Saturday, December 26, 2015

Islamophobia: Huffington Post Polls Show Americans Thoughts on Islam | National Review Online

Islamophobia: Huffington Post Polls Show Americans Thoughts on Islam | National Review Online

Yesterday, YouGov and the Huffington Post released a poll showing that large majorities of Americans — and pluralities across every political demographic — have an “unfavorable opinion” of the Islamic faith. The numbers are simply not close:


There will be no doubt some hand-wringing about “Islamophobia” and further calls to continue the American elite’s fourteen-year track record of whitewashing Islamic beliefs and culture, but I wonder if the media is missing a powerful, largely-uncovered influence on America’s hearts and minds — the experience and testimony of the more than two million Americans who’ve served overseas since 9/11 and have experienced Islamic cultures up-close.

Yes, they were in the middle of a war — but speaking from my own experience — the war was conducted from within a culture that was shockingly broken. I expected the jihadists to be evil, but even I couldn’t fathom the depths of their depravity. And it was all occurring against the backdrop of a brutally violent and intolerant culture. Women were beaten almost as an afterthought, there was a near-total lack of empathy for even friends and neighbors, lying was endemic, and sexual abuse was rampant. Even more disturbingly, it seemed that every problem was exacerbated the more religious and pious a person (or village) became.

I spent enough time outside the wire and interacting with tribal leaders to get a sense of the reality around me, but the younger guys on the line spent weeks at a time living in the heart of the local community. I remember one young soldier, after describing the things he’d seen since the start of the deployment, gestured towards the village around us and said — in perfect Army English — “Sir, this s**t is f**ked up.”

It is indeed. While it’s certainly unfair to judge Indonesia or Malaysia by the standards of Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s very hard to shake the power of lived experience, nor should we necessarily try. After all, when we hear stories from Syria, Yemen, Gaza, the Sinai, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, Pakistan, and elsewhere they all fit the same depressing template of the American conflict zones. Nor is the dazzlingly wealthy veneer of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or the other Gulf States all that impressive. Tens of thousands of soldiers have seen the veritable slave labor that toils within the oil empires and have witnessed first-hand their casual disregard for “lesser” life.

But this same experience has caused us to treasure the Muslim friends we do have — in part because we recognize the extreme risks of their loyalty and defiance of jihad. That’s why American officers fiercely champion the immigration of local interpreters, even to the point of welcoming them into their own home. That’s why there’s often an intense connection with our Kurdish allies, the single-most effective ground fighting force against ISIS.

Two million Americans have been downrange, and they’ve come home and told families and friends stories the media rarely tells. Those stories have an impact, but because of the cultural distance between America’s warriors and its media, academic, and political aristocracy, it’s an impact the aristocracy hasn’t been tracking. Experience trumps idealistic rhetoric, and I can’t help but think that polls like YouGov’s are at least partly registering the results of a uniquely grim American experience.

Sad Puppies Summary and Wrapup – Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary

Some notes on terminology here: I use the abbreviation SP to stand for Sad Puppies, and to some extent the more general “puppies” notion of offering recommendation slates to the SFF-reading public. I use the term APs to indicate the Anti-Puppies, people who for whatever reason oppose the idea. I do not use the term “SJWs” for the APs because it’s inaccurate: I know people who oppose the SPs who are not themslves social justice warriors, and I suspect that the vast majority of SJWs have never even heard of the Hugo Awards, and would not care about the argument even if they had.
So that’s the short summary. Here are the points that I want to make:
  • First and foremost and above all else: The Sad Puppies organizers broke none of the rules established for the Hugo Awards process. None. All the Powers agree on this, including Patrick Neilsen-Hayden and George R. R. Martin.
  • There was no ballot-box stuffing. There are explicit rules against someone buying supporting Worldcon memberships in bulk and then voting them. This has been tried before, but the SPs were not doing it. Brad’s instructions to his readers were basically this: Go buy supporting memberships and vote them according to your judgment; here are some people who ought to be considered.
  • The response of the APs to the SPs was venomous in the extreme. Brad Torgersen was called a racist mysogynist and much else. In truth, he’s happily married to an African-American woman whom he clearly loves and respects. The rotter haters among the APs who suggested that he was hiding his racism behind his wife and daughter did more damage to the APs’ arguments than anything the SPs said before or later. If I had to point to one single thing that turned me against the APs, it was this.
  • The media tried to slam the SPs, and mostly soiled itself in the process. Entertainment Weekly actually slid into libel and had to publish a retraction. Other outlets including Salon, The Guardian, Io9, HuffPo, Slashdot etc. published accusations that were all suspiciously alike, as though someone had offered a pre-written summary for them to follow. Most egregious of several lies was the claim that the slate was composed entirely of conservative white men. In fact, there were plenty of women and non-caucasians on the slate, as well as what might be a slight majority of liberals.
  • Several people hit me with the “You must condemn the Sad Puppies because GamerGate” gambit. I looked for a causal connection and didn’t find it. The SPs have been around two years longer than GG, and, yes, there is a certain amount of overlap between the two groups. There is also a lot of overlap between the gang attacking the SPs and the one attacking GG. I’m not a gamer and this entry is not about GG. I consider it off-topic; don’t bring it up.
  • As I said several weeks ago, the slobbering, high-volume, high-profile hate hurled by the APs probably took the SPs from a fluke to an ongoing institution. I call this “adverse attention,” and it cooks down to the Streisand Effect: Screaming about something attracts attention that makes that something a lot more visible. The sensible response to the SPs would have been silence.
  • Voting “No Award” against SP-recommended authors/artists is unfair in the extreme to those who were nominated. It’s an attempt to punish the SPs by hurting innocent bystanders, some or many of whom genuinely deserve the recognition. I predict that this strategy, if it succeeds, will destroy whatever credibility the Hugos have left.
And finally, the largest insight that I had, and the one that I think explains almost everything else:
  • The fight over the Hugo Awards is really about humiliation and loss of face. The Insider Alphas (i.e., the Right Men and Right Women) of the SFF community were humiliated on their home turf, and suffered a tremendous loss of face. High-status individuals can tolerate almost anything but humiliation. Their response to loss of face is generally one of igneous fury, and where violence is possible, physical violence. The fury was tactile, and Brad Torgersen received death threats. That pretty much nailed it for me.
Eveybody’s got a theory on how to fix the Hugo Awards process, but to me the process is fine; what’s missing is about 25,000 more involved nominators and voters. A large enough voter base is unlikely to be swept by something like a slate of recommendations. Whether so many new people can be brought into the Worldcon/Hugos community is unclear, but I doubt it.

Leftwing bias in social science

Advice Goddess Blog

Claire Lehmann has an excellent piece (cached here) at Quillette on a largely ignored researcher, Lee Jussim, and the tendency to ignore all but left-wing narratives in social science -- to the point where it's practically heresy to even consider questions that violate these narratives. Jussim's point in a presentation he gave:
The field had become a community in which political values and moral aims were shared, leading to an asymmetry in which studies that reinforced left-wing narratives had come to be disproportionately represented in the literature. And this was not, to quote Stephen Colbert, because "reality had a liberal bias". It was because social psychology had a liberal bias.
Jussim explained that within the field, those on the left outnumbered those on the right by a ratio of about 10:1. So it meant that even if left-leaning and right-leaning scientists were equal in their bias, there would be at least ten times more research biased towards validating left-wing narratives than conservative narratives. Adding in the apparent double standards in the peer review process (where studies validating left-wing narratives seemed to be easier to publish) then the bias within the field could vastly exceed the ratio of 10:1. In other words, research was becoming an exercise in groupthink.
Jussim's research on stereotypes:
Very early in his career, Jussim faced a crisis of sorts. An early mentor, Jacquelynne Eccles, handed him some large datasets gathered from school children and teachers in educational settings. He tried testing the social psychology theories he had studied, but consistently found that his data contradicted them.
Instead of finding that the teachers' expectations influenced the students' performances, he found that the students' performances influenced the teachers' expectations. This data "misbehaved". It did not show that stereotypes created, or even had much influence on the real world. The data did not show that teachers' expectations strongly limited students' performances. It did not show that stereotypes became self-fulfilling prophecies. But instead of filing his results away into a desk drawer, Jussim kept investigating - for three more decades.
More from his findings:
Jussim and his co-authors have found that stereotypes accurately predict demographic criteria, academic achievement, personality and behaviour. This picture becomes more complex, however, when considering nationality or political affiliation. One area of stereotyping which is consistently found to be inaccurate are the stereotypes concerning political affiliation; right-wingers and left wingers tend to caricature each others personalities, most often negatively so.
Lest one thinks that these results paint a bleak picture of human nature, Jussim and his colleagues have also found that people tend to switch off some of their stereotypes - especially the descriptive ones - when they interact with individuals. It appears that descriptive stereotypes are a crutch to lean on when we have no other information about a person. When we gain additional insights into people, these stereotypes are no longer useful. And there is now a body of evidence to suggest that stereotypes are not as fixed, unchangeable and inflexible as they've historically been portrayed to be.
The response from social psychologists:
Reactions to Jussim's findings about the accuracy of stereotypes have varied on the scale between lukewarm and ice cold. At Stanford this year after giving a talk, an audience member articulated a position reflected by many within his field:
"Social psychologists should not be studying whether people are accurate in perceiving groups! They should be studying how situations create disadvantage."
Jussim has heard this position over and over again. Not just from students, but also colleagues. One might find it surprising that psychology researchers would become so invested in shutting down research they find politically unbearable. But one shouldn't be.
It is not uncommon for social psychologists to list "the promotion of social justice" as a research topic on their CVs, or on their university homepages.
This is not science, and "not science" has become way too accepted in social science.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Are we really “choking the ocean with plastic”? Tracing the creation of an eco-myth | Watts Up With That?

Are we really “choking the ocean with plastic”? Tracing the creation of an eco-myth | Watts Up With That?

Activists helped propagate the story by providing photographs of the Garbage Patch, usually photos of coastal areas (not the deep ocean) — often after a storm or other event washed debris from shore. The above photo was taken in Wakuya after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. The photo at the top is explained in “Lies You’ve Been Told About the Pacific Garbage Patch” by Annalee Newitz at iO9, May 2012.
“You’ve probably heard of the ‘Pacific garbage patch,’ also called the ‘trash vortex.’ It’s a region of the North Pacific ocean where the northern jet stream and the southern trade winds, moving opposite directions, create a vast, gently circling region of water called the North Pacific Gyre — and at its center, there are tons of plastic garbage. You may even have seen this picture of the garbage patch, above — right? Wrong.
“That image, widely mislabeled as a shot of the Pacific garbage patch, is actually from Manila harbor. And it’s just one of many misconceptions the public has about what’s really happening to plastics in the ocean. We talked with Scripps Institution marine biologist Miriam Goldstein, who has just completed a study of how plastic is changing the ecosystem in the North Pacific Gyre, about myths and realities of the Pacific garbage patch.
“‘That picture of the guy in the canoe has been following me around my whole career! I think it’s an example of media telephone, where somebody wanted something dramatic to illustrate their story — and then through the magic of the internet, the picture got mislabeled. We have never seen anything like that picture. I’ve never seen it personally, and we’ve never seen it on satellite.’”
Scientists have debunked the exaggerated stories about the Great Garbage Patch, but more people see the myth than the corrections. Meanwhile science continues.
The large amount of plastic waste in the oceans was first reported by Edward J. Carpenter and K. L. Smith Jr. in “Plastics on the Sargasso Sea Surface” (Science, 17 March 1972): “Their occurrence was widespread. … Most of the pieces were hard, white cylindrical pellets, about 0.25 to 0.5 cm {0.01 – .02″} in diameter…”. That debris accumulated in specific areas of the Pacific was predicted in a paper by Robert Day et al at a 1989 NOAA conference.

Thursday, December 24, 2015





Published: October 30, 1984

THE policy that led to the release of most of the nation's mentally ill patients from the hospital to the community is now widely regarded as a major failure. Sweeping critiques of the policy, notably the recent report of the American Psychiatric Association, have spread the blame everywhere, faulting politicians, civil libertarian lawyers and psychiatrists.

But who, specifically, played some of the more important roles in the formation of this ill-fated policy? What motivated these influential people and what lessons are to be learned?

A detailed picture has emerged from a series of interviews and a review of public records, research reports and institutional recommendations. The picture is one of cost-conscious policy makers, who were quick to buy optimistic projections that were, in some instances, buttressed by misinformation and by a willingness to suspend skepticism.

Many of the psychiatrists involved as practitioners and policy makers in the 1950's and 1960's said in the interviews that heavy responsibility lay on a sometimes neglected aspect of the problem: the overreliance on drugs to do the work of society.

The records show that the politicians were dogged by the image and financial problems posed by the state hospitals and that the scientific and medical establishment sold Congress and the state legislatures a quick fix for a complicated problem that was bought sight unseen.

'They've Gone Far, Too Far'

In California, for example, the number of patients in state mental hospitals reached a peak of 37,500 in 1959 when Edmund G. Brown was Governor, fell to 22,000 when Ronald Reagan attained that office in 1967, and continued to decline under his administration and that of his successor, Edmund G. Brown Jr. The senior Mr. Brown now expresses regret about the way the policy started and ultimately evolved. ''They've gone far, too far, in letting people out,'' he said in an interview.

Dr. Robert H. Felix, who was then director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a major figure in the shift to community centers, says now on reflection: ''Many of those patients who left the state hospitals never should have done so. We psychiatrists saw too much of the old snake pit, saw too many people who shouldn't have been there and we overreacted. The result is not what we intended, and perhaps we didn't ask the questions that should have been asked when developing a new concept, but psychiatrists are human, too, and we tried our damnedest.''

Dr. John A. Talbott, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said, ''The psychiatrists involved in the policy making at that time certainly oversold community treatment, and our credibility today is probably damaged because of it.'' He said the policies ''were based partly on wishful thinking, partly on the enormousness of the problem and the lack of a silver bullet to resolve it, then as now.''

The original policy changes were backed by scores of national professional and philanthropic organizations and several hundred people prominent in medicine, academia and politics. The belief then was widespread that the same scientific researchers who had conjured up antibiotics and vaccines during the outburst of medical discovery in the 50's and 60's had also developed penicillins to cure psychoses and thus revolutionize the treatment of the mentally ill.

And these leaders were prodded into action by a series of scientific studies in the 1950's purporting to show that mental illness was far more prevalent than had previously been believed.

Finally, there was a growing economic and political liability faced by state legislators. Enormous amounts of tax revenues were being used to support the state mental hospitals, and the institutions themselves were increasingly thought of as ''snake pits'' or facilities that few people wanted.

One of the most influential groups in bringing about the new national policy was the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, an independent body set up by Congress in 1955. One of its two surviving members, Dr. M. Brewster Smith, a University of California psychologist who served as vice president, said the commission took the direction it did because of ''the sort of overselling that happens in almost every interchange between science and government.''

''Extravagant claims were made for the benefits of shifting from state hospitals to community clinics,'' Dr. Smith said. ''The professional community made mistakes and was overly optimistic, but the political community wanted to save money.''

'Tranquilizers Became Panacea'

Charles Schlaifer, a New York advertising executive who served as secretary-treasurer of the group, said he was now disgusted with the advice presented by leading psychiatrists of that day. ''Tranquilizers became the panacea for the mentally ill,'' he said. ''The state programs were buying them by the carload, sending the drugged patients back to the community and the psychiatrists never tried to stop this. Local mental health centers were going to be the greatest thing going, but no one wanted to think it through.''

Dr. Bertram S. Brown, a psychiatrist and Federal official who was instrumental in shaping the community center legislation in 1963, agreed that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson were to some extent misled by the mental health community and Government bureaucrats.

''The bureaucrat-psychiatrists realized that there was political and financial overpromise,'' he said.

Dr. Brown, then an executive of the National Institute of Mental Health and now president of Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, stated candidly in an interview: ''Yes, the doctors were overpromising for the politicians. The doctors did not believe that community care would cure schizophrenia, and we did allow ourselves to be somewhat misrepresented.''

''They ended up with everything but the kitchen sink without the issue of long-term funding being settled,'' he said. ''That was the overpromising.''

Dr. Brown said he and the other architects of the community centers legislation believed that while there was a risk of homelessness, that it would not happen if Federal, state, local and private financial support ''was sufficient'' to do the job.

Resources Vanished Quickly

The legislation sought to create a nationwide network of locally based mental health centers which, rather than large state hospitals, would be the main source of treatment. The center concept was aided by Federal funds for four and a half years, after which it was hoped that the states and local governments would assume responsibility.

''We knew that there were not enough resources in the community to do the whole job, so that some people would be in the streets facing society head on and questions would be raised about the necessity to send them back to the state hospitals,'' Dr. Brown said.

But, he continued, ''It happened much faster than we foresaw.'' The discharge of mental patients was accelerated in the late 1960's and early 1970's in some states as a result of a series of court decisions that limited the commitment powers of state and local officials.

Dr. Brown insists, as do others who were involved in the Congressional legislation to establish community mental health centers, that politicians and health experts were carrying out a public mandate to abolish the abominable conditions of insane asylums. He and others note - and their critics do not disagree - that their motives were not venal and that they were acting humanely.

In restrospect it does seem clear that questions were not asked that might have been asked. In the thousands of pages of testimony before Congressional committees in the late 1950's and early 1960's, little doubt was expressed about the wisdom of deinstitutionalization. And the development of tranquilizing drugs was regarded as an unqualified ''godsend,'' as one of the nation's leading psychiatrists, Dr. Francis J. Braceland, described it when he testified before a Senate subcommittee in 1963.

Dr. Braceland, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association who is a retired professor of psychiatry at Yale University, still maintains, however, that under the circumstances the widespread prescription of drugs for the mentally ill was and is a wise policy.

''We had no alternative to the use of drugs for schizophrenia and depression,'' Dr. Braceland said. ''Before the introduction of drugs like Thorazine we never had drugs that worked. These are wonderful drugs and they kept a lot of people out of the hospitals.''

Testimony to Congress

His point is borne out repeatedly by references in Congressional testimony, such as the following exchange at a House subcommittee hearing between Representative Leo W. O'Brien, Democrat of upstate New York, and Dr. Henry N. Pratt, director of New York Hospital in Manhattan, who appeared on behalf of the American Hospital Association.

Mr. O'Brien: ''Do you know offhand how much New York appropriates annually for its mental hospitals?''

Dr. Pratt: ''It is the vast sum of $400 million to $500 million.''

Mr. O'Brien: ''So you see that, through a real attempt to handle this problem at the community level, the possibility that this dead weight of $400 million to $500 million a year around the necks of the New York State taxpayers might be reduced considerably in the next 15 or 20 years?

Dr. Pratt: ''I do, indeed. Yes, sir.''

He then told the subcommittee that ''striking proof of the advantages of local short-term intensive care of the mentally ill was brought out'' in a Missouri study.

Dr. Pratt's testimony and the Missouri study were repeatedly cited in subsequent Congressional debates on the community centers bill by such politicians as Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Representative Kenneth A. Roberts of Alabama.

The Missouri study, which compared a group of 412 patients in two intensive treatment centers with patients admitted to five mental hospitals, showed that the average stays for patients in the large hospitals were 237 days longer than for similarly diagnosed patients at the treatment centers.

But Dr. George A. Ulett of St. Louis, the psychiatrist who directed the study as head of Missouri's Division of Mental Diseases, now says the numbers cited, though correct, were misinterpreted. ''We did have dramatic numbers, but the initial success of the community centers in Missouri hinged on the large numbers of psychiatrists and support personnel who staffed the centers at that time,'' Dr. Ulett said.

The centers were two pilot projects that were given special staff and attention to demonstrate what could be accomplished, he said. By linking the community centers to large teaching hospitals in major cities and providing adequate funds for their maintenance it was possible to attract the quality of staff that all but guaranteed better results than the old state hospitals, he said.

''Unfortunately,'' he said, ''over the years the budgets were progressively reduced, the professional staffs were cut, and the program regressed to right back where it started.''

Dr. Frank R. Lipton and Dr. Albert Sabatini of Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in Manhattan, who have done research on the problems of the homeless, say one of the major flaws in the concept of deinstitutionalization was the notion that serious, chronic mental disorders could be minimized, if not totally prevented, through care provided within the local community.

''This philosophical and ideological shift in thinking was not adequately validated, yet it became one of the major conceptual bases for moving the locus of care,'' they said in a recent study.

Value and Danger in Drugs

Some problems have actually been brought on for mental patients by long-term use of drugs. This condition has been considered by Dr. Loren Mosher of the Uniformed Services Medical University in Bethesda, Md., who says that from 15 percent to 40 percent of such mental patients develop uncontrollable movements of the mouth and neck that can only be cured by taking people off the drugs.

The consensus seems to be that the more intelligent approach to the overall problem is to realize both the limitations and value of the drugs, the importance of combining drug treatment with proper care - either in hospitals or local clinics, depending on the individual case - and that mental illness is a sociological fact that cannot be ignored simply out of a desire to save tax dollars.

Jack R. Ewalt, who directed the staff of the Joint Commission when it was founded in 1955, says now that he remains ''a great believer in the use of drugs, but they are just another treatment, not a magic.''

''Drugs can help people get back to the community,'' he said, ''but they have to have medical care, a place to live and someone to relate to. They can't just float around aimlessly.''

Dr. Ewalt said the 1963 act was supposed to have the states continue to take care of the mentally ill but that many states simply gave up and ceded most of their responsibility to the Federal Government.

''The result was like proposing a plan to build a new airplane and ending up only with a wing and a tail,'' Dr. Ewalt said. ''Congress and the state governments didn't buy the whole program of centers, plus adequate staffing, plus long-term financial supports.''

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Do Minimum-Wage Boosts Reduce Reliance on Government Assistance? - Real Time Economics - WSJ

Do Minimum-Wage Boosts Reduce Reliance on Government Assistance? - Real Time Economics - WSJ

For years, the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign has argued that raising minimum wages will curb low-wage workers’ reliance on government assistance programs—saving taxpayers money.
Not so, says a new study that found federal and state minimum-wage boosts have had no statistically significant impact on working-age adults’ net use of several such programs, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as the food-stamp plan.
The study, partly funded by the right-leaning Employment Policies Institute, contends a $15 minimum wage is poorly targeted to recipients of these programs. Among those who would be affected by a $15 minimum wage, just 12% are SNAP recipients and just 10% are Medicaid recipients.
It’s a less-explored part of a years-old debate between economists who have researched the hot-button topic of minimum wage and its effects on the U.S. economy.
The difference with this new report, being released Friday, its authors say, is that it looks at a wider swath of government assistance programs over a longer period of time and across multiple major data sources, including those with information on welfare caseloads and expenditures.
“We were trying to bring some more harmony and understanding across the different studies” that have already been conducted, said Joseph Sabia, an associate professor in San Diego State University’s economics department. He conducted the research with graduate student Thanh Tam Nguyen.
In addition to SNAP and Medicaid, the study looked at the effect of minimum wage increases on participation in four other public programs: the Free and Reduced Price School Nutrition Program, Housing Assistance programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. It used data from sources including the Current Population Survey, the Survey of Income and Program participation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Income and Product Accounts. The examination spanned three decades and 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Mr. Sabia said higher minimum wages did help some workers get off the welfare rolls but others stayed stuck because of adverse employment effects such as a reduction in jobs or hours worked. While each 10% minimum wage increase resulted in reduced receipt of SNAP and WIC, for example, the amounts weren’t statistically significant and at the same time the receipt of school-nutrition assistance and housing assistance increased.
“Minimum-wage increases redistribute the income of low-skilled workers, helping some, hurting others,” Mr. Sabia said, and added that there’s scant evidence minimum-wage boosts reduce welfare caseloads or public spending on needs-based public programs. He said expanding the earned-income tax credit program would be a “far better” tool.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Jared Bernstein Agrees With David Neumark On The Minimum Wage - Forbes

Jared Bernstein Agrees With David Neumark On The Minimum Wage - Forbes

Neumark makes an entirely valid point though:
Some proponents defend a higher wage on other grounds, such as fairness, or compensating for the low bargaining power of low-skill workers. But let’s not pretend that a higher minimum wage doesn’t come with costs, and let’s not ignore that some of the low-skill workers the policy is intended to help will bear some of these costs.
Which is where Jared Bernstein does agree. He backs, along with the EPI, Dube’s idea of a $12 minimum. And he’s honest enough to say that at that rate of course some people will lose their jobs. But he thinks that’s worth it, for the higher incomes that those who retain theirs will have. That’s a moral calculus that you can accept if you wish: I don’t as I think the damage done to those excluded from employment is too large.
However, do note what that calculus is: people will indeed lose their jobs but it will be worth it. This is very different from that phantasmal world some inhabit where demand curves don’t slope downwards, where higher prices do not lead people to purchasing less.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A short course in counter-terror theory

A short course in counter-terror theory

First I’m going to present a couple of perpetrator types which, between them, account for almost all terrorist acts and rampage killings. Later I’ll point at some edge cases and exceptions.
Our first perpetrator type is what I’ll call a “terror soldier”. This is not a term in use among professionals, I’m presenting it here in order to avoid pre-empting the term “terrorist”.
The terror soldier does not act alone. He has a network behind him; the network provides him with, at minimum, ideological and tactical direction. It may also provide him with safehouses, money, and weapons. Because the terror network has public political objectives, it either has an above-ground political arm or a deniable conduit to a “legitimate” political organization that can operate as its propaganda and recruiting arm.
The opposite archetype is the lone wacko. The lone wacko doesn’t have a network. His motivations are not public and political but personal and, usually, delusional. He is likely to have been a former mental patient, or to have a history that clearly indicates previously undiagnosed mental illness when it is scrutinized after he has gone violent. More often than nor he will have been on long term use of SSRIs (more than five years) or some other prescription antidepressent or antipsychotic medication, and the violent break will be associated with going off or changing his meds.

The San Bernardino shooters were terror soldiers, not lone wackos. There was more confusion about this than there should have been until Tashfeen Malik’s declaration of allegience to ISIS was discovered. Some people are still confused by the fact that ISIS didn’t provide them material support. But this is exactly what makes ISIS novel and dangerous – it has built a doctrine and toolkit for running soldiers with ideological and tactical direction only, purely through its propaganda arm.
By contrast, the Aurora Theater shooter, James Holmes, was a classic lone wacko. So was Elliot Rodger, the shooter in the 2014 Isla Vista killings. So were Harris and Klebold, the Columbine High School shooters. No network, no ideology, just boiling cauldrons of private hatreds and resentments.
Almost all terrorists or rampage killers fit one of these two profiles. Very occasionally you get some outliers that break the classification. Timothy McVeigh was one – politically motivated, military demolition skills, not mentally unbalanced: every attribute of a terror soldier except the network.
The Unabomber was similar, except borderline crazy. Unlike McVeigh he might not actually be an exception to the usual rules but, rather, best understood as an exceptionally intelligent lone wacko. In the real world, you can never count on category boundaries being perfectly sharp.
One recent borderline case deserves special attention: Dylann Roof, the virulent racist who shot 9 people in a Charleston church in June 2015. Dylann is best understood as a would-be terror soldier who, in contrast to the self-radicalized San Bernardino shooters, failed to find a network to hook up to. There was no ISIS for him; his Facebook stream included complaints that he couldn’t find any racists to hang with.
But I emphasize that Roof and McVeigh and the Unabomber were exceptions; 99% of the time it is very obvious that you are dealing with either a terror soldier (backed by a network) or a lone wacko from just the modus operandi of the killing, and there is almost never any need to change this assessment later.

Now I’ll get to the controversial part. A lot of the confusion about terror and rampage killings is politically generated and unnecessary. The operators on the ground are seldom in much doubt about what species they are dealing with, but they’re used to seeing their analyses spun into garble, vagueness, and sometimes outright fabrication by their superiors and the news media.
There are two major reasons for this. One is that for PR reasons, the U.S, government has chosen to underplay the role of Islamist indoctrination in recent terror incidents, implicitly binning terror soldiers as lone wackos. Perhaps the single most egregious example of this was in the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, which the government insisted on publicly categorizing as “workplace violence” despite the fact that the shooter screamed “Allahu akbar!” while firing and the Joint Terrorism Task Force found him to have been communicating with a jihadist imam in Yemen. Co-workers had been aware of the shooter’s increasing radicalization for years.
Another major reason is that the left end of the American political spectrum is heavily invested in the belief that “right-wing terrorism” is prevalent in the U.S. and a greater danger than either left terrorism or Islamism.
This belief is a myth. One recent indicator is the fact that Dylann Roof, a natural hard-right-wing terrorist soldier if there ever was one, never found his network. Another is that anybody can name Islamist terror organizations that operate in the U.S. – ISIS, al-Qaeda – but only specialists know about U.S. incubator networks like The Order and the Christian Identity movement.
In fact, the potentially-terrorist hard right in the U.S. is tiny, isolated, and so incompetent that it can barely find its own ass with both hands, a flashlight, and GPS guidance. It is also heavily infiltrated. (This is not just my opinion, it is what any pro in the field will tell you if you can get them to talk.)
What sustains the myth that right-wing terror is more prevalent than jihadism is, basically, the news media instantly counting any lone wacko with a white skin as a “right-wing terrorist” and sticking to that categorization even when facts contradict it.
This bias is so extreme that Joseph Stack, who flew a light plane into an IRS office in 2010, is still routinely described as “right-wing” even though his suicide note ended by quoting the Communist Manifesto! Another notable example is Jared Lee Loughner, characterized as “right wing” even though his political connections were an incoherent mess of mainly left-wing conspiracy theories and a former classmate testified that he was “left wing, quite liberal” before retreating into private psychosis.
I have to single out for particular opprobrium the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that used to do noble work in civil rights but has in recent years been particularly persistent and dishonest in promoting the myth of pervasive right-wing terror. Journalists still treat them as a reliable source, and should not.
Another political hobbyhorse that gets ridden after every mass shooting, whether terrorist incident or rampage killing, is gun control. This article is not really the place to fully analyze the kind of dimwitted magical thinking involved, but I will note one relevant fact: both terror soldiers and rampage killers are known to preferentially seek out posted “gun-free zones” – venues where they are reasonably confident their victims will not be able to shoot back.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Guns: Time to Call the Liberal Bluff? | Power Line

Guns: Time to Call the Liberal Bluff? | Power Line

Here’s an idea: let’s call the left’s bluff on the Second Amendment. The left is wedded to the notion that there is no individual right to own guns because of the clause the 2nd Amendment that mentions “a well-regulated militia.” Never mind that this reading is completely ahistorical—a fact that a few honest liberal constitutional scholars like Sanford Levinson acknowledge (see his famous Yale Law Review article on “The Embarrassing Second Amendment“). But why not call for a serious militia program here in the U.S.—akin to the “Home Guard” Churchill set up in Britain in World War II?

The “militia” at the time of the Constitution was generally regarded as every able-bodied adult male. Since we cannot have police or even private security at every location where a terrorist or mentally ill person might turn up, how about we start a program encouraging Americans to sign up in large numbers to be state militia members, involving a short course in gun safety and threat assessment. Then instead of having signs at schools and malls and elsewhere declaring a “Gun Free Zone,” we’d have signs saying “This facility protected by state militia members.” We’ve already gone a small step in this direction with the decision, several years ago, to allow airline pilots to carry their own firearms in the cockpit.
Yes, yes, I know: we already have a “militia” after a fashion in states with concealed-carry permits, and gun safety programs are what the NRA is all about. (Incidentally—has there been a single instance yet of a mass shooting by an NRA member? I’m not aware of one. Yet yesterday Martin O’Malley went out of his way to suggest the San Bernardino shooting was the NRA’s fault.) But why not make this a formal part of our national counter-terrorism policy, so that the kind of attack that happened at the Paris music hall two weeks ago would be impossible here?
Yes, yes, I know: inviting government, even at the state level, to “regulate” militia membership could mean stifling bureaucracy. I can just imagine how the Department of Homeland Security would screw this up. But I think it is a moot point. The purpose of this modest proposal is to expose the insincerity of the left: there isn’t a single liberal who will endorse this proposal, because they have no interest in a “well-regulated militia.” They want to confiscate guns—full stop—on the utopian view that it will make everyone safer. Just like Paris has been so safe this year with France’s strict gun control laws.

In God we trust « Hot Air

In God we trust « Hot Air

While the Daily News only chose to profile Republicans who offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting it would be wise to remember that prayer unites us and doesn’t divide us.  Prayer isn’t a partisan thing, in fact prayer has no denomination and no political affiliation.
Now is the time where it would be important to note that our currency still has printed on it, “In God We Trust.”  Our nation’s history is rich and is deeply rooted in a faith in a higher power, recognizing our human limitations.  Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase instructed the Director of the Mint to prepare a motto for our currency back in 1861 that read:
Clearly, our government has no issue putting its trust in a higher power and supreme being so why should we shame policymakers who offer comfort through prayer during a tragedy?  Our nation is rooted in the fact that no nation can be strong except in the strength of God.  Isn’t it only natural that we as humans turn to God, the one whom we trust, during a time of shock and despair?