Saturday, June 25, 2022

Logical Fallacies

In my last post I brought up something that has been irking me for quite some time, people who use Chicago's high murder rate to make the point that relatively strict gun control laws, which this city also has, do little if anything to prevent murder. I mentioned that were there any credence to the conclusion , I'd support it, but pointed out that the argument is flawed in many ways and is not at all credible. 

For starters, the argument uses a single piece of evidence to draw its conclusion. In this case, using only the data of murder rates and gun laws in one city is insufficient because many other examples (those of other cities), need to be studied in order to come closer to a valid conclusion. Using only one example to draw a conclusion is known as an anecdotal fallacy. Every high school freshman learns in science class that you cannot make a conclusion based upon the evidence gathered in one solitary experiment.

The term cherry picking is also relevant here because data in the form of crime statistics for every city in this country, are readily available and not all of it backs up this particular conclusion. Instead, advocates of this theory select Chicago's anecdotal evidence of a high murder rate combined with strict gun laws specifically because it fits into their theory, while purposefully not bringing up comparable cities with strict gun laws and low murder rates or cities with high murder rates and lax gun laws. 

Another logical fallacy which often goes hand-in-hand with the anecdotal fallacy has a fancy Latin name: "post hoc, ergo propter hoc", in English: "after this, therefore because of this." It's the classic cause and effect question, assuming that if one event precedes another, it must be related to the subsequent event. In this particular case it is assumed the first event, strict gun laws, do not affect the murder rate, which is high despite them. This is a like a student who does poorly on a test despite studying for it, concluding that studying for all tests is useless. Never mind that there may have been dozens of reasons why the student didn't do well on the test, or the proposition that had he not studied at all, he may have done even worse on the test. 

I became interested in the subject of logical fallacies while writing that post. I looked it up and found hundreds of websites devoted to the subject, (no, I didn't look at them all). My philosophy class in college over forty years ago probably covered much of this material, but like the subject of how to factor a quadratic equation, the Spanish subjunctive and many other things I learned in school, I forgot. 

Yet another popular fallacy is the strawman fallacy. The premise of the SF is that someone making an argument misconstrues or exaggerates the opposing position, then uses arguments based upon those  faulty assumptions. This exaggerated position is designed to be easy to take down rhetorically, hence the term "strawman."

A classic example of the Strawman Fallacy can be found in my penultimate post where I talked about Tucker Carlson's evaluation of Joe Biden's address to the nation on the importance of gun control a couple weeks ago. In his rant, Carlson accused Biden of wanting to "disarm" Americans, which the president took great pains in his speech to make clear was not true.  Carlson went on to use the fallacious idea of "disarming Americans" (in this case, the strawman) to go in several directions, including portraying Biden as a tyrant who wants to take guns away from the American people in order to gain total control of them, as disarming the public has been the first act of tyrants throughout history. That last part is an example of another logical fallacy, the slippery slope. More on that one later. 

The point of this exercise is not to find more "gotcha" moments in the news to criticize a certain sector of our population which I've done a lot of lately if you hadn't noticed. Rather, I'm trying to clean up my own act, hoping to be aware of logical mistakes in my own arguments. 

Turns out I make them all the time. Here's a doozy from the last post:

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that (Texas governor Greg Abbott) would bring up Chicago while blocks away, grieving parents were in the process of receiving the remains of their murdered children who had to be identified the night before by DNA samples as the bullets from a high-powered military grade weapon ripped apart their bodies and destroyed their faces.

That's an example of the appealing to emotions fallacy. It's debatable whether or not my statement itself constitutes a fallacy as nothing in it is untrue, in fact I may have even downplayed the gruesome nature of the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy. Nor was any of what I said not relevant to my argument as the slaughter of innocent people, in this case children, is precisely why I believe we need more gun control. Yet the statement obviously is manipulative. I could have left out the gore and just said the governor brought up the Chicago fallacy while he was in Uvalde attempting to lend support to the people of that community in their time of need, then left the judgement of the appropriateness of the governor's words up to my readers. 

Just one paragraph earlier, I brought up Governor Abbott's blaming wind energy for the crippling Texas power grid crisis of last year, despite the fact that wind accounts for a very small amount of the energy produced in Texas. 

I originally led the paragraph quoted above with: "I guess it shouldn't be surprising that such a great mind, this modern-day Don Quixote..." (going after windmills, get it?), "would bring up Chicago..."

This is a good example of the ad homiem fallacy, or an attack not against the argument, but "against the man" making the argument. In this case, the subject of Abbott's statement about energy last year had nothing to do with his statement in Uvalde, and my ironic "great mind" line attacks the governor's intelligence (really his sincerity), rather than the argument at hand.

A couple weeks ago I was reading the comments section of an article about the highly publicized mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. The comments were predictable, many of them pro-gun control, many of them anti. After one fairly strident comment emphasizing the need to keep our children safe from being killed in their schools, someone commented to that remark by saying this: "But you have no problem with abortion?"

I was partially appalled and partially stymied by that one as I had no good response for it. OK yes, they are two separate issues, but they are both issues concerning life and death and I can understand that some people see an inconsistency with people who are concerned about preserving the lives of school children but unconcerned about preserving the lives of unborn children. Conversely, I've read comments from the other side that say anti-abortion people are only concerned about children's lives if they are not born yet. I've made that argument myself on numerous occasions.

These are both examples of another logical fallacy with a fancy Latin name, tu quoque, or the "you too" fallacy. It's also referred to as the "look who's talking" or my personal favorite: "the pot calling the kettle black" fallacy. Tu quoque is avoiding an argument by turning it around on the opponent by pointing out his or her inconsistency or flat-out hypocrisy. In recent years it has become so common in political discourse that a new word has been coined to describe it, "whataboutism." 

Whataboutism is a favorite tool of Vladimir Putin, who descends from a long line of Russian dictator whatabouters. He has used it consistently during his war against Ukraine, excusing his actions by saying other nations, especially the United States have invaded countries as well. Another great whatabouter is Donald Trump whose most infamous use of the fallacy concerned none other than Putin. In a 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly, the former FOX News personality questioned the new president about his admiration of the Russian dictator, referring to him as a "killer." Trump's response was chilling: 
There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent?

 That line prompted this astute response from the current U.S. National Security advisor Jake Sullivan:

The American president is taking Putin’s 'what about you' tactic and turning it into 'what about us?'

Supporters of the exPOTUS are famous for using whataboutism in their defense of 45, saying things like: "yeah he may be a crook with no moral or ethical compass, but so are all politicians."

Logical fallacies are not the exclusive domain of one political ideology. Case in point, in one of the web sites I checked out dealing with the subject, the author used this quote from Barak Obama to illustrate the false dilemma fallacy:

What choices are we going to make to reach that goal? (a balanced budget). Either we ask the wealthiest Americas to pay their fair share of taxes, or we are going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.

As we saw above, logical fallacies needn't be limited to one category; here Obama is clearly guilty of appealing to the emotions, after all, who doesn't have more compassion for seniors on a fixed income than for the "wealthiest Americans"? But the false dilemma fallacy which this quote also illustrates, poses one of only two possible outcomes to an action, one very bad, and the other good or at least, not as bad. There is no middle ground.

The slippery slope fallacy mentioned above, is related to the false dilemma in that it is poses an exaggerated assumption of the outcome to an action. The slippery slope argues that one thing inevitably leads to another, that is, if a particular action is taken, it will cause another action that will result in a bad outcome which will in turn result in another action resulting in a worse outcome, and so on. The classic example of this is a parent warning a child that if he doesn't do well in school, he'll end up being homeless because if he gets bad grades, he won't into a good college, then won't get a good job, etc.

I used the slippery slope in a piece I wrote about abortion. I posed the hypothetical suggestion that banning abortion in selected states may lead to a situation where an act that is perfectly legal in some states may land someone on death row in another. While there have been rumblings of a few people who say they might support the death penalty as punishment for those who perform abortions, there is no evidence to suggest that is a real possibility. Yet. So my statement would fall into the slippery slope category. 

Perhaps one of the most insidious of fallacies is the appeal to common sense fallacy. Anyone who has successfully lived through years of life on this planet has learned through personal experience certain things that will greatly improve their quality of life, things like knowing if you go out into the rain without an umbrella or protective clothing, you will get wet. We call the kind of knowledge that does not have to be taught, common sense. Of course, not everybody's personal experience is the same, someone who grew up in an arid zone may actually welcome getting wet in the rain because it is so rare where they come from and would never consider covering up to stay dry. 

Sometimes we see our own experience as transferrable to everybody else and don't even consider the possibility that other's may see things from a different perspective. 

Appealing to common sense is a way of avoiding an argument by saying the argument is so obvious it needn't be elaborated upon, and anyone who isn't on board with it is either unreasonable or stupid. A hypothetical example would be saying it is common sense that the combination of Chicago's strict gun laws and high crime rate is proof that gun laws don't work. How could any reasonable person not see that?

I am guilty of abusing the appeal to common sense fallacy in my own arguments, in fact there's a good example in this very post, see below.

It's important to remember that some arguments may technically fall into one of the categories of logical fallacies, but still constitute reasonable arguments. A borderline example is the appeal to authority fallacy. In this one, the committer of the fallacy uses the statements or beliefs of a third party, "the authority", to make an argument. 

A relevant example of this one is the use of Dr. Anthony Fauci as an authority figure on the subject of infectious diseases. An argument may go something like this: 

  • Person one: How do you know that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of COVID?
  • Person two: Because Dr. Fauci says it does and Dr. Fauci says...

Here person two is letting Dr. Fauci's expertise make the argument rather than making the argument himself. Is this a fallacious argument as it is clearly an appeal to authority?

Well, Dr. Fauci has spent an entire career, over fifty years, studying infectious diseases so he should know something about the subject. 

  • Does this mean his opinions on the subject are infallible? No. 
  • Is he immune from making errors of judgement? No.
  • Is his the only credible opinion on the subject? Certainly not. 
  • Is his opinion on the subject more valid than that of a layperson who has spent a couple hours reading articles on the web questioning the efficacy of wearing masks? YES, IT CERTAINLY IS!!!

So while saying: "Because Dr. Fauci says so" may not be a particularly elegant, well thought out argument, as far as the subject of infectious diseases goes, it is a reasonable argument.

If on the other hand the argument at hand is who is the most valuable player in the National League this year or what is the best wine to serve with Weiner Schnitzel, Dr. Fauci's opinion may not carry much weight, and the appeal to the authority of Dr. Fauci on those subjects would indeed be fallacious. 

The fallacy that usually wraps up discussions on logical fallacies is the fallacy fallacy, which assumes that because a person uses fallacious logic to make an argument, the argument itself is wrong.

It is possible that strict gun control laws don't affect crime very much, despite the fact that the evidence supporters of that theory promote is flimsy. If we really wanted to prove that gun laws don't affect crime here in Chicago, there is a straightforward experiment we could conduct to see if that has any merit. 

Get rid of our gun laws and see where that takes us. 

In an ideal world, I think few reasonable people would be willing to conduct that experiment. But we're living in a less than ideal world with fewer and fewer reasonable people (a whopper of an appeal to common sense fallacy), and as of this week in its infinite wisdom (ooh an ironic comment that could be considered an ad hominem attack), the Supreme Court has shown it is willing to conduct that dangerous experiment as reflected in its overruling New York State laws preventing people from carrying guns in public. 

Yes, there was another notorious ruling released by the court this week also promising horrendous consequences for our nation (do I detect a slippery slope here?), but that's an issue for another day. 

I don't want to get involved in yet another logical fallacy by comparing the two, although I'm not exactly sure which category it would fall into. 

Or by simply bringing it up, maybe I already have.

Oh well, so be it.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Chicago Line

In terms of pure numbers, there have been more murders in Chicago this year, and in many previous years, than any other any American city. It comes as little relief that because of its large population, Chicago ranks anywhere between #10 and #30 (depending on which day and where you check the stats), in murder rate in this country, in other words the number of homicides in relation to the size of the population.     

One could argue because of that second statistic, Chicago is not the "murder capital" of the nation as it is so often referred. That's hardly a bragging right.

Some would diminish the significance of our increasing murder rate as it is concentrated in certain "bad" neighborhoods and not the entire city. High crime rates have historically been associated with areas of poverty combined with ethnic and racial segregation, unemployment, the breakdown of families, the predominance of street gangs and other factors. As the crime and murder rate in much of the city has remained fairly stable, it stands to reason that the murder rate in the poorer neighborhoods of Chicago has skyrocketed, well out of proportion with the overall rate of the city as a whole.

Despite not living in a neighborhood with a particularly high murder rate, I don't find any comfort in that. On the contrary. This is my city and every murder, whether it be in affluent Lincoln Park, the economically challenged Englewood, or my neighborhood somewhere in between, Rogers Park, is an unspeakable tragedy.

There is no way to sugar-coat it, we cannot spin the situation to make it better, we are all affected by the horrific number of murders in our city.

Therefore, I'm not averse to Chicago's murder rate being openly and honestly discussed by those who have a legitimate concern for the wellbeing of this city and its inhabitants, preferably accompanied by some useful thoughts addressing the tragedy.

What I have no tolerance for are politicians and pundits who use violence in Chicago as a distraction from one of the pressing issues of our day, gun control. 

You hear the trope every time there is legitimate outrage after a mass shooting. Defenders of not doing anything to control the obscene availability of guns in this country will predictably drop the Chicago Line in order to "prove" that gun laws do nothing to prevent crime.

This is the Chicago Line: "Despite having the toughest gun laws in the nation, Chicago also has the highest murder rate."

Strictly speaking, neither of those points are accurate, but that's not a problem for me. If there were a legitimate argument for Chicago being an example of strict gun laws having little or no effect on crime, it would be a valid point.

But it's not a legitimate argument and therefore not valid. The bottom line is that in Chicago's case, the correlation between its relatively strict gun control laws and its high murder rate, is purely anecdotal, much like the tentative correlation many people make between vaccines and autism (a story for another day).

The problem with the correlation between Chicago (more appropriately Illinois) gun laws and the murder rate is quite simple. While Illinois gun laws are fairly strict by US standards (ranked eighth strictest in the nation), the laws in its neighboring states are anything but. Given that, it stands to reason that a state with strict gun laws being an island surrounded by states with lax guns laws is no more effective than a no peeing section in the middle of an open swimming pool. It turns out that well over half of the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from out of state, the majority of those from Indiana, which is literally across the street from some parts of Chicago. 

The state of Illinois requires all gun purchases to be accompanied a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card on the part of a buyer, issued by the State Police which must be presented to the seller for verification at the time of purchase. That process alone takes a few days so you can't simply walk into a gun shop in this state and leave with a shiny new weapon. This FOID card can be rescinded any time its holder is considered a risk such as having committed a crime or determined to be mentally unstable.

None of this is true in Indiana or Wisconsin where almost anyone with absolutely no business having a gun can make the easy drive across state lines to buy one.

But the real problem with this nation's lax gun laws insofar as crime is concerned, is the that they enable guns to be manufactured at a staggering rate. I looked at one of my previous posts a decade old and recalled that ten years ago, there were as many guns as people in the United States. Today it is estimated that there are about twenty percent more guns than people in this country. That translates to (if my math is correct) roughly 80 million more guns in circulation today in this country than ten years ago.

Sure there are lots of responsible gun owners who take pains to prevent their firearms from getting into the wrong hands. But what happens when they sell those guns which are later re-sold or stolen? That's not to mention all the irresponsible gun owners out there.

Since guns are so plentiful in this city, one needn't bother making the trip to Indiana or Wisconsin, they can be had right here, mostly illegally of course. As the gun crowd rightfully points out, criminals aren't going to let a mere law prevent them from getting a gun. But if there weren't so many guns around in the first place, it wouldn't be so damned easy for criminals to get their hands on them. Sorry gun guys but this one is on you.

Another inconvenient fact debunking the correlation between Chicago's murder rate and gun control is that cities with comparable or higher murder rates than Chicago such as Birmingham, Little Rock, New Orleans and St. Louis are all in states with far more lenient gun restrictions than Illinois. In contrast, cities like Los Angeles and New York, both in states with stricter gun laws than Illinois, have far lower murder rates than Chicago.

Unfortunately there is a segment of our society who seems to be immune to reason and facts. That's why anti gun control politicians and pundits keep getting away with using the Chicago Line as their main line of defense in arguing the failure of gun control.

You may ask why Chicago is singled out as the gold standard of American murder and mayhem. Could it be that all those other cities are in solidly red states that typically oppose gun control? Oh I dunno, just a hunch.

The Chicago Line was a favorite of the exPOTUS who was fond of trashing the blue state of Illinois and especially Chicago, home of his predecessor and favorite target, Barak Obama. 

In a bit of horrendous timing, days after the mass shooting of fourth graders and their teachers in Uvalde, Texas, an NRA convention was scheduled to take place in Houston, 278 miles away. Many folks who planned to attend either as speakers or entertainers, cancelled their appearances out of respect for the dead and their families. Not the exPOTUS who danced a little gig at the end of his address to the crowd, after paying "homage" to the victims of Uvalde by mispronouncing most of their names. Also present at the gun-lovers' orgy in Houston was Texas senator Ted CancĂșn Cruz who predictably used the old reliable Chicago Line in his speech. Here is what he said: 

Gun bans do not work. Look at Chicago. If they worked, Chicago wouldn’t be the murder hellhole that it has been for far too long.

Which is interesting because in 2019, Cruz was excoriated by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after he dropped the Chicago Line in slightly different words, after a particularly brutal holiday weekend in this city. It's bad enough to extol the virtues of guns by exploiting Chicago violence in reaction to a tragic weekend in the Windy City, but it's a whole other level of bad to use it in the wake of another town's tragedy.

Perhaps the most tasteless use of the Chicago Line to date came from Texas governor Greg Abbott at a press conference in Uvalde, the day after the shooting. You may remember it was Abbott who famously blamed windmills for the disastrous power grid failure last year after an unusual snap of cold weather in the Lone Star State. Never mind that wind power generates only a minuscule amount of Texas energy. 

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that this modern-day Don Quixote would bring up Chicago while blocks away, grieving parents were in the process of receiving the remains of their murdered children who had to be identified the night before by DNA samples as the bullets from a high powered military grade weapon ripped apart their bodies and destroyed their faces.

In order to assure his fellow gun toatin' Texans that he wasn't moved by the unspeakable tragedy that befell his constituents in Uvalde enough to keep weapons like the one used at Robb Elementary School out of the hands of people likely to use them against ten year olds, Abbott said this:

I hate to say this, there are more people that are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas.

Perhaps he was bemoaning the fact that there aren't enough schools in Texas but I don't think so. Not giving him the benefit of the doubt on that one, his statement is so wrong on so many levels. 

Beyond the errors in logic, by comparing numbers of murder victims in Chicago and Texas, Abbott is treating human lives as if they were commodities. He may as well have been talking about spark plugs or widgets. 

Not only did Abbott receive the wrath of the Mayor of Chicago, but also that of Jay Pritzker, Governor of Illinois for his thoughtless remarks.

As pointed out by Mayor Lightfoot, worst of all, Abbott's statement downplays the tragedy he was on hand to address. Uvalde is a small town where practically everyone has a connection to at least one of the victims of the massacre. I'm guessing that not a soul in Uvalde was comforted by learning that a lot of people are murdered in Chicago too. 

But these gun-loving yahoos press on with their empty rhetoric about good guys with guns, people killing people, not guns, and about that hellhole, Chicago.

You don't hear Ted Cruz or Greg Abbott, both with presidential aspirations of their own calling Indianapolis, Tuscaloosa, Menphis or Baton Rouge murder hell holes, even though those cities have higher murder rates than Chicago. 

For them. Chicago is an easy target as this city's violent reputation as every Chicagoan who has ever traveled abroad knows, precedes it. Besides they have nothing to lose as neither of them have a snowball's chance in hell of winning Chicago or Illinois in a presidential election. 

As I said, if there were any credence to the Chicago Line, it would be fair game. But there is not, it is a simplistic logical fallacy, deliberately cherry picked by unscrupulous politicians and their masters, the gun lobby, to empower and enrich themselves off the blood of innocent children, and to further divide the American people. 

So we can expect to keep hearing the same old bullshit Chicago Line ad nauseam.

Not that it will make a bit of difference but to that I will quote our mayor while adding a few choice embellishments of my own:

If you don't give a rat's ass about this city or its people, keep our name out of your fucking mouth.

With all due respect. 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Compromise, What a Novel Idea

Last night President Biden delivered a passionate address to the nation on the issue of gun control in the wake of two highly publicized mass shootings and several other less publicized ones that have taken place over the last few weeks in our country. In the message he spelled out his plans to send before Congress: bills to raise the legal age for purchasing firearms, strengthening background checks, enacting safe storage and red flag laws, as well as repealing the immunity protecting gun manufacturers from liability for their deadly products, a privilege Biden pointed out, no other industry enjoys.

The president also expressed his desire that the assault weapon ban Republican members of Congress allowed to expire in 2004, be put back into effect, putting a cap on the number of bullets a single magazine can hold, as well as other measures he readily acknowledged were very unlikely to pass.

As predictable as flies on a pile of poop in summer, the ultra-MAGA troll Tucker Carlson weighed in on Biden's remarks as if they were a genuine affront to all good, God-fearing, law-abiding, patriotic Americans.

Biden had the nerve to address the nation during Carlson's prime time slot, so FOX "News", the network that broadcasts Carlson's nightly bile to his adoring fans, took the unusual step of broadcasting the president's speech in its entirely, all the while showing an inset of Carlson's trademarked, dumbfounded facial reactions to Biden's remarks in real time. Didn't watch that.

But I did give him his due by reading his rebuttal to Biden on FOX's website. If you can stand it, you can read it here.

Carlson analysed Biden's address this way:

So, to summarize the president's remarks tonight, your constitutional rights are not absolute. But in taking them away, we're not actually taking away your rights, we're protecting children. To which you might ask, am I a threat to children? That question is never answered by the president.
It would seem from this statement, that Tucker Carlson believes that constitutional rights ARE absolute, that it's perfectly OK for example to yell fire (when there isn't one), in a crowded theater or that there is no limit to the kind of weapons an individual can have at his disposal, machine guns, bazookas, nukes, you name it.

That's interesting because the president seemed to anticipate that response. He quoted the most revered of all Supreme Court Justices by members of the far right, Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in the District of Columbia v. Heller case which overturned Washington DC's ban on handguns. In that opinion Scalia wrote this:

Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

 In other words, again Scalia's: most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. (emphasis mine)

And it is...

not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

Of course our boy Tucker didn't mention any of that because it doesn't fit into his narrative.

Also not fitting into his narrative is that gun control should not be a political issue, but a common sense issue of public safety. The gun-nut crowd (as distinguished from reasonable and responsible gun owners), loves to complain that people who want to see the manufacture and sale of guns controlled in this country use mass shootings as an excuse to further their "political agenda" at a time when they should be mourning the victims.  

At the top of Carlson's piece he says this:

(Biden) decided to leverage the murder of 19 children in Texas last week for political advantage. 

That is moronic. A few days after I was born, there was a horrific fire in a school not far from where we lived. Many of the victims of that fire were brought to the hospital where my mother and I were still admitted. 92 children and 3 nuns died in that fire. Yes there was terrific grief in the days, months, and years that followed and even to this day. But there was also tremendous anger. People in the community and in fact all over the world said: "how the hell could something like this happen?"

That anger was put to good service as fire codes and design standards were completely overhauled to prevent another such disaster. Even though this involved expenditures of a good deal of tax money and proved a great inconvenience to many, to my knowledge, for the sake of saving the lives of children, no one whined about having to sacrifice or that their rights were being taken away.

Obviously I have no direct memory of the event but have a hard time believing those angry people were castigated for leveraging those deaths to advance a political agenda.

If it ended there, Tucker Carlson's response could be considered merely self-serving and idiotic. But as usual, he goes beyond that. Carlson is famous for distinguishing between his audience, whom he refers to in the collective, "you, the American people", and "them", the so-called political elite, presumably the Democrats, and by extension anybody who supports them.

Here are some chunks of Carlson's comments found in his piece:

The point of this, of course, is to disarm people who did not vote for Joe Biden.

Democrats in the House of Representatives spent the day debating ways to disarm you, Americans, who've committed no crime at all and want only to protect themselves and their families.

Anyone who tries to disarm you, by definition, considers you an enemy. That's what you do to your enemies, you disarm them. Your friends, your allies, your children, people you love. why would you want to prevent them from defending themselves? You never would. You certainly wouldn't scream at them from the podium about how they're killing children if they want to protect their own families. That's what you do to your enemies. 

If you think these quotes are not to be trusted because I've taken them out of context, please feel free to read the whole piece that I linked to above. 

First of all, it's ludicrous to say that Biden is proposing these new measures to effect only people who did not vote for him. Where is the evidence of that?* Law abiding Democrats as well as law abiding Republicans own guns. 

Secondly, "disarm" is a term bandied about quite liberally in this piece. Biden made it abundantly clear that he is not against guns and is not interested in disarming Americans, he simply proposes going back to a ban that already existed on very particular weapons, namely AR-15 style assault rifles which have been used in nearly all the mass shootings we've witnessed recently. 

Third, protecting oneself and one's family is a valid concern, and it is also thrown about quite haphazardly in all the rhetoric of the gun-nut crowd. But is that what these people really and truly care about? Does anybody really need an AR-15 style gun to protect himself? Read on.

The gist of Carlson's rhetoric can be found in the next line that says "anyone who tries to disarm you considers you an enemy." Clearly Tucker Carlson is saying here that Joe Biden by "disarming" the American people, considers the American people his enemy. Therefore it follows that Joe Biden the president of the United States, and those who support him, are the enemy of the true American people.

So the American people, according to the gun-nut crowd, need weapons such as the AR-15 not to protect themselves from the miscreants, prowlers, burglars, and other run-of-the-mill criminals, but from a hostile government who wants to enslave its people. And as we all know, the very first thing that dictators have done from time immemorial, is disarm the people, or so they say.

This is the narrative that Tucker Carlson wants to convey to his audience: the Democrats, and the people who support them, are not your fellow Americans who happen to have a different point of view, but your enemy who wants to take from you everything you value. First it's your guns, next your religion, then what? A particularly nutty legislator from the great state of Georgia who shall remain nameless, recently suggested that the way things are going, straight people will soon be extinct. And when that happens, there's the end of the species. 

I've said before in this space that Tucker Carlson is not an idiot, he just plays one on TV. Frankly I don't think he believes half of the rubbish he tells his viewers. In a defamation case against Carlson and FOX, the network's defense (which was successful) was that no one in their right mind should take anything Tucker Carlson says seriously. 

We can laugh all we want at the nonsense, but a lot of his viewers believe him and what he tells them. Carlson is the most public advocate of "white replacement theory", the idea that the Democrats are purposefully increasing the number of illegal immigrants of color crossing our borders for the sole purpose of gaining votes at the ballot box. In a rambling creed written before his racist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, the killer of ten, while not naming Carlson directly, attributed WRT  as the inspiration for his crime.

I've also heard Tucker Carlson say that if the Democrats try to take away our guns, there will be a Civil War. Is that pure hyperbole? Well maybe for him, if there is a war, rest assured that Carlson would stay as far away from the front lines as possible. But rumblings of a Civil War in our future are not too infrequent in the world of social media, a former president, can you guess which one, reposted one.

With this attitude, it's not surprising that the Republicans are so intransigent in trying to cooperate with the Democrats, after all, why cooperate with your enemy? As far as gun control goes, despite efforts on the table that no reasonable person should object to, it seems that the attitude of the gun-nut crowd is "give 'em an inch, and they'll take a mile." 

A democratic government doesn't work that way. You compromise.

I suppose if I were king of the United States, I'd get rid of the Second Amendment as I feel it has become obsolete in an era when we have a standing army and local and state police departments whose job it is to protect us. 

But here's the thing, I'm not king (thank God) and furthermore, I don't believe in kings. I believe in the rule of law and I believe in our constitution, imperfect as it is. Given that, as a citizen, I would not advocate for the repeal of the Second Amendment because I feel it would create a slippery slope which would weaken the constitution to the point where every one of our rights as American citizens could be in jeopardy of being revoked. 

As the president pointed out in his address, there are things he wants to accomplish that have a chance of succeeding, and others that won't. That's how negotiations work, each side brings to the table more than they know will be accepted, issues that can be given up in the interest of getting concessions from the other side. There's no way in hell that the assault weapon ban will be reinstated at this time, everybody knows that. But if it is brought to the table and the Democrats are hesitantly willing to give that up, perhaps, so the theory goes, the other side may be willing to accept other restrictions that could possibly save a few lives. 

Or maybe not; given the way things have been going, I'd give the Republicans making any concessions a less than a 50/50 chance. 

Fortunately there are reasonable people who believe in the Second Amendment with all their hearts.

By chance, yesterday morning I found an article by a Mississippi writer named Sid Salter. From all indications he is a conservative Republican who may (or may not) have voted for Donald Trump. The article is titled "Justice Scalia’s words on Second Amendment absolutism are true and prophetic" and it was published on a site called "Y'all Politics." Given all that, I opened up the article fully assuming the writer's opinions would be diametrically opposed to mine. 

It turned out that Salter focused on the words of Scalia that Joe Biden quoted later that day.

Here is a link to Sid Salter's piece. 

Much to my surprise, the article is spot on.

Sid Salter and I might have plenty to argue about, which is just fine, because at the root of it, we are both Americans who love our country and want to see it succeed. Because of that we both despise the division sewn by certain politicians and pundits like Carlson, who have plenty to gain for themselves and their pocketbooks as our country is torn apart limb by limb. 

As for the rest of us, the real American people, Republican, Democrat and Independent, we have nothing to gain but plenty to lose.

And right now, we're losing big time. 

* Carlson's "evidence" is that the proposed measures to limit the amount of bullets a magazine is capable of holding, would not apply to the bodyguards of politicians, therefore the politicians would have proper protection, but regular citizens would not. He seems to be implying this only applies to Democratic politicians not Republicans, which is of course, pure nonsense.