JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2010/06/i-want-to-get-this-just-right.html (38 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1276224444-411  James Kelly at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 02:47:24 +0000

Kevin, as you haven't finished yet, I wonder if I could draw your attention to a post I wrote last year that I have a feeling you never saw -


- because it contains a question that I'm more curious about than any other.

"The irony is, of course, that Kev’s barrage of voodoo statistics really are a distraction, something that shields him from having to front up to the real issue – and that issue is precisely his ‘philosophy’. His blog is entitled 'The Smallest Minority’ – the minority referred to is the individual. The contention appears to be that no society can be considered truly free unless the freedoms of that smallest minority are fully protected. Taken to a logical extreme, this means that no individual should ever be subject to taxation (without taxation there is no infrastructure or support network of even the most rudimentary kind, but that’s OK because with absolute ‘freedom’ comes the absolute responsibility of the individual to fend for himself). That to me is a rather bigger, meatier issue than the question of whether the individual should be allowed to own luxury items like handguns. But, that’s the bit of individual freedom Kevin chooses to fetishise, and that’s his prerogative. So why, then, does so much of his argument rely on get-out clauses such as ‘oh well, if the guns weren’t there legally, they’d be there illegally, you can’t wish away guns’. The obvious implication of such an argument is that if you could wish away guns, it would be a desirable thing. Kevin does not believe that, and never will. So why isn’t Kevin content to argue on the strength of his positive philosophy on freedom, rather than resort to these (to put it kindly) more pragmatic arguments?"

Other pragmatic arguments would be, for instance, that gun ownership does not increase the risk of suicide, as that post you directed me to argues.  But, in truth, even if I could show you irrefutable evidence that gun legality does cause unnecessary suicides, that wouldn't budge your philosophy one inch, would it?

"So I return to the question of why Kevin prefers to hide behind his voodoo statistics, rather than make the positive case for his philosophy of individual liberty. I’d suggest it’s because if he did, he’d have to concede that even if there was compelling evidence that the price of his freedoms was a large number of avoidable deaths, he’d think that was a price worth paying."

jsid-1276270388-775  geekwitha45 at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:33:09 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276224444-411

Kevin often points out that people operating from different base principles really can't have any meaningful discussion except on the topic of those principles themselves.

While considering Mr. Kelly's question in the shower, I believe I may have arrived at some insight into the critical differences between us, and so, I present my shower musings.

After mulling Mr. Kelly's question over in my mind (which really strikes me as a bald attempt to maneuver us into saying something like "yes, our freedom to have (what he continues to dismiss as) luxury items costs lives, get over it") it seems that there's a couple of errors in Mr. Kelly's root contentions.

Basically, he asks us, how do we justify our freedom choices if they can be shown to cause harm?

First, I reject the contention that our freedom choices in and of themselves cause harm. We're on firm ground there. It's obvious that no first order of consequence causation emanates from mere possession of an object. Furthermore, Kevin's reviews of the stats (again, dismissed as voodoo that Kevin hides behind) and lots other investigations into the matter have never been able to even prove even a correlation.  (At which point Mr. Kelly will put his fingers into his ears and shout "But Americans have more gun deaths! Gun deaths cannot happen if there are no guns! Q.E.D!". This tiresome objection is already disposed. )

Second, Mr. Kelly and Co tend to blur the line between correlation and causation.

Correlation is not causation.

Strictly for the temporary sake of argument, let's spend the next minute or two pretending that a strong correlation exists between citizen gun ownership and various bits of badness Mr. Kelly wishes to eliminate, so as to prevent his argument from crumbling immediately.

At the heart of Mr. Kelly's position is the contention that we have some duty to comport our lives according to not only the direct consequences of our choices, but also to their tangential correlations.

As a free and autonomous human of conscience, I accept that I have the responsibility for the unjust actual harm that I actually cause, the first order consequences of my actions. (Sidebar: this brings to mind a statement from the Boy Scout rifle and shotgun shooting merit badge book...yes, I go back to the day when it was one merit badge, before it was split into two...the statement was something along the lines of "You are responsible for what you do with your firearm, to the law immediately, and to your conscience for all time."  That's a concise phrase that sticks with a person.) To the extent that I have any duties to my fellow men, that is the full measure of it, and the responsibility comes with the power. When you take the power of arms into your hands, you also take the responsibility for what you actually do with them.

I reject the contention that I have any duty of comporting my life according to the outcomes that correlate with my freedom choices.  If choice A correlates with negative outcome B, it is my responsibility to avoid B. I have no responsibility for anyone else's responsibility to avoid B, or whether or not they actually avoid B.

To be concrete, the driving of cars correlates with car wrecks, some of which result in tragedy and death.

I've been in at least 5 or 6 car wrecks of various magnitude.  (Lots of property damage, no injuries or deaths.) I bore and discharged responsibility for precisely two of them. I bear no responsibility whatsoever for the remainder in which I was involved, for I was not at the wheel when they happened, and I certainly bear no collective responsibility (whatever that means) for the bazillion other car wrecks that occur.

Accepting the contention that we must comport our lives according to whatever profile correlates with the least possible damage to everything else is a deeply mad enterprise. Followed to its logical conclusion, it might be reasonable to accept the premise of various groups that contend that humans ought to eliminate themselves to prevent further damage to the earth.

jsid-1276271099-697  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:44:59 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276270388-775

To be concrete, the driving of cars correlates with car wrecks, some of which result in tragedy and death.  
Don't forget that James Kelly has dismissed any and all problems with car ownership and operation, since they're "required", and called those who analogized the exact argument to that those "luxury items" that he thinks he's "entitled to", and dismissed that entirely.

Cars are required. Guns are not, according to Mr. Kelly, and what kind of wingnut would dare compare the two?

jsid-1276271391-755  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:49:51 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276271099-697

With the emphasis on "according to Mr. Kelly".

jsid-1276298074-295  Nate at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 23:14:34 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276270388-775

Geek, this is brilliant. James is always wanting us to state and argue our philosophy instead of statistics; well there is is. I commend you for expressing it so clearly.

jsid-1276298797-409  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 23:26:37 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276298074-295

Nate, I put together a philosophical argument when we first encountered Jimmy Black Knight last year. His response basically boiled down to "Nyah, nyah, nyah, you're wrong 'cause I say so" and "your use of precision language makes you a 'smartarse' which means I can ignore your argument."

His tactics haven't changed much.

For those who don't want to visit Jimmy's site, here's my argument:

Predicate 1: Everyone has the right to not be murdered.

Predicate 2: Humans have a great deal of variability in their natural capabilities. These capabilities range from large, heavily muscled young men with excellent coordination to the bed-ridden.

Predicate 3: Some humans with criminal inclinations fall into the more powerful range of human capabilities, with almost every criminal capable of locating potential victims with far lower physical capabilities, and they will do so. Human history is littered with examples of the strong preying upon the weak.

Therefore, it is necessary for the weaker members of the human race to use tools to make themselves powerful enough to level the playing field so that the criminals do not have stronger capabilities.

Predicate 4: Guns are currently the most effective tool for equalizing the ability to project force between human beings. Through the effective use of a gun, a frail old lady with a broken hip can fend off the attack of a 270 pound weight lifter should it be necessary.

Predicate 5: Even if gun ownership is made illegal, the criminally minded generally have no compunctions about acquiring guns illegally in order to gain an additional advantage over their intended victims. Mr. Kelley made this point himself, therefore I presume I do not have to argue it further.

Therefore: Laws against gun ownership only disarm the law abiding, while not preventing the criminal class from acquiring guns. As a result, gun bans increase the ability for criminals to attack their victims, violating the right established in Predicate 1, and is therefore immoral.

jsid-1276319953-286  James Kelly at Sat, 12 Jun 2010 05:19:13 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276298797-409

Ed - Anyone who actually follows that link will see that, contrary to your claim, I gave a detailed response explaining at great length why some of your predicates were totally unfounded.  It's true that I did also call you a smartarse, and it has to be said your 'dictionary definition' antics of recent days to try to get yourself off the hook on a point of pedantry haven't done much to dispel that original assessment.

Incidentally, predicate 5 is the most absurd of the lot, and it's based on a fundamental failure of logic remarkably similar to the one I pointed out to you a few days ago (and that you've been furiously trying to 'reinterpret' ever since).

Incidentally, a new post about the issue I raised with Kevin at the start of this thread -


(Now that does this mean I'm "begging for more" or "running away"?)

jsid-1276347008-339  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sat, 12 Jun 2010 12:50:08 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276319953-286

"predicate 5 is the most absurd of the lot,"

And there's another classic tactic of a troll: a complete reversal of previously argued position just to keep an argument going.

What do you think guys?

jsid-1276353565-335  James Kelly at Sat, 12 Jun 2010 14:39:25 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276347008-339

"a complete reversal of previously argued position"

I'd be fascinated to see you justify that, given that your characterisation of my "previously argued position" and its relevance to your "predicate" is inaccurate, and it was explained to you why in very clear logical terms.

Now, your definition of a 'troll' is -

"He distorts things we say...he throws out outrageous statements which just beg for a response."

Given that's a perfect description of the comment before this one, it appears the troll must be...Ed. What the heck?

But ten out of ten for effort to you and Linoge in trying to get this "troll/lunatic" narrative going.  Typical response - someone's actually trying to subject our 'irrefutable proof' to detailed scrutiny...so what do we do?  We can't possibly answer the questions, can we, so it looks like we'll just have to discredit the person asking them to get us off the hook.

Now THAT'S what I call "Reasoned Discourse ©™®".

jsid-1276277266-759  juris_imprudent at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:27:47 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276224444-411

voodoo statistics

That just about says it all right there.  Who needs evidence when you've got faith?

jsid-1276225567-296  khbaker at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 03:06:07 +0000

Awwww, James, you DO care!  Thanks for the pointer to that piece.  I'm sure I'll be able to wring another thousand words or so out of it!

But, in truth, even if I could show you irrefutable evidence that gun legality does cause unnecessary suicides, that wouldn't budge your philosophy one inch, would it?

Well, I showed you pretty strong evidence that gun legality has no effect on suicides (please define for me a "necessary" suicide), it has no effect on your philosophy.  Pot?  Meet kettle!

Here's the deal, sparky:  I've been blogging for just over seven years now.  I've written extensively about the philosophy, and I've written even more extensively about the statistics, because your side of the aisle normally concentrates on "pragmatic" arguments based on - you guessed it - statistics!  You do it yourself (as I will illustrate in the upcoming piece).

The difference is, the "statistics" your side tends to use are, shall we say, inflated.  Erroneous.  Blatant lies, quite often.  For example, this relatively recent claim that "500 children a year" die of accidental gunshot here.

Your perspective is, undoubtedly, that any accidental death of a child by gunshot is too many, and is further evidence that your way is the only right way to think, and to take any other position on the topic is evidence of inhumanity.  (See?  I have been reading what you've been writing.)

So stand by.  I promise another several thousand words you won't be able to comprehend.  And I'll explain in this piece why you can't comprehend them.

jsid-1276228735-664  James Kelly at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 03:58:55 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276225567-296

So, sparky (??? - Americanism, I presume) your very hardheaded philosophy of freedom that comes beyond all other considerations is defensible on its own merits, but it's also defensible on the basis that it just happens not to cost any (net) lives in the ways I've suggested, even though you wouldn't care much if it did?  Well that's a pretty neat constellation for you.  How can you believe in all that and still believe there ISN'T a God?

As a matter of interest, do you even think it should be an objective of public policy to reduce or minimise the rate of suicide?  Presumably as an absolutist on the question of individual rights/responsibilities, you'd just shrug your shoulders and say "it was their choice, no concern of mine or the government"?

jsid-1276262670-989  Tam at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 13:24:31 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276228735-664

"Presumably as an absolutist on the question of individual rights/responsibilities, you'd just shrug your shoulders and say "it was their choice, no concern of mine or the government"?"

Uh, yeah.

I mean, if someone wants to get all charitable and set up a hotline or ad campaign on their own dime because they're all ate up over the thought of strangers topping themselves, well, that's fine, too, but I don't see why it should be made my mandatory concern.

jsid-1276226700-352  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 03:25:00 +0000

While Kevin continues to pound away on what appears to be his ultimate überpost, here's some interesting reading to keep the rest of us occupied:

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? : Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics

"Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101."

jsid-1276227301-938  mike w. at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 03:35:02 +0000

Ed - I suspect Mr. Kelly would flunk more than just Econ 101.  The level of willful ignorance he displays is simply astonishing (and damn, I've seen a lot of it from anti's over the years)

I'm also surprised that he's still eager to take an absolute beating both here and in his own comment sections, particularly given how foolish he looked after the exchanges from last year.  Some folks just don't know to quit when they're ahead.  (A figure of speech that is not entirely accurate in this case, since Mr. Kelly was never "ahead" in any of our discussions)

jsid-1276229341-930  James Kelly at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 04:09:01 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276227301-938

Mike, I can honestly say that in three years of debating and sometimes having furious arguments with people on the internet about a variety of political topics, I have never, ever come across anyone as willfully obtuse and boneheaded as you've demonstrated yourself to be with your extraordinary behaviour at my blog over the last 36 hours or so.  However offensive and cynically misleading the others have been at times, at least there's been a sense of a sentient life-form being behind their comments.

jsid-1276242637-973  Mastiff at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 07:50:38 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276229341-930

That probably means you haven't been in the truly nutty parts of the internet. For real entertainment, try talking to someone who can use "Bilderberger," "Freemason," "alien," and "electromagnetic pulse" in the same sentence with a straight face.

Just don't spend too much time, unless you have a hazmat suit.

jsid-1276266486-639  Weer'd Beard at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 14:28:07 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276229341-930

When were these 3 years you debated, James?  I've been looking over your blog, and your comments here for about a year.  I've yet to see you actually debate anything yet.

Is this a cultural devide between our nations?

jsid-1276268349-286  DJ at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 14:59:09 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276266486-639

"I've yet to see you actually debate anything yet.

"Is this a cultural devide between our nations?"

No, it's Marxie's Standard Response #8, the "Humpty Dumpty" response.

jsid-1276268929-763  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:08:49 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276266486-639

I'm getting more and more convinced that James isn't just an average gun-banner. He's also showing classic signs of a troll. He distorts things we say. He can never, ever allow anyone to have the last word. He throws out outrageous statements which just beg for a response. Even when I said I'm done with him, he threw out a couple more outrageous attacks that practicallydemand that I defend myself. (I'm not taking the bait.) And now he's back here, begging for more.

jsid-1276274245-254  James Kelly at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 16:37:25 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276268929-763

Ed, we appear to be back to this perennial problem of yours of being unable to define what it is you want and stick to it consistently.  If I respond, I'm "a troll", "insisting on the last word" and "begging for more".  But from what you say about this admirable-sounding chap Markadelphia, if I stopped responding it would suddenly be that I'm "running away".

Which "the heck" is it, Ed?

jsid-1276279790-781  DJ at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 18:09:50 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276274245-254

"... this admirable-sounding chap Markadelphia ..."

He is just like you and so he is "admirable-sounding", right?

He doesn't fool anyone here, and neither do you.

jsid-1276229885-909  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 04:18:05 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276227301-938

Wow, Mike, congrats, that's some high praise.

jsid-1276276714-426  Mike W. at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:18:34 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276229885-909

Yeah no kidding UJ, I'll take the below statement by james as a compliment.

 "However offensive and cynically misleading the others have been at times, at least there's been a sense of a sentient life-form being behind their comments."

jsid-1276269159-184  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:12:39 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276227301-938


I actually wasn't specifically thinking about Jimmy Black Knight in relation to that article. If anyone, I was thinking of Markadelphia, because he's been claiming economic "intelligence" even though he claims the U.S. government can spend more that it receives (and can receive) without limits and never go bankrupt.

jsid-1276262452-140  Tam at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 13:20:52 +0000

Now you're just toying with us! :p

jsid-1276270579-883  geekwitha45 at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:36:19 +0000

Mr. Kelly also seems to want us to argue the "positive case for his (our -ed.) philosophy of individual liberty," perhaps implying that we owe him and the world some justification.

Mr. Kelly and others continually fail to really understand this:

We are Americans. At our deepest core, the thing that differentiates Americans* from all other men in the world is that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In this, we owe no justification for our liberty to any man, and we answer to no one except $DEITY.

*I am using the term "Americans" in the broad freedom loving sense. There are many people who are citizens, yet crave the illusionary security and warmth of collectivism, which is truly alien to the American outlook.  Conversely, there are many who do not qualify for US passports who embody the American essence.

jsid-1276271302-648  CAshane at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:48:22 +0000

"...even if there was compelling evidence that the price of his freedoms was a large number of avoidable deaths, he’d think that was a price worth paying."

James, if "avoidable deaths" is all that this is really about, then why not shift your focus to the real low hanging fruit, automobile deaths.  According to wikipedia 1.2 million people were killed in motor vehicle collisions worldwide in 2004, and the leading cause of death among children 10-19 years old was autos.  Here in the US about 42,000 people a year die in auto accidents.  Wouldn't you say that the price of our automotive freedoms is not worth the price we pay in avoidable death each year?  We already register every car owner in the US, confiscation should be easy.  Although I didn't find a hard number for the UK, I did find this:  "There are 7.38 fatalities per billion vehicle kilometers traveled in the UK compared to 9.4 in the US."  Seems like it's a real problem over there too.  Once we fix that, then we can move on to another big one, alcohol.

jsid-1276271987-966  Unix-Jedi at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 15:59:48 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276271302-648

We already pointed this out to him.

That's totally different, as I'm sure he can elucidate for you. 

jsid-1276278460-73  CAshane at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:47:40 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276271987-966

It sort of reminds you of a scene from My Cousin Vinny doesn't it?
Judge:  "Mr. Gambini.  That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought out objection."
Gambini:  "Thank you your honor"
Judge:  "Overruled."

jsid-1276276318-562  Rich at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:12:05 +0000

Jusrt as an aside I have been reading (though not done with) Thomas Sowell's "A conflict of Visions".  It truely illustrates why we have these differences and why they may never be resolved; The underlying visions conflict! 
I recommend it to all.  It is not a large book but is packed solid.  Mr Sowell is an amazing writer.

jsid-1276276847-600  khbaker at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:20:47 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276276318-562

Uh, been there, done that.  And you're absolutely right on all counts.

jsid-1276277801-533  geekwitha45 at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:36:41 +0000

>>we have these differences and why they may never be resolved; The underlying visions conflict! 

And this is perfectly fine. They're perfectly welcome to have their different vision...so long as  they never lift a finger to insist that it applies to *me*.

I believe it was Prince Talon who said "now we have a quarrel".

jsid-1276277993-518  Ed "What the" Heckman at Fri, 11 Jun 2010 17:39:53 +0000


Mike W. posted a link over at Jimmy Black Knight's site to a recent article by John Lott at NRO that I thought you might find helpful (or it could just bury you more):

Gun Control and Mass Murders

jsid-1276358719-412  Linoge at Sat, 12 Jun 2010 16:05:19 +0000

Not to toot my own horn too much, but if it is of any use, I updated the "more guns != more deaths" chart to include 2007's CDC numbers

jsid-1276387353-527  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sun, 13 Jun 2010 00:02:35 +0000

And in yet another topic—this time education—I came across this fascinating article:

The U.S. Economy Needs Fewer Public School Jobs, Not More

What especially struck me was the attached chart comparing inflation adjusted spending per student to test scores over the past 40 years. (Notice the science scores.)

jsid-1276403836-413  khbaker at Sun, 13 Jun 2010 04:37:16 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276387353-527

I see they inflation-adjusted the dollars.  Did they "dumbing-down" adjust for the test scores?  Because if they did, I ain't buying it.  We're not testing to the same criteria now that we did back in the '70's.

jsid-1276405091-451  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sun, 13 Jun 2010 04:58:11 +0000 in reply to jsid-1276403836-413

I didn't see any mention of that, so I'm presuming they didn't. (Not sure how that could be done anyway without arguably falling prey to the "global warming, no, cooling, no, change, no… whatever…it's all the humans' fault" trap.)

It's plenty bad enough even without that adjustment, let alone science results doing worse, even by more "relaxed" standards.

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