Lazy linking

I am fairly busy until some time after Easter, so don’t expect neither massive blogging nor a banner from me until then. In the meanwhile, here are some links to articles, blogposts etc. that I think are worth reading.

As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops

A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.

This is something which has been suspected for a long time (with earlier studies indicating the same), but it is good to have new studies demonstrating it. This means that men can’t just dismiss the pay-gap as a symptom of different career choices. I will probably blog more about this study at some stage.

Hillary Clinton is funding congressional races so she can enter White House with a majority

One of the most intriguing storylines of the 2016 election has turned out to be one of the most underreported. Every candidate for President hopes to not only enter the White House, but do so with a congressional majority in hand. Although Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner and is likely to win the election, republican gerrymandering means that her odds of having a democratic House and Senate are questionable. But she’s spent the past six months trying to rectify that by essentially funding the congressional races of 2016 democratic candidates herself.

This seems like a very smart move. If there is one thing that the GOP has shown us under the Obama presidency, it is that they are not going to work with a Democratic president. This means that it is important to get as many Democrats into the congress as possible. This is a sound tactic, no matter who wins the Democratic primary, and if the GOP should somehow win the presidential race, it is vital that the Democrats hold real power in congress (a note: comments about democratic candidates and the merits of the one or another are not welcome, and will be deleted – I am not interested in getting my blog involved in the internal politics of the democratic party).

One more time: Vaccine refusal endangers everyone, not just the unvaccinated

One of the more frequent claims of antivaccine activists often comes in the form of a disingenuous question. Well, maybe it’s not entirely disingenuous, given that many antivaccinationists seem to believe premise behind it. The question usually takes a form something like, “If your child is vaccinated, why are you worried about my children? They don’t pose any danger to you.” Of course, the premise behind that question is, ironically, one that conflicts with many of the beliefs behind antivaccinationism, in particular the belief that vaccines are ineffective. Yet, the premise behind this question is that vaccines are so effective that there’s no reason for the parents of a vaccinated child to be concerned if that child comes in contact with another child with a vaccine-preventable disease. Of course, no one ever accused antivaccine activists of being consistent in their beliefs.

Once again, Orac does great work taking on the anti-vaccination crowd and their claims.

Bahrain must immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja

Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested on Monday 14 March 2016 with her one-year-old son Abdulhadi.

“Zainab Al-Khawaja is facing retaliation for exercising her right to freedom of expression,” said Index’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry. “Bahraini authorities have been harassing her and her family for years and this arrest — based on absurd charges — further shows Bahrain’s determination to silence its critics.”

I stand fully behind the call from Index on Censorship, and hope that the US, the EU and the rest of the democratic world will put pressure on the Bahraini authorities for the release of Zainab Al-Khawaja and other jailed critics.

Four words that might break my brain: “Black, gay Trump supporter”

I think most of us are with Tony on this one.

Change in suicide rates in Switzerland before and after firearm restriction resulting from the 2003 “Army XXI” reform

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Firearms are the most common method of suicide among young men in Switzerland. From March 2003 through February 2004, the number of Swiss soldiers was halved as a result of an army reform (Army XXI), leading to a decrease in the availability of guns nationwide. The authors investigated the patterns of the overall suicide rate and the firearm suicide rate before and after the reform.

METHOD:

Using a naturalistic study design, the authors compared suicide rates before (1995–2003) and after the intervention (2004–2008) in the affected population (men ages 18–43) and in two comparison groups (women ages 18–44 and men ages 44–53). Data were received from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. Interrupted time series analysis was used to control for preexisting temporal trends. Alternative methods (Poisson regression, autocorrelation analysis, and surrogate data tests) were used to check validity.

RESULTS:

The authors found a reduction in both the overall suicide rate and the firearm suicide rate after the Army XXI reform. No significant increases were found for other suicide methods overall. An increase in railway suicides was observed. It was estimated that 22% of the reduction in firearm suicides was substituted by other suicide methods. The attenuation of the suicide rate was not compensated for during the follow-up years. Neither of the comparison groups showed statistically significant changes in firearm suicide rate and overall suicide rate.

CONCLUSIONS:

The restriction of firearm availability in Switzerland resulting from the Army XXI reform was followed by an enduring decrease in the general suicide rate.

I couldn’t really see a way to include it in my last post about Swiss gun laws, but it is an interesting study, which shows limiting access to guns will lead to a decrease in suicides.

The delusion of immortality

Imagine all the poor transhumanists who were born in the 19th century. They would have been fantasizing about all the rapid transformations in their society, and blithely extrapolating forward. Why, in a few years, we’ll all have steam boilers surgically implanted in our bellies, and our diet will include a daily lump of coal! Canals will be dug everywhere, and you’ll be able to commute to work in your very own personal battleship! There will be ubiquitous telegraphy, and we’ll have tin hats that you can plug into cords hanging from the ceiling in your local coffeeshop, and get Morse code tapped directly onto your skull!

Alas, they didn’t have a Ray Kurzweil or Aubrey deGray to con them with absurd exaggerations.

If it isn’t clear, PZ Myers is not the greatest fan of transhumanism and the ideas pushed by people like Kurzweil. I am completely in agreement with him on this.

Swiss gun laws

Switzerland meme - 1 in 2 citizens has guns. Lowest crime rate in the world

This meme is currently doing its rounds on facebook.

If you have been following the US gun debate over the years, you’ll know that gun advocates in the US loves to point to Switzerland as an example of why guns are not a problem. Of course, as often is the case with gun advocates in the US, they leave out a lot of facts, and even outright lie.

The meme seems to be fairly new, but the actual message has been pushed for several years, and has frequently been debunked. But since it is going around again, I guess we need to do a new debunking.

 

 
Before we start with anything else, let’s start with a short introduction to Swiss gun law (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Gun politics in Switzerland are unique in Europe. The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 34 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations. However, it is generally not permitted to keep army-issued ammunition, but compatible ammunition purchased for privately owned guns is permitted. At the end of military service period the previously used gun can be converted to a privately owned gun after a weapon acquisition permit has been granted (fully automatic weapons will be rebuilt into semi-automatic ones). Switzerland thus has a relatively high gun ownership rate (31%-61% in 2005, declining).[1] Current research from 2014 estimates gun ownership rate around 25%.[2]

As the Wikipedia article shows, there is a lot of difference between the rate of gun possession and gun ownership, with the later being as low as 25&. The distinction is important, since only gun owners are allowed to have ammunition.  The rest have the gun as part of their militia duty/military training, but don’t have any ammunition.

This is obviously a major difference from the US.

Also, the people who own guns, generally only get them after they have finished their militia duty, essentially ensuring that only people who has trained with the weapon can get it. Again a major difference from the US.

Of course, it is possible to get a permit to buying a gun even before finishing the militia duty, as long as you are over the age of 18, and are not psychiatrically disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and have a clean criminal record. This is, unless of course, you have one of the following citizenships: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania. If you hold any of those citizenships, you are out of luck, as you are barred from getting a permit to buy a gun, even if you live in Switzerland.

When buying guns or ammunition, information about the seller, the buyer and the actual purchase is registered at the cantonal weapon registration bureau, which keeps registration details about weapon owners. Again, this is nothing like the US.

There are strict rules about transporting guns and concealed carry permits, about storage of guns etc.

All these facts are left out by the NRA and other gun advocates in the US, who only mentions the prevalence of guns, but not the restrictions and registrations. Many of these restrictions and registrations are quite similar to measures that gun control advocates have tried to introduce in the US, but which the NRA and other gun advocates have fought against tooth-and-nails.

Now let us look at the idea of Switzerland having the lowest crime rate in the world.

Saying “the lowest crime rate in the world” isn’t a very precise statement, and it is hard to be sure what is included in that, so let us try to look at some relevant crime numbers in Switzerland.

When we look at firearms-related deaths, Switzerland is certainly not the one with the lowest rate. Switzerland had 0.23 firearms-related homicides per 100,000 people in 2013, which was more than at least 25 other countries. Switzerland’s number for unintentional killings are also higher than a number of other countries (as is the number for firearm-related deaths whose category is undetermined).

If we look at intentional homicides in general, Switzerland is doing better than when we only looked at firearms-related homicides. Switzerland had 0.6 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, which put it fairly low on the list, but still with at least 7 countries below it, including Japan.

When looking at incarceration rate, there is also a indication that Switzerland is not the crime-free gun paradise as some people want to make it into. While incarceration rate doesn’t really tell anything about the level of crime, it still seems reasonable to expect that a country with nearly no crime would have a very low incarceration rate. Switzerland has one 0f 84 people per 100,000. This is pretty low, placing Switzerland solidly in the lower half, but there are quite a few countries lower on the list.

No matter at what numbers we look at, does Switzerland come out as the one with the lowest crime rate.

But it is worth noticing that Switzerland certainly comes out ahead of the US on those lists. The numbers in the US are consistently among the worst in the Western World (and frequently the worst).

So given that, I think the meme might actually be on to something. Maybe the US should try to introduce gun laws and militia training similar to Switzerland. This might reduce the firearms-related killings from their current horrifying levels.

For more on Swiss gun laws, see the legal report at the Library of Congress.

Kent Hovind’s far-right connections

This is a re-post of the first real blogpost from my former Pro-science blog. Since Kent Hovind has started to show up in the media again, and since the Bundys have shown that far-right militias is still a concern, I thought it was also appropriate to start off this blog with this post. It was first posted February 7, 2007. It has been modified slightly to reflect the passage of time, and to compensate for dead links.

As most readers probably are aware, “Dr. Dino” Kent Hovind was convicted of tax evasion in 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in jail. In 2015 he finished serving his sentence.

Back when the trial was going on, Hovind used some pretty nutty arguments for why he shouldn’t be paying taxes. Those arguments reminded me a lot of the arguments used by the far-right Patriot movement, such as the Montana Freemen. Given the fact that Hovind has a history of promoting anti-semitic literature (as David Neiwert explains), I couldn’t help wonder what connections he might have with the Patriot movement, or even the Christian Identity movement,

Mentioning this is the comments of a post at Pharyngula, PZ Myers pointed out to me that Hovind kept referring to his “lawyer” Glenn Stoll, and that Stoll is based in Seattle, close to much of the Patriot movement.

Well, Glenn Stoll is not necessarily part of the Christian Indentity movement, but he is certainly part of the Patriot movement. He is even briefly mentioned in David Neiwert’s excellent book: In God’s Country -The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (p. 283.)

Two weeks later, Kirk – who actually lived with his wife, Judy, in the southern Seattle suburb of Tukwila – presided as the “Referee/Magistrate” of the first recorded session of “our one supreme court Common Law, Washington republic.” According to the document itself, the court was convened on Mercer Island at the home of James Gutschmidt, a Patriot who was attempting to starve of foreclosure on his property. Gutschmidt claimed in the document he was “not a Fourteenth Amendment citizen or subject … not a resident, but a Citizen as described in the Holy Bible and in the Constitution prior to the Fourthteenth Amendment.”

Sitting in as “jurors” for the case was a virtual “who’s who” of the Patriot community in the Central Puget Sound area:[….]

Glenn Stoll, a longtime associate of Don Ellwanger’s who was present during the standoff at Ellwanger’s veterinary clinic. Stoll was designated “Clerk of the Court.”1

Glenn Stoll is not a lawyer, and has an injunction order against promoting his “tax-fraud scheme”. He is also connected to the Patriot group Embassy of Heaven, who issues their own passports and other papers. Stoll have a history of trying to use Embassy of Heaven passports as proof of identification. The Embassy of Heaven and it’s leader, Paul Revere, also has a history of problems with the IRS and other authorities (as people might notice, the later link leads to a Embassy of Heaven article, that also mentions Glenn Stoll).

As I said, Stoll is not necessarily part of the Christian Identity movement, but he certainly hang out with people who doesn’t seem too far removed from them. I wrote to David Neiwert, and asked him if he knew of any connections between Stoll and the Christian Identity movement, and he responded

I can’t tell you to what extent Stoll is an Identity believer, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he is one, for reasons I’ll explain momentarily. What I can say with certainty is that he not only was a militia organizer (he set up some of the earliest meetings in Snohomish County) and Patriot true believer, he was such a devout Constitutionalist that he was involved setting up Common Law Courts modeled directly after the Freemen.
This is where a likely Identity can be found, because the CL Courts he was involved in were run mostly by John Kirk (whose name you can find extensively in IGC). Kirk attended Freemen sessions in Jordan and at times expressed a number of Identity-based ideas in association with the CL courts.

IGC refers to In God’s Country -The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest.

I think it’s fairly clear that Glenn Stoll doesn’t exactly hold mainstream views, and given the fact that he has an injunction against him, which is prominently displayed on Stoll’s company’s website (as required), Hovind can’t claim that he didn’t have a fair warning that he was going to get in trouble.

1David Neiwert was kind enough to send me the document as images, so if you want to see what such a document looks like, you can see them below.

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A new start, or “Hello all”

There are a lot of exciting changes happening at FtB – a large crowd of new bloggers have joined, and a bunch of the well-known bloggers here have spun out, and created their own new network The Orbit, which looks absolutely great. Since I was among the new bloggers who has just joined, I didn’t know anything about the new blog network before it was made public. I am a bit unsure how the focus will be different from the focus on FtB, but I think there is plenty of space for two blog networks focusing on social justice and other important issues, and am definitely going to keep reading the bloggers at both FtB and The Orbit.

Well, enough about the blog networks – I expect people are curious about me and my blog Pro-science.

Briefly put, I’m a Danish IT consultant focusing mostly on projects in the public sector. I live in Copenhagen, and am one of the founders and co-organizers of Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub (link takes you to a Danish facebook page). I used to blog at Pro-science on blogspot, but have been fairly quiet the last couple of years. This is obviously going to change with this new version of the blog. The name of the blog should be read as “for science”, and it follows from numerous debates where people pushing one sort or other of woo has accused me of being anti-whatever-they-push, to which I could only state that no, I am just pro-science.

I am planning to write about science, progressive issues, and occasionally about Danish politics and Denmark. In other words, pretty much what you can see on my old blog.

Unlike my old blog, however, I need to get myself a banner. I hadn’t realized this. This will require some considerations….

In the interest of full disclosure, FtB is financed by ads, with any spare revenue after the costs are paid, being spread among the bloggers. I have asked not to be part of this revenue sharing. This means that any traffic to my blog will benefit the other bloggers at FtB, not me.