Close window  |  View original article

Spin, Lies, Politicians, and the Wisdom of Crowds

Gun-shoppers are right - Obama does want to take our guns.

By Will Offensicht  |  May 29, 2009

The American electorate has become accustomed to finding that pronouncements out of Washington DC are sometimes, er, let's just say that they're sometimes at variance with the facts, particularly if you include spin.

At President Obama's April 29 news conference, he claimed that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has "already saved or created over 150,000 jobs."  That's false on its face; unemployment is rising which means that the number of jobs is in fact falling, and it's preposterous to claim that the President or anyone else knows for sure that unemployment would have risen by even more without the Act.

It's understandable for Mr. Obama to want to create some good news, even if out of thin air.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the economy lost more than 1.3 million jobs in the months since Mr. Obama took office and lost at least another .5 million in April.

The day after he spoke, the Department of Labor reported that another 631,000 new unemployment claims had been filed the previous week.  What's more, the New York Times reports that very little money has been spent and that most of the money that has been spent has been used to help states handle the cost of Medicaid and unemployment benefits.

Some jobs have been created - CNS News reports a US Government grant to study how to persuade Chinese prostitutes to drink sensibly on the job - but the jobs teaching prostitutes how to drink are being created in China, not in the US.  Unless they plan to hire Bill Clinton?

What's going on here?  We're used to Mr. Obama making content-free, wonderful-sounding speeches without getting specific.  Now he gets specific, and his claim of creating new American jobs is, let us say, somewhat exaggerated.

How can Mr. Obama say he's creating jobs when the economy is still collapsing?  Well, he was passing on a guess by the Council of Economic Advisers as to the number of jobs which would otherwise have been lost but were saved by the stimulus money.

None of the states have reported what they've done with the money, so this guess isn't much better than Al Gore's guess about the sea rising 6 feet, but at least it got Mr. Obama some air time.  Who knows?  If the economy recovers, Mr. Obama may win the Nobel Prize for economics.

USA Today of May 11 said on page 1, "The administration's practice of discussing jobs saved as well as created is 'a very clever device for providing future political cover.' said University of Chicago economics professor Steven Davis.  'The jobs saved part was a way for them to say, "The economy is still shrinking, but it would have shrunk faster but for the good things that we did."'"

This tendency of our leaders to spin us around for the sake of political cover makes us nervous; we try all kinds of ways to figure out what's going on.  Telling us used to be the responsibility of the media, but they've decided that never will be heard a discouraging word about the Obama administration; Americans, not just conservatives, simply don't trust the media any more, which is why so many old-school news organisms are slowly ceasing to exist.

Foretelling the Future

The absence of credible media leaves three other ways to determine what might happen in the future:

  1. Listen to genuine experts - but there are very few of them and they don't always get air time to spread their views.
  2. Read what the pollsters think people think will happen. Unfortunately, polls don't always ask the questions we want answered, and lacking a sponsor like George Soros, we have not the wherewithal to convince the pollsters to run the polls we want to see.
  3. Watch how people bet.  If someone says the economy is recovering but shoppers are staying out of stores, for example, you can bet they're ignorant, spinning, or lying.

Watching how people spend money is a great way to figure out what might happen.  This works so well that various universities have set up small "stock exchanges" where people spend real money buying "stock" in political candidates.

If you own a share of a candidate who wins, your share is worth money; if your candidate loses, it's worth zero.  Watching how candidates' prices change during the campaign tells what people think.  Since they're backing their opinions with real money, it turns out, their views are more accurate than opinion polls.

What do people believe strongly enough to back their beliefs with hard-earned cash?  Ever since Mr. Obama won the 2008 election, guns and ammunition have been flying off the shelves.  All of a sudden, despite the recession, despite the highest levels of unemployment we've seen in years if not decades, it's boom time for gun dealers.

Betting on Bullets

NPR reports that gun stores are experiencing a shortage of guns and ammunition:

An ammunition shortage in the U.S. is affecting police and sheriffs' departments all over the country, as well as gun dealers, from big retailers like Wal-Mart to smaller family-run businesses and online operations.  But they also say the shortage - as well as a sharp rise in gun sales - coincided with the election of President Obama, fueled by fears his administration would usher in more restrictive gun laws. ... people are buying the guns to protect themselves ...

There have always been gun-lovers.  This is something different, larger, and much more worrying.  Having large numbers of middle-of-the-road citizens purchase guns and ammunition because they've lost confidence in the government's ability to keep order or because they're afraid the government will ban private gun ownership is not a good sign; the last such boom we remember was during the LA Watts riots when government had lost its ability to protect people.

We haven't seen any experts warning that gun rights are going to be curtailed, but there've been signs.  We described the deceptive anti-gun positions Mr. Obama stated before seeking the nomination for President.

More recently, we see anti-gun spin coming out of the White House.  In an editorial "Obama's gun lies," the Washington Times reports:

On Thursday, while on a visit to Mexico, the president continued his Blame America First tour. "This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States," he said, referring to the drug wars that are tearing apart our neighbor to the south. "More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that lay in our shared border." [emphasis added]

Mexican drug cartels obtain weapons however and wherever they can, and it's true that some of the guns police find in Mexico came from America.  But as the Times says, "when it comes to guns, President Obama is lying through his teeth."

The Mexican police sort guns they confiscate and send the ones that look American north for investigation.  Of the guns they send, 90% turn out to be from America, but most guns are not sent here.  Fox News reports that only about 17% of the guns recovered by police originated in America.

There are good reasons for this: all guns in the US are imprinted with serial numbers and thus can be traced, whereas Russia and China are happy to sell un-recorded, un-numbered weapons by the shipload.  If you were a criminal, which kind would you prefer?

A lie can go a hundred miles before the truth laces up its shoes, of course.  Mr. Obama's lie has been repeated in the New York Times (naturally) and on CNN.  Mr. Obama speaks of allocating $400 million to crack down on American guns.  The Times has a theory why the President would tell such as whopper:

It is ridiculous for Mr. Obama to blame Mexico's lawlessness on Americans as if the longstanding corruption of Mexican elected officials, judges and law-enforcement officers has nothing to do with it.

One of the root causes of corruption is low pay. Mexican police earn $460 a month, sometimes less, which makes bribes hard to resist. There are about 350,000 policemen in Mexico.  The $400 million Mr. Obama has promised for his anti-gun program could raise the annual salary of every Mexican cop by $1,143, a 21 percent increase.  But the president wouldn't be interested in that because his real agenda is to pursue gun control here at home.

The American public evidently decided that, regardless of what he said, Mr. Obama was likely to pursue gun control here at home; the rush on gun shops started just after he was elected.

A Home-Grown Solution

Contrary to the impression you might get from watching the news, most Americans do not, in fact, think that guns need to be more heavily regulated.  Most Americans are able to read the Second Amendment to the Constitution for themselves and find it to be pretty clear and pretty important.  Some Americans are rather determined not to let the Second Amendment be treated as a mere scrap of paper.

The State of Montana is considering a law declaring that firearms manufactured in Montana and held in Montana are not involved in interstate commerce and are therefore not subject to any federal gun control law or regulations.  This is a direct challenge to the authority of the federal government.

In 2005, a California marijuana user named Angel McClary Raich tested the commerce clause of the Constitution. The courts held that the federal government could control domestic marijuana because it was indistinguishable from the stuff grown anywhere else. To address this, Montana intends to stamp guns "Made in Montana."

Practically speaking, this doesn't change much yet. Only a few black powder and high end hunting rifles are actually produced in Montana.

As a test of states' rights however, this could be significant.  The expectation is that someone in Montana will begin to manufacture a .22 caliber rifle or automatic pistol and not apply for a manufacturing license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

It will be interesting to see what the feds do if the Montana law enforcement people start arresting feds for harassing gun owners.  The feds could go to a federal court, of course, but what if the state simply denies that the feds have jurisdiction?  What then?

Will the feds arrest the governor?  Will the governor order the state police to arrest the feds?  Do we really want to find out by trying it?

Yet the crystal balls of the Obama administration asserting unwarranted federal power by running roughshod over bankruptcy laws and gun sales volumes and state reactions all trend in the direction of a messy confrontation.

Is There A Real Concern?

All this scurrying about is interesting, but it's even more interesting to note that the concern is real. It's no surprise at all to find that the Montanans and the citizens who rushed to the gun shops the day Mr. Obama won were right all along - the Democrats are planning to restrict gun ownership.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) has introduced H.R. 45, "To provide for the implementation of a system of licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms, and for other purposes" [emphasis added] which has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.  According to

Basically this would make it illegal to own a firearm - any rifle with a clip or ANY pistol unless:

  • It is registered
  • You are fingerprinted
  • You supply a current Driver's License
  • You supply your Social Security #
  • You will submit to a physical & mental evaluation at any time of their choosing
  • Each update - change or ownership through private or public sale must be reported and costs $25 - Failure to do so you automatically lose the right to own a firearm and are subject up to a year in jail.
  • There is a child provision clause on page 16 section 305 stating a child-access provision. Gun must be locked and inaccessible to any child under 18.
  • They would have the right to come and inspect that you are storing your gun safely away from accessibility to children and fine is punishable for up to 5 yrs. in prison. [Editor's Note: there is disagreement about how easily they could inspect your home and about how easily they could access your mental health records but the fact that they've mentioned those issues at all is scary.]

To be sure, the law doesn't say that it's illegal to own a firearm, but it attaches so many conditions and gives the government so many grounds to take your firearm or jail you that guns might as well be illegal.

Here it comes.  Mr. Obama tells a Big Lie to justify spending $400 million harassing gun shops rather than helping pay for Mexican police, and now we see where he's going - another stealth attack on our rights, just as he advocated from the beginning of his career in the legislature.

Mr. Obama is one of the better speakers we've ever heard, and we've heard them all since President Kennedy.  Watch out for the candyfloss - he can doctor spin with the best.