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Nate Orshan
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New song. Cry along.

#AsherTheSchnoodle

On June 27, 2017, Vermont Congressman Peter Welch ran a Q&A on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PeterWelch/posts/10156407000810884), and I asked him, "Thank you, Congressman Welch! I'm sure I'm not the only Vermonter who's wondering what you are doing to help stop the Trump Administration's "Muslim Ban"." He replied, " I have and continue to speak out against it. As do so many vermonters. But the court will ultimately decide."

Among the follow-up comments was one from a Facebook user named Joe, who wrote, "Who cares if its a "*" ban? It restricts travel from several countries that engage or condone terrorism. There are many Muslims in this country and around the world who are faithful and not terrorists, there is however no way to determine the faithful from the perfidious, especially in the controversial countries. We can as Americans help them where they are, rather than to bring them here."

Here's my reply, which I'm reproducing here in case you might agree with him. I hope my reasoning shows you how woefully ignorant that type of thinking is.

= = = = = = = = = =

Joe, your comments are so misinformed, it's hard to know where to start, but I can't let them stand uncorrected, in case someone else reads them and thinks they make even the slightest bit of sense.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(1) "Who cares if its a "*" ban?"

In 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/31/worlds-muslim-population-more-widespread-than-you-might-think/) They care. And that means all Americans should care.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(2) "It restricts travel from several countries that engage or condone terrorism."

Maybe, but...are they the right countries? Wouldn't you feel more confident about the ban knowing that we're at least targeting the countries that produce the most terrorists?

Bad news. "Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump [Iraq (now removed from the ban), Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen] have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015." (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/)

Want to know which countries gave birth to terrorists who actually killed people in the US in that time? It's a short, short list. (Ibid.)

========================================
Foreign-Born Terrorist Country of Origin, 1975-2015

Country -- Terrorists -- Murders
Saudi Arabia -- 19 -- 2,369
United Arab Emirates -- 2 -- 314
Egypt -- 11 -- 162
Lebanon -- 4 -- 159
Kuwait -- 2 -- 6
Cuba -- 11 -- 3
Kyrgyzstan -- 2 -- 3
Pakistan -- 14 -- 3
Palestine -- 5 -- 2
Armenia -- 6 -- 1
Croatia -- 9 -- 1
Taiwan -- 1 -- 1
Trinidad and Tobago -- 2 -- 1
========================================

OK, so why aren't any of THESE countries on the ban list? Related point: Did you know that the Trump Organisation (i.e., the business) has "done business or pursued potential deals" with those top three countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt)? (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-travel-ban-muslim-majority-countries-business-organisation-syria-iran-yemen-islamic-a7810711.html) Y'know...the ones that produced terrorists that killed Americans here at home during from 1975-2015? Why in the world wouldn't the Trump Administration (i.e., the presidency) make those countries first and foremost in their ban? Are you starting to get the picture?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(3) "There are many Muslims in this country and around the world who are faithful and not terrorists,..."

Let's assume for a moment that you're a Christian. How would you feel if someone came along and wrote, "There are many Christians in this country and around the world who are faithful and not terrorists..."

Me, I would be, like, "Whoa, wait a minute. 'MANY Christians'? That's implying that there's a huge number of Christians that are actually terrorists. I know that ain't right. That's slander!"

Point being: There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/31/worlds-muslim-population-more-widespread-than-you-might-think/) From 1979 up through today, there have been a total of 482 Islamist terrorist attacks that received significant press coverage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks, which I copied to a Google Sheets doc and summed up, JIC you want to check my math: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1OqYGTjKNdDdIymPlAMDtFGkSOoO4TNakJShjaFNa_0o/edit?usp=sharing).

Although I don't have a list of the number of individuals who perpetrated these acts of terrorism, I'm going to be "generous" and assume that there were 50 terrorists responsible for each of these acts of terror. In that case, the total number of Muslims who perpetrated Islamist terror attacks since 1979 would be 50 x 482 = 24,100 terrorists.

Although this analysis has a few minor holes (for example, there must have been fewer Muslims overall in 1979 because there were fewer human beings in total), here's the important takeaway: The percent of Muslims who are "faithful and not terrorists" are (1,600,000,000 - 24,100) / 1,600,000,000 = 99.9984% of Muslims. So let's go ahead and change that part of the sentence to:

"99.9984% Muslims in this country and around the world are not terrorists,..."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(4) "...there is however no way to determine the faithful from the perfidious, especially in the controversial countries."

Given that, as we've just established, 99.9984% of Muslims are not terrorists, the odds are on our side as far as needing to determine the "faithful from the perfidious".

But yes, as things currently stand, we can't see into a foreign visitor's mind and determine if they would like to commit terrorism here. There's the usual need for visas, passports, going through customs (http://wikitravel.org/en/Preparing_to_Enter_the_United_States), but it's obviously far from foolproof. I'd return to that number of 99.9984% of Muslims not being terrorists for a little peace of mind. The odds are truly in our favor.

As far as refugees go, they absolutely do not get to choose what country they end up in (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/asked-refugees-referred-live-u-s/), so any terrorist thinking they could get to us by going through the formal refugee process would be in for a disappointing surprise.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(5) "We can as Americans help them where they are, rather than to bring them here."

The thought that our government is doing anything to help the people in Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen "where they are" is not even close to realistic. In fact, with the ongoing military operations in Yemen (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/14/world/middleeast/yemen-saudi-arabia-us-airstrikes.html?mcubz=0) and our supporting of Saudi war crimes on civilians there (http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/25/civilian-casualties-war-crimes-saudi-arabia-yemen-war/), what it would appear we're doing there is helping create more anti-American grievance.

What that statement really means is, "Please keep those people where they are, rather than bring them here."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And finally, if you think you're scared of losing your life to terrorism, why aren't you clutching-the-bedsheets-and-can't-sleep-at-night petrified about losing your life to a countryman with a gun?

========================================
Your Lifetime Odds of Death

Cause of Death -- Lifetime Odds
Assault by gun -- 1 in 358
Foreign-born terrorists (all forms) -- 1 in 45,808
========================================
(http://www.businessinsider.com/death-risk-statistics-terrorism-disease-accidents-2017-1)

So if you really want to be scared, take a long, hard look at those odds. Fear of terrorism is a chump's game. You should be scared of your fellow Americans with firearms. They kill over 33,000 here every year. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm)

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My new song about Donald Trump.
#MAGA

-- Not Respectable --
Had a lotta dough
Doing what you know
Starring in a show
Gonna make a go for
All the rest

Each and every morn
Lying up a storm
Where the man was born
Little bigot porn
You gave your best

And that is
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not acceptable

And you are
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not respectable

Had a lotta fun
Not to be outdone
When you made your run
Half a country stunned by
What we heard

Each and every day
Shouting out to say
"Keep 'em all away"
Media replay your
Hateful words

And that is
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not acceptable

And you are
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not respectable

Memory...
History...
Why can't we
All recall what is fair and kind?

Never hide
Or divide
Step inside
Share your life with a peaceful mind
It's worth a try...

And that is
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not acceptable

And you are
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not respectable

Had a lotta luck
Passing every buck
Country gone amuck
Didn't give a damn
For all your lies

Each and every night
Screaming that you're right
Giving us a fright
In a sheet of white
You can't disguise

And that is
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not acceptable

And you are
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Not respectable
Not respectable

=========================

Music, performance, and video Copyright © 2017 Nate Orshan

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My seats for Jackson Browne concert at The Palace Theatre in Albany this Sunday, 4/29/2017.
Photo

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Psssst, parents!

'“This isn’t a literary trend. This is an issue of our time,” said the novelist Jason Reynolds'
https://nyti.ms/2npFFrS

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"Once upon a land, in a different time
Telling any lie was a social crime..."

#AlternativeFacts

You want strong background checks? Me too! But here’s the thing: We shouldn’t use mental illness in and of itself as any sort of criterion. Here’s why.

We both want rational and effective firearms regulation, but just saying that we should keep guns out of the hands of "people with mental illness" essentially lumps every single person with any kind of mental illness into the same, undifferentiated group. It includes, for example, a person working full-time while managing depression to a person with a trauma disorder to a person with an extremely debilitating degree of schizophrenia. Talk about painting folks with the same brush.

But let's say we're OK grouping all those people together from a gun-policy perspective: Even when we do consider whether there's any statistical propensity for violence from people with any kind of mental illness, the answer's a resounding "No". The truth is that people with serious mental illness are over an order of magnitude less likely to commit an act of violence than people without mental illness. Per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/):

====================================
...Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.
====================================

OK, but what type of descriptors should we use when we want to enact a policy that attempts to keep firearms out of the hands of people most likely to murder? One easy label is, "people with a documented history of violence".

And that gets us to the next problem: People like the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino shooter (and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter...and the Pulse nightclub shooter...) did NOT appear to have have police records for violence. So how can we design background checks to keep guns out of such people's hands?

Here's the bad news for us: We can't. Healthcare providers just don't work well as a way to flag potential violent offenders. Here's some evidence.

In the American Journal of Public Health in 2015, two researchers from Vanderbilt University reviewed key academic literature, secondary sources, and primary source historical research, all to address a few firearms-related hypotheses, including the hypothesis we're considering right here: "Psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime before it happens". What their research found was that, bottom line, "psychiatrists using clinical judgment are not much better than chance at predicting which individual patients will do something violent and which will not." (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302242, and see also http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/12/mental-illness-wrong-scapegoat-shootings/).

And then there's another really important issue: if we were to try to start requiring healthcare providers to be mandated reporters for the risk of non-specific gun violence (they currently do have to report if there's a threat to a specific individual), that would drive a wedge between a lot of people with mental health issues and their therapists or psychiatrists. As distrust of clinicians increased, how many people in need of treatment would just stop going altogether, taking away crucial healthcare support?

So, if you want background checks for people who are mentally ill:
- You're incorrectly lumping all people with any types of mental illness together
- You're unfairly targeting a group which is demonstrably less likely to commit violence than "neurotypical" people
- You're mistakenly assuming that clinicians can predict gun crime; they can't
- You're ironically making it less likely that people will seek treatment if they think a random remark might get them into the justice system

So please, in the name of fairness AND effectiveness, stop trying to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness, and keep on trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who have real records of perpetrating violent acts.

© Nate Orshan

(Edited: 2017-10-06. This is an updated version of an essay I shared in 2016: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+NateOrshan/posts/JLxG7ysN5bx)

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NATE'S 200-CHARACTER REVIEW: “Raging Bull”
Heartbreaking masterwork. Younger me would be wowed by De Niro’s titular ferocity & physical transformation. Current me can’t miss the tragic wages of childhood trauma, never mentioned but so obvious.
{4 STARS}
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/raging_bull/
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