Saturday, October 3, 2015

Response to The Fatalists

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Fatalists)

As accomplished a theoretical physicist as Albert Einstein was, what with his attempts to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field, leading to the development of his special theory of relativity and later his general theory of relativity, he was never quite able to unify all the laws of physics with gravity, to develop one big "unified field theory", which pretty much would have been an all-encompasing "theory of everything".

Unfortunately, Einstein died in 1955 and didn't live long enough to witness Jeb Bush's explanation of why we have all these mass killings in America, which could, if you've noticed the way these people think, even be seen as a wider attempt at a "Republican Unified Theory of Everything":
“Things happen all the time. Things."
Yep. Things. The implication, of course, being that if those things be bad things, you should just leave them be, since they're just natural occurrences in the Almighty's own cosmos, and any attempt to fix them will somehow just upset God's master plan.

So yes, as Bush says -- and seems to get an "amen" from the amen corner of Republican candidates that includes Trump, Rubio, Kasich and Christie -- while "things happen all the time", many more of them seem to happen in our country, and one would hope our next president would not only notice that and see it as a problem, but would look for ways to fix it.

And yet, many of us non-Republicans immediately spot the flaw in the theory, that being that, while these "things" do "happen all the time", they do seem to happen more in the United States than they do elsewhere. In fact, President Obama tried to make that point back in June in his comments after nine people were gunned down in a Charleston Church:
At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency."
All obviously true, right?

Well, not according to some nit-pickers who asked PolitiFact to rule on it. After showing a chart that lists the incidence of mass shootings between 2000 and 2014 in eleven advanced countries, including our own -- with the United States in first place, with 133 shootings happening during that time, and the second place going to Germany with six, and last place being a tie between four countries (England, France, Switzerland and Norway) with one each -- Politifact announces its ruling:
On balance, we rate the claim Mostly False.
And so, in my mind's ear, I can hear your mind asking, "Whaaat?!?!" Yeah, that's what mine did, too. How the hell did they come up with that?

It seems that they decided, firstly, to break the statement into its constituent sentences, the first being "this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries" -- which, okay, if taken literally, is obviously not true. After all, it even happened in Britain that one time. Still, Obama didn't leave it at that, he completed the thought by adding, "It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency."

Yet secondly, rather than determining how often ("frequency") it happens in America in comparison to other countries, PolitiFact wandered off on its own to, instead, analyze how many fatalities and injuries there were per 100,000 people of each country's population, in which we ranked behind Switzerland, Norway and Finland.

I see that shortly after PolitiFact put out its ruling, a guy named Jason Linkins mercilessly, but justifiably, ridiculed it on Huffington Post, in which his rejiggering of the same data showed that America's incidence of the events -- that is, not deaths or injuries -- per million of population was in first place, at .417, followed by Finland, at .380, with Norway in third place, with .194 (all from that one incident, where the guy blew up a building, then went on a shooting spree of that island, killing a total of 77 people).

China came in last place on Linkins' list, at .003 events per million, but if that country, with their much higher population, had experienced the same number of events as we did -- 133, instead of 4 -- but they'd be way up in first place, way above us, at 9.810!

In fact, Linkins goes even further, using that same chart, by ranking the U.S. incidence of mass shootings against all the other countries on that list (Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Germany, England, Mexico, France, and China) combined, and gets this:

United States incidents: 133       population: 318,892,103
incidents per million population: .417

The Others incidents: 23             population: 1,752,555,493
incidents per million population: .013

Keep in mind that the United States has only about one-sixth the population of the rest of those countries combined, and yet experiences about 32 times the number of mass shootings of all of them put together! This gives a whole new meaning to the term, "American Exceptionalism".

But if you think this should convince even the other side that we really do have a mass-shooting problem in this country, forget it. First of all, Republicans don't care what happens in other countries, and they especially don't like to dive too deeply into science and statistics that contradict their opinions.

So none of this matters, since none of these facts refer to real problems -- like Benghazi, long-form birth certificates, and the murder of Vince Foster.

Whoops! Wait! That last one hasn't come around again yet, has it? Well, give it a little more time. The campaign season is still young.

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