Monday, September 30, 2013

Feeling a bit waterlogged...

So, I'd been feeling a bit puffy lately... inflammation and swelling high, edema high etc...

Deciding that more accurate information was important, I stepped on an accurate scale; something I hadn't done in about a few weeks... 

...And lo and behold, I'm 45lbs heavier than last time I checked.

I've been eating less, and particularly eating snacks and fast food etc... less (the last couple months in Idaho we ended up eating a fair bit of "convenience" food, because of the baby), so I knew it was all water retention.

I haven't been taking my diuretics for months, because they were screwing around with other things; causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies in particular; and because the edema had been much better since the surgery and radiation. 

Unfortunately, while my edema isn't nearly as bad as before the surgery... it's by no means gone...

So, for the first time in months, I took a dose of my diuretics today.

2 hours later I had already lost 10 lbs...

So yeah... back on the diuretics it is for me...


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The REAL "real" reason for ridiculous medical care costs in this country

In the past few weeks, this video:



Explaining some of the reason Americas health care costs are so high, has become very popular... And it's got some good points to be sure; in fact, it's one of the first and best relatively plain language explanations I've seen outside of Libertarian circles, of the basic economics that drive healthcare pricing in America.

Unfortunately, many seem to take the message out of this that "Oh well, it's just because the government doesn't regulate how much things cost, and the health care companies are gouging us for evil evil profit, we MUST get the government to take over" etc... etc...

Today, a friend linked this NYT article on colonoscopies as a good example of how American health care pricing is out of whack... And again, it raises some good points, but again misses the point completely in some ways... Perhaps intentionally.

Watch the video and read the article for context before you read on...

I say "perhaps intentionally", because although the article (and the video) both make clear that certain procedures, medications etc... are priced FAR higher in the U.S. than elsewhere, they didn't really get into why the "price" invoiced is so ridiculously high.

They did touch a bit on a few areas, but both simply seemed to suggest that it is because the government doesn't regulate the prices and therefore the healthcare companies gouge Americans for huge profits just because they can.

Knowing me... One might have certain suspicions as to my thoughts on that concept...

Although, as the article suggests, it sometimes IS because of gouging, or because of unnecessary profit motivated procedures (particularly the overprescription of marginally effective, marginally necessary medications; and the over use of preventative or diagnostic procedures with marginal value), most of the time our ridiculous health care costs (and they absolutely are ridiculous) are NOT the result of gouging for profits.

Both the article and video highlighted the market failures (and yes, without doubt healthcare is a failed market in this country), but other than saying "doctors charge too much and do unnecessary high profit things", and "it's because the government doesn't set the prices lower", and that the market is distorted and largely failed... again, they don't really explain why the prices are what they are.

In addition to the points raised in those pieces, there are three major factors:


  1. The price listed or invoiced is nowhere near the price actually paid. Often the total the insurance company (or medicare/medicaid/state health care) pays is up to 80% less than that invoiced.

    This comes from negotiation, pricing arrangements, discounting plans.... and sometimes just pure fiat. The doctors submit their invoices, and the payers send back how much they are willing to pay, and if you don't like it, too bad, you agreed to take this insurance. The only recourse is to drop that insurance and those patients.
  2. The healthcare providers, device makers, drug makers etc... inflate the official list prices, so that those who do pay, cover the costs for those who don't, or who pay much less.

    U.S healthcare consumers subsidize the cost of those on medicare, and the uninsured (either paid for through emergency care which cannot be turned down in this country, or through state healthcare programs); as well as healthcare consumers in other countries where their governments regulate far lower prices.

    Rather than take a loss, or lower profit, because of all of those who don't pay, or pay less, they jack up the price on U.S. consumers.

    Because we as individuals don't directly pay for the majority of our healthcare expenses (typically we only pay 20% of our insurance premiums, our copays typically max out at 20% of the invoiced cost), and those costs are kept opaque from us, we can't shop around, or even demand a better price... if we even know the price at all, which, most often, we don't.
  3. In the U.S. up to 80% of every "healthcare dollar" isn't spent on healthcare, it's spent on lawyers, taxes, administration, and insurance.

    For example, just on the care delivery side of our healthcare industry today (meaning doctors, nurses, hospitals, and the companies that "manage care", do their billing and paperwork etc...), there are actually EIGHT people working in administrative roles, for every person actually delivering healthcare to the patient.

    Simply for billing alone, there's generally one person working on billing, insurance, medicare, paperwork etc... for every two doctors.

    For an even more costly example, the article highlighted the increased costs of surgical centers over doctors offices for outpatient procedures, suggesting the widespread use of outpatient surgical centers was solely so that doctors could gouge patients.

    What they didn't mention is that malpractice insurance for doctors who do inpatient surgery in their offices is anywhere from 2-8 times as expensive (if they can even get coverage) as for doctors who do not. Whereas in the surgical center, the additional malpractice insurance burden is covered by the center itself, with the individual doctor bearing far less of the cost.

    These are not trivial insurance costs... a single doctors insurance premiums can go over $300,000 a year in some specialties and some markets. Anesthesiologists and Ob/Gyns in particular pay among the highest insurance premiums.

    This is why there is an nationwide shortage of OB/GYN's. In some markets, there aren't ANY independent Ob/Gyn's who actually deliver babies. In Las Vegas anymore for example; they simply cannot get malpractice insurance in that market anymore, and have to be covered under a hospitals or group practices group/umbrella policies.

    And THAT isn't just insurance companies gouging doctors... Industrywide, from 2004 to 2009, payouts in settlements and lawsuits against several different categories of doctor (including OB/GYN) exceeded premiums.

    And THAT isn't because doctors are making more mistakes, or worse ones; in fact the reverse is true. Infant death particularly during the final few weeks before delivery and first few weeks after, is vanishingly rare in this country among otherwise healthy babies; and is becoming more so every day.

    There are two issues there.

    The first is that we are saving more and more pregnancies and more and more babies, that in other countries, or in the past, would not have been saved, gone to term, or survived delivery. This results in far more high risk pregnancies and high risk infants in this country than in other countries (and by the way, that's also why our infant mortality statistics are worse than many european countries. They don't count marginal viability pregnancies and deliveries as infant mortality in their statistics). The fact is, the best doctors in the world, with the best gear, drugs, and techniques... sometimes fail to save those who are at high risk, without any error or fault of their own.

    Which feeds into the second issue...

    Which is the jackpot court system in this country. Presented with a tragic story of a high risk infant and suffering angry parents, juries largely don't give a damn if there was malpractice or not. They figure hell, the doctors are rich and have insurance, they can afford it; and so they give grieving families, or families facing a huge burden of care for their disabled children, massive awards (many of which end up being dramatically reduced by judges).

    Meanwhile, actual malpractice, if it isn't sexy enough to get a big trial lawyer involved, is nearly impossible to show

So yes, the U.S. healthcare market has failed, badly... but it's not because markets are bad, or healthcare is some weird special beast. It's because the market is horribly distorted and opaque, often deliberately so.

If the market were allowed to function with far less distortion and forced to function with transparency, it would be an entirely different situation.

I don't know about you... but my personal experience... and for that matter their track record in healthcare... Suggests to me that counting on the government to fix ANY market in general, and the healthcare market in particular, is a SPECTACULARLY bad idea.

... But maybe this time will be different... because... umm... unicorns and rainbows and Barack Obama?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

At this point I'm basically a six, because one is true, except where I have to be a two


Not Proven

There's an interesting practice in Scottish law, which isn't a part of either English or Northern Irish law... or for that matter, to my knowledge, any other code of laws in the world.

It comes from a particular concept of Presbyterianism (and Calvinism as a whole), in that one must not utter a false statement in Gods name (to do so is bearing false witness).

This has a particular effect on court proceedings, as the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland, is the official (but not established) church of Scotland. Courts and juries are (or at least were... not sure if it's still done) sworn to deliver their verdicts in Gods name, and trials are conducted under and by the grace of God.

Because of this, in Scotland, as in no other nation on earth, there are in fact three possibly final verdicts for a completed case:

Not Guilty - The accused did not commit the crime, and is not legally responsible for it.

Guilty - The accused committed the crime and is legally responsible for it.

Not Proven - The accused likely committed the crime, but there is insufficient evidence to prove this beyond reasonable doubt.
Note: In fact, although Calvinism as a whole is Swiss in origin, the Presbyterian movement and church (technically churches, as they are individual and separate churches in each nation, under the auspices of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Polity), was founded in Scotland. I can't find if "not proven" was ever an element of Swiss law, but I know that it is not now.
The verdict of "not proven" is still an acquittal... it's just an honest one "We think you did it, but we can't prove it, so we're not sending you to jail... but we still think you did it".

The only reason this third verdict exists, is because of this precept that finding someone not guilty, when you know them to be guilty but cannot prove it, is an offense against God. It's uttering a false statement in Gods name.

I really think it's a useful concept though, even without the idea of God being involved.

Oh and the right of juries to bring in a "not guilty" verdict for a charge which is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but for which the jury believes the accused holds no guilt, or that there was no true crime (malum prohibitum vs. malum in se; or crimes where mens rea and negligence were absent); is an explicit, and sacred, assumption of Scottish Law.

Again, because if you truly believe no crime was committed, then it would be an offense against God to declare a man guilty of one.

...And again... I think this is a very useful concept.

Here we call it Jury Nullification, and it's generally frowned upon. In Scotland, it's just "the way it is and should be".

Unfortunately, the parliamentary commission reviewing Scottish law and practices is trying to get rid of these; to bring Scotland in line with law around the U.K. and the EU.

Actually, they've more or less officially got rid of the latter... but Scottish juries still regularly return "not guilty" verdicts, for charges that are fully proven, but which they believe are not crimes, or for which there is no "guilt".

After all, you can't be guilty of something that wasn't wrong in the first place can you.

Something I think our own courts might be better off taking into account...




Monday, September 23, 2013

I haven't been myself for a while...

Unless we've been very close friends for some time, or close family members; it's entirely possible... quite likely in fact... that any particular time you've met me since around 2005, or before 1993; who you met was not really me.

Or perhaps you may have may have met several different "me's"; any one of, or none of which, might actually have been me...

If you knew me before 1993, and we weren't really close then and haven't been close since, you probably never really met me, and don't really know me at all (that includes most of my family).

Unless we are (or were for some time) actually very close, or you knew me reasonably well between 1993 and 2005; it's entirely possible that, even if we've "hung out together a few times" and that "you know me pretty well"; if talking face to face was our primary interaction, and most of how you came to know me... then you probably don't know really know me well, and you may have met me very rarely, if at all.

... Actually... If you've never met me, but still consider that you know me very well... You're probably right... and you probably know me better... or at least more accurately... than those who HAVE spent a little face time with me, but not a lot of non-face time.

Huh? Wuh? What's with the metaphysics here... Existentialism is for Nihilists and Frenchmen...

Oh, I'm me... I've only got one brain, and one soul, and together they make one person locked in one body.  I have no secret alternate identities, and I'm not living a lie or a double life. I haven't cloned myself. To my knowledge, there are no AnarchAngel impersonators out there. I haven't been secretly living as someone else.

In fact, I make a very deliberate effort to be as open, honest, and straightforward about myself (and in general) as I possibly can (or you can possibly stand); and I think most of the time, I mostly succeed (sometimes entirely too well actually). Though there have been some notably horrendous failures.

Confused yet? 

So... what the hell am I talking about?

Hmmm... first things first, so from birth to 1993...

Well... I grew up in a pretty physically and emotionally abusive environment; hyper competitive, utterly intolerant of error, weakness, or anything less than the best you could give... and the punishments and penalties were quite severe, both emotionally, and at times physically.

I also grew up poor, in a rich town, with some rich family members, and some poor ones. And I grew up... weird. Bits of amazing love, tenderness, and family support; mixed with bits of hate, abuse, fear, insecurity... IT was not an experience I recommend for young people.

My family are mostly both very intelligent, and very screwed up in many ways.

To deal with all that, I built up several different masks, for dealing with the different people who I had to, or wanted to interact with. They weren't exactly lies, but they certainly weren't anything close to the unvarnished me. Each of them was based on real things within myself... different aspects and elements of my personality, emotions, thoughts; painted and stitched up to serve a particular purpose, and stay in place while doing so.

The only time the masks EVER slipped (unless I loved you and trusted you with my life) were in my worst moments, and in my best moments... and even then only generally when we were very close; but sometimes the real me was visible for a second here or there... a moment of real pain, a moment of real joy etc...

I certainly knew I was doing it, while I was doing it. It was mostly automatic and seamless... but I wasn't self deluding, nor was I really intending to deceive that much (as I said, the masks did reflect parts of me, just not all); I was intending to protect myself, and to limit my pain and problems. It was a defense and coping mechanism. I didn't want attention, actually I got too much of it, and wanted to be left alone more.

So... what's the significance of 1993?

1993 is when most of the abuse ended. 

Once I went to college, I started deconstructing the masks... or at least wearing them less frequently and less completely. By 2001 or so, when I split with my first wife, and moved to Ireland; I was trying very hard to not mask myself, and to be as open, honest, and genuine as I could be.

I also had to relearn social skills, without using the filter of the masks. Not treating other people as potential attackers or targets for example. Re-calibrating my filters.

There are still times when the masks go up... self protection... just plain smarter in certain situations... But I do try.

But that's not really what I'm talking about, it just explains why I say most people who knew me... including most of my family... before 1993 don't really know me at all.

So... here's the first big thing... 

...I'm not actually an extravert. At least not really...

Some of you started laughing when you read that.

Those of you who have met me more than a few times, but are NOT close friends and family, will likely find this very hard to believe, or even ridiculous, but it's true.

Even some of my pretty close friends have rarely if ever seen me when I'm not "on". When they do, it can be surprising to them.

Out in public I generally appear to be entirely extraverted... and in certain situations, extremely so. The more people around, particularly those I don't know well, the more extraverted I seem to get.

However, in me, what appear to be obvious visible elements of extraversion, are either something else entirely that looks like extraversion from the outside (but isn't), or learned (or perhaps conditioned) behavior on my part.

In fact, as far as the specific individual elements that make up extraversion and introversion; I'm far closer to being an introvert... but really, I'm neither.

What appears to be extraversion is either coincidence or construction. 

When I was a child, I  learned how to use my own energy and focus, to appear to be extraverted, as a defense mechanism.

When I was a kid, "extraversion" was one of  my masks... it was part of my defensive armor... But only when I couldn't avoid being stuck in with large groups of people, or people I didn't know and trust.

...Or with my family; who are mostly very loud, aggressive, argumentative, competitive... and if you can't keep up, and can't fence with the best of them... well then you're just another victim kid.

If I could avoid the crowds, I generally would; and unless I absolutely had to be "on" or I was looking for something in particular, or I was very bored... Frankly I was perfectly happy not seeing anyone at all for days at a time, just reading.

However, when I was forced to, or wanted to do something out with people, being "extraverted" was the closest I could get to being able to express parts of myself honestly; in a way that was, if not necessarily well liked or accurately understood, accepted as relatively "normal".

But that was as a kid... as I said, since 1993, I've tried not to mask myself as I did then. So what about now? Why do I seem so extraverted now?

The reason why I'm not an extravert, even though I outwardly appear to be one, and often act like one is actually fairly simple...

The visible elements of what I really am, when honestly expressed; have the same or very similar appearance as the equivalent elements of extraversion; and it is socially acceptable to express them as extraversion. 

The important thing, is that the motives, feelings, and results, which drive each, are entirely different. 

I do many of the same things extraverts do... and I look like I'm an extravert when I do them; but I do them for different reasons, and get different rewards from them, than extraverts. 

So... what am I really, if not an extravert? 

Yeah... I keep mentioning that... "what I really am"... that can be a loaded question... and knowing my audience, for some it will be the inspiration for many jokes.

The answer though isn't particularly complex...

What I really am, is probably explained simplest by saying I'm an Obsessive, Hyperactive,  Enthusiast, and  Stimulus addict.

I am, by my essential nature, curious, inquisitive and exploratory, bold, sensitive, empathetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. However, I am also hyper-analytical, hyperfocused, hyperactive, and obsessively driven.

I have one of those brains that just needs input, stimulus, as much as possible, as often as possible, and as many varieties as possible; and then needs to process, analyze, and understand that input... and then relate it to all of the other previous experience, stimulus, and input.

Since I don't like drugs, my paths for seeking stimulus are books, the internet, pop culture, and social and personal interaction.

Really, I'm happy with any of them, so long as I can get variety and novelty in there. Which is why I am interested in, and know so much about so many different, weird, and obscure things; and why I know so many people.

The vast majority of life is relatively uninteresting on it's surface... but get deep into the details of things, and see how the complex interactions work, how many there are, how they break down...

I am perfectly happy going weeks at a time without seeing or talking to another human being except my direct loved ones. In fact, when I'm particularly involved in something, I prefer it. Other people require attention and focus, which tends to get in the way of focusing your entire being on understanding the entirety of particular thing and how it relates to and interacts with every other thing.

The thing is, reading, the internet etc... as varied and complex as they are, they are still relatively static as input... they're not alive. Yes of course they're changing in a constant stream, but it's not the same thing. After a while with nothing but dead input, my brain needs something else. It needs more complexity and novelty, than the static can provide.

And just about the most complicated and novel things in the world, are people... People are absolutely endlessly fascinating. And when I find people who I find particularly interesting, and who I like? Whoa boy...

Hyperactive, Obsessive and Controlling...

I've always had ADHD... actually very very severe ADHD; but not of the inattentive variety. Mine is the hyperfocused hyperactive variety.

If you have hyperfocused hyperactivity... you've got a superpower... IF you can control it effectively. It lets you get more done in less time than almost everyone else. More than seems possible or realistic.

Ever wonder how I manage to write 10,000 word blog posts in a few hours? And how I managed to write one of them almost every day for years? That's how.

Or how I read seven 400 page books in a day.

Or how when I had a 90 minute seminar presentation to give, and the night before the seminar my laptop hard drive decides to munge itself not once but TWICE (I recovered it from backups both times, after figuring out what caused it to puke in the first place); I managed to re-write the entire thing from scratch, because none of what I had done for the past few two weeks was on my backups.

That was Friday by the way.

I managed a double BS in two of the more difficult engineering disciplines in 3 years because of it.

I have generally been an extreme performer at work, academically (if not necessarily in grades... I tended to get great test scores and miss a lot of homework... Typically I got either an excellent grade or an incomplete), and in my hobbies and interests.

It's absolutely amazing... IF you can control it.

It takes enormous energy and focus to control it.

What... wait... it takes focus to control hyperfocus?

Yeah...the funny thing about the hyperfocused part of that... It's hyperfocus yes, to an absolutely absurd degree which can seem almost... or completely... insane (in fact it is technically a mental illness); but it's not controlled focus. The hyperfocus does it's thing on whatever the hyperactivity happens to pop into your head at any given time. And it can disappear just as quickly if the hyperactivity pops something else into your head.

So yes, it takes ENORMOUS energy, focus, and control, to get a handle on it. To direct and focus it on the things you WANT to focus on, rather than whatever your impulses dictate.

If you can't control it... Well... Ever see "Real Genius"?

Jordan?







 Yeah, that's uncontrolled hyperfocused hyperactivity.

Realworld example? Nikola Tesla (he had some other issues as well of course).

In fact, the entire absentminded professor trope comes from hyperfocused hyperactivity.

You think wikipedia or TV tropes are a timesuck for YOU? I go to look up one thing, and all of a sudden it's three hours later and I've got over 100 tabs open (and that's not a made up example... that was a few days ago).

I was utterly exhausted on the plane home Saturday. Had no energy whatsoever. No real focus or control. On my flight out of DFW we taxied for a very long time before takeoff... about 15 minutes. Most people would just ignore that if they noticed it at all. It doesn't matter, and no-one cares. But the hyperfocused hyperactive brain made me take 45 minutes to figure out the exact route and distance we had taxied (using the FAA airport diagrams), that we had made the longest possible direct taxi from gate to threshold you could make at DFW, and the average speed, and likely peak speed we had travelled (which significantly exceeded the taxiway speedlimit).

HH people tend to have tons of hobbies and interests. We're the people who learn 5 instruments and 7 languages, and parasail, and play competitive Go... on Tuesday... then on Wednesday...

We also tend to be either extremely successful, or utterly unsuccessful; in life, in careers, in relationships; pretty much entirely dependant on the degree of control we have over our HH.

Both by my nature, and because of the HH, I am quite literally an obsessive collector of experiences, input, and knowledge; and an obsessive collector of people.

Like any other obsession, these drives are INCREDIBLY strong for me. It took long years of work and maturity to understand and learn how to deal with them, to restrain and mitigate them when appropriate; and how to express them, to be a part of my personality, and not to overwhelm it.

... because people don't like to be around you if you don't.

And the thing is, these drives are innate to me. They work at the speed of impulse.

The restraint of them is learned behavior. It's social skills. It's discipline. It's experience and wisdom. And it doesn't run at the same speed as the impulses. It's much slower.

I had to learn a level of control, and to add interrupt and feedback mechanisms into my operational processes.

Empathy, and sensitivity are slower too... so I had to learn to slow down and add interrupts for emotion.

For most, emotion seems to work far faster than intellect. Most of the time, for me, it's the opposite.

Because of how I grew up, there are layer and layers of strong restraint and control on my emotions. They take some time to make it through those layers and express themselves, in comparison to the analytical engine, which is always working at full speed.

If I didn't have these skills, this restraint, this control, my impulses would run out of control, and my intellect would completely and entirely outpace my empathy, sensitivity, and emotions.

One of the advantages I've had in this, is that I have great innate perceptiveness, which I've trained up with observation, and situational awareness...

I had to... they were defense mechanisms. They kept me alive and safe.

However, they take a huge amount of energy and focus to keep working... and particularly to interrupt the hyperspeed analytical engine.

For most people, it takes more energy and focus to use their intellect, than their empathy or their emotions... I'm exactly the opposite.

Also, at times, because of my emotional control, and because of the hyper-analytical thing; I can seem like I lack sensitivity and empathy.

Anyone who gets very close with me, or who I like very much understands this is not true; but it's certainly a reasonable assumption to make for someone who hasn't seen the other side of me.

Actually, rather the opposite is true... By nature I'm extremely sensitive and empathetic... too much so in fact.

I was emotionally abused as a child quite severely; and grew up in a family of addicts, who had all suffered abuse themselves; with a mother (and other family members) who was critically ill much of the time, and had severe mental and emotional issues even when she wasn't. Even when I was not directly in pain myself, I was constantly surrounded by the pain of those I loved.

So, I developed incredibly strong defenses and controls around my empathy, my sensitivity, and my emotions. It takes some time and some effort to open them up. Now, I do try to be as open, understanding, and empathic as possible... but again, it takes energy and focus to do so.

So, when I'm seemingly insensitive or oblivious, or entirely unemotional... it's actually that my intellect, or my defense mechanisms have overrun my emotion, and my control.

As I have said, the problem with all of these things, is that they take a great deal of energy and focus, and control.

Which is important to remember for the rest of the story...

So, what else then?

What's Sleep?

There has literally never been a time since I was about 13 years old... not for one single minute of that entire time... that I wasn't sleep deprived, at least to some degree.

And not just "oh I need 8 hours but I only got 6"... more like "wow, I managed to get a whole four hours uninterrupted today", with the occasional smattering of "Ok, day four with no sleep, wonder if I'll be able to eat anything without being sick".

I've been an insomniac my entire life... at least since I was 3 or 4. It got worse as I got older, particularly during and just after puberty; to the point where at 14, I once went a full 5 days without sleeping; and had many 3 or 4 full day episodes.

Typically speaking, in those years I would sleep for 8-12 hours, then not sleep for 2 to 4 days, then sleep for 8-12 hours again. This was my normal every day pattern. I missed a lot of school.

Thankfully it kinda tapered back off starting in high school, and by college, I was mostly able to sleep 4-6 hours a night, most nights, with the occasional 2 or 3 day episodes.

From the ages of 16 to around 28, I was still an insomniac, but it wasn't as severe. I actually got some sleep on occasion, and the times when I went days without sleeping became less frequent, and less severe (I stopped going 4 and 5 days, and went down to 2 or 3 days).

This has been complicated by chronic pain due to injury and illness since I was 19... not much makes you more exhausted while at the same time less able to sleep, then chronic pain.

Unfortunately, since around the age of 28, my illness (and the medications required to treat it), and the various stresses of the last 8 years, have made it worse.

Also, disruption to life patterns, and travel, both make it worse.

And of course, we have an almost six month old baby... and every parent with a 6 month old is sleep deprived anyway.

And yes, the sleep deprivation then in turn makes the health problems and the stress worse.

Let me use this week as an example for you...

As I'm typing this, it's about 5am Sunday morning, and I haven't actually fully slept since Tuesday at 8am. I had two short naps of about 2 hours each in that time.

Let's just take that Tuesday through Sunday period and break it down...

Tuesday I woke up from 4 hours of sleep, at about 8am. I tried to sleep, but couldn't, until I managed a short nap at about 8am the next day.

Wednesday I woke up from my 2 hour nap at 10am. I had to work all day on a presentation I was giving Friday, and fix some computer issues. I ended up working all day an all night on various things, before leaving for the airport at 6am Thursday for my 8:30 flight. I was flying all day, arriving in Tampa at 6pm local, and then went out to dinner with friends until around midnight.

So, I didn't sleep at all thursday.

I wanted to sleep but couldn't... and I still had work to do. I ended up working all night, until I left to go to the seminar I was delivering at 10am. We worked on seminar prep, then delivering the seminar, all day; and went out to dinner with the host and other presenter until about midnight.

Meaning I didn't sleep at all on Friday either, and delivered a seminar on camera (at 3pm), after having been awake and travelling for 53 hours.

I tried to sleep that night as well, knowing I had another flight in the morning, but couldn't manage it at all, until I had a barely unconscious half awake half asleep nap for two hours before heading to the airport.

I got off the airplane, and Mel picked me up so we could spend some time with friends in Phoenix, before heading out to her dads in kearny (a 90 minute drive). We ended up getting back to Kearny around midnight... and I tried to sleep but couldn't... so I started writing this.

I finally managed to fall asleep shortly after I wrote the first paragraph in this section. I wanted to finish it at the time, but I had to stop writing because my eyes literally couldn't focus anymore, I was microsleeping, and I started writing gibberish. I got about six hours of sleep total between 5am and 6pm.

I spent 117 hours without actually sleeping, just two half asleep naps of two hours each, 2 days apart; with four flights, on two basically full days travelling packed in.

Thankfully, that is the worst week for insomnia I've had in years... in fact I think it's the worst I've had since I was a teenager. I've only had one other full 4 day period of sleeplessness in the last year, and nowhere near as many 3 day periods as my teen years.

So... what does that mean?

Sleep deprivation does more than just make you tired. It depletes your energy and focus, your control. It changes your mood and your personality. It affects your decision making. It affects how your body heals, and the damage it takes.

The more severe the sleep deprivation, and the more of it over time, the more impact it has.

So, when my insomnia isn't too bad, plenty of energy and focus, but the worse it gets the less I have.

And then there's the pain...

I have lived with chronic, severe, and worsening pain, since I was 19 years old.

I have a history of inflammatory issues that run in the family, and have arthritis in several joints; as well as a series of moderate to severe musculoskeletal injuries, particularly to my knees, back, and ankles.

I then developed endocrine cancer, which caused my endocrine system to go insane... The endocrine system controls the bodies inflammatory response. The inflammation is what causes most of the pain.

On a good day, I have a background pain level of about 2 to 3... I don't even notice 2 to 3. Most days I'm a 4-5, but the prescription anti-inflammatories can take it down some; sometimes even down to a 1-2. Bad days, I'm a 7-8 without the drugs... those days I don't get out of bed without them.

Really bad days I'm a 7-8 WITH the drugs, and I'm in enough pain that I can't eat, and sleep is... not sleep, it's passing out from the exhaustion of being in pain. If I try to walk on a 7-8 day without the drugs, I will spike a 9-10... that makes me scream, or cry, or have to clamp my jaw shut... sometimes hyperventilate...

There's a reason I call them "really bad" days.

Before the cancer, I hadn't had any "really bad" days in a while, and very few bad days. When the cancer was at it's worst, most days were bad days, and there were a lot of really bad days. The few good days I had, I tried to do as much as I could, enjoy myself as much as I could, before the pain hit again.

Traveling makes it worse. Sometimes a little worse, sometimes a LOT worse. Sleep deprivation makes it worse, in a vicious circle.

Two years ago, I was traveling for work most days, commuting from Idaho to San Francisco every week. I decided to drive from my work apartment to the gunblogger rendezvous in Reno that year, since I was working in SF and it's only a few hours drive.

Unfortunately, that was a bad week to begin with, I had pretty bad sleep deprivation, and the inflammation flared up on me when I got to the hotel. That whole weekend, I managed to make it to dinner both nights, but I missed all the events. I was in bed, in pain, and unable to sleep or eat.

Those were really bad days.

I hate narcotic painkillers. I don't take them unless I absolutely have to. My docs have standing scrips for me for vicodin if I need it, but I haven't filled one of them since 2010. I think the effects of opiates on my body are about as bad as the pain is.

Mostly, I just live with it.

The good news? Since the cancers gone, I'm getting better. A LOT actually. Between the reduction of endocrine insanity and the weight loss (over 100lbs so far, another 100lbs to go) I'm feeling a lot less pain in general, with more good days, and fewer bad days... and almost no really bad days.

The significance of 2005

I started to notice I was getting sick in 2005.

It's likely that I was actually sick for a few years beforehand, but by 2005, the symptoms were obvious and starting to have a real negative impact on me. I spent 6 years getting sicker and sicker until we finally found the cancer in early 2011, and then all of 2011 and 2012 treating the cancer.

The funny thing about having cancer... it wasn't the whole "maybe dying" thing that bugged me the most...

It was the brain fog.

It was how it drained me. How it made me dull, and slow, and tired... How I stopped enjoying things. How much pain I was in.

Mostly it was the brain fog.

Even with the insomnia and the sleep deprivation, I almost always had plenty of energy and focus. More than almost anyone I knew. I was ok going a couple days at a time without sleeping, because I had the energy to do so most of the time.

The biggest thing my cancer did to me, was make me stupid.

I used to have a spectacular, even freakish memory. I could remember long passages from books word for word as if I was reading them off the page.

Now I sometimes forget words for things I have in my hand.

Sometimes I tell the same story several times, because I don't remember if I told it before... like your crazy old uncle. Or I explain something, because I don't remember if the person I'm explaining it to was there or not, or would know what I was talking about.

Hell... I've had job interviews, where I forgot the names of products I worked with for years, or basic terminology from my industry, or steps of how to do something I'm a certified expert and instructor in.

I know they're up there... I can feel them... I can almost see them... they just won't come out. They're behind a wall of fog.

Hell... I've re-edited this piece 50 times now while reading it, because of things I meant to put in but forgot.

It made my brain so fogged that not only was I not hyperactive and hyperfocused... I had NO activity and NO focus... at least compared to what I was used to.

When it got bad, it took my hyperfocused ADHD and made it into very very severe inattentive ADHD. I couldn't concentrate on anything for any length of time. I couldn't read a book, or write a blog post.

It took away my energy, and my focus, and my control.

It made my pain so much worse.

It made my sleep deprivation so much worse.

Even worse though, it wasn't consistent. The fog would be on me for hours, days, even weeks at a time... and then all of a sudden it wasn't. For a few hours, or a few days, I was good. I was me. I could think and focus, and get things done...

... and then it would come back...

You have no idea how awful that is... really, unless you've been through it, you don't. Honest to god, thinking about it in depth right now, remembering it... I'm actually teared up right now. I've been through some horrible things in my life, by far that one thing... that's the worst. I would rather die than go through it again... and it's not over... not by a long shot. It's never going to go away completely... I'm never going to get completely better. But it's getting better...

I'm recovering now. I've been out of treatment and cancer free since December, and I'm feeling a lot better already... but I'm nowhere near where I was before I got sick yet.

Bringing it all together...

So... that was a lot of very personal stuff to explain, kinda rambling and disjointed... what does it have to do with "not actually meeting me" since 2005?

Simple actually... I had to tell you all that, so I could tell you this.

Since 2005 I've mostly either worked from home, or in a travel job. Since 2010, that was complicated by living 75 miles from the nearest city. Since 2005 I have been increasingly ill. Since 2005 I have increasingly had problems with focus, energy, and control.

Most of that time, most of my energy on the bad days was spent on my wife and kids, or on working.

Most of my good days, the days when I had less pain, more focus, more control, etc... I was at home with my wife and kids, or with close friends and family. Those are the days that I would be writing, be productive, etc...

So other than very close friends and close family members, if I've met you, hung out with you etc... it was probably either while I was traveling, or on one of the rare occasions where, after several weeks of seeing no-one other than my wife and kids; I managed to travel the 75-100 miles necessary to get to wherever it was we met.

When we met, I was almost certainly sleep deprived, exhausted, and in a great deal of pain (in fact I probably warned you that I was). I may have started out the day with less pain, and more focus, energy and control, but after a while it does tend to run out (and the pain gets worse the longer I'm out of bed) And I would have been starved for adult human interaction with someone other than my wife.

But if I just stopped attempting to have social interaction when I wasn't 100% up to it... I wouldn't have any at all. So I burn up the energy, and focus, and control I have, and I push past the pain, and I at least try to be a human being, and interact with other human beings.

As I said above, it takes a lot of energy and focus, to slow my intellect etc... down, and keep it, and the hyperactive hyperfocus, under the control of my personality.

It takes a lot more for me now... sometimes more than I have, because when the brain fog is lifted, the cancer didn't slow the hyperactive hyperfocus at all... but it DID slow the rest of me down... and it took away the energy and focus required to CONTROL the HH.

And it did so inconsistently. Sometimes I'm good, sometimes I'm not. And the more stress, the more pain, the more crap piled on top of crap there is, the less energy, control, and focus I have for being a regular human being.

Also, I am on various medications that have various effects on that. One of those is adderall... It helps, a lot... with lifting the brain fog, and with controlling the ADHD when it's in inattentive mode.

Sometimes it helps with the hyperfocused mode... sometimes it makes it worse. The less energy, focus, and control I have when I take it and I'm in hyperfocus mode, the less it helps there.

It's worse, because it brings the speed back up on the hyperactivity and hyperfocus, but NOT on the control, and the conscious focus, and the other things.

It takes a lot of energy, focus, and control to remember to, and be able to insert the interrupt to; be an actual semi-normal person... to be the actually kinda nice, caring, loving, funny, guy I really am... the guy I spent years of pain and suffering developing the wisdom and skill and experience to become.

I haven't had a lot of energy, focus, or control to spare in the last few years.

So, it's entirely likely that if you met me after 2005, you didn't meet me... you met a part of me, that was in some variable degree controlled, or possibly uncontrolled, by the rest of me.

See... me, without the social skills, empathy, sensitivity, and control that it takes that energy and focus to maintain...

I'm Jordan.

Friday, September 20, 2013

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This I know, for the bible tells me so... except that it says the opposite actually...

Earlier this evening, I got into a long discussion about faith and theology with a new friend (the new girlfriend of an old friend. Very cool person... and he's a very lucky guy).

One of the things we talked about was the nature of sin, and in particular the prohibition of homosexuality, fornication, promiscuity etc...

Then, I get back to my PC and scroll through facebook, and see that one of my conservative evangelical friends was denouncing the Pope (shocking news that), because he was "pro-gay".

Well... no... Not really...

The Pope said that you could be gay and still go to heaven. He also said that so long as one remained celibate, as straight priests are required to, that gays could be priests (this was reversing a declaration of the previous Pope)

This is not "pro-gay", it is entirely in accordance with the theology of the Catholic church; as well as that of the episcopal, anglican, lutheran, presbyterian, and methodist churches actually (though in practice, some lutheran, presbyterian, and methodist churches do it anyway).

Neither Catholic theology, nor doctrine, actually condemn homosexuality, or consider it an "abomination", or "anathema".

Not to say the church is saying "hey, gay is totally OK"...

The church considers promiscuity and fornication sins. All sex outside the confines of a solemnized marriage is considered fornication (though one may solemnize ones own marriage if no priest is available who will do so, and it is not otherwise forbidden. little known piece of doctrine). Since the church will only solemnize marriages between men and women, all homosexual sex acts are therefore considered fornication.

But let's face it... there's an awful lot of fornicating Christians out there... Like... most of them these days.

So... why exactly is the Pope's position good solid theology?

Because Jesus said so.

See... here's the thing...

Jesus never preached against homosexuality.

Jesus never said that being gay was to be condemned, or an abomination, or anathema.

The Levitican law does, and that's where most Christians who condemn homosexuality believe they derive their authority from.

Thing is... what Jesus actually DID say, is that the Levitican law has been fulfilled (meaning that it no longer applies).

Matthew 5:17-18:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

This is generally understood to mean something like:

"By the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished"

This is the core of the passage in Jeremiah (an old testament prophet)  which declares that God shall make a new covenant, which shall not be a covenant of the old laws, but will be a covenant of the enlightened conscience (God would put the knowledge of what was right and wrong in the minds of men):

"“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”"

The new covenant redeems man through Christ, NOT through adherence to the strict code of hundreds of judaic laws.

We are redeemed through Christ's sacrifice, to forge the new covenant, and the law of Christ.

This is the core of the concept of Christ the redeemer. If you believe in Christ the redeemer (which is a core element of Christianity itself... really, THE core element) then you MUST believe that the Levitican law no longer applies.

Funny thing though... 

...Almost all evangelical churches, which are the majority of those that DO officially condemn homosexuality, and which cite the Levitican law as their authority to do so...

... accept that (in fact, it's the absolute core of their theology) in the new covenant of Christ, the Levitican law is superseded, by the new law of Christ...

...EXCEPT for the two passages about homosexuality.

Hundreds of laws, and none of them apply anymore, except for some reason, those two...

For example, they do not say that leviticus says we can't eat shellfish and therefore shellfish must be condemned; or that because Leviticus says you must not weave a fabric from two different types of threads, we must condemn the inventor of poly/cotton blends (though... really we should, just for taste... but that's another thing entirely).

I should note here, the only major Christian church in the United States that does not believe that the Levitican law was replaced by the law of christ, is the LDS church (among their many other disagreements with conventional Christian theology).

The Levitican law is the ONLY documented teaching of God that condemns homosexuality.

There are other passages which disparage homosexuality, and of course fornication (and all homosexual acts are fornication in the eyes of the church), and which preach against it... but none that actually say that God condemns it, or that it is an abomination.

There is NO documented teaching of Christ himself, which prohibits or condemns homosexuality (again, except that homosexual acts are considered fornication).

There are passages that warn against "unnatural acts" and "sexual perversion", but that isn't specifically, or necessarily, about homosexuality. Actually, most biblical scholars believe it refers to incest and bestiality.

Promiscuity, adultery, sexual hedonism (indulgence in sexual lust to the point of negating your morals and conscience), yes, all preached against... Though only adultery is actually banned outright (as it is one of the 10 big ones). The others are just things which coarsen a person, taking them further from grace (along with about a million other things). You shouldn't do them, they are sinful, but they are not condemnation worthy. At least not in isolation (as part of overall moral failure... sure).

... but Jesus never preached against homosexuality.

And if Jesus didn't either preach it himself, or state that it still applied from the old law (for example, he specifically stated that the ten commandments, and the golden rule still applied); then it is NOT part of Christs law.

In fact... if they were otherwise moral, Jesus seemed to be OK with gay guys (Matthew 8:5-13, and Luke 7:1-10).

You know what Jesus DID condemn? Hubris, pride, arrogance; particularly the hubris of any man who presumed to know Gods mind so much as to believe he should condemn his fellow man on Gods behalf.

A Christians spiritual duty to others is not to condemn them for their sins, but to love them as we love ourselves, and to witness to them.

PAUL actually did preach against homosexuality. Paul hated all "sexual unseemliness", "perversion" and "unnatural acts" in fact... Really, it seems he hated all sex but for procreation.

He also preached against associating with immoral people, and unrepentant sinners.

... And when Paul preached against it, he did it as advice for living a moral life, not as relating the word of God.

There is this unfortunate tendency some Christians have, to take the word of Paul, speaking of his own mind, as the word of God.

Paul didn't think much of women either. He's one of the main reasons for so much anti-female rhetoric in Christian writings. Again, the word of Paul, not the word of God.

So... is this Christ's church, or is it Pauls?


A pre-emptive bit for snarky atheists, antitheists etc...

"Actually, there is no documented evidence of Christ at all, never mind his teachings. Christ, if he existed wasn't the son of God, he was just a man. The Bible is nothing but propaganda and a mechanism for controlling the weak minded"...

... or somesuch silly crap...

Ok, fine, if you want to work the epistemology that way...

We are working within the framework of those who purport to believe that Christ is the son of God and savior of man, and that the new testament of the Bible presents a true record of Gods teachings through Christ.

It is by the writings in this book that SOME of those who profess Christianity claim their authority to condemn homosexuality. This assumed authority comes from the Levitican law of the old testament.

Within the framework of their own professed religion, and the teachings in this book, there is, in fact NO SUCH AUTHORITY.

In fact, their savior and teacher Christ, specifically preached that the Levitican laws were no longer valid. He also specifically preached against the condemnation of others, because it was prideful and arrogant, and against Gods teaching.

So... whether you believe in God, or Christ, or not; or that scripture is a valid source of the teaching of God or not; there is no scriptural authority for any Christian to condemn homosexuality as an abomination before God.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Out of sync...

There seem to be some things that I am out of sync with our culture on...

The first...

Something I don't get... never have, probably never will...

Why is it so many people feel they were "forced", "pressured", "oppressed" whatever... into doing things they didn't want to do, or being things they didn't want to be...

When no-one every ACTUALLY forced them...

Others just expected they would be or do something, and didn't like it if they didn't.

That's not oppression... that's just life.

If being what you want to be, or doing what you want to do is important to you, then maybe it should be more important to you than the approval of others.

If it isn't... maybe it isn't really what you want to do or be...

The second...

I've come to believe that in our overly emotionalized, self esteem oriented, naval gazing, culture as it is now...

The combination of intelligence, knowledge, competence, valuing results over efforts and intentions; valuing what is real, or true, or what works, over what is theoretical, philosophical, emotional, or desirable; and possessing a drive to excellence, and intolerance for mediocrity, incompetence, and apathy...

... makes up a particular form of sociopathy...

Those that possess (or aspire to) these traits, simply do not have the same responses to the world, the same emotional patterns, the same communication... as those who do not. So much so, that it's as if they were living in two different worlds, or they were two different species.

They certainly seem to speak two different languages, and derive two entirely different sets of meaning from everything they see.

The language of the former seems to mightily offend the latter... even when it is meant to be complimentary. The basic facts and realities of life that are acknowledged by the former also seem to offend the latter.

In order to deal with those who do not possess these traits; those who do, need to learn how to deal with, and often mask themselves with, the "normal" reactions. It becomes an extra layer of abstraction for them... a translation from their basic natures, by which they are slightly (or greatly) handicapped in their interaction with the "normal".




5 Second Philosophy

A capsule definition of the differences between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians:

Liberals believe that sex is a good proxy for freedom.

Conservatives believe that guns are a good proxy for freedom.

Libertarians believe that sex AND guns are good proxies for freedom.

Reality Check on "Gun Control", after the most recent mass shooting incident

This one is mostly for my anti-gun, pro-gun control, or otherwise gun ignorant (the three tend to be correlated) friends on facebook...

...And for anyone else who thinks that mass shootings are a good reason for gun control, or who are for "common sense gun laws" etc... etc...

Once more around the dance floor, for those who haven't been paying attention...

For those of you who have seen this before, let's do it one more time, so the others can catch up.

One:

The navy yard murderer did not use an "assault weapon". He did not even use a handgun at first, he took two 9mm handguns off the guards he killed. He did not use an AR-15 of any kind.

He didn't even use a "semi-automatic weapon".

He used a standard 12ga pump shotgun.

Two:

The shotgun the murderer used is legal in every state, and is not subject to any kind of special regulation. The only way to make it illegal would be to make ALL guns illegal.

Three:

The murderer purchased the firearm legally, from a licensed dealer, and passed a background check

...Though given his history he likely shouldn't have been able to. Unfortunately that's because of problems between state agencies sharing information, and various bureaucratic and technical failures; not because "gun laws are too loose".

Four:

Murder is already illegal. People do it anyway.

Five:

Please describe for me if you will, what additional "common sense gun law" would have prevented the murders committed by this murderer?

Oh wait, you can't, because there ISN'T ONE.

Shotguns are used in only about 3.5% of all murders in the U.S.

Rifles of any kind, including so called "assault weapons" are used in only about 3% of murders.

Most of those rifles are still just standard hunting and target rifles. Less than 1% of all murders in the U.S. are committed using "assault weapons".
...Which by the way, are functionally no different than hunting or target rifles... in fact they are LESS powerful and and LESS deadly than common hunting and target rifles... they just LOOK different. They are NOT extra lethal special deadly killing machines for military use only... And they are especially NOT fully automatic weapons, aka machine guns.

They aren't even actually "assault rifles" which ARE machine guns, made for military use. The first one was actually used by the Nazis in world war 2, and Hitler invented the term "Sturmgewehr", which means "storm rifle" or "assault rifle". They're called "assault" rifles, because they're smaller, lighter, and less powerful than the"battle rifles" then commonly used by the military. 
"Assault weapon" isn't a real thing... It's a term made up by gun control advocates to get laws passed against guns they think look scary, and can easily lie to the public about, because people who are afraid of or don't know anything about guns, can be made to THINK they are machine guns.
All "assault weapons bans" do, is restrict access to newly manufactured (because you can't retroactively ban something there are millions of) standard civilian firearms, which LOOK like military weapons. This just makes them more expensive, it doesn't actually ban them.
Actually... I should expand that a bit... Because I've been using the term murder, when I should be using the term homicide. Homicide statistics include justifiable homicides like police shooting criminals, and self defense shootings.

Why is that relevant? Because almost all the homicides with "assault weapons" were actually self defense shootings, or police shootings.

Why?

Because that's mostly who own them and use them. Cops use them, and firearms enthusiasts use them. They're EXPENSIVE (I've paid $3500 for an AR-15 and the cheapest you can get them is around $800), heavy (8-12 pounds) and you can't easily conceal them (maybe, if you're a large man, under a trench coat). They attract attention. They are not commonly owned or used by criminals.

Taking that into account, less than 0.3% of actual murders were committed with "assault weapons".

Oh and by the by, those less than 0.3% of murders that WERE committed with "assault weapons"?

...Most of them were related to organized drug gang activity.

... and here's the kicker...

...Most of them were committed in places where they are already "banned".

The majority (not just the most common, actually more than 50%) of rifles used in murders by the way, are small .22s. Little target plinkers like they use at boyscout camp.

The most common handguns used in murders are also .22 actually.

.22 is universally recognized as just about the LEAST powerful, LEAST lethal commonly available chambering. It's what you use to teach kids how to shoot, or for shooting tin cans out back. It's illegal to use for hunting most animals in most states, because it's not powerful enough (it could hurt an animal without killing it).
Note: More than 90% of the people who are shot with .22s survive by the way. And more than 80% of all people who are shot survive. If you get shot, and aren't killed immediately (which only happens about 5% of the time), and make it to medical attention, you are nearly certain to survive. Guns, particularly handguns, are not nearly as lethal as most people believe. Severe knife wounds actually have a far worse survival rate.
Should we ban .22s?

I suppose it's relevant to ask, why are .22s used in so many murders?

Simple... because they're cheap, and there are a lot of them. There are more .22s made and sold each year, than all other firearms combined (and, like most firearms, they're durable. They last forever).

Most .22s, rifle or handgun, sell new for less than $400. Most .22 rifles for less than $300, some as cheap as $150. Used, most sell for less than $200, some as cheap as $50.

FBI research suggests that almost all firearms used in crimes were acquired for less than $500, the majority for less than $300. In fact, the only real trend or preference that criminal have in their firearms usage, is that they be cheap.

By the by... Glocks, and other "high capacity" handguns? Not actually all that popular with criminals... Because they're expensive. Very popular with cops, and self defense and firearms enthusiasts though. Also '90s rappers, which is how they got demonized in the first place... Remember, gun control is racist. 

Should we ban guns that cost less than $300... $500... less than $1000...

Sadly... that's actually been suggested as a serious proposal. Or that a licensing surcharge or tax be applied to otherwise effectively ban "cheap" guns. That's that they're talking about when they say "ban Saturday night specials" (which is also a racist term by the way).

Kitchen knives are used in more murders than either rifles or shotguns.

Should we ban kitchen knives?
Note: not scary "tactical" or "combat" knives, or double edged "daggers", or switchblades, or butterfly knives (all of which are also banned in some place)... Kitchen knives.
... and sadly that HAS been done already in some places. The UK has a ban on kitchen knives "without showing good reason" to have them, and many cities and states in the U.S. have extremely restrictive knife laws as well... Which, unsurprisingly, are also mostly racists leftovers from the 20s through 60s, as knives were seen as weapons of blacks, hispanics, and asians.
Baseball bats are used in more murders than either rifles or shotguns.

Should we ban baseball bats?

FISTS and FEET are, individually, used in more murders than rifles and shotguns combined.

So... should we ban fists and feet?

How about cars? More of them are used to deliberately murder people every year (about 300-400) than rifles or shotguns...

Oh and that's not even counting fatalities involving drunk driving, negligence etc... that were not charged as homicide. There are more drunk driving related fatalities (about 11,000 last year) than all murders with firearms (and accidental shootings and negligence by the way ARE counted in firearms statistics).

Should we ban cars?

There were about 15,000 homicides in the U.S. last year (including justifiable homicides like self defense, and police shootings by the way - about 1000 of them - , but excluding suicides. ). About 9,000 of them were committed using firearms (including 700 of the justifiable ones). 6,000 of them were committed with everything else.

Should we ban everything else?

Oh wait... right... MURDER IS ALREADY BANNED it doesn't matter what you use to commit it.


Now, to address the real agenda here...

The only way you could reduce "gun crime" (there is no such thing by the way. Crime is crime. Whether it's committed with a firearm or not) would be to ban, seize, and destroy all guns.

Note, I said REDUCE, not eliminate.

Guess what, even in countries where all firearms ownership by civilians is outright banned, and in some cases has been for 80 years... there is still a LOT of crime committed with guns.

The United Kingdom has had strict gun control since the 1920s, and an absolute ban on civilian ownership of semi-automatic centerfire rifles and handguns for about 30 years... And more crime committed with firearms, than all but the 10 highest crime cities in the United States (most of which by the way have very restrictive gun control).

AND IT'S AN ISLAND

You can not eliminate crime with guns, because you cannot eliminate crime; and criminals will seek out the most effective means to commit crimes.

Banning guns doesn't stop them from getting them... it doesn't even make it particularly difficult. Even banning, confiscating, and destroying all firearms in civilian hands doesn't stop criminals from committing crimes with guns (ask China for example, how well that worked).

More to the point, the more restrictive gun control got in American cities, and in the UK for that matter, the more crimes were committed with guns.

Gun control does not reduce crime, and it doesn't particularly reduce crime committed with firearms, it actually increases both.

If more guns meant more crime, than areas in the United States with high firearms ownership would have more crime than those with lower firearms ownership. Conversely, if less guns meant less crime, areas with lower gun ownership, would have lower crime than those with high gun ownership.

The reverse is true... to an absurd degree.

Even controlling for urban, suburban, and rural populations; areas with low lawful gun ownership are MUCH higher crime areas, and in particular have much more crime committed with firearms.

Dallas has far less "gun crime" than New York. Atlanta has far less "gun crime" than Chicago.

Actually... let's apply that to Europe while we're at it. Switzerland and Finland have nearly as much firearms ownership as the U.S. ... and far lower crime, and far lower crime committed with firearms, than the U.K.

In 2012, Switzerland and Finland both had about 6 times the rate of private firearms ownership as the U.K. (about 2/3 that of the U.S.). In 2012 Switzerland had about the same rate of murder with firearms as the U.K. and a much lower rate of other crimes committed with firearms. Finland had about HALF that.

Oh and neither Finland or Switzerland ban semi-automatic weapons or handguns, as the UK largely does. In fact, most adult males have military rifles, for use in their militia service.

France and Germany have far less restrictive gun control than the U.K., and far more civilian gun ownership... and they aren't islands... and they still have far less crime, and far less crime committed with guns.

In the United States itself, approximately 50% of all murders happen in cities or states which ALREADY HAVE STRICT GUN CONTROL including "assault weapons" bans.

Up until a few weeks ago, Chicago banned firearms almost entirely, and both Chicago, and the state of illinois, still have very strict gun control. There were more than 350 murders with guns in Chicago in 2011 (of the 435 total murders. 2012 data isn't available yet).

Washington DC, even after the supreme court forced them to rescind their near outright ban on firearms still has incredibly restrictive gun control. It is almost impossible to legally own a firearm in DC. There were 77 murders with guns in DC in 2011.

California has something like the second or third strictest gun control in the country... really you could say it's tied for top with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Hey wait a second... Four of those five states are in the top 10 states for murders with guns (MA is the one exception. It's like 20th, but it's also a much smaller state than the others).

California alone, accounts for 14% of all murders with firearms.

Violent crime is a CULTURAL issue, not a gun issue. America has ALWAYS been more violent (outside of wartime) than Europe, because by the late 18th century Europe had become culturally far less violent (for many complex reasons).

Violent crime in America however was far lower prior to the 1920s (yes, including the "wild west", which actually wasn't very wild. There really wasn't that much violent crime, particularly not many murders with firearms) than today. Violent crime in the United States started rising significantly during the depression, then spiked dramatically in the mid 60's peaking in the early 90s; and has fallen significantly since then.

This does not correlate with gun control. In fact, there was NO national, and almost no state gun control before 1934 (and on the state level what the was, was largely racist in nature, trying to keep blacks, hispanics, and asians disarmed). From 1934 to 1968 gun control was minimal.

It was only in 1968, in the wake of widespread race riots, and several high profile assassinations (Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and others) that the first true national gun control law was passed; and the majority of state gun control laws were passed after that.

Funny thing... violent crime rose FASTER after the implementation of gun control, both on the state and national level.

Plus, guess what... that surge of gun control? It was largely racist as well. It was mostly motivated by the desire to keep guns from the hands of "radicals" and "undesirables"... Basically blacks and hispanics.

The societal disruptions of the 1960s made a lot of old white men think that there was the possibility of a counterculture and drug fueled racial revolution in the U.S. and wanted to make sure that it was mostly old white men who had the guns.

Since 1993 violent crime in the U.S. has trended dramatically downward. You know what hasn't? Gun ownership. It's trended dramatically upward. More people own more guns in this country than at any time in our history.

Oh and a huge number of those guns, particularly a huge number of the guns new since 1993 are scary black guns with "high capacity magazines" like Glocks, and "assault weapons" like AR15s.

Magazine capacity, and "assault weapons" have nothing to do with violent crime.

Violent crime in the United States, rose in line with the rise of drug abuse, and single parent households in urban poverty in the United States, particularly those in urban poverty.

It spiked in the late 80s and early 90s, because of large scale organized drug trafficking and its associated urban violence (as it spiked somewhat in the late1920s and early 30s with prohibition); and because of the general collapse of the black family in urban America (prior to the 1960s, blacks in America had a lower divorce rate, and a lower rate of illegitimacy than whites. It's now approximately double that of whites).

The prevalence of lawful gun ownership in a society is NOT positively correlated to the prevalence of crime committed with firearms; in fact it is the opposite. More guns means less crime.

But let's ignore all that... Guns are bad m'kay...

However, even if, against all evidence, science, and common sense, you STILL think that guns should be banned... How would you do it?

Even if you managed to ban all firearms, how would you enforce the ban?

It is completely impossible to ban firearms in the United States

There are reportedly 350 million firearms in the U.S. according to FBI estimates. Actually the number is likely far higher... I'd guess it may be double that. Guns are durable. I personally own and shoot guns that are over 100 years old, and which are just as good today as they were when they were first manufactured. If they're properly stored, or properly maintained, guns don't "go bad", or even wear out.

...And we make and sell somewhere between 10 and 20 million guns a year, EVERY YEAR, in the U.S. (the number varies significantly year to year).

You could not possibly seize and destroy them all, or even a significant percentage of them. And if you tried, you'd end up with a lot of dead cops, and possibly a populace, and a military, in revolt against the government.

... and even if "successful" you wouldn't get most of the guns, because people would just hide them.

... and it wouldn't be allowed anyway, because it's against the constitution; and the supreme court has recently reaffirmed this several times.

They can't even effectively ban guns in the UK or Japan which have had strict gun control for many years, AND ARE ISLANDS.

Japan has even stricter gun control than the UK (there is almost no civilian firearms ownership in Japan - about 400,000 guns total, including police firearms, for a population of 130 million -  and what there is is mostly single shot target firearms, and hunting shotguns), and again IS AN ISLAND. An island with very strict customs and immigration enforcement and which doesn't have a tunnel or ferries to a mainland with less restrictive gun laws. Criminals still have little difficulty getting guns (police seize about 2000 guns a year from criminals).
A note on Japan: Japan is often touted as an example of the efficacy of gun control. It's not. Though they have much less crime committed with guns, they also just have much less crime. In fact, the lowest crime rate, and in particular the lowest violent crime and murder rates, of any major nation in the industrialized world. This mostly has to do with them having a wealthy, highly educated, homogeneous, and stable society with a very high societal trust and cohesion, and a very strong sense of cultural propriety and conformity; along with very low rates of drug abuse, poverty, and illegitimacy. Not with guns.

Japan still has murders of course. In 2012 there were officially 506 murders in Japan (it is widely known that Japans official crime statistics are deliberately misreported, and are in fact much higher than officially acknowledged - it's estimated that there are likely two to three times as many murders as officially reported for example- ; but they're still very low in comparison to most of the world), about 20 of which were committed with firearms (the official numbers haven't been released and media accounts vary). Effectively banning guns didn't stop the other 462 murders... they just used knives, swords, poison, fists, and feet.
They still have mass murder, and mass school murders too. In 2001 a murderer in Osaka. killed 8 students and teachers, and injured 15 more, with a kitchen knife. 
Oh and none... not one... of those 2012 murders was committed with a lawfully owned firearm.
It would take a constitutional amendment to ban guns. That would require a two thirds majority in the house and the senate, and then ratification by 38 of the 50 states.

That's NEVER going to happen (note for my hysterical conspiracy theorist right wing friends too).

You cannot ban guns in this country. It is not legally, or practically, possible.

The problem isn't guns, even scary "assault weapons"... it's people.

There are bad people, who do bad things. Sometimes even good people do bad things. They will do that whether they have guns or not.

And yes, we should do what we can to keep bad people from doing bad things, and to try to keep firearms out of bad peoples hands.

Gun control doesn't do that.

The only thing gun control does, is make sure that the law abiding are disarmed, making them easier targets for those who don't give a damn about the law.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

If you're anti-GMO, you're objectively pro-starvation of the poor

...and pretty much everyone else actually, but the poor first, and fastest...

Scientific American comes out in favor of GMOs, and I agree 
In the September 6 issue of Scientific American, the magazine’s editors pen a piece explicitly supporting GMOs and opposing GMO labeling. I applaud the editors for taking an official position on a topic that still sparks intense debate. Both the wording and content of the editorial reflect an adherence to what is called “good scientific practice”; trusting the scientific evidence as far as it takes us, leaving room for uncertainty and making a judgement call based on imperfect but still sound evidence. 
The editors start by reminding us that we have been consuming genetically modified foods for 20 years without much trouble, a point worth belaboring only because it keeps getting conveniently ignored in many debates on the topic. 
We have been tinkering with our food’s DNA since the dawn of agriculture. By selectively breeding plants and animals with the most desirable traits, our predecessors transformed organisms’ genomes, turning a scraggly grass into plump-kerneled corn, for example. For the past 20 years Americans have been eating plants in which scientists have used modern tools to insert a gene here or tweak a gene there, helping the crops tolerate drought and resist herbicides. Around 70 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients.
First of all, good... finally... because anti-GMO is anti-science, ignorant, frankly stupid in fact... And objectively supporting the mass starvation of the poor, particularly those in underdeveloped nations. 

Norman Borlaug fed India, through the scientific development of high yield, rain tolerant, dwarf wheat. He then fed south America.... Frankly, if scientific literacy were higher on this planet, there is no way he would not be universally recognized as one of the greatest heroes in the history of humanity. He certainly saved more lives than anyone else... possibly more than all other "heros" combined.

Of course, if you are anti-GMO, he's the villain of the piece... or he would be, in the unlikely event you had any idea who he was (he's very unpopular among malthusians and human extinctionists as well).

Really, there is no disputing, if you're against GMO's you are objectively pro starvation of the poor.

Now... thinking that ADM and Monsanto are evil is another story... they very definitely are.

Now, for those of you who think "Oh I eat all organic certified GMO free"... actually you don't. Even if you actually did (and you don't, because you won't give up all the products which aren't), you actually wouldn't be.

Wassat?

Unless you grow all your own food, from preserved viable and stable seeds which have not been selectively bred for specific characteristics... and you don't, because it's not possible... you are currently, and have been for your entire life... eating genetically modified foods.

I'm not even going to get into the stupidity of "organic" vs. everything else, except to say "organic" doesn't really mean anything, and it certainly doesn't mean "better". Oh and to point you to the Penn & Teller "Bullshit" episode on "organic" food.

But lets get a little more specific. This of course is just one of many examples, but it's the most basic one.

Without genetically modified seed, there would be NO commercially grown wheat in the industrialized world. Damp blight and root rust would have killed it all.

Or for that matter Bananas. None. Also killed by fungi.

Oh sure, you can buy those "certified GMO free" products, but if you actually believe they are... I've got this great derivative investment I'd like to sell you.

"Certified organic" doesn't really mean a damn thing. Neither does "certified gmo free". It's a joke. It's a scam.

If you have ever eaten any wheat product in the last 30 years, you have eaten a genetically modified organism. If you have EVER eaten a banana, you've eaten a genetically modified organism.

Just because a seed line existed before they came up with the name GMO doesn't mean it wasn't genetically modified, or "lab created". But they grandfathered all the pre gene patent seed lines in to their arbitrary GMO definitions for "certification".

Deliberate genetic modification goes back to frikken Gregor Mendel.

As my friend Jon from Louisiana wrote today :
"Just so we're clear, everything you eat has been genetically modified, whether by selective breeding, tetrogenic chemical or radiation induced mutation, shooting DNA-coated gold pellets into woody plants with a shotgun (No, seriously, that really was a thing.), or someone in a lab splicing genes. It's just that with the lab thing, they know exactly what traits they're going for, and have fewer unexpected side effects."
He forgot seed grafting, bud grafting, rootstock grafting, stem grafting etc (there are more than a dozen ways to graft)... but yeah... that.

If you want to eat bread that doesn't include any GMO at all, of any kind, it will have to be millett bread, because there is NO commercially grown non-gmo wheat. It doesn't matter what the grower says, there ISN'T any non GMO wheat, because all the non GMO wheat seedlines are either extinct or not commercially available; and if they were, they wouldn't produce enough crop to be commercially viable, and except under perfect conditions, probably wouldn't survive to harvest and milling.

But it doesn't matter... no-one grows wheat from seed that isn't genetically modified, because there ISN'T ANY COMMERCIAL SEED THAT ISN'T GENETICALLY MODIFIED. It's just that they developed the seedlines 30-50 years ago, before the gene grafting patents, so they don't have to LABEL them genetically modified. They're still "created in a lab".

The only non-GMO wheat left in the world is in certain remote areas of central asia, south america, and africa... and at this point, it has likely cross fertilized with airborne GMO strains to the point that it includes some of their gene lines.

Even then, it's still genetically modified through hundreds of generations of selective breeding... just the slow way.

Oh and of course, that's not to say there aren't issues with the way GMO's are currently being manufactured, distributed etc... Particularly there are some flat out despicable issues around the Intellectual Property regimes involved. As I said above, Monsanto et al... really genuine examples of corporate evil.

Even without that, there are other major issues; not in the existence of GMO's, but in how they are managed as crops.

The creation of disease vulnerable monocultures is a HUGE problem. In certain vulnerable populations, or for certain specific crops (u.s. dent corn production for example), a single pestilence could mean mass starvation, loss of staple food stuffs, lots of very bad things.

The Irish Potato famine is the canonical historical example of monoculture failure.

Just a small modern example. All eating bananas in the world... all of them... are a single genetic strain, the Cavendish. The Cavendish banana is a worldwide genetic monoculture, because all other genetic lines of bananas that are both commercially viable, and edible, were killed off by a fungus in the early to mid 20th century.

Unfortunately, the Cavendish is vulnerable to a mutated banana fungus strain that is now attacking crops in parts of the southern hemisphere. If that fungus spreads, then no more bananas. At all. Anywhere.

That's the problem with genetic monocultures.

let's not even get into the anticompetitive practices of the GMO seed producers. Or the massive issues of non-viable seed production.

Again... politically, financially, commercially... yeah there are major issues around GMOs.

But the whole "frankenfood" thing? Total anti-scientific bunk. Culturally enforced, politicophilosophical ignorance... Nothing more than pure Lysenkoism.

If you are against GMOs, you are pro starvation. You are supporting genocide. Plain and simple.

Factual inaccuracies and logical fallacies WEAKEN your argument

It has been reported that 12 people were killed yesterday, in the Washington Navy Yard, by a civilian shooter (a contract employee with post access, apparently previously discharged from the Navy for disciplinary reasons), firing civilian weapons (most likely obtained illegally, as he had a criminal record which should have been disqualifying).

All details of the incident are not yet available, but I believe that is a substantially accurate statement.

I believe this is the fourth multiple casualty shooter incident at a U.S. Military facility outside of zones of hostile activity (not in a theater of combat operations), in the last 5 years.

There is a notion (and numerous memes) currently circulating in the blogsophere and on facebook, and which I believe is certainly true; that the reason 12 people were shot and not 1 or 2, is that U.S. servicemembers on duty outside of zones of actual hostile activity (and even sometimes within them), are, with a few exceptions, barred from carrying weapons for self defense while on duty.

In fact, as difficult as it may be for the general public to believe... the majority of U.S. military facilities, the majority of the time, are actually as much "gun free zones" as any federal court house.

Often the only firearms in the entire facility are those of the civilian contract guards; and sadly, that's not a joke or an exaggeration. Many military facilities around this country and around the world are guarded by rent-a-cops, not servicemembers.

I am absolutely certain, that if all servicemembers were required to maintain a high degree of proficiency in personal defensive small arms use, and were issued and carried on a day to day basis a defensive weapon (much as almost all serving law enforcement officers in this country); that such incidents would be reduced, and that when they occurred the casualty count would be lower.

I also fully and firmly believe that such incidents will only increase over time.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, officers and enlisted, regardless of duty station or speciality; should have the skills and equipment to defend themselves, any time, any place, full stop.

This is especially true now that we are in the age of asymmetric warfare, publicity seeking "terrorism", and just plain fame killers and nutjobs.

Unfortunately... There are lots of folks who don't seem to understand that factual inaccuracies and fallacious arguments HURT their cause, not help it...

Thus we get graphics like this:



That is simply untrue. Oh, yes, servicemembers were largely disarmed under Clinton, and thus it isn't a complete lie... but they were also largely disarmed under every previous president of the 20th century.

This is a matter of military policy, not gun control policy.

Throughout most of the 20th century, with a few exceptions (certain special duty postings for example) it has been the general policy of all branches of the U.S. military; that only those actually on guard duty, in military law enforcement or security forces (and often only those posted on guard duty), or actually engaged in small arms training; have small arms on their person while on duty in the United States (and in most foreign facilities, most of the time).

Most servicemembers don't carry guns most of the time... and haven't for over a century; as a matter of military policy.

A facility commander may, with the approval of their higher command, allow routine small arms issue and carry while on duty (at least on the facility. There are some potential local legal issues off the facility depending on the local laws). In fact, a facility commander may even allow the concealed carry of personally owned weapons to those properly certified and otherwise lawfully allowed to do so.

They just generally choose not to.

Actually, most of the time, most commands, forbid concealed carry while on duty or on their facilities; even to those servicemembers who would otherwise lawfully be allowed to do so.

The fact is, most commanders don't trust most servicemembers with guns.

In general, small arms are tightly controlled in the U.S. military; checked out of an armory shortly before they are to be used, and then checked back in shortly after they have been used and given proper maintenance (at least in theory).

Frankly, most servicemembers aren't very good with small arms. Even those who, in theory, actually shoot small arms regularly as part of their duties (and that is less than 10% of the military), often aren't particularly good with them. Nor are they particularly well trained with them, or if reasonably well trained, kept to a high level of currency and proficiency.

This is especially true of handguns. Handgunning is a far more difficult skill than basic riflery, and requires much more practice, more frequently, to maintain proficiency.

The vast majority of servicemembers (even those in combat arms) will fire a handgun for familiarization during training; and then either never again, or at most, at long intervals (anywhere from 6 months to two years). This often includes those who, in theory, carry a handgun as part of their duty (infantry officers, armored vehicle crewmembers, aircrew members etc...).

As a whole, outside of special operations and security forces, the U.S. military doesn't do much with handguns. Lots of servicemembers are issued handguns, but very few actually shoot them very much (I would say less than 5%).

Unfortunately, when large numbers of servicemembers who are relatively untrained, and relatively uncomfortable with small arms, end up being issued them (and live ammo); this lack of training and proficiency leads to... issues.

In particular, and the reason why commanders are so reluctant to allow regular carry of small arms; it leads to lost and stolen weapons or ammo, and negligent discharges.

Commanders are held responsible for these incidents (particularly if the injury of a third party is involved), and therefore are extremely reluctant to trust PFC Somedude, whose normal duty is driving a forklift in a quartermasters warehouse; with an M9 and two loaded magazines.

If you want to make long serving officers and non-coms cringe in terror, tell them "we're issuing EVERYONE small arms and live ammo"; because they KNOW for a certainty, that some idiot is going to shoot his toe off, and some other idiot is going to lose his weapon.

There's two solutions to that problem.

The first, is to maintain very high standards of small arms training and proficiency; and to downcheck anyone who can't meet them, or who has a safety problem in handling their small arms.

In general, this is the right way to do it...

Unfortunately, it's expensive, it's time consuming, there are just a lot more more problems, carrying firearms all the time is inconvenient (particularly the standard U.S. Military sidearm, the Beretta M9, which is why those whose duty regularly includes carrying a handgun for self protection - security forces, CID agents etc... - are often authorized carry of a smaller weapon such as the M11 - basically the SIG P226); and no matter what you do or how well you train them there will always be a few idiots who will lose their weapons, or shoot their toes off.

Worse, if you downcheck good people who are just bad with guns, when their duty never involves touching guns; you lose that good person (at whatever they do), for "no good reason". After all, they also serve who file and collate, and 80% of servicemembers never go anywhere near small arms as part of their duty.

I know plenty of great servicemembers, who are horrible with small arms. Even guys who shoot BIG guns for a living... but don't necessarily do so well with little ones (pilots, tankers, and artillerymen are not generally noted for their small arms proficiency).

The other way of doing it, is disarming everyone unless they are actually going to use a weapon. Fewer people with guns, for less time, means less chances for weapons to be lost, and less chances for idiots to shoot themselves.

But it also means that our servicemembers are without effective means to defend themselves when someone decides they'd like to kill some soldiers.

My personal belief, is that we should accept the costs and difficulties in universal personal weapon issue and routine carriage for self defense. If you're a servicemember, no matter what your duty, you should be able to effectively defend yourself while on duty.

And that's what we should be advocating for. That's a military policy change, not a political one.

Claiming otherwise hurts us. Lying hurts us. Making inaccurate claims hurts us. It doesn't help.

It's a bad policy that gets people killed, and as time goes on will get more people killed. There's no need to make factually incorrect claims, or associate the policy with undesirable people, in order to make it seem worse than it is.