Sunday, January 09, 2011


I'm feeling fairly dismal at the moment.

Not because of anything personal. No, life here in North Portland continues fine. Mojo is out shopping at IKEA, I'm home with the kiddos, still in my b-robe on a lazy Sunday as the littles watch a movie on the cable.

It's the damn human race that is getting on my nerves.

It started late last week with the news about the final disgrace of "Doctor" Wakefield, the man whose 1998 publication spurred the formation of coteries of "anti-vaccination" supporters over much of the English-speaking world. An investigative piece confirmed the British medical conclusion that Wakefield had committed the ultimate scientific sin; he had deliberately faked his data. Of the twelve patients in his original "study", "...five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism."There is nothing left to the man. He has been disgraced, exposed as a greedy charlatan and a naething of a researcher. His work, which was originally distrusted after no other researchers, even his own co-authors, could duplicate it, is thrown in the garbage heap of historical revulsion along with cold fusion and credit-default swaps.

And yet...

Jenny McCarthy, whose qualifications as an authority on children and health seem to be nothing greater than a pair of mammaries large enough to nourish an entire village of little ones, insists that the Wakefield news is "much ado about nothing", as if the breaking of the seminal link between vaccines and autism has no effect on the validity of the remainder of her now-unsupported assertions. Her supporters such as this woman, Meryl Dorey, the leader of the "anti-vaxxers" in Australia, are undeterred. Presumably these women are typical of their cohorts, who will continue to insist on their delusion at the expense of the health of others and others' children.And McCarthy will continue to command attention for no reason other than her exaggerated proportions. And other hominids will listen to her, and be convinced by her. And others' children will become sick, and some will die.

And in Tucson, a random nutter walked into some sort of "town meeting" between the local congresswoman and her constituents and opened fire. He killed six people outright, including a nine-year-old girl and three ladies in their seventies. He has, in my opinion, also killed the congresswoman.

The U.S. Army has had a LOT of experience with brain trauma lately. The experience suggests that if as I suspect and her left hemisphere must be effectively destroyed that if she survives she will spend the rest of her life regaining her basic human functions. The woman who entered that mall is dead; the person who leaves that bed - assuming she does, as brain injuries are horrible and have a history of turning for the worse suddenly - will be reborn as someone with a new personality and an incredibly hard life ahead of her. I mourn the young woman who went to that event; the miserable fucker ended that woman's life as effectively as if he'd shot her as stone dead as he did a nine-year-old girl.

First, let me say that while I have no strong opinions about "gun control", if this doesn't drive a stake in the damn heart of the notion that letting people wander around with semiautomatic weapons "makes us safer" nothing will.

Arizona has one of the least restrictive carry concealed laws in the U.S., which in turn has among the least restrictive gun control laws in the world.

But despite the fact that I'll bet that there were several "law-abiding" citizens at the event carrying their hoglegs this nutjob was able to empty an entire magazine into the crowd and was only brought down by a tackle when the slide on his Glock locked back.Because an ambush works not because the victims in the kill zone are unarmed but because the ambusher is prepared for deadly violence and the targets - unless they are certifiably paranoid insane - are not.

The natural lag in human response to such unexpected violence will always enable the killer(s) to commit their crime, no matter how well armed and well trained the bystanders will be. Add semiautomatic weapons - capable of firing as rapidly as the shooter can pull the trigger - and you will have lots of dead and wounded.


Arming more people will not stop this. If anything, the more people you arm, and the more of them you encourage to walk about armed, the more likely it will be that one of them will turn out to be one of these ambush-nutters.

You can still make a political case for wanting people walking around armed. But socially? No. Practically? No. Armed people in public will ALWAYS mean more dead people, and always mean that many of the dead will have been killed for no good reasons. You should be forced to argue, when you argue for liberal carry-concealed laws, that the dead and injured that will result are the "acceptable collateral damage" of your beliefs. If you can still convince people of your position, than good on you. I'm willing to accept that you have a Constitutional case to make for it.But right now you can't make me feel any more optimistic about it.

Update 1/11/10: Here's Bill Saletan at Slate (a forum and a writer that I will admit to having problems with) with some illuminating points on the counterpoint issue to "gun control" - that armed citizens will "make us safer". Apparently there WAS an armed bystander, or at least a near-bystander - who arrived with his bullet launcher at the ready...just in time to almost slot a good guy.
"As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out."
Yep. GIs know that one of the most likely outcomes of shooting without good situational awareness is a blue-on-blue. Add untrained civilians with their hoglegs?

Christ on a crutch.

Second, the man who fired the shots appears to have been a random maniac. His online rantings are said to include "...deep distrust of government and religion, calling US laws "treasonous" and calling for creation of a new currency." This is not a standard Teabagger sort of party line, and as Jim Fallows points out, the sort of people who commit political assassinations are often not "political" in themselves. So there doesn't seem to be a direct connection between Glenn Beck's big mouth and the hole in Gabrielle Girrofd's skull.But Fallows continues;
"But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac's famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed -- including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk -- on rallies, on cable TV, in ads -- about "eliminating" opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say "don't retreat, reload."
And yet...the first reactions from the Right are typified by the Teabag blog "Big Government", which screams "Unbelievable: Democrat Group Using Gifford's Shooting for Fundraiser!" (and no, I'm not going to link to the douchebags. You can Google it yourself under "Gifford shooting"). The wingnut blog Redstate jumps on the story - not to mourn the woman but to deny that "Conservative Politics" have anything to do with the shooting.

So I think Fallows is wrong. I think the "let's wipe out liberals" talk will continue. I think that the Right will, like Peter, deny this man as they have denied the abortion shooters, as they denied the Oklahoma City bombers, as they deny all the other antigovernment wreckers, and the intellectually incoherent teabaggers shouting for more weapons, more war, and lower taxes.

And I think that my country will have gone another day, another mile, down the road that seems to have leveled out from the rise out of the prehominid East African Rift. We seem to have gotten so far, but no further, from the hairy savages crouching on the savannah, shrieking, and hooting, and flinging their shit at one another and at their predators.The only difference seems to be that the only predator left is ourselves.

So I'm not feeling very loving towards the damn human race at the moment. For all our technological "progress" and social complexity we seem determined to persist in stupidity even when shown the way to learning, to the pursuit of our own selfish worst interests when mutual assistance is clearly to our benefit, in angry self-justification when empathy and human compassion would seem the natural and most decent things to do.

We seem to learn nothing, we seem to forget nothing, we are our own worst fucking enemy, and right now I am wretchedly convinced that all those unvaccinated kids, and Gabrielle Giffords, and little Christina Taylor-Green, and Judge Roll, and old Dottie Morris, have died for nothing.


EGrise said...

This is a hell of a thing your wrote here, chief, and I enjoyed reading it. Nothing to add at the moment other than thanks.

Pluto said...

I'm not going to deny the validity of what you wrote. Every word of it is true, at least in the context you wrote it.

But this is social evolution in action. It's a messy painful, needlessly wasteful process that mostly produces dead-ends and painful retreats. But there is progress.

Slavery is no longer common. Women now hold 51.4% of management and professional positions (per this week's Time magazine). Gays are slowly getting the same rights as other people.

You just have to hate the wastefulness of the dark side of the process and try to do better in your own part of the world.

FDChief said...

In my more reflective moments Pluto I acknowledge every bit of what you're saying. Things ARE better for most people than they were in, say, the tenth century. Nowhere in the world today is there a likelihood of a barbarian horde riding in and wiping out 90% of the living humans as the Huns did and the Mongols did and the Mantatee Horde did...until you think of Mao or Amin or Pol Pot and realize that us humans still have the seeds of darkness within us.

And when I'm NOT feeling reflective, that's the miserable side of humanity I see.

Enh, I'll feel more optimistic tomorrow - that's the sort of person I am.

But right now the reaction from the Right (and the anti-vaxxers); "don't blame us! We didn't do it! Besides, you do it, too! And we're right, anyway, so it's okay if we do it!" is just depressing the shit out of me.

Whatever happened to taking your licking and dealing with it like grown-up men and women?

Pluto said...

"Whatever happened to taking your licking and dealing with it like grown-up men and women?"

Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but that happens so rarely in the annals of human history that it is noteworthy when it occurs, not the reverse.

I'm sure you're doing your bit (as I'm doing mine) to make sure that your kids are capable of such advanced moral concepts so there is hope for the future.

You might want to read "The Grace of Silence" by Michele Norris. She set out to write a book about race relations and tripped over a family secret that totally outraged her. But eventually she came to understand why her father kept it a secret and how she was a better person for NOT knowing about it until she was an adult.

FDChief said...

You're right about that, too, sadly. It's the irritating disconnect between the people who insist that THEY are the (only) grownups in politics and then they whine and snivel like this. I'm perfectly willing to accept that we're barbarians. It's the hypocrisy that gets up my wick.

FDChief said...

Here's a couple of other people who have the same problem I do with the Right's responses:

Andy Sullivan:

and driftglass:

Obviously I'm not the only one frustrated by this...

Pluto said...

ISTM that you were correct and Fallows is wrong about the level of rhetoric. The Right will not back down, they will probably intensify it instead.

I've been hanging out at the very fringes of the Tea Party and there is a certain amount of quiet satisfaction in the lower dregs of their membership over the shooting. Sort of a "see, we weren't kidding" moment.

These people are also the most enthusiastic speakers when it comes to discussing the "coming revolution." I'm sure that some part of the right-wing blogosphere have noted the same response and shrugged to themselves and said, "anything for ratings" and will pour on the vitriol. People do the darnedest things for money...

The country is very seriously dividing into the have's and have not's (with a LOT of people deluding themselves over which camp they are in). It's only natural that this process is generating an enormous anger and that some people (even though they aren't necessarily directly impacted at this time) are literally taking pot-shots at the people in power.

The current time is a test for the social development of the United States. I think we all know that the final grade isn't going to be an "A" but nobody knows whether it will be a "C" or a "F" and what the consequences of the grade will be.

I've got two songs running through my head these days, "Silent Running" by Mike and the Mechanics and "Abraham, Martin, and John" by Dion. Back to the 60's (and the early 30's and the late 1890's) once more with feeling!