"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Archive for September 2010

Gun Registry and Violence

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The debate over something as silly as the long gun registry drives me crazy. What bothers me more than anything is the use of outright lies by supporters – like, the registry saves lives. I have not seen any support of a saved life. After 14 some years you would think if the registry worked there would be that kind of proof. Or, before the registry was brought in, name a death that would have been prevented. The reason we’ve not heard of anyone is because they don’t exist – the registry did not, has not, and will not save a single life.

The reason we’ve not heard that is tied to a second lie – that doing away with the registry will mean the end of reference and background checks for firearms owners. Heather Mallick of the Toronto Star trumpetted this one loudly and incorrectly.

Background and reference checks are a part of the firearm licensing system, not the registry. Two things – a license to possess or acquire (that requires background and reference checks etc); a registration of a firearm when you purchase it (with no requirement for background or reference checks…because they’ve already been done under the license system). Again – licenses identify those cleared to possess firearms (people); the registry records firearms (things).

What leaves me absolutely speechless, however, is the continued refrain from Mallick that women will die if the “long-gun” registry is ended. The research on this suggests that there is an inverse relationship between firearm ownership and violence against women. Yes, that’s what I said, an inverse relationship. What that means is that the more women that own firearms, the less violence against women.

Rather impressive research from a US statistician (John Lott) in his book, “More Guns, Less Crime” demonstrates that when more permissive firearms laws are introduced, violence against women decreases dramatically. Violent crimes overall decrease dramatically, replaced with a slight increase in property crimes. This seems so obvious as to be intuitive, but Lott has demonstrated it quite well. While he has critics, there has not been any study that has demonstrated a worsening of violent crime after a loosening of firearms laws (the most unfavourable studies show no change, while the best show dramatic decreases).

Before the US liberalized most of their state gun laws (to mandate the issue of concealed carry permits if you passed the background checks) the police and social scientists argued that it would turn the US into the wild west, that there would be a dramatic increase in violent crime, and that the police would face higher threat levels.

After the change, many police across the US now admit that it has been a positive change. Results from a couple of decades of data suggest that a concealed carry rate of just a few percent of the population results in huge decreases in violent crime. This is not because criminals are being killed, but because most encounters are resolved by an armed citizen displaying their intent to defend themselves, and because of the huge deterrent effect that concealed carry has on crime.

In Canada, it is nearly impossible to obtain a wilderness carry permit (that is, to carry a handgun in plain sight) for those at real risk of wildlife attack (geologists, trappers, etc). When my father-in-law was killed in a bear attack, I wondered if this had been the US if he would have had more than his pocket knife to defend himself.

It would give me great hope in the ongoing debate if the people advocating for a position actually did their homework and argued from a place of knowledge rather than dogmatic emotion. Is it not strange that when such fundamentalism is based in religion we call it misguided and dangerous, but when related to inane firearms laws in Canada it’s called responsible citizenship?

Written by sameo416

September 21, 2010 at 1:02 am

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RMC…still doing it right

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From the RMC club newsletter (http://everitas.rmcclub.ca/). A ‘rook’ is a new officer cadet at military college, who had not yet passed through recruit term (orientation week) and is not yet an official member of the cadet wing.

HEARTFELT ARTICLE FROM A “ROOK” IN ROMÉO FLIGHT (6 SQUADRON):

Forget your own pleasures. Find your own potential. Forget your own pain. FYOP. These acronyms are some of the few that describe RMC’s First Year Orientation Program. 5 weeks of what some cadets are dreading and calling a living hell, and of what some others are cherishing and embracing. Personally, I believe FYOP is everything mentioned above.

During my first two weeks at RMC I took it for granted. My flight mates and I were living relatively stress-free and frivolous lives. But on the first day of FYOP we were caught off guard: 2 minutes to change from PT gear into combats. 5 minutes to ready up a room for inspection. The length of one song to wake up, make your bed, shave, go to the bathroom, get changed into combats, AND have the rest of the room ready for inspection in the morning. It wasn’t until we were pushed to our very limits under such intense pressure that the rest of my flight mates and I discovered that there was something else within us. Something beyond the pampered and worry-free lives we used to lead. FYOP is truly morphing and shaping us. We are leaving a normal, ordinary life behind; the journey to becoming dedicated, fierce, and responsible Canadian Soldiers began with FYOP and for many of us, that journey has no end.

Perdre. Oublier. Potentiel. Ardeur. POPA. Programme d’Orientation de Première Année du CMR. Ces mots ne représentent qu’une fraction des 5 semaines passées dans POPA. 5 semaines dont certains cadets détestent et décrivent comme étant l’enfer, alors que d’autres chérissent et apprécient chaque moments. Personnellement, je considère POPA comme étant tout mentionné ci-dessus.

Pendant nos deux premières semaines au CMR, mes membres d’escadrille et moi ont menés des vies assez relaxes. Tout a changé le moment que nous étions devenus membres de POPA, surtout les temps accordés: 2 minutes pour changer de vêtements d’éducation physique en combats. 5 minutes pour préparer une chambre pour une inspection. La durée d’une chanson pour se lever, faire son lit parfait, se rasée, aller au toilette, se changer en combats, ainsi que d’avoir une chambre complète prête pour l’inspection. Ce n’était pas jusqu’à ce que nous nous somme faites poussés à notre limite sous un tel montant de stress que nous avons tous découvert quelque chose en notre intérieur. Quelque chose qui surpassait no vies frivoleuses et sans-soucis d’auparavant. POPA est véritablement en train de nous changer. Nous laissons nos vies ordinaires et normales dans le passé; le voyage pour devenir de véritables Soldats Canadiens, fiers et féroces, est commencé avec POPA et pour la majorité de nous, ce voyage ne finira jamais.

25937 – Michael Lachance – Escadron 6, ROMÉO Flight

Written by sameo416

September 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Legal versus medical causation

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Causation: Legal vs. Scientific Perspectives or How to tell if A caused B…

A medical specialist says that it is “possible, but not probable” that an accident caused a particular injury: does this meet the threshold for the legal but-for test or the material contribution test, greater than de minimus? Workers’ Compensation cases often turn on the legal interpretation of medical evidence, so it is interesting to consider if medicine and the law speak the same language.

Physicians are trained to use the scientific method when offering opinion about causal relationships. Science asks for a very high level of probability before concluding a causal relationship might exist. Science usually assesses relationship based on a two sigma level of confidence (we can discuss this over coffee if you’re a fan of statistics). For a normally distributed population, this means that you can say with confidence that 95% of data points will fall inside a given range. When calculating ballistics, the military drops test bombs until there are enough data points to say, with 95% confidence, where a given bomb would hit. A bomb landing outside the “normal” range, one of the 5%, would be considered, “possible, but not probable.”

The two-sigma level is a very high standard, which likely even far surpasses the criminal test of beyond a reasonable doubt (some have set that limit at about 0.70 to 0.74, although some would say there can be no number assigned to the legal question… “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a quantum without a number.”) However, there is risk in making such comparisons, for the legal and the scientific tests for causation are based on entirely different sets of assumptions. A straight numerical comparison, 51% versus 95%, for example, will miss those critical differences.

Consider a person who has a blood test with an abnormal result that might be the result of a work accident. If this was a hearing, would you consider that abnormal result to be proof of an injury: but for the accident or beyond a de minimus level? “Normal” for blood tests is established to a two-sigma level by science: 95% of the population’s blood test result will fall within the “normal” range.

However, “normal” excludes about 5% of the population who have blood chemistry normally outside that of 95% of the population (who, we might say, are normally abnormal). If you ask a physician about that blood test, she would say that a healthy value outside the “normal” range is “possible, but not probable.”

A decision-maker needs to be aware of the difference between the two approaches to causation when weighing medical opinion. The medical professional offering the opinion is not thinking (or at least, should not be thinking) about writing to satisfy the legal test, but rather the scientific standard. “Possible, but not probable” may suffice to meet a legal test, depending on the fact picture in play, the legal test being applied, and the totality of the evidence.

A recent case, Libby Wallace 2010 ABQB 368, at paragraph 86-87, stated this distinction with respect to medical panel findings, “…while it is the medical panel’s function to decide the medical issues, it is the appeal body’s function to apply the law to determine whether an injury was caused by a compensable work accident…Questions about causation raise some medical issues that are within the purview of a medical panel, but there is a distinction between scientific and legal findings. This distinction exists both in common law (see Laferrier v. Lawson, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 541 at para. 156) and in workers compensation case law. At law, causation need not be determined with precision, but must meet the appropriate burden of proof…On the other hand, scientific analysis of causation seeks a far higher degree of certainty to establish causation.”

When a physician states something is “possible, but not probable” they do so with that scientific standard in mind, and not the legal test. “Probable”, for a scientist, indicates certainty at a 95% level of confidence; “possible” means something less.

To summarize the differences between the legal and scientific approaches to causation:
– science deals with population-based analysis (general)
– the law is concerned with the individual case (particular)
– science deals with probabilities (the uncertainty of the truth)
– the law is concerned with a single event or group of events (the absolute certainty of the truth)
– science does not seek finality, but is an ongoing quest for new understanding; all theories are tentative
– the law seeks finality (there is no res judicata or collateral estoppel in science, climate change advocates apart)
– science’s goal is to create abstracted models of reality based on empirical evidence (what is)
– law’s goal is more tentative, seeking truth sometimes based on incomplete or inferred evidence, assessed collectively (what ought to be)

Written by sameo416

September 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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