Why The Elevated Status of Sport Hunting?

I’ve mostly stayed silent on the gun debate that reignited because I didn’t feel I had that much to say that others weren’t already saying. And the sheer amount of misleading, obviously cherry-picked statistics from both sides just gave me too much of a headache. I had to tune it out.

But there is something disturbing and it illustrates a dark manifestation of the golden mean fallacy – giving some gun owners a preference over others. Many people in the camp who don’t see self-defense as a valid reason to own a gun say they are okay with sport hunting. Why? So the right to kill innocent wildlife for fun is more important than the right to your life? And make no mistake about it – if people are using guns for self-defense, hunters will continue to do so (prison is better than death, especially death of your family) and enjoy the exclusive privilege. If guns are dangerous to have in the house, it having been purchased for the purpose of hunting doesn’t change that.

More disturbing is that it is almost always sport hunting and not subsistence hunting that is mentioned. Subsistence hunting is protecting one’s existence with a gun every bit as much as self-defense is. A hobby is sacrosanct, but survival isn’t. Something done with leisure time (which those on the top have more of) is favored over what is often a necessity for those on the bottom, who often live where 911 is a running joke. This is why, while I don’t agree with people who don’t want anyone, not even cops, to have guns, I have much more respect for their position than the haphazard positions that assume certain segments of society are inherently more trustworthy than others.

I don’t want to suggest that there aren’t positions intermediate between “no guns for anyone” and “more guns” that make more sense than either. It’s just that most of the ones advanced are more ridiculous than either alone, because they are “guns for me, not for thee” positions. They place some people on a pedestal, like cops, hunters and people who can afford security guards.

Obama Says Things That Are True

It seems many political disagreements on the internet are about style, rather than substance and who am I to buck the trend? Elizabeth Warren caused a lot of knee jerk reaction with her offhand remark on why no one got where they are on their own. But for a fresh round of teeth-grinding, here Obama goes saying things that are true:

…look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

Nothing he’s saying here is controversial. I, too, am struck by those hypothetical idiots who think that we live in some sort of perfect meritocracy where humans don’t interact with other humans. If I could just find one of those people, I’d pound so much sense into them…

Look (there I go talking like Obama), we don’t have a meritocracy and it’s just as well. It’s not like it’s morally any different for someone to succeed because of the parents and location they were born with or for someone to succeed because of the intelligence they were born with. None of us deserve what we have. I benefited from things invented ages ago. My industry benefits from the hollowed out corpses of failed startups that left behind good technology. And that’s why… why what? Here Obama goes conflating society and the state:

     If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Here is how these arguments go: you have what you have because [some thing that people in your life did] and/or [some thing that people you've never met did] and/or [some thing the government did], therefore… [insert pet conclusion]. All these different things are lumped together so your patriotic duty to pay taxes and your duty to give back to society are one in the same.

But it’s not like we couldn’t have roads or bridges without government. More importantly, it’s not like when your parents or your friends help you with your business that’s really government doing it. It’s like the state is Jesus. It forgave your sins… even though your sins weren’t against it in the first place.

Obama is arguing for slightly higher taxes on some against those who want slightly lower taxes overall. Both sides in question agree on some taxes and neither side has a magic formula to determine how much. And neither do I. And that’s the thing. What he’s presenting isn’t purely substance, it’s largely style. And here I am responding in kind.

Software Engineers Aren’t Computer Whizzes

There is a misconception held by non-technical types about software engineers and other types of people who you might call “IT types” (this also applies to some degree to hobbyists, power users and tech nerds). It’s the notion that there is this thing called general technical efficacy or “the knack for technology” and that, e.g., programmers have the knack to a greater degree than anyone else.

This might sound like a preposterous strawman but I encounter the fallacy everywhere. You see it when someone goes to their programmer relative because they have a problem with their iPhone yet their own 13 year old daughter would probably fix the problem more quickly and without grumbling about walled gardens and DRM. You see it when someone asks a systems analyst about the best way to send a file or how to do something in Excel when someone in marketing will answer your question more quickly and in language they could understand.

The truth is software engineering (for example) is a different skill than using computer tools. Sure, being good at the latter helps with the former but it’s possible to be good at only one. It’s not hard to think of examples, like OEM system builders who either don’t know how to program or never had a need to progress beyond writing utility scripts. Think also of elderly programmers who are whizzes at optimization but can’t navigate their way around a smartphone.

Sure, someone may be an all-around expert on computers and all things computing just like someone can be an all-around expert on oceans, being both an expert surfer and deeply understanding the ecology of deep sea life. But all most computer professionals do when you ask them questions that aren’t in their core competency is do the same thing you can do – use deductive reasoning.

 

You are not a pyromancer; you are a caveman with a torch

I have one message that I want to get across to people (especially myself) and if I have to do it through parable (not in this post, but sometime later), so be it – you are not a pyromancer, using your will to move the fire elemental and shape the world. You are a caveman with a torch. When we (whatever we is supposed to mean) bind together, we become like a larger, more schizophrenic and more clumsy caveman with a yet bigger torch.

You are never presented with two options – outcome A or outcome B. You are only ever presented with actions that you are aware of. You have an outcome in mind but an action or set of actions intended to acquire a given outcome shall never be conflated with said. Opposition to the actions should not be confused with opposition to the outcome and vice versa. And it is not just those who refuse to apply what science has to say who are unscientific; the worst offenders are those who ascribe the wrong degree of certainty to facts and act accordingly.

These things are, of course, so obvious one must wonder why I wasted my time writing this post and threatening to pound the point in further later. However, as obvious as these things are to most people most of the time, they are forgotten, perhaps willfully, by upper management and in political discussions.

…pseudointellectual rant to be continued

A Nitpick About Costly Contraception

Okay, so everyone knows Rush Limbaugh is stupid for suggesting that someone who goes broke buying birth control is a “slut”. Birth control pills end up being a sunk cost. You don’t go on and off them but stay on them however sexually active you are. But of course it’s not true that there’s no relationship between amount of sex one has and contraceptive costs. Say condoms are about $3 each and it costs $10 a month (at the low end!) for birth control pills. That means if you have sex less than three times a month, it’s cheaper to buy condoms. If it’s $50 a month, then make that 16. $100, 33 and so on. So I suppose if one has a low threshold for “slut” then the mere fact of needing the pill would make someone so.

Naturally, slut isn’t defined by amount of sex but amount of partners. If you have sex twice a day every day with the same person, you’re not a slut and are in need of contraception. It’s also unclear why someone should be shamed (only implored to be careful of STDs) for having multiple partners if that’s really the lifestyle they want. The problem is that many religious conservatives don’t really like premarital sex of any sort and the notion that contraceptives are associated with promiscuity is just a red herring.