How I afford to do this

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fair Thought Friday: Knowledge Is Power; But Is Knowledge Better?

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -Isaac Asimov

Please discuss below in whichever direction you are inclined.  I only ask that you encourage all sides to continue and stick to fair thought principles.  Logical fallacies devalue intellectual conversation and are therefore not tolerated here.


  For my entire life, I have been guided and ultimately inclined to learn more about that which I disagree.  From an early fear of roller coasters to philosophical and faith-based positions, I've found it best to learn about the other side of the argument. Sometimes I find myself with a stronger argument for my thoughts.  Other times, I find a new perspective.  In either case, I have never regretted knowledge.

  Yesterday, NBC had a story about a kids' camp in Fort Worth, Texas.  The children are being taught gun safety, proper shooting techniques, etc. You can learn more about it here: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Summer-Gun-C-388386832.html

  This also reminded me of a somewhat recent law requiring that women in Texas wanting an abortion must get a sonogram first. In the sonogram, the provider must display and describe the image (https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/spibs/spib_RFU.pdf).

  I've been in the conversation long enough to know that on the subject of guns and abortion, we tend to pick a side quickly and not want to move from it.  At the core of the "pro vs. con" arguments with both situations is one concept: knowledge. Proponents want knowledge dispersed, while opponents do not.

  It would be flawed thinking to create a false dilemma akin to "The only reason prevent a sonogram is if an abortion was the best case scenario." On the other side of the argument, saying that the sonogram was bad because it could lead the woman to have feelings for the child is also flawed, because keeping people on your side through information deprivation also defies fair thought.

    On the gun camp, saying "The only reason to oppose firearms education is to keep more people afraid of guns" represents another false dilemma, as people may have other valid reasons.  Conversely, saying "This is a part of a bigger plan by the gun [lobby/industry/culture] to drive more business and support in the future" doesn't stand up to principles of fair thought.

   In both cases, we have a right to choose for ourselves.  Ethically, I would contend that we also have the responsibility to learn as much as possible.  There may be valid arguments on both sides that could enlighten the other. I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Blog's Commitment to Excellence (START HERE)

  After an extended hiatus spent reading tons and writing little, I've decided to change courses.  No, my values, faith, and hobbies have not changed.  What has changed is the realization that without dialogue between all parties, there will not be any advancement in our society.  
  I remain adherent to fair thought principles.  I have removed derogatory terms for the other side of the aisle from my vocabulary, and it is the goal of anything I post to start a conversation, not end it.  The past two years have allowed me to experiment on social media to solicit input from all sides.  I think that it's the lack of communication that creates stereotypes and assumptions, both of which inhibit communication.  That's why I'm working to transition the conversation from my personal page and into this public forum.  If you disagree with something, please feel free to state and support your thoughts.  I truly believe that when we are all heard, we find that we have more in common than we once thought. 
While I welcome feedback, there are a few things I hope to achieve through this page, and certain elements can help or harm this.  
  • Fair thought is necessary, and is a cornerstone to honor.  If someone brings up a conflicting viewpoint, don't throw out a red herring or straw man fallacy.  We will all leave a little smarter this way.
  • No ad hominem fallacies. I know, I just said fair thought is required, but this one deserves its own section.  Facts must stand or fall on their own merit.  If you have to bring ignorance, race, faith, privilege, or culture into the conversation, a page committed to fair thought is not the place for you.
  • Have the same conversation.  I believe that many of our disagreements stem from the tendency of two opposing sides to argue with points that fail to refute the central points of the other. Examples of this are controlling illegal immigration vs hating non-Americans, or protecting the unborn vs protecting the woman who wants an abortion.  If you wish to defend (And I hope you do), refute directly.
  •   No name-calling / Trust in the positive intentions of others. People disagree because they have a different view, not necessarily because they are bigoted, [anything]phobic, ignorant or stupid.  The conversations that ensue on this page should begin with the assumption that we all want improvement; and our disagreement is usually just in the solution. 
  • No shutting down the conversation.  Statements like "End of discussion," or "You're not going to convince me" have no place on this page. If that's how you feel, this is not the proper forum for you. There are plenty of "echo chambers" on both sides.  Find one of them instead of trying to make this your support group.
  • Keep your values relative.  Scientifically, the only answer to "Is there a God?" Is "We don't know."  Neither atheists nor believers have a monopoly on science, and as both sides claim to answer the question "What's behind that door?" Both sides have taken a leap of faith.  As a Christian man, I believe there is truth in The Bible.  That said, if I'm speaking to someone without, or with differing faith, I know that "Because The Bible says so" is not a refute. Neither is "Because there is no god." The agnostics can laugh at both of us.  
  When we expand our minds and provide a place like this where everyone is able to hear and be heard, we can begin to come back together and fix this mess.  Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy this site!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A TBT Story

  I describe the progression of my life as being on the Ferris-Foreman scale.  Every year, I find myself just a little less like Ferris Bueller and a little more like Red Foreman.  Here's a little story from my "pre-progression" days.
  One of the highlights of the first half of every year was going to the Houston Rodeo with my family.  The first concert I can remember was when the Highwaymen played the Astrodome.  We would watch my aunt Catherine who competed in the barrrel race for much of my childhood, and we would always browse the vendors to see what people were coming up with.
  My favorite was the rattlesnake guy.  He was a taxidermist and would sell live-mounted rattlesnakes; many with their mouths fixed open in a pre-strike position.  I had to have one.  Eventually, I found one on clearance on account of an ink smudge on its eye bringing it down to $15 (barely into my price range).  I paid the man and took my new prize home, just in time for DARE week.
  For those of you who might not know, DARE is an organization dedicated to preventing drug use in school children.  Every year in our district, we would have DARE week, where each day was given a theme that excepted abnormal behavior.  One day was "wear your pajamas to school" day, and the like. 
  Had the good people at DARE met me beforehand, they might have thought twice about "bring a stuffed animal to school" day.  They hadn't. They did. I did.  This was the first and only time in my life that I had seen a lunch lady sprint.  It was the first and only time that I had ever been slapped by a lunch lady (no, not the same one).  By the time it was all said and done, the consequence was a few defeated looks from the school officials and a visit from the yearbook class photographers.  It just goes to show that a young man can respect others and their property, and still raise a little hell.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Harsh Look At School Shootings

  One of my chief character flaws is my tendency to entertain silliness.  Whereas many of my peers would simply shake their heads at an asinine idea, I'll "go there."  I'm not sure that it's improved my life to any degree, but I set the expectation that statements should be supported with fact.

  Shortly after the VA Tech massacre, I visited an outspoken anti-gunner at the restaurant he co-owns.  Knowing my stance, he walked up and told me the following story:

  "I was talking to a customer yesterday who said that if someone had a [concealed handgun license], he could have stopped the Virginia Tech shooter.  I said 'that's great, crossfire!'"

  And yes, I had to go there.

  Let's set a baseline.  Any loss of human life is tragic.  That's not patented by the left or right; it's a conclusion indicative of our humanity.  It doesn't matter whether the cause of death was murder, car accident or a spider bite; death is something we all seek to avoid for us, our loved ones, and our community.

  Here's what we know:  The Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people, plus himself.  Each victim was shot at least three times. 28 were shot in the head.  Several classrooms were attacked, with anywhere from 2-11 fatalities per room.  Massacre ended with shooter's suicide, even though he had over 200 rounds to spare.  He had a Walther p22 and a Glock 19.  Fully loaded, that totals 27 rounds with standard magazine capacities of 10+1 and 15+1 respectively.  Given the body count per room, the shooter probably went into each class, emptied both magazines and moved on to the next, reloading on the way to avoid interaction during this period of relative vulnerability.  It's also said that he would leave the room, reload, and re-enter.

  The fact of the matter is that we can choose to toss around buzz words like "crossfire," or we can actually examine possible outcomes.  The reality in hindsight is that even if the armed civilian shot and killed three innocents before putting the assailant down, while creating three tragedies in the process would be a success so long as the perpetrator was killed before he was 90% through his rampage.

  There's a point during school shootings, let's call it the "I'm screwed" point.  This is where the shooter realizes that his rampage is coming to an end and typically ends with the bad guys' suicide.  Crossfire, despite its inherent danger would logically expedite this moment.

  Let's be honest though.  We would probably never have any information to study on the impact of armed students.  The shooters are not looking for a fight.  They want a body count.  In all likelihood, these deranged miscreants would be stopped by the prospect of crossfire, rather than crossfire itself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Hi-Cap Debate

  Many unarmed Americans tend to follow the seemingly logical conclusions of the mainstream; to the conclusion that a citizen has no need for "high-capacity magazines," with the general consensus at a 10-round maximum. Some have heard the counterarguments of "If you take the guns from good people, then only criminals will have them."  This is absolutely true, albeit absolutely cliche.  Here are some things you might not have heard as to why a higher-capacity magazine for the law-abiding populace isn't such a bad idea.

  What I am about to say might be tough to read.  While it is never my intent to offend, facts from an objective analysis will inevitably come off as callous.  I would urge you all to remember the importance of knowing all facts, and discrediting any voice that calls an aspect of the debate untouchable.

  The first thing to grasp is the gravity of removing a right in this country.  Whereas many cultures consider their rights in terms of what the government allows them to do (or in some cases, what the government provides them), in the US we operate on the principle that our rights predate the government.  Therefore the government does not "allow" us to do anything.  The Bill of Rights is not about what we are given, but rather what we have that is to be preserved for the entirety of the American experiment.

  A principle flaw in this notion is the risk of stripping a right without getting a reward.  Aside from altering what all people may do in the hopes that it will impact what criminals can do, we have to concede that limiting the amount of rounds carried in one box does not in any way limit the number of rounds one can carry on his or her person.  Do a quick YouTube search under "speed reload" and tell me how many lives would be saved in any mass shooting if this simple action had to be performed after every ten rounds fired as opposed to every 15, 17, or 30.  Remember that this can be done in the course of target-acquisition, reducing or even eliminating the time gained (or lost, depending on perspective) when the magazine empties.

  When deconstructing the Fort Hood, Aurora, CO, and Sandy Hook massacres, we know that there was an average of 2.76 rounds fired for every victim (killed and injured).  What we don't know is how many lives would be saved if there was a 2-second break with twice the regularity at Ft. Hood (FN Five-seveN), three-times in the case of a standard AR magazine or 4.5 times in the case of the Beta mag that James Holmes tried using that failed at less than half-way through in Aurora.

  Another important aspect of a shooting to remember is the psychological and physiological impacts that the situation will have on the victim.  The victim's blood will rush to the center of the body to protect his or her vital organs, stripping their hands of dexterity.  The sudden adrenaline dump accentuates the shakes.  Tunnel vision sets in as the body focuses only on the immediate threat.  

  The perpetrator on the other hand is often not subject to the same reaction.  Murderers' brains are seeking to gain, rather than the stop-loss efforts of the victims.  Their minds are geared for a slaughter, rather than a fight.  While the same prerogative is sought by both the murderer and the armed civilian, the murderer has the advantage of forethought.  The perpetrator also has a higher likelihood of being under the influence of a mind-altering substance.

 In short, the criminal has a clear advantage when it comes to the element of surprise and mental clarity (or at least not being hindered by fear mechanisms).  It's bad enough that the victims' lives are thrown into upheaval; I don't think it's too much to ask that the citizens are at least as well-equipped as the miscreants.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to win the debate

I may have mentioned before, but I am currently a little over half-way through my MBA coursework.  My recent business law class had a student who worked for a gun manufacturer, and the topic of gun rights came up.  My initial statement was that while a world without guns would probably be a cool place, the notion of in-inventing something does not exist within the confines of reality.  Below I have pasted another classmate's response along with my counter.  Note that I did not use any cliches that the other side is used to hearing.  Instead, I met her at her level of comprehension and presented facts.  Ultimately there are still people who are still trying to figure things out, and like this one, can be won over.  I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing.


Classmate's statement:
Christopher,
I would like to agree with your though to un-invent gun and a world without a single firearm or weaponized explosive of any kind would do wonders, as it would force disturbed individuals to kill in smaller numbers. I must tell you the rate at which i hear and see gun crime on the news in America is quite so unbelievable as in my country Nigeria I can say I do not know of any gun dealer shop let alone people carry guns freely as one of their human rights. True there is gun crime in Nigeria but very minimal as compared to developed countries where anybody can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun as long as the registration and checks required are fulfilled.
Class, I must say this is what civilization and democracy is bringing to us and i keep wondering and thinking that if there is no law that can drastically bring these gun crimes to a stop what is going to become of the world in the nearest future?

My Response:

Islamiat,
  It is interesting to see how some countries allow their citizenry to be armed while others don't.  I have no wish to harm any human being, but (obligatory disclaimer aside) I would imagine the mentality of a killer is something along the lines of:
1.     Identify pain.
2.     Identify cause of pain.
3.     Resolve to seek vengeance.
4.     Determine capability to kill.
5.     Resolve to kill a specific person(s).
6.     Choose method [gun/knife/ice cream truck/etc.].
7.     Execute (no pun intended).
  The choice to commit an act of violence, though it could take less than two seconds, would conceivably contain all of these elements.  Notice how the gun is only a small part of this equation.  I think that the problem cannot be blamed only on "step six."  To solve violence, we as a culture need to shun violence.  Stop going to violent movies.  Stop buying violent video games.  Stop buying music with violent lyrics.  Again, restricting the tools will only cause those who complete steps 1-5 to kill less efficiently, and will render law-abiding victims unable to survive the acts of an aggressor.

Back to your comparison, I pulled the murder rates by country and compared the US and Nigeria.  I also pulled the gun laws in Nigeria to compare with the American rights.

Murder rates per 100,000 population:

Nigeria: 17.7 (2004)

USA: 5.9 (Average, 2003-2005)

  Nigerian gun rights summary:  Civilian gun ownership is not guaranteed by law.  Handguns are illegal for civilians to own.  Semi-automatic and fully-automatic assault weapons are not legal for civilian ownership.

  USA gun rights summary: "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
"  Ownership by civilians is restricted in several cases such as rifles with less than a 16" barrel, shotguns with less than a 18" barrel, select-fire (Fully-automatic) weapons systems and AOW, or "any other weapons" systems such as pen guns, cane guns and systems which completely conceal a firearm during use.  Further restrictions at the state level exist concerning other firearm-type/accessory limitations and rights concerning the public open-or-concealed carry.

  As we can see in the case of Nigeria vs. the US, if legal gun ownership limitations play a role in frequency of crime, it can be assumed that more legal gun ownership is conducive to less crime.  Again, I feel that the problem is not with step 6, but with 1-5.  Otherwise, America will see nothing but a spike in knife crime against a defenseless citizenry.


Sources:
Rogers, S. "Global homicide: murder rates around the world."  13 October 2009.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/oct/13/homicide-rates-country-murder-data on 16 February, 2013.

Author Unknown, Nigeria — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law.  Retrieved from gunpolicy.org viahttp://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/nigeria on 16 February 2013


Madison, J. United States Constitution; Amendment II. 25 September 1789. Retrieved fromhttp://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment on 16 February 2013.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On carrying a gun (Part 2)

  For this section, I thought it might be refreshing to see the mindset of someone carrying a concealed handgun on a daily basis.  I have no desire to argue my stance with this post, just to shed light on the subject for those who have never been exposed to guns or concealed carry, as well as those who may have not been able to get an honest look through all of the stigma.

  As I mentioned in Part One, the reason I got a CHL (Texas Concealed Handgun License) had nothing to do with me thinking I needed a firearm for personal defense.  I have the public demeanor of someone not looking for trouble, and I have the stature to dissuade victimization.  In interpersonal relationships, I tend to polarize people.  Walking down the street, I'm respectfully disconnected.

  If you ask my wife, she will tell you that I "attract weirdos," and she is 100% correct.  I have lost count of the number of people who have stopped to talk to me just so they could tell me a story or claim that the mall we were in had "The real Santa" in a ten-minute diatribe.  I never saw this as a threat to my safety, and to be forward, I enjoy meeting new people (Yes, even the non-lucid and domestically-challenged).

  I was not the most well-informed, and I had an outlook that most democrats could get behind; that hi-capacity mags were senseless and unnecessary, that WASR-10s and AR-15s were impractical for both hunting and defense.  I thought that that I would have the time and wherewithal to recite some smart-ass line which, combined with gun in hand would send any criminal running. I'll write another post later on the luxury of theory.

  I had been in a few fights growing up, nothing really serious until the time I thought it worthwhile to hang out in a trailer park at 4am and tell some crackhead that I didn't want to buy "his" motorcycle until I saw some papers.  Moderate blood-loss, threats of execution by way of a Biden-approved shotgun and a bruised ego later, I learned my lesson and decided to avoid bad situations from then on.

  My CHL came in the mail in the end of 2007.  Almost immediately I noticed the lifestyle and outlook changes.  I stopped flicking people off when they failed to use their blinkers, or anything else that had the potential to escalate.  I knew that since I had the ability and in some cases permission to respond with deadly force, I had to modify my behavior to reduce the likelihood of something turning bad.

  I made it a point to learn as much as I could about armed citizen situations and how they are most effectively handled.  The CHL class has a noteworthy section on non-violent dispute resolution, and I considered this every bit as important as trigger-pull technique, proper breathing, tactical reloads and cover vs concealment combined.  Every instructor with a shred of credibility included the obligatory disclaimer that "your brain is your best weapon."

  At first, the gun in my pocket provided the kind of smirk on a young man's face; not dissimilar to the one I had when I brought a 7 1/2' Colombian red-tail boa to Plano East Senior High in a duffel bag.  On the enthusiast forum Glocktalk.com, the standard rite of passage is to take a trip to Walmart, walking around the store while eating nachos with a gun in your pocket.  I don't think that they sell nachos there anymore, so I settled for the stroll.

  I acknowledge that the environment I grew up in is different than most.  I shot my first gun when I was 6-years-old, destroying a prickly pear cactus in Uvalde, TX with .410 bird shot.  A year later I had shot my first deer, and I went hunting with my dad and brother just about every deer season until I was about 20.

  Growing up around guns taught me a lot.  Not only about guns, but about life and natural laws as well.  One of the main rules of gun ownership is to never point a gun at something that I'm not willing to destroy.  This is because in the words of my father, "You can't un-pull a trigger."  While other kids were playing video games with "Extra lives," "Power-ups," and so-on, I was being taught the value and fragility of the only life we are given.

  For the most part, I carry only one gun with no spare ammunition.  I carry a Glock 27 with a total of 11 rounds in the magazine/chamber.  While I consider myself mentally-prepared to respond to a situation if necessary, a gun in my pocket has simply become my normal.  Most people have an out-the-door checklist, and mine is "Phone, wallet, keys, gun."  Three of these I will use at some point during the day, and one I hope not to.

  I've adopted an inclination that I once read; that paranoia is the point that one prepares more for what probably won't happen than for what probably will.  Do a YouTube search on EDC (For every day carry) and you'll find plenty of people who disagree with this notion.

  Carrying a gun encourages me to be more aware of my environment.  The one time I had to draw my pistol in self defense, I had picked up enough about the situation to proactively determine the best course of action as I went so that I remained safe and at the same time did not have to take a life.  This skill has transferred over into retail management where I see customers approaching the store and encourage my reps to do the same.  This helped my store to become and remain the top of it's kind in Texas.

  In essence, I think that carrying a gun has made my life better.  So far I've killed none and saved one.  Perhaps the biggest caution I could give someone outside of the notion of physical safety is that of moral polarization.  Simply put, one cannot be an ordinary, law-abiding schmuck when they leave their homes with a gun.  Each day, an armed citizen must decide to be either a good guy or a bad guy.  Many are too intimidated to actively make this choice, but the potential for deadly force requires one or the other.