Sunday, July 24, 2016

The awful rise of 'virtue signalling'

The awful rise of 'virtue signalling'

Go to a branch of Whole Foods, the American-owned grocery shop, and you will see huge posters advertising Whole Foods, of course, but — more precisely — advertising how virtuous Whole Foods is. A big sign in the window shows a mother with a little child on her shoulders (aaaah!) and declares: ‘values matter.’

The poster goes on to assert: ‘We are part of a growing consciousness that is bigger than food — one that champions what’s good.’ This a particularly blatant example of the increasingly common phenomenon of what might be called ‘virtue signalling’ — indicating that you are kind, decent and virtuous.

We British do it, too. But we are more sophisticated, or underhand. Mishal Husain was particularly aggressive to Nigel Farage on the Today programme recently, interrupting him mid-sentence, insinuating that he is racist or that, even if he isn’t, his membership is. She would doubtless like to believe that she was being tough but fair. But another force within her was stronger. Mishal was ‘virtue signalling’ indirectly — indicating that she has the right, approved, liberal media-elite opinions, one of which is despising Ukip and thus, most importantly, advertising that she is not racist. When she later goes to a dinner party attended by other members of the media elite, she will be welcomed and approved for having displayed the approved, virtuous views.

There are many ways to advertise your virtue. You can say ‘I hate the Daily Mail!’ to suggest that you care about people who are poor and on welfare benefits. You are saying that you respect them, care about them and do them the honour of believing the vast majority to be honest and in need.

You can declare ‘Page 3 of the Sun was degrading and embarrassing’ if you are a man: this indicates your great respect for women. If, on the other hand, you are a woman, you can say ‘Isn’t Mary Beard marvellous!’ to show that you are way above the shallowness of mere physical appearance.

Virtue signalling crosses the political divide. When David Cameron defends maintaining spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid, he is telling us that the Tory party, or at least he himself — as a rather wonderful, non-toxic part of it — cares about the poor in the developing world. The actual effectiveness or otherwise of foreign aid in achieving this aim is irrelevant.

When Osborne says he wants a higher minimum wage, he is saying, ‘I am a good guy who cares about the low-paid and wants them to be better off.’ Never mind the unintended consequences. Just feel the good intentions.

‘I hate 4x4s!’ you declare. This is an assertion that, unlike others, you care about the environment.

It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying you hate things. It is camouflage. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact you are really saying how good you are. If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandisement would be obvious, as it is with Whole Foods. Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.

....

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Virtue Signaling: Why Political Debates on the Internet Are So Often Pointless | Foundation for Economic Education

Virtue Signaling: Why Political Debates on the Internet Are So Often Pointless | Foundation for Economic Education


Have you ever noticed how frustrating it is to argue with people about politics on the Internet: like trying to use your head to knock down a brick wall? Well, keep in mind that the feeling is probably mutual.

But also consider the practical utility of that brick wall: the rational interest many people have in being close-minded and wedded to false beliefs. As economist Bryan Caplan has written:
“...irrationality, like ignorance, is sensitive to price, and false beliefs about politics and religion are cheap. If you underestimate the costs of excessive drinking, you can ruin your life. In contrast, if you underestimate the benefits of immigration, or the evidence in favor of the theory of evolution, what happens to you? In all probability, the same thing that would have happened to you if you knew the whole truth.”

False beliefs about economics and political philosophy may be devastating in aggregate, but for the individual the cost of choosing to embrace fallacy is negligible. So, as Caplan argues, it is perfectly rational for many to stubbornly cling to false but “emotionally appealing” beliefs. There are no individual, internalized costs that could possibly outweigh whatever emotional benefit the false belief might have.

Caplan wrote the passage quoted above in 2006. Last year, British writer James Bartholomew coined a term and crystallized a concept that is highly complementary to Caplan’s analysis: virtue signaling.

Virtue and Vanity

Most of what passes for political discourse on the Internet does not consist of actual attempts to persuade. Rather, the opiners are like preening birds, chirping for anyone within earshot to signal that, “I am a decent, virtuous person,” usually adding, “unlike the troglodyte rightwingers or degenerate leftists I’m denouncing.”

Such virtue signalling is socially profitable. When others in your social set detect that you faithfully subscribe to that set’s orthodoxy, they become better disposed toward you. This can result in professional, social, even romantic opportunities.

And just as holding a comforting false belief is rock-bottom cheap, so is expressing a socially-advantageous false belief.

But in addition to this rational interest, there is a compulsive, pathological component to virtue signaling as well. That part is baggage from the way we are all raised as kids.

Political Tattling

When children are free to learn from undirected experiences, they learn to conceive of truth as something that guides the successful pursuit of their own goals. But in the domineering, tightly-directed environments of school and the modern household, we condition our children to conceive of truth as received wisdom handed down by authority.

Children are largely deprived of the noble joy of discovering truths as revealed by successful action. Instead they are left with the ignoble gratification of pleasing a taskmaster by reciting an answer that is marked “correct.” And this goes far beyond academics. For the modern child, learning “good behavior” is not about discovering through trial and error what kinds of behaviors are conducive to thriving socially. Instead, it’s about winning praise and avoiding censure from authority figures.

Thanks to this conditioning, we have all become approval-junkies, always on the lookout for our next fix of external validation: for the next little rush of dopamine we get whenever we are patted on the head by others for being a “good boy” or a “good girl,” for exhibiting the right behavior, for giving the right answer, for expressing the right opinion.

This is why the mania for virtue signalling is so ubiquitous, and why orthodoxies are so impervious. Expressing political opinions is not about hammering out useful truths through the crucible of debate, but about signaling one’s own virtue by “tattling” on others for being unvirtuous: for being crypto-commies or crypto-fascists; for being closet racists or race-traitor “cucks;” for being enemies of the poor or apologists for criminals.

Much of our political debate consists of our abused inner children basically calling out, “Teacher, teacher, look at me. I followed the rules, but Johnny didn’t. Johnny is a bad boy, and he said a mean word, too. Teacher look what Trump said. He should say sorry. Teacher look what Hillary did. You should give her detention.”

You can’t expect much enlightenment to emerge from this level of discourse.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

African American Shooting Statistics | National Review

African American Shooting Statistics | National Review


I have heard many educated people acknowledge the disparity and claim that it just proves racism in the justice system, which is the same as saying that the statistics are misleading, and all things being equal the tendency to commit violent crime is spread uniformly throughout the population. If that’s what you think, you are living in a fantasy world, where urban blight and broken families either don’t exist or don’t make any difference. Racism in the justice system may explain disparate results in marginal cases, but it obviously can’t explain the astonishing disparity in crime — victims, suspects, and arrestees — by racial category in the U.S. The disparity is beyond astonishing. Here are the NYPD crime statistics for 2014, take a look, and while you do, consider that in NYC whites outnumber blacks something like 1.6 to 1.

As you consider the statistics, recall that the night the grand jury’s decision was announced in the Michael Brown case, blacks protested “no justice no peace” and rioted in Ferguson, notwithstanding the grand jury’s conclusion that Michael Brown was not an innocent “unarmed teenager” but in fact had committed multiple violent felonies without provocation, including strong-arm robbery in a convenience store and then the assault (and attempted murder) of officer Darren Wilson in his car.

Amazingly, these facts didn’t make any difference at all to the protesters, and make no difference at all to Black Lives Matter. Why is that? As far as I can tell, Black Lives Matter would have it so people would be able to break the law, defy police, assault police, run away, etc. — and not risk getting harassed or injured by the police. Here’s why that’s a problem: 
When America is ready for a real conversation about race, it will start here. It will ask honestly what the causes are. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that race has absolutely nothing to do with crime rates, and that government policies such as welfare are the real culprit, creating the urban blight and broken families that lead directly to crime. Until then, however, our national conversation on race will remain a source of much agitation and little progress, focused on matters that are secondary or completely irrelevant, such as loose gun laws in areas of the country where the crime isn’t. Obama thinks that “what’s ultimately going to make the job of being a cop a lot safer” is for cops to acknowledge the problem of police brutality. Maybe that’s one problem that needs acknowledging. But a more basic problem looms vastly larger, and until that one is acknowledged by all sides, none of this will be solved.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is America Racist? | Stately McDaniel Manor

Is America Racist? | Stately McDaniel Manor
Is America, and particularly, are America’s police, racist?

To believe that, one must ignore the last 60 years of American history. One must ignore Brown v Board of Education (1954). One must ignore the Civil Rights Act (1964). One must ignore all of the laws, and the sacrifices of the civil rights pioneers, and every advance, every accomplishment, that changed America for the better. One must ignore the inherent decency and continuing good will of Americans. One must ignore the black female and male Secretaries of State, cabinet officers, captains of industry and business, and men like 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon. One must ignore black Attorneys General, male and female, and the first black President of the United States.

The civil rights movement was a brilliant success, and every American of good will acknowledges and celebrates it. Every sacrifice so dearly bought bore glorious fruit. Actual racists are rare, and are justly treated as the social pariahs they manifestly deserve to be. Goodness, truth, and justice won! People of all races work together, attend the same churches, schools, patronize the same businesses, date, intermarry, serve together in the military, socialize and live in the same neighborhoods. This is a nation about which Martin Luther King dreamed, a nation where his children–all children–would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

America is not racist. Above and beyond all nations, America is accepting of all, and equality of opportunity is denied none, but equality of outcome depends on individual effort.

America’s police officers are drawn from the American public. Police agencies, in fact, are even less likely to harbor actual racists than the public at large, because, in recruiting and hiring, they specifically screen for that trait, as well as other troubling psychological disqualifiers. In addition, supervisory practices are established to detect and deal with such damaging personality faults.

In reality, identifying racists is not difficult. They generally identify themselves. They’re proud of their beliefs and are compelled to share and act on them, just like the Dallas killer.

Even in the Baton Rouge shooting, and the Minnesota shooting, there is no actual evidence of racial animus. The investigations into those shootings are only a few days old, and what little information is available seems to indicate that the officers fired not due to racial animus, but because they believed themselves to be in deadly danger.

Just as very few police officers are actually racists, there is no national police conspiracy to kill young black men. There is no regional conspiracy; there is no local conspiracy. To think otherwise is to descend into dangerous, truly racist, paranoia.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

About That Harvard Study on Police Use of Force. . . | Power Line

About That Harvard Study on Police Use of Force. . . | Power Line
I was struck by dramatic differences in odds ratio for use of force for “compliant” vs. “all” encounters in the NYT article on the recently publicized Harvard study on police use of force (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html). In looking at that data I realized that you could use it to estimate the fraction of stops in which a black person was compliant. I understand that the datasets are different and thus can’t be compared directly, but unless the data are badly flawed, the results are astonishing. Specifically, looking at the 3rd (compliant) and 4th (all) forest plots and selecting the “handcuffed” data (since it is least likely to be reported disparately between officers and civilians) you can derive the following,

(1) Bc*Wt / Wc*Bt = 1.13 (Bc=black compliant, Wt=white total, etc.)

(2) ((Bc+Bu)*Wt) / ((Wc+Wu)*Bt) = 3.17 (Bu = black uncompliant)

Dividing Equation 2 by Equation 1 and a little algebra yields:

Bu/Bc = 1.81 + 2.81*Wu/Wc.

Since Wu/Wc has to be a positive number, that means that black people are uncompliant > 1.81/(1+1.81) = 64% of the time! Unless I’ve made a mistake in my analysis, it seems that if most black parents are really having “the talk” with their kids, other signals overwhelm its efficacy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Think organic food is better for you, animals, and the planet? Think again

Think organic food is better for you, animals, and the planet? Think again

In 2012 Stanford University’s Centre for Health Policy did the biggest comparison of organic and conventional foods and found no robust evidence for organics being more nutritious. A brand-new review has just repeated its finding: “Scientific studies do not show that organic products are more nutritious and safer than conventional foods.”

Organic farming is sold as good for the environment. This is correct for a single farm field: organic farming uses less energy, emits less greenhouse gasses, nitrous oxide and ammonia and causes less nitrogen leeching than a conventional field. But each organic field yields much, much less. So, to grow the same amount of wheat, spinach or strawberries, you need much more land. That means that average organic produce results in the emission of about as many greenhouse gasses as conventional produce; and about 10 per cent more nitrous oxide, ammonia and acidification. Worse, to produce equivalent quantities, organic farms need to occupy 84 per cent more land – land which can’t be used for forests and genuine nature reserves. For example, to produce the amount of food America does today, but organically, would require increasing its farmland by the size of almost two United Kingdoms. That is the equivalent of eradicating all parklands and wild lands in the lower 48 states.

But surely organics avoid pesticides? No. Organic farming can use any pesticide that is “natural”. This includes copper sulphate, which has resulted in liver disease in vineyard sprayers in France. Pyrethrin is another organic pesticide; one study shows a 3.7-fold increase in leukaemia among farmers who handled pyrethrins compared to those who had not.

You Owe Them Nothing - Not Respect, Not Loyalty, Not Obedience - Kurt Schlichter

You Owe Them Nothing - Not Respect, Not Loyalty, Not Obedience - Kurt Schlichter

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ignorance of Facts Fuels the Anti-Cop 'Movement' - Larry Elder

Ignorance of Facts Fuels the Anti-Cop 'Movement' - Larry Elder
A new study by a Harvard economist, who happens to be black, finds cops less likely to use deadly force on black suspects vs. white.

Angered by the deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, black men in Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri, respectively, who died at the hands of the police, professor Roland Fryer Jr. said, "You know, protesting is not my thing. But data is my thing." So he sought to answer the question. Do the police, in fact, use lethal force against black suspects more than they do against whites?

Fryer examined 1,332 police shootings -- including fatal and non-fatal shootings -- in the police departments of 10 large cities in Texas, California and Florida. He said his findings surprised him. In an article about the study, The New York Times wrote:

"In shootings in these 10 cities involving officers, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both results undercut the idea of racial bias in police use of lethal force."

But the question remained, when the suspect is black, are officers more likely to use deadly force? The Times wrote:

"What about situations in which an officer might be expected to fire, but doesn't? To answer this, Mr. Fryer focused on one city, Houston. The police department there let the researchers look at reports not only for shootings but also for arrests when lethal force might have been justified. Mr. Fryer defined this group to include encounters with suspects the police subsequently charged with serious offenses like attempting to murder an officer, or evading or resisting arrest. He also considered suspects shocked with Tasers.

"Mr. Fryer found that in such situations, officers in Houston were about 20 percent less likely to shoot if the suspects were black. This estimate was not precise, and firmer conclusions would require more data. But in various models controlling for different factors and using different definitions of tense situations, Mr. Fryer found that blacks were either less likely to be shot or there was no difference between blacks and whites."

Yes, the study found cops were more likely to put their hands on a black suspect vs. a white suspect -- also to cuff, push to the ground or pepper-spray -- but probably because cops don't want the encounter to escalate to a shooting. This use-of-deadly-force study proves that Black Lives Matter, Obama's sympathy with the group and media's obsession with white-cop-black-suspect stories are built on lies. And Fryer's study confirms similar findings in "The Reverse Racism Effect," a study by researchers at Washington State University.

Recall actor Jesse Williams, who in a rant during a BET awards ceremony said, "What we've been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday." Will Mr. Williams now man up and apologize for helping to perpetuate this phony narrative that cops are out to get blacks? Will Time magazine -- one among many media outlets that slobbered over Jesse Williams' rant -- apologize for calling it "powerful"?

After the shooting deaths of black suspects at the hands of the police in Minnesota and Louisiana, Hillary Clinton said, "White people ... have to start listening to the legitimate cries" of black people. This is the usual kind of condescending pap we always hear from Democrats. But in their case, the reason is votes. In order for the Democratic Party to maintain the 95 percent monolithic hold they have with black voters, they need to create scenarios of anger and fear against so-called "structural" or "institutional" or "systemic" racism. We know their motive.

As to the media, one can only conclude that it's about ratings. When a black officer shoots a black suspect, it does not generate the same level of outrage as when a white officer shoots a black suspect, especially when he is unarmed. But of the nearly 1,000 people killed by cops last year -- according The Washington Post's own tally -- the Post reported that less than 4 percent were instances of white cops shooting and killing an unarmed black man.

And there's this. What's hard about complying with a cop's order so you don't get shot? There is no right to defy a lawful order. That a cop may be rude does not make an order any less lawful. Hillary Clinton, showing how she feels blacks' pain, says black parents tell her that they have what is called "the talk" with their children on how to comport themselves when engaged in an encounter with the police. But in almost every recent case of an officer shooting a black person, the black person resisted arrest. So much for "the talk."

How about, "Comply -- you won't die"?

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Secret History of the Minimum Wage - Reason.com

The Secret History of the Minimum Wage - Reason.com
In his elegant and persuasive book Illiberal Reformers, the Princeton economist Thomas C. Leonard presents a third idea: Tell him where the minimum wage came from. After all, George uses the historical argument that the Industrial Revolution was caused by exploiting workers, and he thinks that we got rich subsequently by struggling against the exploitation. As 1066 and All That put it, "Many remarkable discoveries and inventions were made [in the early 19th century]. Most remarkable among these was the discovery (made by all the rich men in England at once) that women and children could work for 25 hours a day…without many of them dying or becoming excessively deformed. This was known as the Industrial Revelation." It's mistaken, but no matter. George clearly believes a history is relevant to the assessment of a present result.

All right. Leonard shows in detail that the minimum wage arose in the early 20th century as a Progressive policy designed to screw low-wage workers. Designed. And unlike many other laws "designed" to achieve a result (for example, protective tariffs designed to enrich America), the minimum wage achieved what it was after.

The first minimum wage was in Victoria, Australia, in 1894, but it quickly spread to other places. The minimum wage, writes Leonard, was "the holy grail of American progressive labor reform, and a Who's Who of progressive economists and their reform allies championed it." The inability to command a wage 50 percent above the going unskilled rate would keep out the riffraff. "Removing the inferior from work benefited society by protecting American wages and Anglo-Saxon racial purity."

"Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites," wrote the British socialist Sidney Webb in 1912 in the University of Chicago's Journal of Political Economy, "the most ruinous to the community is to allow them to unrestrainedly compete as wage earners." What was to become of them when the minimum wage excluded them from employment? Henry Rogers Seager, a Progressive economist at Columbia, gave in 1913 the usual reply: "If we are to maintain a race that is to be made up of capable, efficient and independent individuals and family groups we must courageously cut off lines of heredity that have been proved to be undesirable by isolation or sterilization."

By 1919, 15 American states had enacted minimum wages, focused especially on women. In the U.K. a minimum wage, supported by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, was instituted in 1907. Back in the U.S., E.L. Godkin of The Nation had articulated the now-libertarian complaint that the minimum wage is a bad interference in what workers are worth, and that if income is undignified taxpayers should make it up. The present-day readers of The Nation, among them George, would not agree. In 1923, the Supreme Court's decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital briefly challenged the doctrine that it's a good and proper purpose of public policy to prevent the allegedly inferior (women, blacks, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, the third "generation of imbeciles") from having a job. But in 1938 a non-packed Court reversed itself and acceded to the federal minimum for men and women.

"Race suicide" theory, adopted with rare exceptions by most social scientists before National Socialism shamed it, held that the inferior races with low wage "standards" would drive down wages of "Saxons," thus reducing their fertility—unlike the wretched blacks and immigrants, who would always have large families. Leonard notes that the low-wage folk, including women, were simultaneously objects of pity and objects of fear, a "strange and unstable compound of compassion and contempt." He summarizes the argument about a "race to the bottom," that "the decent capitalist…who wanted his workers to have a living wage…could not compete with unscrupulous rivals, who hired low-standard women, children, immigrants, blacks, and the feeble-minded."

The race-to-bottom argument is still heard from amiable and well-meaning people on the left, such as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Harvard professor Michael Sandel. But not only on the left. That economic growth started in Northwestern Europe has often been spun into a theory of racial superiority of the Saxons, despite the crushing evidence that highly non-Saxon folk, such as the Chinese and the Indians, if they adopt libertarian policies, can do it too. The Euro-centric theory is still heard in conservative circles, a notion that European superiority started deep in history, back in the Germanic forest.

The minimum wage was the easiest to administer of a host of eugenic proposals put forward a century ago, such as Oriental exclusion (the oldest), literacy tests (for Jim Crow), voter registration, head taxes, the outlawing of contract labor, celibate labor colonies, deportation, restrictive union rules, and sterilization. By the end fully 30 states had forcible sterilization laws, Indiana being the pioneer in 1907. Democratic Gov. Woodrow Wilson signed New Jersey's law in 1911. It was not Nazi Germany that led the way: Progressive Norway and Sweden down to 1970 sterilized more people as a percentage of their populations.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Myths about firearms

Clayton Cramer's Blog
These are machine guns or automatic weapons.

Nope, the confusion comes the fact that “assault rifle” means “ a military rifle capable of both automatic and semiautomatic fire, utilizing an intermediate-power cartridge.”

The gun control movement coined the term “assault weapon” to refer to guns, usually semiautomatic rifles that share some parts and appearance with “assault rifles” much like the Chevrolet NASCAR race cars looks something like the Chevrolet SS street car and share some parts.

But they are easy to convert to full auto.

A recurring claim is that semiauto firearms are easily converted to full automatic. Federal law already defines machinegun this way:

The term “machinegun” means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person. [26 USC 5845(b)]

Any semiautomatic firearm which can be “readily restored” is alreadya machinegun. If you have the parts to do this conversion and a gun for which those parts can be used to do this conversion, it is already a machinegun, subject to the much stricter licensing requirements of machineguns.

In a few cases, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has declared a few existing semiautomatic firearms to be machine guns under existing law because they were too easy to convert[27 Code of Federal Regulations §179.11, ATF Rul. 82-3, 82-8, 83-5, and 81-4] Pretty obviously any firearm being sold today over the counter at a gun store or gun show is not readily convertible to automatic.

These are especially deadly weapons, designed for warfare.

Most rifles currently used for hunting were originally designed for war, including all bolt action rifles (all descendants of the Mauser), and lever action rifles (descended from the Henry, developed for the Civil War).

The cartridge used in the AR-15 and AK-47 semiauto rifles are actually low powered compared to hunting rifles. The .223 has 1495 foot-pounds of energy. The 7.62x39mm used in AK-47s has 1653 foot-pounds. The .30-06 commonly used for hunting in North America has 3356 foot-pounds of energy.

They are commonly used for mass murder in the U.S.

USA Today several years ago created a database of mass murder incidents from 2006-2013. Surprisingly, 23% of mass murders do not involve a gun of any sort. Often these are mass murder by arson, sometimes by knife. Of the 77% involving guns “72.9% were handguns.” Rifles (including the much feared AR-15) were 18.5%; shotguns were 8.6%. Only 8.6% of the gun mass murders were with semiautomatic rifles, which includes many quite ordinary hunting rifles.

“But these are the reason for the dramatic increase in murder rates.” Murder rates in the U.S. have been falling for a couple of decades. The following graph shows murder rates/100,000 population since 1960 from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports system.

So why is everyone making a big deal about assault weapons?

Because panic is an effective way to pass laws that calmer reflection might not pass. Mass murders are about 1% of all U.S. murders. Not all that common, but worthy of concern, and great for news coverage which operates on the motto, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It turns out that common factors in these incidents are (in the last few years) Islamic terrorist attacks and the destruction of the state mental health systems in the 1960s and 1970s, which is why this did not used to be a big problem, but now is. There is a PDF version for all your friends and antigun relatives.

Clayton Cramer.: Mandatory Background Checks: Commonsense Gun Control?

Clayton Cramer.: Mandatory Background Checks: Commonsense Gun Control?
“Everyone knows that mandatory background checks for all gun purchases is just ‘common sense.’”

It used to be common sense that heavier objects fall faster than light objects. Then Galileo did something bizarre: experiments that demonstrated that common sense on this is wrong.

Fortunately we have run this experiment. Eight states adopted mandatory background laws for either all firearms transfers or all handgun transfers between 1960 and 2012. (Why those years? Consistent and reliable murder rate data from the FBI starts in 1960.) So if this is just common sense that such laws disarm criminals, wouldn’t you expect murder rates to fall (at least a little) in those states?

Clayton Cramer.: How Often Are Guns Used in Self-Defense?

Clayton Cramer.: How Often Are Guns Used in Self-Defense?
Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Often Are Guns Used in Self-Defense?

“According to a recent report from the Violence Policy Center, for every one justifiable homicide involving a gun in 2013, there were 37 criminal homicides. The same ratio was true across a five-year period from 2009 to 2013.”

This is a recurring claim of the mainstream media: that gun murders so far outnumber justifiable homicides that gun ownership is a net loss. This is a statement that is technically accurate but misleading.

This would be an interesting argument if the FBI’s justifiable homicide statistics included all defensive killings by civilians. But it does not.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

House Judiciary Committee letter to FBI Director James Comey

House Judiciary Committee
July 5, 2016

Honorable James B. Comey
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535


Dear Director Comey:

I am concerned that despite finding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acted with extreme carelessness and that evidence exists of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, the FBI is not recommending criminal charges against Secretary Clinton. Little solace is found in your detailed breakdown of the FBI’s findings that Secretary Clinton acted “extremely careless” in mishandling classified information. This raises many questions.

According to your statement made earlier today, out of the 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department by Secretary Clinton, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains contained classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent. Thirty-six chains contained Secret information at the time and eight contained Confidential information. You also noted that separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential in that the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.

During your remarks, you stated that “[a]lthough there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” But since President Obama took office in 2009, the Department of Justice has prosecuted at least seven people under the Espionage Act. Five of these individuals — John Kiriakou, Shamai Leibowitz, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, and former State Department official Stephen Kim – were sentenced to terms of incarceration.

In 2014, Bronze Star recipient and combat veteran Chief Petty Officer Lyle White pleaded guilty to violating three military regulations for removing classified documents from his Naval office in Virginia and taking them home. He received a suspended 60-day sentence and a suspended $10,000 fine in return for his plea.

Bryan Nishimura, a Naval reservist deployed in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, in his role as a Regional Engineer for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, had access to classified briefings and digital records that could only be retained and viewed on authorized government computers. Nishimura, however, caused the materials to be downloaded and stored on his personal, unclassified electronic devices and storage media. He carried the classified materials on his unauthorized media when he traveled off-base in Afghanistan and, ultimately, carried those materials back to the United States at the end of his deployment. In the United States, Nishimura continued to maintain the information on unclassified systems in unauthorized locations, and copied the materials onto at least one additional unauthorized and unclassified system. Nishimura pleaded guilty in July of 2015 to unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. He was fined $7,500 and ordered to surrender his security clearance.

Your public pronouncement today of the FBI’s decision to not recommend charges against Secretary Clinton raises a number of questions. I find the timing and manner of your announcement uniquely troubling in light of last week’s secret meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. I respectfully request that you respond to these questions in writing on or before close of business Monday, July 11, 2016.

  1. What sets Secretary Clinton apart from the persons prosecuted for mishandling classified information described above? How does Secretary Clinton’s conduct differ from that of former General David Petraeus or former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger?
  2. If the FBI found evidence of potential crimes related to mishandling of classified information by Secretary Clinton and her staff, why would the FBI pre-judge that “no reasonable prosecutor” would ever bring such a case for negligent mishandling of classified information? Is that not a decision that should be made by the Department of Justice? It strikes me as incredibly unorthodox for you to publicly announce that you are recommending that Secretary Clinton not be charged rather than refer the matter privately to the Department.
  3. The espionage chapter, specifically, 18 U.S.C. 793(f), doesn’t require that a subject act “intentionally” or “knowingly,” but with “gross negligence.”
    Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer. . . . Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
  4. Black’s Law defines gross negligence as “a lack of slight diligence or care” or as “a conscious, voluntary, act or omission in reckless disregard of a legal duty and of the consequences to another party…” In your statement you said that Secretary Clinton handled classified email with “extreme carelessness.” How does that not constitute “gross negligence”?
  5. Why was Secretary Clinton interviewed only once and only at the end of your investigation? Interviews with her at the early stages and throughout your investigation would have shed light on her conduct in this matter. Certainly, Mrs. Clinton’s position as Secretary of State, the non-disclosure agreement she signed as Secretary (and which all federal employees who have access to classified information sign), the painstaking steps she took to circumvent the use of the .gov email system, and her attempts to seek classified devices for use when working inside her State Department office – all clearly point to her knowledge that she handled classified information as Secretary, that she had a duty to do so according to the law, and that she went out of her way to not do so. She was not a rank and file employee with a security clearance. Did this inform your decision?
  6. Section 1924 of title 18, United States Code, prohibits the unlawful removal of classified information and is the statute to which General Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015.
    Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
  7. Why does the setup of a private server – through which she received Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret classified information – and retention of such information on the private server – not constitute a violation of Section 1924?
  8. Are you concerned that your recommendation that Secretary Clinton not be charged sends a message to the thousands – or millions – of government employees and contractors who possess security clearances (not to mention 535 Members of Congress and Senators) that they don’t need to follow the rules?
  9. I am concerned that classified information on our military’s Special Access Programs and other Top Secret material that Secretary Clinton sent and received over her private server is now in the hands of adversaries who wish to do us harm. If any other American with a security clearance had placed such sensitive information at risk, is there nothing the FBI would have done to recommend sanctions against such person’s extreme carelessness?
  10. What does your recommendation to DOJ that Secretary Clinton not be charged, despite extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information, mean for the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation?
I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Chairman

Patterico's Pontifications » A Sampling of the Reaction to the FBI Decision Not to Charge HRC [Updated]

Patterico's Pontifications » A Sampling of the Reaction to the FBI Decision Not to Charge HRC [Updated]


House Judiciary Committee Chair Goodlatte has written Comey with some questions: https://t.co/a5i3brv8uX
I am concerned that despite finding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acted with extreme carelessness and that evidence exists of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, the FBI is not recommending criminal charges against Secretary Clinton. Little solace is found in your detailed breakdown of the FBI’s findings that Secretary Clinton acted “extremely careless” in mishandling classified information. This raises many questions.

According to your statement made earlier today, out of the 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department by Secretary Clinton, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains contained classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent. Thirty-six chains contained Secret information at the time and eight contained Confidential information.

Your public pronouncement today of the FBI’s decision to not recommend charges against Secretary Clinton raises a number of questions. I find the timing and manner of your announcement uniquely troubling in light of last week’s secret meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. I respectfully request that you respond to these questions in writing on or before close of business Monday, July 11, 2016.



1. What sets Secretary Clinton apart from the persons prosecuted for mishandling classified information described above? How does Secretary Clinton’s conduct differ from that of former General David Petraeus or former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger?

2. If the FBI found evidence of potential crimes related to mishandling of classified information by Secretary Clinton and her staff, why would the FBI pre-judge that “no reasonable prosecutor” would ever bring such a case for negligent mishandling of classified information? Is that not a decision that should be made by the Department of Justice? It strikes me as incredibly unorthodox for you to publicly announce that you are recommending that Secretary Clinton not be charged rather than refer the matter privately to the Department.

3. The espionage chapter, specifically, 18 U.S.C. 793(f), doesn’t require that a subject act “intentionally” or “knowingly,” but with “gross negligence.”



Black’s Law defines gross negligence as “a lack of slight diligence or care” or as “a conscious, voluntary, act or omission in reckless disregard of a legal duty and of the consequences to another party…” In your statement you said that Secretary Clinton handled classified email with “extreme carelessness.” How does that not constitute “gross negligence”?

4. Why was Secretary Clinton interviewed only once and only at the end of your investigation? Interviews with her at the early stages and throughout your investigation would have shed light on her conduct in this matter. Certainly, Mrs. Clinton’s position as Secretary of State, the non-disclosure agreement she signed as Secretary (and which all federal employees who have access to classified information sign), the painstaking steps she took to circumvent the use of the .gov email system, and her attempts to seek classified devices for use when working inside her State Department office – all clearly point to her knowledge that she handled classified information as Secretary, that she had a duty to do so according to the law, and that she went out of her way to not do so. She was not a rank and file employee with a security clearance. Did this inform your decision?

5. Section 1924 of title 18, United States Code, prohibits the unlawful removal of classified information and is the statute to which General Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015.

Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

6. Why does the setup of a private server – through which she received Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret classified information – and retention of such information on the private server – not constitute a violation of Section 1924?

7. Are you concerned that your recommendation that Secretary Clinton not be charged sends a message to the thousands – or millions – of government employees and contractors who possess security clearances (not to mention 535 Members of Congress and Senators) that they don’t need to follow the rules?

8. I am concerned that classified information on our military’s Special Access Programs and other Top Secret material that Secretary Clinton sent and received over her private server is now in the hands of adversaries who wish to do us harm. If any other American with a security clearance had placed such sensitive information at risk, is there nothing the FBI would have done to recommend sanctions against such person’s extreme carelessness?

9. What does your recommendation to DOJ that Secretary Clinton not be charged, despite extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information, mean for the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Racist Roots of Gun Control

The Racist Roots of Gun Control


The historical record provides compelling evidence that racism underlies gun control laws -- and not in any subtle way. Throughout much of American history, gun control was openly stated as a method for keeping blacks and Hispanics "in their place," and to quiet the racial fears of whites. This paper is intended to provide a brief summary of this unholy alliance of gun control and racism, and to suggest that gun control laws should be regarded as "suspect ideas," analogous to the "suspect classifications" theory of discrimination already part of the American legal system.

Racist arms laws predate the establishment of the United States. Starting in 1751, the French Black Code required Louisiana colonists to stop any blacks, and if necessary, beat "any black carrying any potential weapon, such as a cane." If a black refused to stop on demand, and was on horseback, the colonist was authorized to "shoot to kill." [1] Slave possession of firearms was a necessity at times in a frontier society, yet laws continued to be passed in an attempt to prohibit slaves or free blacks from possessing firearms, except under very restrictively controlled conditions. [2] Similarly, in the sixteenth century the colony of New Spain, terrified of black slave revolts, prohibited all blacks, free and slave, from carrying arms.
....
Today, the forces that push for gun control seem to be heavily (though not exclusively) allied with political factions that are committed to dramatic increases in taxation on the middle class. While it would be hyperbole to compare higher taxes on the middle class to the suffering and deprivation of sharecropping or slavery, the analogy of disarming those whom you wish to economically disadvantage, has a certain worrisome validity to it.

Another point to consider is that in the American legal system, certain classifications of governmental discrimination are considered constitutionally suspect, and these "suspect classifications" (usually considered to be race and religion) come to a court hearing under a strong presumption of invalidity. The reason for these "suspect classifications" is because of the long history of governmental discrimination based on these classifications, and because these classifications often impinge on fundamental rights.

In much the same way, gun control has historically been a tool of racism, and associated with racist attitudes about black violence. Similarly, many gun control laws impinge on that most fundamental of rights: self-defense. Racism is so intimately tied to the history of gun control in America that we should regard gun control aimed at law-abiding people as a "suspect idea," and require that the courts use the same demanding standards when reviewing the constitutionality of a gun control law, that they would use with respect to a law that discriminated based on race.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hundreds of colleges had zero rape reports in 2014. And that could be worrisome. - The Washington Post

Hundreds of colleges had zero rape reports in 2014. And that could be worrisome. - The Washington Post

The article seems ready to blame the shortfall on under-reporting.


“It’s a harsh reality that a lot of parents and others in society don’t want to deal with: Sexual violence is on every campus,” said Laura L. Dunn, founder and executive director of the advocacy group SurvJustice. “Any time you have a zero, it is not an indicator of safety. It is an indicator of comfort in reporting.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said there are two explanations for why schools would have no rape reports: “Either they don’t have an adequate reporting system … or they know about the rapes and are putting them under the rug.”
Others say the extent of campus sexual assault has been overhyped. In an opinion piece this month in The Post, KC Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and Stuart Taylor Jr., a scholar at the Brookings Institution, lamented “a myth that our universities are mired in an epidemic of sexual violence.” Johnson and Taylor wrote that campus activists, the Obama administration and many in the media have used “discredited surveys” to claim there are hundreds of thousands of campus sexual assaults annually.