Monday, July 9, 2018

All the News that's Fit to Complain About

Both sides do it. Complain about the news, that is. On the Conservative side, they've been so deeply enmeshed in lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories for so long that they can't begin to figure out how to address actual facts, quotes and events. On the Liberal side, well, we hate pretty much everything. You don't see nearly as much whining about 'Fake News' from liberals - Fox News is state TV, the propaganda outlet for the Republican party, and other outlets like Breitbart traffic in such bizarre nonsense that to call it fake news would be to lend it a cachet of credibility far beyond its own intrinsic worth. Liberals complain about coverage and content choices. At this point one might reach the conclusion that Twitter exists primarily as a medium for complaining about the media.

But here's the thing. The 'news' all these politically active people on both sides of the ideological divide are complaining about? It's not. News, that is. In many cases it is a costly, extravagantly produced television show designed not to inform, but to sell products. Television shows, just as a reminder, are profitable because they are a delivery medium for advertisers. As a result, the television news suffers from time constraints - it is fundamentally impossible for them to discuss ANY issue at even the minimal depth to actually inform their viewers. It doesn't matter if they're talking about health care policy, SCOTUS, North Korea or immigration, they leave out even the most salient details. They leave them out because the producers don't believe people want to know them, and because, with only 40 minutes of content per hour, they simply don't have time to deliver a complete picture of the issue, let alone the events of the day.

Then there's the other delivery mechanism, an anachronism from previous centuries we like to call a newspaper. This is where the complaints get, well, weird. People complain about what's being covered, and they complain about what's NOT being covered. They complain about who's writing the stories, the topics of the stories, the amount of coverage the story gets (too little/too much) and they complain about the overarching editorial choices the newspaper's management staff makes. Person X has a paid job writing for the NY Times? That's shameful and ridiculous. Person Y DOESN'T have a job writing for the NY Times? They are silencing our voices. Person Z wrote something I disagree with - he must be fired now.

Frankly, I don't understand any of this. Sure, the right-wing echo chamber is an embarrassment of false and incomplete narratives, primarily because it exists to support a right-wing political contingent that long ago ran out of anything of value to offer, and is now utterly dependent on false and incomplete narratives to sell its toxic set of policies to a public that is every year worse off for supporting them. But we're supposed to be the smart ones, literate and deeply concerned with actual facts, whether they support our desired policy positions or not.

Read what you want - don't read what you choose. But complaining about what is said or written in these ridiculous entities we call television and newspapers is pointless. They will never get it right, because they are so fatally flawed that it is impossible for them to do so. They will take shortcuts, offer anecdotes, quote sources and frame a narrative that is at best so incomplete as to be hollow, and at worst just farcically incorrect. If you actually care about public policy, read the source material, seek out the authoritative sources, read the longform deepdive white papers and research studies. If you're concerned about legislation, read the bill(s). If you're concerned about regulation, read the rules. If you care about international affairs, see what the politicians, journalists and pundits in other nations are saying.

Here's an example. When Supreme Court Justice Kennedy resigned, the immediate implication was all around abortion, and Roe v Wade. But Roe was decided almost fifty years ago - did you go back and read the original decision, just to be clear on what might be at stake? Have you read it, even now? What about Casey v Planned Parenthood? When Trump rants about NATO funding, did you do a little research on how NATO is funded, just to see what the hell he's talking about? Whining about what CNN isn't covering or what some NYT OpEd writer said in a clickbait weekend column isn't informing you or anyone else - once again, because it is impossible to be informed by watching TV/Cable news and reading newspapers online.

Do yourself and everyone else a favor - find out what's happening, don't complain about how certain flawed media outlets are telling the story. Because they no longer have value as sources of information.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Why Competence Matters

One of the major problems of both the Trump campaign and the administration that resulted is the utter incoherence of the message. Whether you're a journalist, pundit, economist or part of another nation's government, trying to figure out what he wants and why he wants it has become the largest part of the job. It's pretty clear it was never intended to turn out this way, but from where we are today, looking back over the last three years, the primary method of operation, perhaps even the desired end-state itself, has been some kind of large-scale economic warfare. Part of it stems from the position of victimization that Trump has exploited in the conservative community - THEY are cheating, THEY are taking advantage of us, WE have to make them play fair and pay up! - and another part of it stems from the fact that his understanding of global trade and political norms is essentially that of a precocious ten-year-old with a large cache of comic books.

First it was sanctions. Economic sanctions are a kind of targeted trade war designed to stop short of actual warfare, in order to coerce another nation to either act in a certain way, or to stop acting in a certain way. The idea is that they function as both a carrot and a stick - the stick damages the wealth and income of targeted individuals, corporations and governments, while the carrot is that once the behavior is changed, the sanctions are removed and everybody can go back to the business of business.

Then came the tariffs. Similarly, tariffs are a kind of economic warfare, designed to force other nations to participate in a regime of trade protocols that is healthy for everyone, and to make sure that governments don't use their economic and national power to put a thumb on the scale to favor that nation's business interests.

The important thing to remember in effectively using sanctions and tariffs is not their application - that is the difficult, risky part - but rather their removal. The goal is not the economic warfare itself, but rather to coercively drive certain very specific changes in the behavior of the targeted nations. The point is changing behavior, and the economic actions are merely the method for accomplishing that goal.

All of which brings us to Donald Trump. As US president, he loves sanctions and tariffs. He violated the JCPOA precisely in order to re-impose sanctions on Tehran. And this year he has imposed tariffs on most US trading partners, both friend and foe alike. Now let me ask you - have you seen any reporting on what the purpose of these punitive economic measures might be? I'm guessing you haven't, because, appallingly, Trump has never specified what he wants those nations to do.

That's right - he has imposed a massive regime of economic warfare against multiple nations around the globe in order, one presumes, to make them bend to his will. But he has not said, ever, what it is they might do to get the tariffs or sanctions removed. In the case of Iran, he has on occasion said something about regional conduct, missile development and a sunset clause, but that agreement was signed several years ago and was not open for negotiations. If he wanted to negotiate another treaty, he could try, but there was no need to abrogate an existing agreement in order to do that.

On tariffs, it's even worse. He says he wants global trade to operate in ways that are fairer to the US, but never says in what way. He says EU tariffs are too high, but overall EU tariffs are a negligible 3%. He says Canada is taking advantage of the US and risking national security, but the US actually runs a trade surplus with Canada. He says China is running roughshod over existing international laws around intellectual property, but he makes no demands around this issue. It's impossible for these nations to come into compliance with a set of trade rules that exist only in Trump's imagination. Which means there can be no actual end to this trade war, because nobody knows how to win, or even to surrender.

What is Trump doing? Well, he's pandering to 'the base'. He's listening to whatever they say on Fox News. He brings a zero-sum transactional mindset along with a raging egotistical arrogance that prevents him from accepting advice, even - perhaps especially - when he's in deeply over his head. But what the specific changes he's trying to create in the international order might be, no one - not even he - has any idea.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Tyranny Fantasy

I've neglected this blog in recent months. My life has been...challenging, and the remarkable collapse of the American federal government under Trump has sucked all of the air out of the room. It's hard to think about various issues, even really important ones, when every morning Twitter delivers a new set of atrocites and blossoming fascism. But I wrote a piece about the upcoming political campaign, and in the course of coming back to teh Blogger, I found a comment on a piece I wrote some time ago about the 2nd Amendment. Now I'm not here to pick on commenters - I LOVE commenters - even though this one has a bit of a problem with coherence.

But I was taken by this comment because it reflects a common argument among second amendment maximalists. And the argument is offered in such sincere seriousness while taking what amounts to two opposite and logically incompatible positions that it always fascinates me. Notice the use of the phrase "Government Tyranny", used multiple times in a single paragraph. It's a descriptor of some set of events that is so broadly understood and accepted on the far right that they really believe it needs no explanation.

But what are they describing with this phrase? What set of events in the United States are they anticipating that would place them in open warfare with the US government? The commenter refers to the slaughter of billions and billions of people - but what historical precedent are they examining? Sure, we can think about Armenia, we can think about Nazi Germany, we can think about Stalin's Soviet Union, we can think about Rwanda - but do those historical events apply somehow to the largest, oldest, most successfully established democracy in the world? What established democratic nation can we look to that has somehow fallen victim to 'government tyranny' to such an extent that it's citizens found themselves in open warfare with their government? Not Syria. Not Egypt. Not Libya. These were nations that HAD authoritarian, tyrannical (if you will) governments, nations where the people had no hope for their children or their future.

Sometimes they invoke some kind of 'economic meltdown' that leads to widespread looting and the collapse of American society. But they never describe what events might cause such a 'meltdown', falling back on phrases like 'runaway inflation' and 'Wiemar Republic', neither of which do they seem to understand either economically or historically. Fueled by some kind of fascination with Zombie movies and stockpiling weapons and supplies coupled with a barely suppressed desire for an opportunity to kill lots of black and brown people without paying a legal price, they envision a world where cities are in ruins and only them and their heavily armed friends will survive, killing looters and defending their compound from the ravenous hordes.

Do they not understand that American service people take their oath to the constitution seriously? Do they not understand that the US is comprised of 50 State governments in addition to the federal government, each sovereign and each with dozens or hundreds of armed law enforcement agencies and a military force controlled by the governor? Do they not understand that America has strong, mature democratic institutions that would short-circuit any descent into whatever they imagine 'tyranny' represents? Apparently they do not.

But wait - it gets weirder. If we give them even a small benefit of the doubt - if we, as a thought experiment, postulate that this 'government tyranny' is underway - then we can examine the key claim of the argument. So in this near-future America, cities are in ruins from rioting and looting, people are dying in huge numbers, there is no law enforcement, everyone is on their own while the government relentlessly hunts down the rebel leaders and puts entire communities into prison, labor and re-education camps. But wait - the brave 2nd amendment crew, in their 5.11 Tac Vests, boots and MOLLE gear, with their ARs and AKs and pistols are coming to the rescue.

Of course, this is government tyranny. You know - the US government. Predator drones circle out of rifle range, watching everything. A team planting IEDs at night is clearly visible in the thermal sensors, and a Hellfire missile obliterates them. A raiding party approaches a government installation, and a circling AC-130 kills all of them in 45 seconds - they never fire a shot. The tyrannical government sends troops into Memphis to round up the rebel leadership. The brave Tennessee fighters get their rifles and shotguns, paint their faces and send platoons into the streets to ambush the government troops. But the troops are riding MRAPs and Bradleys and Strykers, covered by precision artillery fires from the nearest firebase. Again, drones have seen the brave freedom fighters setting their ambushes. As the artillery barrage tears apart their positions, the government troops roll through, with machine guns and anti-tank rockets mopping up the remains of the resistance. The fighters never saw a single dismounted infantry unit to target with their rifles, and without air, armor or artillery of their own, they are all dead in an hour.

So there you have it. In the same breath, they tell us that American government tyranny is a real thing, and is very likely if not inevitable, and that they need their poodle-shooters and street-sweepers to stop it. The thing these two scenarios have in common is they are both ridiculous fantasies. There is no mechanism where a mature democracy would descend rapidly into open rebellion and warfare, and there are no weapons in civilian circulation that can have even a minor, temporary effect on a modern combined arms force.

So when they tell you they need their guns to protect us all from 'Government Tyranny', they are describing a situation that cannot occur, and a solution that cannot be effective.

Good job, guys.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What, Me Worry?

In less than two years, the vultures have come home to roost. The Republican party, as the political organization representing movement conservatism, has fought an increasingly impossible generational war to avoid slipping into demographic irrelevance. And now, the fallout from that war, represented by the presidency of Donald Trump and the rise of white supremacy and violent misogyny is weighing heavily on the electoral hopes of conservative America. The upcoming mid-term elections should represent the best opportunity for the Democratic party to take control of federal governance in decades. Indeed, before the rise of Trumpism, the most optimistic projections for a Democratic House majority were centered on 2024 or 26. With Trump, it's all in play, right now.

There are two things that worry me. They are both things that the Democrats can control. There's no point in worrying about the economy, or a war, or Trump's health, or any other factor beyond control. When things happen, both parties have to react to them, and the chips fall where they fall. One thing worries me a little - that because it's truly evergreen, a problem with Democratic policy choices and messaging forever. The other is bigger, and risks creating problems that even the desperate Republican party could exploit.

The smaller of these two problems is policy messaging. This has always been a strong Republican advantage. They do bumper stickers - "Morning in America", "Make America Great Again" etc. - while Democrats do White Papers. Now, I LIKE White Papers, but you have to be able to communicate effectively in four minute cable news hits and Twitter, neither platform lends itself to the White Paper format. So we say "Healthcare is a Human Right" and wow, that's so vague as to be meaningless. So we try "Medicare for All" and not even the people who say it can agree on what it means. It's the same when we call for "Comprehensive Immigration Legislation", and it only goes downhill when we shout BREAK UP THE BANKS or demand that businessmen be sent to prison en masse. It's important to remember that the spittle-flecked madmen and madwomen largely on the other side, so you should try to keep the message rational and constitutional.

I do think that some of the nuance and detail in policy is important to communicate, even though there is neither in Republican messaging. But that's mostly because the Republican party is fully invested in barefaced lying to support their positions, so the Democrats have to have some built-in firewalls to protect them from the lies. (Remember Death Panels?) So, again going to healthcare - it's going to be THE big issue from now until 2021 at least - if we shout SINGLE PAYER we're opening up the opportunity for them to scream about raising taxes. And not even dishonestly, although they will find a way to exaggerate the issue. Americans spend $4 trillion dollars a year on health care, and that would be a LOT of taxation - far more than could be borne  by the richest 10% alone.

Oddly, the second problem is easier to solve, because it would be such a brutal self-inflicted wound. The conventional wisdom is that running as the NOT-TRUMP is not enough. That Democrats have to STAND for something, to be for things rather than just against him. First of all, the Democrats ARE for things - and health care and immigration will be two of them at the forefront. But come on. Open a newspaper. Open a browser. Turn on the news. What is everyone talking about? It's Trump. Remember that America elected an African American president not because of his message, but because he was NOT GW Bush. This is THAT on steroids.

In every opportunity, every speech, every rally, every cable news hit, Democrats need to emphasize that they're NOT Donald Trump, they're not a corrupt crime family with a third grade education and a massive inferiority complex. Even though it's the mid-terms, every Democratic candidate should run against Trump. They should tie their opponents tightly to Trump, they should explain what they'll do to stop Trump from acting, and they should promise to clean up the cesspool that the West Wing has become under Trump.

And this should not worry them. With 56-58% of the popular vote, they can sweep both houses of congress. None of this is about convincing Trump supporters to vote D. Anybody who's still a fan of the Trump White House at this point is a lost cause, but the numbers keep saying that shouldn't matter. And frankly, if the nation continues down that path after two years of seeing it in action, we truly will have the government we deserve.

One additional point. Liberals want to see liberal policies enacted - that's only rational. And the more liberal one's ideology, the more liberal the policies one wants to see. But during the 2016 campaign, I saw that morph into an odd belief that more liberal policies would be more popular, and receive more votes. That's not only politically wrong, it's statistically impossible. Ideology is a bell curve, with the vast portion of the electorate near the center. Every step to the left loses more votes than it gains, just as the Republicans kept moving right until they'd lost everyone but white southern men. So perhaps we can tone down the rhetoric, reduce the use of the word 'socialism' and talk about how we're not DJ Trump and what we might do to make our country a better place.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Pointless Feel-Good Madness of the Rising Facebook Fury

Wow. Everybody hates Facebook, and they'd like something bad to happen to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, because - um - some bad stuff happened, and nobody's doing anything, and we really need to BLAME somebody or something for the bad stuff that happened. Here's the key question: What did Facebook do to earn such bitter enmity and loathing? If you can't explain it in a couple of sentences, and instead fall back on shouting "Privacy!" or "He SOLD our data" or "FAKE RUSSIAN NEWS", you need to go back, do some serious research, and think about it a little harder. Perhaps I can help.

There are two issues here. One is the Facebook business model. When you run the largest multi-datacenter consumer internet site in the world, your growth models are premised on offering billions of dollars of technology services for free, and you base your revenue models on advertising, you need to deliver effective advertising. The way to do that is to understand as much as you can about every user, so that you can deliver the ads they are most likely to click on. Those advertisers will recognize the higher response rates on your platform and pay you correspondingly higher advertising rates. Let's be very clear - THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS. Companies have ALWAYS sought to know as much as they could about their customers - when you use your loyalty card at the grocery store, they give you a discount, because the information they are collecting about your purchasing habits is valuable to them.

The key to this discussion is that there are two kinds of data. There is PII - Personally Identifiable Data - and there is masked or aggregated data, where the trends and characteristics of a user or group of users can be analyzed and shared without exposing WHO those users are. Every company has PII in their internal systems. Whether it's payment data, address, banking, age, health, financial status, home ownership etc - it's impossible to work with people without collecting information about them. Social media is it's own thing - people, in the course of using the platform, tell the system a great deal about themselves, both directly (I have two kids and another on the way, I have four dogs, I live in Cleveland etc) and indirectly (Likes, Emojis, Quizes etc).

Google uses the information they collect to provide ad targeting services too. But there's ONE big difference. Google provides the targets themselves - no PII every leaves their possession to go to the advertisers. Facebook has at least one program where they will provide PII to the ad networks to do their own targeting. This is 100% of the problem, and will likely be reduced in light of the firestorm. But that's it - all the screaming about privacy and data protection and "selling" data comes down to nothing more nefarious than who is using the data to target the ads. It's not optimal, but it's really not the end of the world. And if you think it's sufficient reason quit using the Facebook platform, or if you think it makes Zuckerberg uniquely evil, you really should look hard at the other online platforms and tools you use.

The other issue is the ad content itself. How can they rapidly identify those ads that are problematic, that represent foreign electoral influence, for example? And is it even desirable for them to take it upon themselves to filter ad content? This gets really dicey. Yes, as a private company they are not obligated to provide unfettered speech a la the first amendment. But as a content and messaging company, they MUST retain credibility. If people feel their voices are being silenced, the platform itself will lose credibility, and thus users. And make no mistake, this would be a 'both sides' problem. If we demand that Facebook silence certain kinds of content, they're going to make absolutely certain that there is NO hint of political bias in the decision. That means they're going to silence at least one liberal for every conservative. And because content guidelines can never cover every eventuality, these decisions are going to be seen as crude and arbitrary, and there's just no way that a company the size of Facebook could provide sufficient resources to arbitrate every complaint.

The argument about "Fake News" is just a complete red herring. Yes, the Russians used Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram) to attempt to influence the 2016 US Presidential election - and they did so with both paid advertising and straightforward user postings. If you want to prevent foreign money from paying for these kinds of ads, great, but don't pretend that money can't be moved around in such a manner as to conceal its source. Russians won't purchase the ads directly, Americans will. The question of where the money actually came from, as with all campaign finance questions, will ultimately go unresolved. And, once again, if you want to empower Facebook to arbitrarily silence controversial users, don't get all weepy on me when they silence YOU too. They don't want to be in the censorship business, and if we force them to take on that role, they're, once again, going to make sure it doesn't look slanted, and that means silencing voices we want to hear.

At the end of the day, all consumers of political and public policy news should be skeptical. If you read something, and it's something you REALLY want to believe, that's the moment you should be extra-cautious about just accepting it at face value. Do your due diligence or accept that you're being lied to and used. Pizzagate was a stupid, irrational conspiracy theory with zero evidence to support it. People who believed it WANTED to believe it. People who took a moment to check other authoritative and primary sources quickly discovered the truth. This is called 'motivated reasoning' and it has NOTHING to do with Facebook or social media. Fox News is the greatest example of a propaganda outlet that KNOWS it's audience only wants to hear certain things, even if they are untrue.

So, does this mean there are no problems with Facebook and the larger social media ecosystem? Of course not. What it DOES mean is the current hysterical freak-out has much less to do with Facebook policies and processes and much more to do with our own frustration and sense of helplessness. I would think that the spittle flecked hatred of all things Zuckerberg will die down after the midterm elections, when there are more actual functional checks on Trump's madness. But ultimately, don't expect much to change, because there's really not very much to BE changed.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Kevin Williamson Saga - Ur Doon It Worng

So, at long last, our long national nightmare has come to an end. Kevin Williamson is no longer employed as a writer at The Atlantic. Your children can come out of the safe room and you can all sleep sound tonight.


I find this whole thing to be distasteful, and I am particularly disappointed with the behavior of so many of my fellow liberals. What Williamson said was foul, but I have two important reasons why we should have attacked his content (and encouraged him to produce more of it) rather than screaming for his head. The first is based in values I believe are critical to the American experience - values that are rapidly disappearing from both sides (yes, I said it) of the political spectrum. The second reason is more calculated, more pragmatic, and more important in the specific sense of women's rights and the abortion argument.

First, let's talk about writing. Williamson hasn't been silenced, exactly. He can still write a blog, and offer pieces as a free lancer. It was The Atlantic that was silenced, shouted down by a mob for doing what they believed was best for their commercial organization. They might have been wrong about that in the long run, but we'll never get to find out. Williamson was pushed out of a professional writing job. As someone who views himself as a writer first, I find that simply unacceptable. In America we have always believed that you have a right to sell your services to the highest bidder, and if that resulted in content that we found offensive, we had the option of not patronizing that particular purveyor of ideas, or of even writing our own piece denouncing the positions offered. Too often I see my fellow lefties shrieking in fury over a writer with whom they do not agree getting offered a job by a major outlet. I can only imagine how awful they would feel if some conservative hate mob ran them out of THEIR dream job for offering a political position that they found offensive. I guess I can't speak for all the people I thought I knew, but I don't want to do that.

Which brings us to the more pragmatic argument. There is NO reason why we should be arguing about women's reproductive rights in 2018 - Roe v Wade was decided almost fifty years ago. But one of the more 'powerful' (to some) arguments on the right is that abortion is murder. Indeed, they often compare abortion in America to the Holocaust or genocide. This is a stupid, specious argument, but we keep letting them get away with it.  Why? Just like this instance. What Williamson said - that a woman who had an abortion should be hanged - is really nothing but the logical outgrowth of this kind of rhetoric. In that sense, it's both logically consistent and brutally honest. In the Summer of 2016, the politically ignorant Donald Trump said the same thing on the campaign trail. Why? Because it's OBVIOUS, and he had no grounding in the tactical political messaging of the anti-abortion rabble. They KNOW this is toxic - they can go as far as suggestion some limited punishment for doctors, but the logical consequences of their "abortion is murder" stance is something that will kill their movement almost instantly.

So Williamson put it out there. It was a HUGE opportunity for the pro-choice community to engage and put other conservatives on the spot. "Is Williamson wrong? If abortion is murder, isn't he actually RIGHT?" The big, ugly secret behind criminalizing abortion would out on the table for all to see. Religious nutjobs would agree with him, politicians would run from him, but they all would have to explain how to adjudicate the mother in a world where abortions were criminalized. I would have encouraged him to speak out further on how women should be prosecuted and executed for a medical procedure. He'd do more damage to their neanderthal misogynist views on women's rights then anybody would have imagined. And for that matter, I KNOW The Atlantic quite well. I've been friends with James Fallows for over a decade, and they welcome engagement from both sides. Williamson's pieces would have opened up a major debate in their pages, and thoughtful people would have had a chance to speak to women's rights in front of an audience prepared to consider what they have to say.

So congratulations, fellow lefties. You took a major opportunity to advance the dialog on women's reproductive rights and threw it in the dumpster, all while you took an unnecessarily illiberal, authoritarian approach to speech. And in the battle to get ideologues fired from writing jobs, I suspect the Conservatives will be coming hard after this. We got our scalp, shot ourselves in the foot and ended up silencing ourselves.

It's just not a good look...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Knowledge is Power, but Stupid is Eternal

One of the dumbest arguments you see in the gun rights debate is the insistence that if you don't have a deep, specific knowledge of guns, their components and characteristics, and the jargon that describes it all, you can't have a considered opinion on the topic. As someone with a typically higher level of mechanical expertise on the subject than your typical wingnut gun rights absolutist, please allow me to weigh in on the subject.

First, it's a specious argument, really a category error, because we aren't against 'guns' in this argument, but against gun violence - the killings and suicides are are destroying so many lives in our country. The obvious fact that the easy availability of modern firearms is the direct cause of the gun violence in the US - NOT just  the high profile mass shootings, but the endless nightly death and horror that occurs every day and every week, like clockwork - is the reason we'd like to see some strong limitations on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Vigorous gun regulation works to massively limit gun violence in every nation that has tried it, and the tighter gun regulations in other nations don't seem to be causing any loss of 'liberty'.

But even in the context of this debate, it's a false imperative. YOU know what you're against. You know what a gun is, what it looks like, what it does. You are trying to stop murders - indeed, our people would never stand in the way of the kinds of regulations we'd pass if we hadn't at some point lost our collective minds as a population. You don't need to know what caliber cartridge is being used to slaughter kids. You don't need to know the difference between an upper and lower receiver. You don't need to know the make and model of the handguns that take hundreds of American lives - and destroy thousands more - every single day.

That said, the ONE exception to this rule is if you are advocating for a 'type ban'. It's fine to talk about an 'assault weapons ban' because we all know what it is we're asking for. But if you want to debate the actual functionality of the legislation - and you should, because there would be significant efforts to build in large-scale loopholes that prevent it from doing what we want it to do - then you'll have to get serious about learning what it is you want to ban. You can't ban 'assault rifles' because there is no legally agreed-upon definition for that phrase, and as soon as the NRA lobbyists get their input in the legislative language, it will be essentially meaningless anyway.

Nope, you're going to have to learn about stocks and grips and mechanisms and barrels and flash suppressors and all of the parts and pieces that will make up the meat and potatoes of your bill. You're going to have to figure out how to think like the manufacturers and include language that prevents them from designing the same rifle with different features. In that case, you're going to need to take a deep dive into the topic.

The exception to THAT, however, is if you want to advocate for a ban on semi-auto firearms. As an old-school revolver guy, I'm totally OK with that, but it's not something I'll be putting any effort into. No way congress passes it, no way a President signs it, and no way it gets through the courts who would strike it down as 'overly broad'.  Seriously, if we can move the needle on the gun debate so far that this becomes a viable solution, it will mean that some pretty effective gun control measures have already passed and the problem is still growing despite them.

I just wanted to put up this quick post because this seems to be a trending argument among the pro-gun absolutists on social media, and it's simply another attempt at obfuscation. If somebody tells you that you don't know enough about guns to argue against their easy availability, just tell them you know all you need to know because what you're really arguing against is murder.