will need to be less appeals to archaic readings of the 2nd Amendment and simply just what works.

Part 2:

Citing Harvard isn't my favorite thing to do but they did map this out as well.

Part 3

Running this the opposite way: supposing the United States adopted Hawaii's more strict gun-buying rules that prevented gun suicide? Using again a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation that does NOT account for states with similar gun laws to Hawaii, but simply assumes they produce similar results, Hawaii's background check implemented nationally could save close to 15,000 lives:

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Neil Steinberg's Cowardly Narcisissm

When it came to people abused in Homan Square, Neil Steinberg asked us what we're smoking ("overblown"). Surely the police are the good guys. When it came to the police shooting Laquan McDonald his PCP history seemed very relevant ("Outrage is easy... "[b]lame culture that helped put the drug into the 17-year-old’s hands, and that reacts energetically to police officers killing young people, a relative rarity, but more mutedly to young people killing each other, a much larger problem, because it is easier to be aggrieved than responsible.")

Yet when Neil Steinberg is stood up to by someone beneath his station, the pieces all fall into place. He is just as misunderstood. The column of Neil Steinberg refers to his inability to purchase a gun. He attributes this, with no evidence, to being a reporter.  His personal drug abuse is a manufactured controversy! While this may or may not be true, it is certainly true that the gun store is correct in attributing alcohol use to Steinberg.

Let's review:

Steinberg to Black people: Eh you need more proof 
Steinberg to gun store: Why do you have so much proof? You hate me, I'm almost positive
Applying Steinberg's own principles, we must shame Steinberg for bringing himself into this situation. After all, it was enough that Laquan McDonald used a drug to justify shaming an entire "culture" after his murder (I think he meant to say race).

Monday, June 13, 2016

The sinister Muslims turning us into hypocrites!

A bill in support of religious freedom on 2001. Signed by a then-reasonable Barney Frank.


01-HR255 on Oct 4, 2001
Bill Sponsorship: the Resolution on bigotry against Sikh Americans:
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship
Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.

    Condemns bigotry and acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans, including Sikh-Americans.
    Calls upon local and Federal law enforcement authorities to: (1) work to prevent hate crimes against all Americans; and (2) prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all those who commit hate crimes.


Third — and this, he said, “may be the most controversial” of his views: The attack “reinforces the case for significant surveillance by law enforcement of people who have given some indication of adoption of these angry Islamic hate views.” The gunman had been questioned by the F.B.I. “If they had continued to surveil him, that would have led to some A.C.L.U. criticism – and they would have been wrong. I wish they had surveilled him more, not less.”