Thursday, September 03, 2009

Instant Expert: Just Add Sheepskin.

Firearms laws are pretty complicated, and I'm just talking about the federal ones. Many, if not most, Federal Firearms Licensees don't know half of them. Here's an example: Most gun nuts know the combination of "evil features" that transform a wholesome imported semiautomatic rifle into the dreaded "assault weapon", but how many know the proscribed features for pistols? Self-loading shotguns?

Being the bookish sort and not much liking institutional food, I always read the booklets and circulars that the BATFEIEIO sent out to dealers, but I suspect that many use them to level the legs of wobbly tables. They're so busy staying on top of the big important legalities that the triviata slips by unnoticed; is it any wonder that their default setting so often is "Sorry, can't do that. It's 'gainst th' law"? If people who do this for a living are so often unclear on the arcana, one can imagine the fuzzy notions held by people on the outside.

This is what makes the latest "study" from Professor Wintemute, MD, MPH, especially hilarious: It seems that it consists of going "undercover" to gun shows and taking note of anything that "looks illegal". I'm sure it will be as packed with factual knowledge and sound research as his last effort.

Doc Wintemute has inspired me, however. I'm going to do a study on improper surgical procedures in the operating theaters of America. I'm just going to grab a mask and gown and go hang out in OR's, and note when stuff just looks wrong to me. I'm not a surgeon or anything, mind you, but I've prepared by watching a lot of House and ER, and reading a bunch of stuff. Plus, I'm very concerned about the issue, which should count for a lot.

It sounds like Wintemute has a bad case of what a physician acquaintance referred to as "doctoritis"; the feeling that, once one is awarded that MD (or PhD, or JD,) one is now an expert on everything. As a friend put it on the eve of her PhD: "This time tomorrow, I'll be twice as smart as I am right now!"

(H/T to Unc.)


Anonymous said...

Of course he works for the university of kalifornia

og said...

a 5'12" fair complected woman with huge... tracts of land in an operating room will... stand out. Sorry, that one was sort of unintentional. Having been in the wrong side of operating rooms several times, my observation is that OR folks tend to be short and stout, or short and teeny, and often olive skinned.

Besides, that would be a lot like basing your writing on direct observation and actual- you know- evidence, and not conjecture based on your own prejudices. Just write the damned thing, to hell with those- you know- facts. They're usually inconveniently opposed to your pet theorem anyway.

Turk Turon said...

I approve of your methodology!

But who'll be on your peer-review committee?

Nathan said...

Ph.D., piled higher and deeper. Haven't been impressed by one since my graduate advisor retired.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Good God, did they not teach this yahoo that the plural of anecdote isn't data?

Lorimor said...

Supply goes away, demand goes away.


Anonymous said...

Judging from my referral logs, Wintemute will be paying you a visit shortly. So, say something nice!


Tirno said...

My data (i.e. plural of anecdote) indicates that the more degrees a person has, and the more advanced those degrees, the less the person is able to reason in a rational way outside of their academic specialty. And the more tightly focused their specialty, the wider the range of topics upon which you should not trust them.

It does depend on the intelligence of the person. It would seem that very highly intelligent people may be able to obtain an advanced degree and still be able to operate in the world as a normal person. Those of normal intelligence who achieve advanced degrees seem to come out the of the process functionally retarded in every aspect other than their academic specialty. On the other hand, very highly intelligent people sometimes crowd their head with even more stuff, until they're blisteringly intelligent on one or two things and idiots elsewhere.

For example:
- Noam Chomsky, on any subject other than linguistics
- Wintemute, outside of medicine
- Most other medical doctors I've met

Joanna said...

My grandpa always said that advanced degrees just meant you knew more and more about less and less. Looks like he was right on that one.

Weer'd Beard said...

Heh, this is right on Par to MikeB302000 admitting he knows next to nothing about firearms and ammo...and then in the same breath talks about what should be banned!

cj said...

So let's see...this person is magically uncovering multiple firearm felonies, but rather than sharing his techniques (which experts in the field apparently cannot match) or turning in said felons, he...makes a presentation?

Regarding credentials...MDs have to memorize a lot of things. A LOT of things. Ph.D.s have to demonstrate competence in research. So I'm really curious what his actual research experience is...if he's actually ever seen the inside of a stats book, knows how to conduct a proper study, etc.

Mr. Fixit said...

When I worked at Texas Instruments, we referred to PhD as "Piled Higher and Deeper" in regard to how much crap they thought they knew.

Mr Fixit

Casey said...

I swear! I read your post, then went through and read the linked articles, and the articles linked in those articles. I spent several minutes trying to figure out where the punchline was, and couldn't see it. That's when I finally noticed that the chucklehead's name was Wintemute, and not Wintermute.


WV-"icefles"..I have no idea....

Anonymous said...

Must . . . resist . . . Tam . . . playing . . . doctor . . . jokes.

Shootin' Buddy

alath said...

< My data (i.e. plural of anecdote) indicates that the more degrees a person has, and the more advanced those degrees, the less the person is able to reason in a rational way outside of their academic specialty. >

My favorite anecdote of "doctoritis," told to me by an airline pilot (this is in the pre-911 days).

He's coming in to land at O'Hare and suddenly there's a passenger in the cockpit, telling him that his flaps are set incorrectly.

Pilot: "Sir, return to your seat and fasten your seat belt immediately."
Passenger: "Listen, I know what I'm talking about: I'm a doctor!"
Pilot: "Return to your seat and fasten your seat belt immediately, doctor."

Turk Turon said...

My favorite doctor joke is from a New Yorker cartoon. A middle-aged man is in his doctor's office. The doctor is looking at his charts. The doctor says, "It says here you're 58. I'd like to get that down a little."

mycrofth4 said...

Can't believe no one posted my favorite Heinlein quote on this:
"Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so."

rickn8or said...


The first thing that I though of when I read this, but didn't have time to dig up the exact quote.

"And the more tightly focused their specialty, the wider the range of topics upon which you should not trust them.

Which does nothing to stop them from holding forth on that exact range of topics, making them extremely dangerous.

dave said...

I had always heard it called Engineer's Syndrome; when one assumes that their expertise in one field automatically carries over into another (or all).

Matt G said...

Even would-be artificial intelligences misspell their names.

Anonymous said...

There is but one commentary about the prof, at the newspaper link provided above, by our hostess.

Are y'all gonna let a Northern Cali rag, with wine and art party announcements, go away scot free on this issue?

Kindly go apply a little of the above fire, to dem editorial feets of the publisher, way up there in land of eternal 'we'-ness.

Ver' easy commentary box, raht there, at the article.

'hestrus' -- an academic's aroused state, caused by publication and public recognition of his brain's waste products being hailed as an intellectual break thru.

J, t R

Tam said...

Do you know how many comments have been deleted?

mikeb302000 said...

Tam, That was a pertty-much unanimous agreement on your post. It's amazing how you gun folks stick together.

I hope you don't mind if I link to it. I especially liked the way you said his work is "hilarious."

That's pretty hilarious in itself.

Bob S. said...

And MikeB do you provide any information, data or support for Wintermute's study?

Do you show why/how he is knowledgeable on firearm crimes?

Can you read the words that are written and comprehend what they are saying?

He has no expertise in the subject that he is writing about, NONE

If, and I highly doubt you will, you respond, try providing evidence that either of you know the first things about what makes a firearm illegal.

cj said...

Just found a link to the report. I'll try to hold my laughter down at the research methodology as I read it.

My wife is a research Ph.D. who works in health and indicated that doctors DO get this complex believing they know how to conduct research, while in reality they have no exposure to it in their training.

Joe Huffman said...


As MikeB hinted, you've been called out by the troll:

Why do pro-gun folks resist these intelligent and highly educated men so aggressively? Why is it necessary to attack them on their expertise as well as their veracity? What's wrong with simply discussing the issues? I'll tell you what I think.

I think what explains the incredibly nasty attitude on the part of so many pro-gun writers is that they realize they're wrong. They realize that anyone who refuses to join in a common effort to find a way to diminish gun violence is in the wrong. Well, why would they do it then? Out of fear. Out of fear and insecurity.

This is the same guy that admitted in comments at The Smallest Minority he didn't know how to determine true from falsity.

Thirdpower said...

He also denies the veracity of the FBI UCR report because he claims (as usual w/ no evidence whatsoever) that they 'doctored' it because of an agenda. In the next breath he defends politicians who deliberately lie because it's good 'salesmanship'.

I just want to see Tam in a "Sexy Nurse" outfit while conducting her study.

Mike W. said...

Mike B. Denies the veracity of any information that does not support his narrow, bigoted viewpoint.

That makes him not unlike most other anti-gunners.

Tam, you have to admit he's good comic relief. I see his name and can be quite sure I'll soon be reading something laughably stupid.

Tam said...


"As MikeB hinted, you've been called out by the troll:"

Do I look concerned? ;)

Joe Huffman said...

I wasn't trying to warn you. I was hoping for a good show when you slapped him around.

Joe Huffman said...

I did my thing with him this morning.

TJP said...

Tam, you should definitely try that. Once I was standing in the doorway of the OR, and they actually cut somebody open with a knife! Holy crap! Those surgeons are dangerous!

Anonymous said...


I'm horrified by y'r suggestion that the wine and cheese press, as linked in this string, would ACTUALLY delete dissenting posts.

Ok, mebbe they have, but prolly had to have a spiritual retreat in Marin County, in order to decide what to do with the new phenom of disagreeable and inharmonious opinions sent to their fief-paper.

Kinda a non-cyber expert question here, as my circle of experienced bloggers is slim, but do you - by experience, evidence or anecdote - actually know that commentary was rejected\deleted?

There: if the Black Dog was sitting in y'r lap before, such a question prolly'll make you feel like ya just got a slurpy brimsone doggy kiss.

RX? Nice hard, sweaty bike ride with periodic high gear sprints in orderbump heartrates up to 200 and high spin speed cooldowns. Nothing like a humid soaking MidWestern ride to blow out the sinuses. Take plenty of water.

"spired"...yeah, really

John, back from Detroit Jazz Fest Weekend. Downtown, on the Rivuh.
West End of Lake Erie

Anonymous said...

Yes, when the light goes..the gunloons howl with outrage.

Pity you cannot explain why Wintemute is wrong; pretty much all you can do is bleat that he is.

I suspect, having been to my share of gun shows, you're a little uneasy to let the world view your fringe.

Best, JadeGold

mikeb302000 said...

Hey, I like that guy, JadeGold.

Bob S. said...

And care to address the issue MikeB?

How exactly does Wintermute know when a law is being broken?

Does being a liberal gun hater empower him with extra senses to detect a straw purchase?

mikeb302000 said...

Bob, First of all, I don't know if Wintemute is a "liberal gun hater." He may be exactly what he claims to be, the director of an organization dedicated to reducing violence. And as such, he may have opinions about guns that you and your friends don't like. That doesn't make him a gun-hater or anti-gun, necessarily. And I don't think he has any super powers. But first-hand observations of gun shows and photographs of what goes on there make for a very interesting expose' if nothing else. It sounded to me like the main point was that private sales where no background check is required is the main problem, according to Prof. Wintemute. Advocating for closing that "loophole" does not require hating guns, as far as I can see.