Monday, February 18, 2013

Toldja so. I think.

Some years ago, so my memory could well be, shall we say, inexact, I suggested at Thought Mesh that the 144,000 terawatt hours of annual global energy use could — must — be contributing to the increase in global temperatures.

AOG, whose technical and mathematical skills dwarf my own, was singularly unimpressed. His argument, and it persuaded me, was human energy use was such a small proportion of that coming from the sun that, while true in theory, as a matter of practical fact the effect would be immeasurably small.

Yes, but. According to A New Study:

Researchers using a computer model of the atmosphere found that activities from urban areas can warm the air as far as 1,000 miles away. In some areas, that increase was as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The temperature changes were caused by human behavior in cities, like heating buildings and powering vehicles, rather than natural heat that was captured by paved surfaces. The heat entered the atmosphere directly above cities, the scientists said, but was then dispersed by the natural movements of the global jet stream.

As it happens, Watts Up With That has noticed that many weather measuring stations are poorly cited in ways that must result in systematically biasing temperature readings upwards.

However, if this article says what I think it says, and if The Study is sound, then two things must be true:

  • Since most weather stations are where people are, and most people are near urban areas, then most even apparently well cited stations are, in fact, irretrievably poorly situated. Consequently, their temperature changes over time are, at least in part, proxies for economic activity.
  • The magnitude of the urban induced temperature change is very nearly the magnitude of global warming over the last forty years. Therefore, temperature records may be, albeit indirectly, measuring the global urbanization occurring over the same period.
Unsurprisingly, "to better represent the effects of global warming, climate scientists should consider incorporating the effects of urban areas, they concluded." If this sentence says what I think it says, then it means that what has been taken for greenhouse gas induced climate change is, in fair measure, actually a simple consequence of energy usage. Which, in turn, means that climate change must be less disastrous than Warmenists believe, and that the only way to reduce such warming as there has been is to return to the stone age.

Which Warmenists may believe and desire, but will not admit.

Agenda Journalism

Just as the Sandy Hook tragedy gave a heretofore unexcelled opportunity for gun confiscators to capitalize on hysteria in order to potentially reach ends otherwise unobtainable, it has also shone a light on the intellectual and moral failures of collectivists — the tribe to which all confiscators belong.

These failings are two, and endemic to collectivists: demonizing those who disagree, and agenda journalism. No matter the issue which holds collectivists in thrall of their own intellectual and moral superiority — gun control, global warming, name it — what should be straight, factual, stories are littered with questionable assertions and unsurprising elisions.

A recent WSJ article, Why our Gun Debate Is Off Target raises these points. The author is writing from the perspective of what we now call an embedded reporter.
[At the firing range I] did my best to avoid gun politics, the subject came up constantly. What came through loudest of all was that gun guys feel insulted. The caustic and routine dismissal of "gun culture" is only part of it. Gun guys look at the most strident advocates of gun control and say, "You know nothing about what it means to handle guns, but you presume to make judgments about my ability to do so."

A parks-and-recreation worker in Wisconsin told me he was offended by the Democrats' view "that guns are for the unwashed, the yokels." It's hard to think of a better organizing tool for the right than the left's tribal antipathy to guns.

For examples of the confiscators demonizing gun owners, the NYT in the weeks following Sandy Hook is a rich hunting ground. But why go so far as that Fort Knox of unexamined ideas when we have our own Harry Eagar and his Restating the Obvious? In a recent piece, The Infantilization of Firearms, the entire demonization menagerie, so characteristic of collectivist rhetoric, is on display:

Today, you can go to Uncle Jesse's on Maui and buy “tactical” anything. Camo underwear, for example.

How weird is that?

Silly, but a sign of a more profound delusion. Camo underwear is, in fact, the gun nut version of the Batman underwear that 5-year-olds wear.

I have not addressed the issue of sexual anxiety. The Bushmaster ads confirm the idea that guns are substitute penises for men who are worried their natural equipment is substandard.

A writer engaging in this kind of invective cannot be trusted to provide rigorous analysis, as the penultimate sentence demonstrates: "… disarming the population would cut out the slaughter of millions of our fellow citizens."

Going with far less antagonism, but no more forgivable for that, is a recent offering from the New York Times, To Reduce Suicide Rates, New Focus Turns to Guns, which turns a truism, guns are good at killing things, into a tendentious conclusion: the U.S. suicide rate is substantially higher than it would be without guns.

Let me demonstrate:

Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

The national map of suicide lights up in states with the highest gun ownership rates. Wyoming, Montana and Alaska, the states with the three highest suicide rates, are also the top gun-owning states …

This is either intentional deck-stacking, or profound ignorance. How so? There is something completely germane, yet wholly unmentioned throughout this entire article: gender. Males attempt suicide mush less often than females, but are far more frequently successful. Indeed, the second sentence begs examining that possibility. After all, besides guns, the other thing that lights up in states with the highest gun ownership are also the highest Male to Female ratios; the three states listed are among only nine that have more men than women. At 108.5 and 104.1 men per 100 women, Alaska and Wyoming are the two highest, by a fair distance. Beyond that rather glaring omission, the article is also completely silent on how much higher the suicide rates are in those states.

So, the fact that suicide rates are higher in these states must be, at least in part, due solely to one of the myriad differences between men and women. Consequently, the obvious fact that guns are lethal 85% of the time is at least plausibly due to the fact that males, who intend to die, use guns and females, whose intent must be less directed, use pills. Certainly, I doubt anyone would make the case that pills, taken with real intent, are any less fatal than guns.

Nor does this article even attempt to compare and contrast the suicide rates in countries economically similar to the US. As it happens, and is quickly revealed to anyone with the search skills of a grade schooler, the UK has both very stringent hand gun restrictions, and a suicide rate practically indistinguishable from ours.

The glaring absence of these seemingly obvious considerations makes this piece, like Harry's, an unalloyed example of agenda journalism. Although, the sins here are far less forgivable than in Harry's case, because he was engaged more in opinion writing than straight reporting.

Which brings WSJ article back into view. It, too, while posing under the guise of moderation, is yet another agenda item. Granted, since it is an essay, it is bound to have a point of view. However, that is no excuse to simply sidestep the inconvenient.

To the legislatures of 27 states and the District of Columbia, the solution to both problems seems obvious: Require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from their ammunition, or some combination of the three. A lot of gun guys hate these laws. They argue that a gun separated from its ammunition, disabled or locked away is useless in an emergency.

Not true. I keep my handgun loaded in the bedroom, in a metal safe the size of a toaster that pops open the second I punch in a three-digit code. I bought it on eBay for $25. The gun is secure but instantly available—to me only. Many gun guys use such safes. They just don't want to be told to use them.

Neither do they want to be ordered to report a stolen gun to the police. Lots of gun guys consider it tyranny to have to tell the police anything about their guns, and they have kept most jurisdictions from passing stolen-gun laws. Only seven states and the District of Columbia make reporting a stolen gun mandatory.

The problem here is, or at least should be, breathtakingly obvious to even the scarcely sentient. How, exactly, is a requirement to lock guns up supposed to work? How, precisely, are those seven states and DC to enforce their reporting laws?

The answer is simple: either it won't and they can't, or the government must rigorously register and track all guns. And, as we all know, the government will never abuse, or lose, that information. What could possibly go wrong?

By now, the real explanation should be clear. Confiscationists are Progressives, a self-flattering term that should always be replaced with "Collectivists". Much gun violence, and all manner of other mayhem has alcohol as the primary cause. Surely, then, the answer is to eliminate alcohol. But Collectivists will not suggest that for two equally important reasons: it didn't work, and Collectivists like alcohol.

But Collectivists don't like guns, and demonize the "bitter clinger" owners. Therefore, take away the guns.

That it won't work is no deterrent to collectivism.