Fuck violence

A Congressman along with three others was shot today:

A rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice Wednesday, wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover. The assailant, prepared with ‘‘a lot of ammo,’’ fought a gun battle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.

The only type of thing this type of violence is good for is creating more violence. Violence can come from any political faction and in all cases is both unacceptable and stupid.

And there’s much too much of it:

A UPS employee opened fire at a San Francisco package delivery facility on Wednesday, killing three employees and then himself as officers closed in, police said.

Now I know what to say

This is comforting:

The FBI announced Friday that it is investigating the mass shooting in Southern California as an act of terrorism, while a US law enforcement official revealed that the woman who helped her husband carry out the attack had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook under an alias.

It means we don’t need to wonder what’s wrong with a country where there are mass shootings almost every day and where, in a fairly strict gun control state, people are able to amass:

The couple had 1,400 .223-caliber rounds and 200 9-mm rounds of ammunition either on their person or in the SUV in which they were both eventually shot by SBPD officers. Investigators also found 2,000 9mm rounds and 2,500 .223-caliber rounds at their home in a later raid, Burguan said.

The shooters reportedly used two assault rifles and two handguns in the attack on Wednesday, killing 14 people and injuring 21. The four weapons were all legally obtained, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Thursday. The assault rifles were a .223-caliber DPMS Model A15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P15.

It means we can stop praying and start doing. Hey, let’s bomb someone.

Tension does not mean violence

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail. You should read it, the ideas are still relevant today. I think this:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

is a very important point. Tension is inevitable in any society, so there must be peaceful ways to relieve the tension. If not, then other ways will be found–violent ways.

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides–and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

At the same time that we condemn and strike back against terrorism, we must ensure that the peoples of the world have nonviolent ways to channel their tension.

Lead, abortion, and murder

I have seen the Freakonomics idea that legalizing abortion caused a decrease in violence and I have been wary about it. They say that they control for lots of variables, but it still amounted to an observational study with their inherent problems. In particular confounding factors–just because you think you have thought of all the other variables, doesn’t mean you have. It now seems that exposure to lead (via here) is one such factor. I also have doubts about this study, but it seems stronger to me:

The centerpiece of Nevin’s research is an analysis of crime rates and lead poisoning levels across a century. The United States has had two spikes of lead poisoning: one at the turn of the 20th century, linked to lead in household paint, and one after World War II, when the use of leaded gasoline increased sharply. Both times, the violent crime rate went up and down in concert, with the violent crime peaks coming two decades after the lead poisoning peaks.

Other evidence has accumulated in recent years that lead is a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggression, but these studies have also drawn little attention. In 2001, sociologist Paul B. Stretesky and criminologist Michael Lynch showed that U.S. counties with high lead levels had four times the murder rate of counties with low lead levels, after controlling for multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors.

In 2002, Herbert Needleman, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, compared lead levels of 194 adolescents arrested in Pittsburgh with lead levels of 146 high school adolescents: The arrested youths had lead levels that were four times higher

This means that there is statistical evidence and medical evidence. If it’s thought that exposure to lead changes parts of the brain that make violence more likely, then that can be tested (they imply this has been done, but don’t really state that it has–they only point to more observational studies). If a medical theory predicts something and data shows that it happens that makes the conclusion stronger even if the data does come from an observational study. Still, I think this is stating things much too strongly:

Most of the theories have been long on intuition and short on evidence. Nevin says his data not only explain the decline in crime in the 1990s, but the rise in crime in the 1980s and other fluctuations going back a century. His data from multiple countries, which have different abortion rates, police strategies, demographics and economic conditions, indicate that lead is the only explanation that can account for international trends.

It’s only saying that of the variables they look at, lead is the only one that accounts for the trends. There could be other variables they haven’t looked at that explain things better.

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