Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Libertarians and engineers should embrace industrial climate disruption, not deny it

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3Part Five of a series

Industrial climate disruption presents challenges to libertarians and engineers. As we saw in Part Three of this series, the likely policy responses to industrial climate disruption represent a threat to libertarian values, specifically the moral ideal of “negative” liberty. And we saw in Part Four that many engineers consider industrial climate disruption a threat to their jobs and to their employers, and industrial climate disruption runs counter to many engineer’s psychological need for certainty (as discussed in Part Two). And we saw how cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and motivated reasoning can lead both libertarians and engineers to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting industrial climate disruption.

But not all libertarians or all engineers are industrial climate disruption deniers. Many have reviewed the evidence and concluded that greenhouse gases emissions by industry is the best explanation for all the facts related to climate disruption. Some have simply chosen to trust the experts. And others have concluded that it’s simply good personal and professional policy to plan for the worst – at least that way you’re prepared for whatever comes your way and any surprises are good surprises.

But these aren’t the only good reasons why libertarians and engineers, both as groups and as individuals, should embrace industrial climate disruption. Denying the reality of industrial climate disruption won’t get either group a seat at the negotiating table, but engagement might. There’s also a lot of money to be made adapting to industrial climate disruption and mitigating its causes. And the sooner we start working on the problem, the cheaper it will be in the long run.

Libertarians: fight, not flight

When something that you hold dear is threatened, there are essentially only two responses. You can stand and fight, or you can flee. Industrial climate disruption threatens the values and livelihoods of many libertarians, and many have chosen to flee to the perceived safety of denial. But that safety is illusory, as the crazy weather of 2012 (the increased incidence of extreme weather phenomena has been projected by climate models for years now) and the ongoing global temperature record demonstrate.

While the the threat to libertarian values could reasonably justify the denial of industrial climate disruption by a significant majority of libertarians, the best way to ensure that your values are protected is not to flee, but rather to confront the threat. Denial won’t prevent the enactment of policies that are a threat to the “negative” liberty valued by libertarians, but engagement might. At a minimum, engagement with liberals and conservatives who also accept the reality of industrial climate disruption will ensure that libertarians have a seat at the negotiating table, something that flat-out denial is unlikely to provide. After all, libertarians are only about 10% of the U.S. population – if the other 90% came to an agreement on their own, libertarians could find themselves, and their values, steamrolled.

There are all sorts of policies that are presently being considered as ways to adapt to and to mitigate the causes of industrial climate disruption. Most of them are potential threats to economic liberty, defined as the right of a person to spend his wealth however he sees fit. The Environmental Protection Agency has already put in place regulations to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the regulations have survived review by the DC Court of Appeals (and are likely to survive Supreme Court review as well). California has implemented a cap-and-trade scheme, and some economists and scientists are calling for outright carbon taxes. The cap-and-trade scheme is the least disruptive to libertarian values, but the other two have their proponents and both are more disruptive to people’s economic liberty. If more libertarians were involved in the process, a cap-and-trade system that minimizes economic disruption would become more likely than highly disruptive carbon taxes or regulations and the associated fees and fines.

With respect to being able to live your life however you see fit (lifestyle liberty), the costs of addressing industrial climate disruption will also have an impact. Any method that prices CO2 will necessarily increase energy prices. This will increase the costs of products, especially those manufactured overseas and/or trucked long distances as the price of marine bunker fuel and diesel increase. People will probably travel less for vacations as well. And the cost of living wherever you choose will also go up, as insurance rates skyrocket (or insurance simply goes away) for property near sea level, on floodplains, or in wildfire prone areas.

Industrial climate disruption will continue to threaten libertarian values so long as it threatens human welfare and the global economy. If libertarians want their ideology to survive the crucible of industrial climate disruption, they’ll have to engage. And the sooner that engagement happens, the less damage the libertarian ideology will suffer.

Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Captain Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS)

Engineers: engage

Engagement is also the best approach for engineers, and those engineers who are not also libertarians will probably find engaging easier than most libertarians will. Partly this is because engineering is a professional discipline rather than an ideology, but it’s also partly a result of the corporate environment in which engineers work and that inculcates them with many of its values.

Corporations value short-term profits more than anything else, with one notable exception – staying in business. If it’s a question between either providing dividends this quarter or investing in the company so that it’s still in business several years from now, smart companies always choose to invest in themselves. That’s part of why engineers are asked to design new products – markets change, and corporations who fail to provide what the new market demands risk going out of business.

Engineers working in product development are expected to adapt to new market realities all the time. Often the adaptation is as simple as updating a prior design to a new set of requirements – different temperature ranges, different operating voltages, different types of materials, etc. Occasionally adapting requires doing something completely new, and many engineers live for that kind of intellectually stimulating challenge. Most engineers will find engaging with industrial climate disruption no more difficult than updating their requirements and initial assumptions. Once that’s done, the engineers will pick up the new changes and run with them. The challenge will be convincing engineers that their experience and expertise may no longer be applicable (depending on the industry and engineer) and that they may have to change career paths in order to adapt professionally to a new, climate disrupted reality.

Ultimately, though, engineers respond to challenges, and just as industrial climate disruption is perhaps the most important issue that modern humanity has ever faced, so too is it one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Engineers who can move beyond denial and engage with the creation of solutions will likely find the process remarkably rewarding.

Mining profits from industrial climate disruption

Beyond needing to fight for their values or rising to meet new technical challenges, both libertarians and engineers should engage with industrial climate disruption because there is a huge amount of money to be made in the process.

Many libertarians are economic or financial types who make their money trading stocks, commodities, etc. Assuming that a cap-and-trade market system is implemented nationally or globally instead of carbon taxes or direct regulations, that market is going to be largely the same as any other commodity market. As such libertarians will be able to buy and sell carbon credits, creating carbon liquidity much as traders create financial liquidity in the financial markets today. But this opportunity only materializes if a cap-and-trade market is created instead of carbon taxes or direct emission regulations.

For those libertarians who work in other fields, the all-encompassing nature of industrial climate disruption will create opportunities for anyone who has the courage to grab them. Libertarians working in construction can make money insulating homes and installing solar panels on rooftops. Libertarian farmers can make money figuring out how to grow crops using less water and fertilizer and then marketing those methods to fellow farmers nationwide. Libertarians working in the energy industry can make money by financing new power lines to transport renewable electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s consumed. And libertarians in transportation can make money by providing new, low carbon emitting cars, trucks, tractors, aircraft, and ships to carry people and goods from one place to another. But each of these opportunities requires that the individual libertarians working in these industries stop denying the reality of industrial climate disruption.

Engineers have at least as great an opportunity to make money as libertarians do. After all, who do you think is going to design all those products for all those industries listed above? Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to get PCs to consume even less power than they already do. Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to turn small-scale carbon capture demonstration projects into full-scale installations at coal and natural gas power plants. Engineers are going to be the ones figuring out how to boost the efficiencies of solar panels by combining photovoltaic panels with passive solar water heating and at a price point that consumers can afford. And so on.

Engineers excel when given a problem to solve and a set of parameters within which to solve it. And the engineers who are the best at it will make a great deal of money in the process. But to do so, they have to move beyond denying industrial climate disruption. After all, just because an engineer will to work on a project he doesn’t believe in, that doesn’t mean he’ll be motivated to do his best work that way. But give an engineer a project that makes him think “this is going to be totally awesome” and he’ll figure out a way to move Heaven and Earth for you.

Pay now, or pay a lot more later

Not everyone can be lured by wealth and a good, high paying job with good job satisfaction into changing their mind about denying the reality of industrial climate disruption. For some, avoiding the anticipated economic costs of industrial climate disruption is a greater motivator. Economists have been saying for years now that it will cost less to mitigating industrial climate disruption than the damage done to the global economy by doing nothing (or delaying action for decades). Essentially, most economists believe that the cost of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable (and possibly nuclear) sources of energy is much lower than the cost of sea level rise on property values, rebuilding communities built in floodplains, losses to crops due to drought and pests, and the disruption of the global economy due to tens or hundreds of millions of migrating climate refugees, among others.

There are fundamental disagreements among economists about the “correct” way to account for multi-generational issues like industrial climate disruption, with some economists (Nordhaus for one) approaching the problem strictly from a utilitarian perspective while others approach the problem from a “minimal regret” perspective. The utilitarians tend to weigh the economic status of people who are alive today much higher than they weigh the economic status of unknown future generations. This can result in a situation where you could mathematically argue that it would be OK for humanity to go extinct ten generations from now so long as the people alive today aren’t inconvenienced by having to pay more for gasoline. It’s not a coincidence that libertarians tend find themselves among the utilitarians, given that Iyer et al found that libertarians are utilitarian and also value themselves more highly than they do “generic others” like hypothetical great, great, great grandchildren.

The “minimal regret” economists, on the other hand, tend to approach the problem more holistically, applying value not just to a standard of living, but also to the quality of that standard of living. They also tend to apply different discount rates to different aspects of human goods and experience, and they try to incorporate the needs of human survival and health into their economic models. But at the extreme end of this end of the spectrum, “minimal regret” economics can mathematically conclude that destroying the global economy today is acceptable to ensure that at least some of humanity survives ten generations hence. The inclusive nature of the “minimal regret” economic models makes their conclusions more likely to be robust than utilitarian models, and it’s the models of the “minimal regret” school of thought that indicate the costs of doing nothing are much higher than the costs of mitigating industrial climate disruption.

(Scott Ambler)

(Scott Ambler)

But even if you reject the economic models and instead ascribe to utilitarian economics, there is a business concept that makes the same basic argument. In business, the costs of making changes to a project is very low early in the project’s lifecycle. But as the project moves through its various stages, it becomes more and more expensive to make changes until, finally, making changes simply isn’t possible at any price.

Businesspeople and engineers who work in product development tend to understand this idea almost instinctively. During requirement definition, the cost of making a change is maybe a few hours to updated a few documents. Once the design is complete the cost of making a change includes a few hours for several people to update a lot more documents. Once something physical is created, the cost increases even more to include changing hardware, possibly even throwing out the original design and starting from scratch. And if a change is needed after the product has been delivered, it may need to be recalled or it may not even be possible to implement the change at all.

We can look at adapting to and mitigating the causes of industrial climate disruption as a set of projects not too different from any other. As an example, adapting New York City to rising sea level may require sea walls around the harbor, major filling of land and reconstruction of buildings on the newly raised ground, or even the partial abandonment of low-lying areas such as those that were most affected by Superstorm Sandy. The sooner this process starts, the cheaper it will be to implement. First, inflation means that the longer a major construction project takes, the more the construction materials will cost. Second, the longer the process takes, the more likely it becomes that another another storm like Sandy sweeps into New York City and does tens or hundreds of billions more dollars in direct and indirect damage – damage that could have been dramatically reduced had the adaptation strategy been in place.

On a smaller scale, this same business axiom explains part of why you shop around for the right solar panels to put on your roof. Not only are you looking for a good deal, but you’re also making sure that you won’t want to change your mind later. After all, if the wrong panels are already on your roof when you discover they’re wrong, you’ll be lucky to get away with only having to pay someone to come out to remove the wrong panels and then pay to have the right panels put back up.

According to national polls, about 84% of all libertarians deny the reality of industrial climate disruption, and while there’s no data about the number of engineers who are similarly in denial, there are a lot of people who identify themselves as engineers on major denial websites. While it makes sense that both groups would feel threatened by industrial climate disruption, albeit for different reasons, both groups should embrace the overwhelming science and data and work toward solutions instead of denying the problem. There will probably never be a greater challenge to solve, or a greater opportunity to make money from creative solutions, than the challenges and opportunities posed by industrial climate disruption. And the sooner the solutions kick in, the less damage will be done to libertarian values, business, and the global economy.

Over the last few weeks, we have in investigated why there are so many libertarians and engineers among the ranks of industrial climate disruption deniers. We’ve looked at the values and personalities of both groups and we’ve looked at how those values and personalities lead so many libertarians and engineers to deny the reality of industrial climate disruption. And we’ve looked at why, as a matter of pragmatism, both groups should embrace industrial climate disruption instead of denying it.

There are some known areas of contention in climate science, such as the effects of clouds on global climate. But those few remaining areas of contention are very unlikely to change the scientific conclusion – human industry is emitting greenhouse gases and those gases are and will be largely responsible for disrupting the Earth’s climate. However understandable it might be for a libertarian or engineer to hunt for and cling to the few scraps of data that confirm their existing biases, doing so is no longer rational. There are just too many other fields of scientific endeavor that would have to be largely incorrect for the conclusions of industrial climate disruption to be wrong.

sandyhook

Deconstructing the NRA response to Sandy Hook

Every good recipe for deception begins with an ounce of truth.

Whoever is managing the current public relations crisis facing the National Rifle Association clearly understands this fundamental principle. In the days since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the NRA has offered a textbook execution of the crisis communication playbook, employing everything from ducking out of sight for a few days to clever messaging strategy to an attempt to throttle the public profile of media coverage through timing tactics that are as cynical as they are traditional. My former colleague Patrick Veccio, who spent a lot of years in the newsroom watching how PR firms attempted to play the press, explains that last part:

Public relations professionals, press agents and political spokespersons try to avoid announcing bad news until late afternoon Fridays. They hope the bad news will be less apt to get attention or generate discussion over the weekend. They hope by Monday, the story will be running out of legs because the weekend has defused it.

After a week of silence, LaPierre and the NRA knew they had to say something before gun control advocates took ownership of the discussion about preventing another Sandy Hook slaughter. No matter when the NRA brass crawled out of their spider hole, they were going to have to face the blinding media light.

Obviously, the “quiet until late Friday” trick was doomed. The delay in answering questions until Monday, though, is a deliberate move. Monday is Christmas Eve. Tuesday is Christmas. LaPierre and Keene hope the weekend and the holidays will give them time to regroup and mitigate the damage from LaPierre’s ranting.

The NRA obviously hoped that by the time America surfaced from its extended holiday food- and gift-fest the edge would be off its outrage over Sandy Hook. They also probably hoped you didn’t notice the Christmas Eve ambush of a suburban NY firefighting crew at all.

A gunman ambushed firefighters responding to a house fire in the Rochester suburb of Webster, N.Y., early Monday, killing two firemen and injuring two others.

The shooter was later found dead of gunshot wounds near the scene, according to Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering.

Pickering, choking up frequently as he spoke to reporters, said all four firefighters who responded to the call at 5:35 a.m. ET came under fire when they drove up.

The dead are Lt. Mike Chiapperini, 43, a volunteer firefighter and the Webster Police Department’s public information officer, and Tomasz Kaczowka.

“It is a very difficult situation,” Pickering said, his voice quavering.

“People get up in the middle of the night to fight fires,” he said. “They don’t expect to be shot and killed.”

It isn’t yet clear how successful the NRA strategy has been or will be. For sure, they find themselves in the crosshairs of mainstream media coverage of the Sandy Hook aftermath and they’ve taken a serious whipping in the online/social media world.

Twitter’s reaction to Friday’s press conference was swift and almost universally negative. A search for the #NRA hashtag yielded thousands of tweets criticizing LaPierre for his proposals for a database of people with mental illness and to put armed guards in schools.

Though a handful of NRA supporters and conservatives using the #tcot hashtag offered completely positive comments, others criticized the organization.

“This press conference [is the] best Christmas present the White House and the Democrats could get!” wrote Twitterer R. Saddler.

Many who tweeted about the conference remarked about the surreal atmosphere of the press conference itself, in which two protesters shouted at LaPierre and were quickly escorted out. Syndicated columnist Tina Dupay called it a perfect example of a “tone deaf” press conference, and Matt Seaton of The Guardian said it should make year-end lists as the worst speech of 2012.

Twitterer Tom Sauer perhaps put it most succinctly:

“Well that was a train wreck.”

It probably seems obvious to say that whatever the nation and its elected leaders decide to do or not do about firearms, that decision should be a result of thoughtful, informed consideration of the issue, not the efficacy of the NRA’s spin job. Still, we live in a media-driven culture with a frightfully brief attention span. Our ability to lose focus, especially in the presence of artful misdirection, isn’t to be underestimated. It’s therefore important for us to cast as much light as possible on said misdirection.

On December 20, Michael Sebastien at PR Daily published their Top 10 PR disasters of 2012. He probably wishes he’d held fire for a few days. While the Komen affair, Romney’s 47% gaffe, Todd Akin, Lance Armstrong and Chik-Fil-A kept industry observers marveling at just how much foot one mouth will hold, the NRA’s performance since Sandy Hook would certainly rank them in the top three if we were compiling the list today.

That said, this rumble has barely begun and in the final analysis, Wayne LaPierre’s abject cluelessness may wind up not mattering in the least.

Rohit Bhargava does a wonderful job of explaining how the NRA made use of the three biggest PR crisis response tricks in the book.

NRA MESSAGE #1 – GUNS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM – UNSAFE AND UNPROTECTED SCHOOLS ARE THE PROBLEM.
Strategy: Elevate the issue. If the issue being debated is easy access to deadly weapons, then the NRA will lose. If the issue, instead, becomes that our schools are not safe enough … then the NRA has a chance. So we saw over and over again throughout the press conference that NRA CEO Wayne Lapierre talked about the ways that our schools aren’t safe enough, and called on the government to spend whatever would be necessary to better protect schools.

NRA MESSAGE #2 – THE ONLY DEFENSE AGAINST A BAD GUY WITH A GUN IS A GOOD GUY WITH A GUN.
Strategy: Play offense instead of defense. When it comes to defending anyone’s right to have guns, the NRA would have a difficult argument because anyone can point to mentally unstable people like the shooter* as reasons for why gun access should not be so free. Instead, the NRA laid out plans to introduce a comprehensive “school shield program” led by independent experts. Introducing such a program lets the NRA flip the issue to go on the offense to solve what they have already positioned as the biggest issue – school safety.

NRA MESSAGE #3 – OUR CULTURE OF VIOLENCE IS REALLY TO BLAME FOR MASS SHOOTINGS.
Strategy: Change the bad guy. A topic that has not been getting nearly enough attention is how violent video games and “blood soaked films” are creating a desensitized culture of violence. The last mass shooting was at the opening of a very violent Batman film. In his short talk, Lapierre called this a “race to the bottom” and likened it to pornography. Add to that the media’s coverage of the shooter and how they have turned him into something of a celebrity, and the argument that the real bad guy is media and entertainment (and not guns) is complete.

As I said above, textbook. But closer analysis reveals that these techniques were merely the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes there’s somebody who’s as deft with messaging as LaPierre is ham-fisted and alienating at the podium. Deft and borderline sociopathic.

Let me repeat what I said at the outset: Every good recipe for deception begins with an ounce of truth. When we speak truthfully, when we connect the words coming out of our mouths with the reality of the world as the audience perceives it, we establish common ground. We sow credibility. We demonstrate that we’re acquainted with the facts. Saying something overtly true greases the skids for whatever we say next.

LaPierre’s speech, for all its flaws, is a master class in using truth or shared values as a jumping off point for statements that range from deflective to outright dishonesty. I want to walk through some of the key passages, highlighting misdirections and deceptions as I go, and paying special attention to the places where fact goes in service of a lie.

The tone is established in the third paragraph:

How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?

All we care about is children, he asserts, and he sets up what is to come as being solely concerned with efficacy and efficacy.

How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

This is clever. A lot of us think our priorities are out of order (although we might disagree vehemently about the specifics). We do care about money. We do protect these other venues with armed security. We do keep the president under heavy guard. And we do love children. So what’s to argue with?

In what is perhaps this performance’s finest moment, a subtle linkage is established between caring and guns. If you care about something, you protect it. And best way of protecting is to surround it with guns. We have a blatantly emotional appeal masquerading as pure reason, and if you weren’t paying attention LaPierre might, at this juncture, be sounding pretty reasonable.

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

It’s true – we don’t know how many. And there is every reason, given our history, to assume that there are madmen out there doing precisely what he says. But we would know if we’d … wait, if we’d do what?! There’s so much wrong with the national database idea it’s hard to know where to start, but here are three things to think about:

  • Any number of past perpetrators have been in the system and it hasn’t stopped them in the end. Heck, the guy who killed those firefighters in Rochester had been in prison.
  • Right now, people with mental issues are encouraged to seek help and they know they can do so with the assurance of confidentiality, which is certainly important if you ever hope to have another job. So once you realize that something as simple as seeking relief from depression might ruin your life for good, what are the chances that you take that risk?
  • Finally, LaPierre’s suggestion works fine unless you recall that the 2nd Amendment isn’t the only thing in the Bill of Rights. His idea represents such a radical breach of individual liberty it’s hard to imagine what Constitution he thinks might be left to defend.

Next we get this:

Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

Assuming this is accurate, what am I being asked to conclude? That the Feds don’t want to stamp out gun violence? Or are there other reasons? Like enforcement has had an effect and there are fewer guns out there? That what has been rounded up represents the low-hanging fruit? That more resources are now required? That the NRA has done all it can to hamstring the authorities at every turn? Good questions. I’d like to know more, but LaPierre wants me to draw a misdirected conclusion and move on. In cases like this, it’s usually safe to assume that what you aren’t being told works against whomever is talking, because if they could tell you more, they would.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years! Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

Violent crime is increasing? I know you want me to buy that this is about a “refusal to prosecute,” but by “violent crime” are you referring to crime committed with guns?

Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

And:

In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

Very true. No doubt. Anybody with a critical bone in his or her body is sympathetic to the idea that we’re overrun with violence in this society. I’m even willing to accept, for a moment, the idea that this is all desensitizing. So, the problem is games and media, right? Well, they have the same games and media in other countries, countries with gun violence rates that are a fraction of ours. What’s the key variable, then?

The goal in this whole sequence is simple and it leverages one of the most powerful instincts in the American mind: either/or. It’s black or white. You can’t have it both ways. You’re with us or against us. The problem is that it simply isn’t true. Sometimes – most times, really – effects do not stem from a single cause, they result from a complex melange of factors. Is it possible that our rash of high-profile gun violence is due, in some measure, to other mediated factors like violent movies and games? Certainly. Would cleaning up those industries help reduce violence? Maybe. But let’s be clear: none of that diminishes the roll played by the wide availability of firearms. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!

Which can only mean that a .223 caliber round isn’t sufficient to kill an unarmored child or teacher, right?

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away … or a minute away?

Beautiful false dichotomy here. It asks me to assume that the bad guy has a gun (which is certainly a safe assumption in a world where the NRA is allowed to buy and bully its way to such overwhelming legislative influence, I guess). Now, would you rather be able to defend yourself or not? Well, sure, if I buy your assumption. The problem is that I don’t. The real dichotomy is this: which would you rather face: a bad guy with a gun or a bad guy without a gun?

As for the second part of the equation, are you suggesting that the alternative to addressing our gun problem is a police station within a minute of every home? You understand what is meant by the term “police state,” right?

You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?

You mean like the armed security guard at Columbine? Also, Virginia Tech had a well-armed police force – are you saying we need armed police in every classroom now?

Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care? No one — regardless of personal political prejudice — has the right to impose that sacrifice.

There’s so much manipulative misdirection in this little paragraph that’s it’s almost hard to untangle. First, misdirection: those kids were killed by the press and political class in Washington, certainly easy enough targets. Battle between good guns and evil monsters. And if you don’t agree with me, you’re imposing sacrifice on the innocent. My professional compliments to the sociopath who wrote this.

But do know this President zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget, and scrapped “Secure Our Schools” policing grants in next year’s budget.

Of course, legislators vote on budgets. I wonder what would happen if I tabbed how Congressional reps voted on these items and then cross-referenced those results with their NRA ratings? Hmmm.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

Part true, part problematic. Not only an unsubstantiated emotional appeal to our reverence for police, military, firefighters and other “patriotic” and brave citizens (because if you disagree, you aren’t a patriot), but also the invocation of one of the NRA’s favorite words: “trained.” They can’t say hello without helping you understand that a gun is perfectly safe in the hands of a trained citizen (they use some form of the word ten times in this speech alone). There’s no arguing that training is good, of course. Then again, a few months back some highly trained police officers opened fire on a suspect outside the Empire State Building. When the smoke cleared, nine civilians had been hit – all by police fire. LaPierre wants you to believe that a police officer at Sandy Hook would have meant no dead children. Possibly. Or possibly many more.

Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now. We did it for the nation’s defense industries and military installations during World War II, and we’ll do it for our schools today.

LaPierre is now so far over the top that it’s almost impossible not to snark. That armed guard in Mrs. Snodgrass’s class is going to save the day when the Japanese bomb Pleasant Grove Junior High.

If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained — armed — good guy.

“Cherish our children more than our celebrities”? Wait – did I miss where there’s an armed guard on every movie set? Also, again – guns = good guys.

There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.

We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now.

First, we establish that debate is bad. So when Congress takes up gun reform, you’ll know. There is an element of truth to the idea that one doesn’t stand around hemming and hawing in the face of a clear and present danger, and he hopes to insinuate that assumption into your thinking. Second, we must act now! He’s trying to turn the urgency around and, as Bhargava explains above, go on the attack. Bad guys are coming right now and every second we refuse to put more guns out there we risk our children, whom we love almost as much as we do Cameron Diaz. I do wonder, though. Several days elapsed between the sandy Hook killings and this press conference. If every second is that critical, why did they wait, in the process risking the lives of countless innocent citizens?

So, how effective was the NRA’s response? Too soon to tell. On the one hand, we just witnessed an absolute case study in how to manage crisis. Whoever crafted the strategy knows his/her stuff, and as my analysis of the LaPierre speech suggests, is willing to pull every switch on the control panel in pursuit of a goal. Whoever is behind this is either a true believer or as malignant a prostitute as the PR industry has ever spawned.

On the other hand, the speech overreached significantly in places, and in doing so threatened to descend into self-parody. Put another way, our evil genius needs to lay off the mustard. Also working against them was LaPierre himself, a walking, talking caricature of a bright-eyed fanatic. It’s bad enough that he simply doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend why people would see guns as part of the problem. What’s worse are his performative skills – anytime you’re in an organizational crisis and you have to put a buffoon up in front of the cameras, you’re in deep trouble no matter how brilliant the script.

In the end, the NRA has been hit, but the extent of the wound remains to be seen. Recent events have been, in some respects, a dog and pony show. Ultimately, my opinion doesn’t matter, nor does yours. The ones that matter are those of our legislators, and they get a good bit of money from pro-gun interests. There are a thousand ways for Congress to put on a concerned face and look very intent about getting something done, only to emerge later, fingers pointing in all directions, bemoaning that as hard as they tried, this was the best they could do. The best, of course, then becomes one more ineffectual, “compromised” gun law that the NRA can one day point to, saying “see, gun laws don’t work.” It’s quite the entertaining bit of kabuki when you think about it.

If you’re hoping to see meaningful action taken, you do have one important thing on your side: As much as they hate it, the National Rifle Association has now become the spokesman of record for mass murder in America. If you need proof, this very press conference was it. Madman kills a bunch of children and teachers. NRA forced to call a press conference defending itself.

Sandy Hook may or may not prove to be the tipping point (my money says not), but when you work in PR you accept that sometimes there’s not much you can do. The architect of last week’s response did about all that could have been hoped for, but when push came to shove, was simply outgunned.

CATEGORY: ToR4bracket

Tournament of Rock IV: Meat Loaf vs. Aerosmith

Wow. #4 seed REO Speedwagon vs. #5 Bon Jovi turned out to the be the nailbiter we’ve been waiting for. Each band held significant leads at one point or another, and in the end it came down to a photo-finish: by a mere two votes, your winner is…REO Speedwagon. Congratulations to both bands on a great showing, and we’ll see REO in the semi-finals.

Up next, another match of top seeds: #2 Aerosmith and #10 Meat Loaf. Frankly, here are two artists we’d kill to see collaborating. Maybe they could do a medley of “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and “Big Ten Inch Record.” I smell a hit, yo.

Let’s see here. How about we start with my favorite Embaerosmith tune in the last 20 years.

Since we’re focusing on high spots, let’s now see the greatest moment of Meat Loaf’s career.

Click to vote.

Here’s the up-to-date bracket.