Thursday Reads: Happiness is a Warm GunPosted: January 31, 2013
Listening to that gun violence hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday was truly mind blowing. It’s very difficult for me to understand how someone like Crazy Wayne LaPierre or Gayle “Guns Keep Women Safe” Trotter can actually be permitted to testify before Congress. It was also mind-blowing to hear these people (Senators and pro-gun advocates) attacking “the mentally ill” and video games, yet no experts on mental illness or the effects of video games were invited to testify.
My mind was so blown by what I saw and heard yesterday that I have been unable to think of much other than gun violence and the refusal of our “leaders” to do anything about it. So this will be a gun-oriented post. First some information about the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
TPM Muckraker: NRA Spent Big To Help Senate Judiciary Republicans
The biggest recipient of the NRA’s money is one of the committee’s newest members: freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who got a $344,742 boost in independent expenditures from the NRA during his race against former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona. According to Public Campaign’s figures, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has received $136,639 from the NRA, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, has received $78,526. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the only Democrat on the committee who has received an NRA donation. Leahy’s Green Mountain PAC has received $7,000.
Patrick Leahy sells out pretty cheaply. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: Senate Judiciary chair rejects Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee did not endorse colleague Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban at a packed Capitol Hill hearing on guns Wednesday in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called for “common sense reform,” that closes loopholes in current gun laws and enforces background checks. Buthe did not endorse Feinstein’s tougher ban. “I know gun store owners in Vermont,” Leahy said. “They follow the law and conduct background checks…why should we not try to plug the loopholes in the law that allow (criminals and the mentally ill) to buy guns without background checks?”
The rebuffed California Democrat plans to hold her own hearing in her Judiciary subcommittee on her legislation, which is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also refused to back a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity clips. Reid’s position reflects the political fact that a whole bevy of conservative Democrats do not support Feinstein’s ban.
HuffPo: Senate Judiciary Committee Includes At Least Seven Gun Owners.
* At least 7 of 18 committee members own guns (7 committee member refused to answer the question)
* Senator Leahy was champion marksman in college
* Senator Sessions has about a dozen firearms
And guess what Lindsey Graham has in his closet with him?
“I have an AR-15 at home and I haven’t hurt anybody and I don’t intend to do it,” Graham declared on Wednesday at a Judiciary Committee hearing.
We’re all relieved to hear that, Senator.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander isn’t on the Judiciary Committee, but he has an opinion on the gun issue. He thinks that video games are “a bigger problem than guns.” Jason Linkins (HuffPo) looked into that claim and provides lots of links to research. The gist is that there isn’t a clear link between video games and aggressive behavior.
On the other hand, there is quite a bit of evidence that video game have positive effects on the brain. There is an article about it in the latest issue of Scientific American. It’s behind a paywall, but you can read the preview. Research shows that the games that have the most powerful cognitive effects are the violent first-person shooter games. These days the best gaming monitors also have blue light and eye care technology that also reduces the physical health effects from the screen, great news indeed.
The Wall Street Journal published an article on video games and the brain in March 2012: When Gaming Is Good for You: Hours of Intense Play Change the Adult Brain; Better Multitasking, Decision-Making and Even Creativity.
A growing body of university research suggests that gaming improves creativity, decision-making and perception. The specific benefits are wide ranging, from improved hand-eye coordination in surgeons to vision changes that boost night driving ability.
People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study. Indeed, the most adept gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, other researchers found. Moreover, practiced game players can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind, said University of Rochester researchers. The studies were conducted independently of the companies that sell video and computer games.
Scientists also found that women—who make up about 42% of computer and videogame players—were better able to mentally manipulate 3D objects, a skill at which men are generally more adept. Most studies looked at adults rather than children.
There can be negative cognitive effects too, of course, but they don’t relate to aggression.
Electronic gameplay has its downside. Brain scans show that violent videogames can alter brain function in healthy young men after just a week of play, depressing activity among regions associated with emotional control, researchers at Indiana University recently reported. Other studies have found an association between compulsive gaming and being overweight, introverted and prone to depression. The studies didn’t compare the benefits of gaming with such downsides.
Of course Republicans (and quite a few Democrats) are impervious to facts, so we can pretty much assume that none of this actual research will affect what they do about gun violence.
Now a couple of think pieces.
Early this month, famed professional atheism advocate and muslim-hater Sam Harris wrote about why gun control is a very bad thing. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since Harris is definitely not a liberal. After all, he supports torture and ethnic profiling. I won’t excerpt from it, because it’s so long and besides, Harris is a bore as well as a boor.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Harris’ atheism, just his politics and his flawed logic on issues other than whether there’s a creator god.
But Matthew Chapman, a huge Harris fan, was surprised and disillusioned by the his Harris’ views on guns and responded with a brilliant and funny HuffPo piece: Guns, Guys, and Gelding — How to Stop Men and Boys Shooting People in America. As you can probably guess, Chapman’s hypothesis is that men who love guns are suffering from what Freud called “castration anxiety.” (Could that be Lindsey Graham’s problem?). Chapman writes:
I am pretty sure I can predict the outcome of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on guns today. Reason will not prevail. Nowhere in America is anyone proposing a serious ban on weapons, yet gun lovers squeal in hysterical fear and frighten everyone else. It must be a form of Infantile Castration Anxiety. “Please don’t take my ickle shooter, daddy.” How else can you explain this overreaction to a public health problem that’s been solved in so many other places? Looked at rationally, even the most stringent gun proposals barely qualify as circumcision let alone the full snip (or the Big G as they call it in the gelding fraternity). No, this is an irrational fear, and unless it is understood as such, men and boys will keep on shooting people.
Never mind the disturbing Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, even intellectual heroes of mine have overreacted adversely to the mild gun-control proposals skulking about the halls of power waiting to get their heads blown off. Among the many articles about gun control is one by the brilliant Sam Harris.
When I started reading it and realized he was essentially pro-gun, I pushed on with the apprehension you always feel when faced with the prospect of having to change your mind. I’ve read all Sam’s books, heard him speak, and met him. He is one of the most intellectually impressive people I’ve ever encountered. If anyone could persuade me that widespread gun ownership is a good thing, it would be him. To my astonishment, he had become Wayne LaPierre on IQ steroids with the paranoia dialed down. Even Harris’s great brain: shrunk by terror!
That’s just the introductory paragraphs. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
A couple of updates on gun-related news items from yesterday:
The gunman, reported to be a 65-year-old retired truck driver, was known around the neighborhood as a menacing figure who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun.
He had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.
The standoff along a red dirt road began on Tuesday afternoon, after a gunman boarded a stopped school bus filled with children in the small town of Midland City, population 2,300. Sheriff Wally Olson said the man shot the bus driver when he refused to hand over a 6-year-old child. The gunman then took the kindergartener away.
This is definitely a guy who shouldn’t have a gun, but he got one. As of last night, the boy was said to be okay. One neighborhood couple said that the suspect is very paranoid and freaks out if people’s pets or children go into his yard and that everyone tries to avoid him.
Another neighbor, Ronda Wilbur, said the suspect beat her 120-pound dog with a lead pipe for coming onto his side of the dirt road. The dog died a week later.
“He said his only regret was he didn’t beat him to death all the way,” Wilbur said. She called animal control, who came out and talked to the suspect, but nothing else happened. “If a man can kill a dog, and beat it with a lead pipe and brag about it, it’s nothing until it’s going to be people.”
There lots more crazy stuff about the “suspect” at the link.
The shooter in Phoenix hasn’t been caught yet either. According to an article at The Daily Beast, the shooting wasn’t random and could have been related to a “bitter ‘scam’ lawsuit.”
Steven D. Singer, 48, was the CEO of Fusion Contact Centers, a Scottsdale company that provides its clients with technical support, billing, and other services. Singer, whose company is involved in litigation with a man police have identified as a “person of interest” in the shooting, had been attending a mediation session at a law firm within a Phoenix office complex….
One of the surviving victims, Mark Hummel, 43, was reportedly shot in the head and the neck after walking out of the mediation. Hummel, a former government reporter with a Santa Fe, New Mexico, newspaper, specializes in business disputes, real-estate litigation, and legal malpractice defense, and is president of the Phoenix chapter of the Federal Bar Association….according to a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County, Hummel represented Fusion Contact Centers in its 2012 litigation with Harmon, a furniture refurbisher. The lawsuit centered around Harmon’s claim that he was a “victim of a scam” that “hurt and injured his health and strength” and caused “severe shock to his nervous system and person” resulting in ongoing “mental and physical nervous pain and suffering.”
In court papers, Fusion claimed it contracted with Harmon early last year to dismantle, refurbish, and reinstall furniture in a California call center. Fusion paid Harmon over $29,000 in advance, but when Harmon inspected the furniture he claimed it could not be refurbished. Fusion cancelled the deal, but by that time Harmon had moved the furniture to Arizona and was paying storage on what he called “two hundred and six worthless work stations.”
Fusion told Harmon to sell the furniture. Harmon said it wasn’t worth anything. Then Harmon sued Fusion for lost wages, damages, and storage fees. Fusion countersued for breach of contract and damages, claiming Harmon destroyed internal cables in the call center when he dismantled the furniture.
The case was sent to arbitration, and a hearing was scheduled for Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m., the same day as the shooting.
Another angry man who shouldn’t have had a gun.
Okay, I’m running out of space, so I’ll end with this Daily Telegraph link that Dakinikat sent me: Mormon Church ‘owns unregulated gun sale website’
And some non-gun news:
Amanda Marcotte: Plan B Vending Machines Approved By FDA
Hawaii News Now: Actor Jim Nabors marries his longtime male partner
For Dakinikat from Politico: David Vitter: Marco Rubio ‘nuts’ on immigration
For Ralph from Public Policy Polling: Perry looking highly vulnerable
For PatJ and me, also from PPP: Brown/Markey would start out as toss up
Politico: Fox News ratings hit 12-year low
The news we’ve all been expecting… Dr. Phil: Tuiasosopo ‘romantically in love’ with Te’o