Friday, August 28, 2015

THE FACTS DON’T MATTER, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS GUN CONTROL

THE FACTS DON’T MATTER, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS GUN CONTROL

The White House didn’t wait an hour before using the murders committed by Vester Flanagan in Virginia as an excuse to push for gun control. Josh Earnest began his press conference with this soliloquy:
The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation.
At the time Earnest was speaking, little was known about the murderer, and nothing about how he acquired the firearm used to commit the murders. But the facts make no difference, so why wait for them?
But as you’ve heard me say in the past: This is another example of gun violence that has becoming all-too-common in communities large and small.
Violent crime, and homicide in particular, has been cut by approximately half since the mid-1990s, a time that coincides with liberalized gun laws in many states and more widespread ownership of handguns. Why do gun control advocates never acknowledge these basic facts?
And while there is no piece of legislation that can end all violence in this country, there are some common sense things that only Congress can do that we know will have a tangible impact on reducing gun violence in this country.
Liberals are always calling for “common sense” gun control measures. But what are they? Josh Earnest isn’t telling us. And since we don’t know what these laws are, how do we “know [they] will have a tangible impact on reducing gun violence”?
And Congress could take those steps…
What steps?
…in a way that will not infringe on the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. And the president has long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the president continues to feel they should do so.
The president has long advocated that Congress ban cosmetically scary semiautomatic rifles, which are almost never used to commit crimes and were not used in this instance. What else do Barack Obama and Josh Earnest have in mind? Don’t hold your breath waiting for any constructive ideas. This is all just political opportunism.
Here is the video:
One thing we have learned is that some murders are important and others aren’t. White policeman kills black person: important! Black person kills white policeman: unimportant. White lunatic kills black people in South Carolina: important! Gay black lunatic kills white people in Virginia: something tells me this one is going in the “unimportant” column. It doesn’t advance the narrative. Except, of course, the gun control narrative.

HARD DATA ON MASS SHOOTING INCIDENTS


About two weeks ago, the Congressional Research Service published a paper titled “Mass Murder with Firearms: Incidents and Victims, 1999-2013.” The primary author is William Krouse, a specialist in domestic security and crime policy. The CRS paper defines three kinds of “mass shootings”:
* “mass public shooting” means a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms—not including the offender(s)—within one event, and at least some of the murders occurred in a public location or locations in close geographical proximity (e.g., a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public settings), and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle);
* “familicide mass shooting” means a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms—not including the offender(s)—within one event, and a majority of the victims were members of the offender’s immediate or extended family, the majority of whom were murdered in one or more private residences or secluded, sparsely populated settings in close geographical proximity, and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (e.g., armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle); and
* “other felony mass shooting” means a multiple victim homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms—not including the offender(s)—within one event, in one or more locations in close geographical proximity, and the murders are attributable to some other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (e.g., armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle).
Incidents like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting are “mass public shootings”–the type of event that the public primarily fears.
Are we living through an “epidemic” of mass public shootings, as gun control advocates often claim? No. The CRS report offers multiple views of the data; this graph shows the total number of mass shootings of all three kinds from 1999 through 2013, with numbers of those killed or wounded each year. Click to enlarge:
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.41.12 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.41.12 PM
There is little or no upward trend in the number of incidents.
This one compares mass public shootings with familicide mass shootings and other felony mass shootings. Mass public shootings are the least common of these three varieties, with only 66 incidents from 1999 through 2013. Click to enlarge:
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.44.05 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.44.05 PM
This chart shows the number of mass public shootings at workplaces, schools, malls and other public places from 1999 through 2013, along with numbers of people killed or wounded. Click to enlarge:
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.56.22 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 2.56.22 PM
There may be a slight upward trend, but only because of 2012; otherwise, the trend would be downward.
The CRS report notes that current concern about mass shooting events occurs in a context of a declining rate of homicides involving firearms:
As shown in Figure 9, the overall firearms-related murder victim rate increased in the 1970s, 1980s, and peaked in 1993. Since then, that murder rated has decreased, fluctuated moderately, or held steady for about the past two decades. From 1993 to 2013, the estimated firearms-related homicide victim rate per one hundred thousand of the population decreased from 6.62 to 3.10.
That bears repeating: between 1993 and 2013, the firearms-related homicide rate declined by more than 50%.
This chart plots the declining gun-related homicide rate per 100,000 against the mass public shooting victim rate per ten million people from 1970 through 2013:
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 3.01.15 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 3.01.15 PM
While the homicide rate has fallen dramatically, the mass public shooting victim rate has increased somewhat. Note, however, what low rates we are talking about: it has fluctuated between zero and two deaths per 10 million people.
Why have fatalities due to mass shootings increased, albeit modestly, while overall firearms-related homicides have declined sharply? My guess is that the overwhelming publicity that has been given to mass shooting events in recent years has stimulated an unknown number of copycat crimes. In any event, no matter how you slice the data, the frequently-repeated claim that we are experiencing an “epidemic” of firearms violence or of mass shooting events is simply false.
Finally, the CRS report contains valuable observations on the NICS data base as it relates to mental health, improvements that have been made in recent years, and additional improvements that may be feasible. That is perhaps a subject for another day.

INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU WAS UNAVAILABLE (3)

The pushback against George Jahn’s AP scoop on the IAEA side deal with Iran now includes the allegation that the draft of the side deal posted by the AP is a forgery — perhaps an Israeli forgery. Fred Fleitz has reported the relevant details with links and evidence here at NR’s Corner. Fleitz’s knowledgeable assessment seems reasonable to me:
First, the errors and non-IAEA prose in the AP’s transcribed document appear to indicate a first draft written by a party other than Iran or the IAEA to resolve the Parchin issue. This is consistent with my assessment that the side deal documents were drafted by the United States and handed to the IAEA to finalize after U.S. diplomats were unable to resolve the issues of the Parchin military base and possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program during the talks. The AP says it was told by two anonymous officials that this document is a draft and “does not differ from the final, confidential agreement between the IAEA and Iran.” I believe it probably is a first draft written by a political appointee at the State Department or an NSC staffer.
Second, to believe this is a forgery one has to believe George Jahn and the Associated Press were deceived by two anonymous diplomats or U.S. officials. I doubt this could happen to a reporter as experienced as Jahn. (MSNBC believes otherwise and attacked Jahn as “not a real reporter” for his article.) The AP is standing by this story and I doubt it would put its reputation on the line if it did not believe Jahn’s article was rock solid.
Third, claims by backers of the Iran deal that this is an Israeli forgery are nonsense. If the Israelis wanted to do a forgery like this it would be perfect. An Israeli foreign ministry or intelligence officer would never use the wrong terminology for Iran.
My bottom line is that the side-deal document transcribed by the AP is not a forgery but a first draft written by a third party that is essentially the same as the final version agreed to by the IAEA and Iran. The outstanding question is who wrote this initial draft. Given Secretary Kerry’s efforts in May and June to drop the issues of the Parchin base and possible military dimensions, I think it is very likely the side-deal documents were drafted by the United States and given to the IAEA, which agreed to make them into secret agreements with Iran to finalize the main agreement.
Fleitz adds in the final paragraph of his post that “what [Jahn] reported apparently is consistent with classified briefings provided to Congress on the secret side deals[.]”
I trust that all will become clear in time. The relevant self-inspection provisions of the side deal are so absurd that they should be fraudulent. Consistent with Fleitz’s conclusion, however, I believe they will prove to be an integral part of the finalized side deal. Neither the administration nor the IAEA disputes the accuracy of Jahn’s reportage. I conclude that the terms of the side deal reported by Jahn are a joke, but not a forgery.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

VOTERS CAN’T STAND HILLARY

VOTERS CAN’T STAND HILLARY

Everywhere you look, poll numbers on Hillary Clinton’s campaign are collapsing. This batch came out this morning from Rasmussen Reports.
The headlined finding is that by 46% to 44%, voters say Hillary should suspend her campaign “until all of the legal questions about her use of the private e-mail server are resolved.” That is a rather silly question, since as a practical matter if Hillary suspends her campaign indefinitely, it is over. Still, it is stunning that 46% think she should drop out, on whatever basis.
The bad news continues, as 45% of voters consider the national security questions raised by Hillary’s email server issues to be a “serious scandal.” Another 28% consider the story an “embarrassing situation,” while 23% say the whole thing is no big deal. Gotta love those loyal Democrats!
Note that Hillary’s strategy so far (and probably her only viable strategy) has been to pooh-pooh the email issues without engaging them in a meaningful way, hoping her supporters will chalk them up to political attacks from the right. Rasmussen’s numbers suggest that the public is too skeptical for that approach to work.
Finally, Rasmussen’s article on its most recent survey, conducted yesterday and the day before, concludes by reminding us that in April, only 37% of respondents said that they trust Hillary. It is safe to say that number hasn’t gone up.
Presumably it is numbers like these that are causing leaders of the Democratic Party to search frantically for alternatives to Hillary.

INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU WAS UNAVAILABLE

President Obama purports to have a sophisticated theory of international relations supporting his catastrophic deal with Iran. Dealing with the world’s foremost sponsor of state terrorism and an avowed enemy of the United States, Obama is lavishly funding the regime and leaving Iran’s nuclear program on the path of development to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
He proclaims the deal a famous victory, but with the AP’s report on the, ah, unusual arrangement for the self-inspection of the Parchin research facility, it has descended into self-evident farce. Even Stevie Wonder could see that.
Why self-inspection? With the death of Peter Sellers, Inspector Clouseau was unavailable.
For the United States, the self-inspection is one more humiliation among a long train of humiliating concessions. It represents a sort of reductio ad absurdum, a piece of black humor in the style of Joseph Heller. The secret side deal could be a sequel to Catch-22. From President Obama’s perspective, the humiliation of the United States must be an added advantage of the deal.
The revelation of the terms of the Parchin side deal prompts me to think back to the comments of senior Iranian presidential adviser and former intelligence minister Ali Younesi this past fall. The comments were offered for domestic political consumption to the official Iranian news agency.
There was something to offend everyone in Younesi’s comments. Most striking to me, however, was Younesi’s perception of Obama. Younesi had Obama’s number. Younesi’s contempt for Obama shone through his comments and it surely reflects the consensus of the regime. Obama has worked hard to earn it.
The fact that Younesi made these comments on the record for public consumption was striking and newsworthy. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo had the story:
The Iranian president’s senior advisor has called President Barack Obama “the weakest of U.S. presidents” and described the U.S. leader’s tenure in office as “humiliating,” according to a translation of the highly candid comments provided to the Free Beacon.
The comments by Ali Younesi, senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, come as Iran continues to buck U.S. attempts to woo it into the international coalition currently battling the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS).
And with the deadline quickly approaching on talks between the U.S. and Iran over its contested nuclear program, Younesi’s denigrating views of Obama could be a sign that the regime in Tehran has no intent of conceding to America’s demands.
“Obama is the weakest of U.S. presidents, he had humiliating defeats in the region. Under him the Islamic awakening happened,” Younesi said in a Farsi language interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.
“Americans witnessed their greatest defeats in Obama’s era: Terrorism expanded, [the] U.S. had huge defeats under Obama [and] that is why they want to compromise with Iran,” Younesi said.
Younesi followed up with comments that were somewhat offensive to conservatives like us, but the substance wasn’t unflattering. We believe Israel is our friend and Iran has been our mortal enemy since, you know, around about 1979. In assessing Iran our enemy, we have taken them at their word and judged them by their actions. They have a voluminous amount of American blood on their hands.
Younesi is to some extent on the same page with President Obama. He said of American conservatives: “Conservatives are war mongers, they cannot tolerate powers like Iran. If conservatives were in power they would go to war with us because they follow Israel and they want to portray Iran as the main threat and not ISIS.”
Well, Iran is the main threat. ISIS doesn’t have a nuclear program or the trappings of a state and I would like to think we would support military action against Iran if necessary, though a president whose strength they respected would make it unnecessary.
Younesi also had the Democrats’ number. He deemed them “no threat.” He got that right, though you don’t have to be a former intelligence minister to figure that out.
Younesi’s comments foretold our rendezvous with destiny, Obama style: “We [the Islamic Republic] have to use this opportunity [of Democrats being in power in the U.S.], because if this opportunity is lost, in future we may not have such an opportunity again.”

WASHINGTON POST DISTORTS TRUMP-RAMOS ENCOUNTER

WASHINGTON POST DISTORTS TRUMP-RAMOS ENCOUNTER

If Donald Trump believes that Fox News is treating him unfairly (and he does), I wonder how he feels about the Washington Post.
The print edition headline of a story on Trump’s Iowa new conference reads: “Trump kicks Latino reporter out of news conference.” (The online editors apparently thought better of it.They wrote: “Trump tangles with Latino newsman, launches fresh attacks on GOP rivals”).
The print edition sub-headline reads: “Univision’s Ramos later returns, spars with mogul on immigration.” Ramos “returned” because Team Trump permitted him to. He “sparred” with the “mogul” because Trump let him debate, something that few candidates (only Ted Cruz comes to mind) would have permitted.
The Post’s story, written by the tag team of Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, is manifestly biased against Trump. They describe Ramos’ ejection this way:
Ramos stood up in the front row of journalists to ask Trump about his plan to combat illegal immigration. But Trump did not want to answer.
“Excuse me,” Trump said. “Sit down. You weren’t called. Sit down.”
Ramos, holding a piece of paper, calmly said, “I’m a reporter, an immigrant, a senior citizen. I have the right to ask a question.”
Trump interrupted him. “Go back to Univision,” he said. Then Trump motioned to one of his bodyguards, who walked across the room and physically removed Ramos from the room.
The format of a press conference, as Rucker and Costa well know, is that reporters ask questions when they are called on, not when they feel like it. Ramos had no “right” to move ahead of other reporters with questions by seizing the floor.
(Ramos’ sense of entitlement is a perfect reflection of the illegal immigrant movement. Like Ramos, illegal immigrants jump to the head of the line. And their advocates hold that by virtue of their line-jumping, illegal immigrants should gain all the rights and privileges enjoyed not only by legal entrants but by American citizens.)
Rucker and Costa also fail to note that Ramos was ejected only because he refused to stop talking. If Trump wanted to conduct an orderly press conference in which each reporter waits his or her turn, he had no alternative to booting the obnoxious man from Univision.
Rucker and Costa are equally biased in their coverage of the lengthy exchange between Trump and Ramos. For example, they state: “at one point, Trump said ‘I can’t deal with this.'” True. But this was because Ramos repeatedly interrupted Trump’s answers. The Post-men would prefer that readers conclude Trump couldn’t deal with the substance of Ramos’ questioning.
Actually, Trump dealt with each of Ramos’ scattergun questions, but Rucker-Costa try to obscure this fact. They claim that Trump responded to questions about polls showing him to be unpopular among Hispanics by asking “How much am I suing Univision for right now?”
Actually, Trump responded by citing a Nevada poll that shows him leading among Hispanic Republicans. Because the Nevada poll was of Republicans, it doesn’t defeat Ramos’ claim that Trump is unpopular among Hispanics generally.
But Rucker and Costa want readers to believe that Trump ducked the polling question and resorted to bluster about his lawsuit. That wasn’t the case.
We can’t expect the Post to cover Trump, or any other serious GOP candidate, fairly. But we might have hoped for better than the Rucker-Costa report on yesterday’s news conference.

Race And Justice

Race And Justice

 by John Schroeder

Few things have been more disheartening in my life than my one opportunity to serve on a jury in the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts.  You can read all about it here.  Very simply I watched the jury on which I served hang because while all available evidence pointed towards the guilt of the defendant, he was black and so was a majority of the jury.
So it was with great interest that I read a piece from the NYTimes over the weekend entitled “Exclusion of Blacks From Juries Raises Renewed Scrutiny.”  The most fascinating thing about the piece is that, like the jury on which I served, the evidence is not what matters. only race does.
Here is the money quote:
Reprieve Australia, a group that opposes the death penalty and conducted the Caddo Parish study, said the likelihood of an acquittal rose with the number of blacks on the jury.
No defendants were acquitted when two or fewer of the dozen jurors were black. When there were at least three black jurors, the acquittal rate was 12 percent. With five or more, the rate rose to 19 percent. Defendants in all three groups were overwhelmingly black.
A very interesting statistic, but what does it mean?  Does it mean that whites are “quick” to convict or does it mean that blacks are quick to acquit?  What about the tabs on the study?  To use this as evidence of racism should it also not be broken down by the race of the defendants in the cases in question?  Were there post verdict jury interviews?  What did the jury members cite as reasons for conviction or acquittal?  Oh yeah, and should not the real measure of the effect of race on juries be whether the verdict deviates from the evidence, not a simple count of verdicts?  One cannot assume that in the cases coming up for trial there is an actual random distribution of guilt and lack of guilt.
But guess what the author, Adam Liptak, says in the very next paragraph:
Excluding black jurors at a disproportionate rate does more than hurt defendants’ prospects….
WHOA!  Back up the truck here.  Should not a defendants “prospects” be based on the evidence?  What this entire article ignores is that the Prosecutors office itself, and in applicable cases the grand jury process, are filters meant to ensure that when a case comes before a jury there is already a high likelihood of guilt.
Simply put, there is no way to statistically judge the role of race in this situation.  Are their racial effects?  Unquestionably.  My own personal experience demonstrates that there were in at least one case.  But in order to do a meaningful study on this there must be an independent determination of the actual weight of the evidence in the case.  That is to say someone, or some group, has to decide whether the jury acted correctly in a case.  How do you do that without pretty much overturning everything we think dear in our criminal justice system?
And then additional data has to be collected about what race uses race as a determinant factor?  How do you gather such data?  Even if you try in post-verdict interviews, do you really think anyone is going to admit to it?
Mark Twain attributes to Disraeli the well worn quote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”  In this case, it is clear that statistics are being used to create the appearance of racism without actually measuring if there is any racism.