Two Ferguson-related stories this morning. First up, the officer who shot Michael Brown was beaten by Brown before the shooting.
Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer whose fatal shooting of Michael Brown touched off more than a week of demonstrations, suffered severe facial injuries, including an orbital (eye socket) fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun, a source close to the department's top brass told FoxNews.com.
"The Assistant (Police) Chief took him to the hospital, his face all swollen on one side," said the insider. "He was beaten very severely."
Second, it looks like Ferguson authorities routinely hassle citizens for minor infringements.
You don't get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant "low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay."
As usual, the situation is more complex than it first appears.
It seems like it will be impossible to sell a home or business in Ferguson for a decade or more. The city has become a national disgrace thanks to the shooting, the riots, the militarized police response, and the unending media coverage. Who in their right mind would move in to the city?
Ezra Klein spends two paragraphs describing how President Obama divides America but candidate Obama didn't, but why is this true?
This all speaks to a point that the White House never forgets: President Obama's speeches polarize in a way candidate Obama's didn't. Obama's supporters often want to see their president "leading," but the White House knows that when Obama leads, his critics become even less likely to follow. The evidence political scientists have gathered documenting this dynamic is overwhelming, and Frances Lee lays it out well here:
If Obama's speeches aren't as dramatic as they used to be, this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems.
So why is the country "riven by political polarization"? 10 possible explanations:
- Racial prejudice: lots of people either love or hate President Obama because of his skin color. Since the President's skin color has remained the same these feelings have intensified over time, leading to polarization.
- Reaction to performance: Americans had only a vague sense of candidate Obama's agenda/competence, but now that we've seen him in action for 6+ years you either love him or hate him.
- Bandwagon bias: we're each surrounded by like-minded people who reinforce and magnify our otherwise moderate opinions.
- Choice-supportive bias: we all tend to interpret evidence in a way that vindicates our past actions. However, it seems that there are a lot of people who voted for Obama once or twice in the past and aren't too fond of him now.
- Distrust: people perceive that President Obama's words and actions don't match, so when he gives a speech it highlights a new position of his to distrust. If he keeps his mouth shut the distrust is less focused and specific.
- Divide and conquer: people and groups of people have been intentionally manipulated into conflict with each other to serve some hidden purpose. But now we're too divided to accomplish anything?
- Limitations of the presidency: candidate Obama could please listeners with his speeches because he could say anything he wanted, but President Obama is constrained by the realities of the office he now holds. E.g., Obama can't go to Ferguson to give a speech because then people will expect him, as President, to solve their problems, which he can't do.
- New speechwriters: maybe President Obama's speechwriters just aren't as proficient as the ones who worked on his campaign.
- Degradation of capability: maybe President Obama has lost some of the ability that he possessed six years ago.
- Apathy: maybe candidate Obama cared more about winning the presidency than President Obama cares about executing the office. He just isn't trying that hard.
Glenn Reynolds has been on a roll quoting brilliant commenters recently, and here's another: libertarians should go to Ferguson to make their case.
A friend writes on Facebook: "This presents such a great opportunity for libertarians to flip a significant fraction of blacks from big government to limited government. If Rand Paul wants to do outreach to the black community, get there now. Preferably with some other libertarians. Talk about drug war, killing men for cigarette taxes, drones, NSA spying, out of control cops, and how the problem that the government is making up dumb reasons to abuse its authority, not that this abuse would be better if applied in a more evenhanded way. Then sponsor national reform and try to mobilize these non traditional allies. Big opportunity just sitting there."
Esther Inglis-Arkell gives a good definition of scope neglect (or scope insensitivity) but relies on a study that conflates the issue so badly as to be nearly meaningless. That's not her fault... almost every link I've found about scope neglect mentions the same study. So what does the study show?
How much would you pay to save 2,000 sad, oily birds from death? How much would you pay to save 20,000 birds of equal sadness and oleaginousness? How about 200,000? According to one study, your preferred amounts are $80, $78, and $88 respectively. (Perhaps more if you saw pictures of the birds while a Sarah McLachlan song was playing.)
You'll notice something strange there. First of all, people will only pay about $8 more to save 198,000 more birds. More importantly, judging by the $80 and the $78, it looks like people are actually willing to pay money to kill 18,000 birds. We wouldn't pay as much to save many birds as we would to save a few.
First, the difference between $80 and $78 is certainly insignificant, and the difference between $80 and $88 is pretty small as well. It's completely fallacious to infer from these numbers that people (on average) want to spend $2 to kill 18,000 birds.
Second, I think it's hard to infer anything about scope neglect from the thought experiment this study is based on. The amount that people are willing to spend is probably based more on their wealth than on the number of birds. Even though the number of birds changes, the wealth reference point of each respondent stays the same. An average person is willing to donate about $80 to clean up oily birds, and if you've got more birds then you need to find more donors.
Third, to illustrate the absurdity of the thought experiment, how much would a person give to save two billion birds? Or two quadrillion? Obviously at some point the limiting factor will be the resources available to the giver. My contention is that the donation level is resource-limited way below the 2,000-bird level. I personally wouldn't use this bird thought experiment at all, but if the researchers wanted to stick with birds they should have tried much smaller numbers. I doubt the answers for two, 20, or 200 birds would all have been $80.
My first thought was that the story was about Mario Kart, but it's still amazingly cool that this son could race against his dad's ghost and have such a powerful experience. Video games have been ascendant for over a decade now, but they haven't peaked yet.
For me and my dad the experience isn't video games... he was never that into them. For me it's Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and old science fiction books.
"Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together - until he died, when i was just 6.
i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.
but once i did, i noticed something.
we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.
and once i started meddling around... i found a GHOST.
you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver? yep, you guessed it - his ghost still rolls around the track today.
and so i played and played, and played, untill i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and...
i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldnt delete it.
Megan McArdle discusses the unreliability of memory and how this applies to the ongoing suit about subsidies for participants of the federal Obamacare exchanges. But the parts about memory specifically:
People don't remember things that happened a while ago; they remember the stories that they have told themselves about it. I vividly remember sticking a key into an electric socket when I was (I am told) about 18 months old. Do I remember it? Or do I remember being told about it? It feels like a real memory, but all the research indicates that that tells you precisely nothing.
Conversely, I am told that when I was a teenager, a horse reared up and pawed around my ears, miraculously not kicking me in the head. Multiple people agreed that this had happened, but I have no memory of it. Either I've forgotten something I certainly ought to remember -- or they are misremembering something that happened to someone else. No way to tell, because we don't have contemporaneous documentation.
As for Obamacare... we need to go by what's written, not by what people supposedly remember or intended.
Mark Biller at Sound Mind Investing has an interesting observation about the unending dire predictions for the ongoing bull market (subscription required):
While it's completely anecdotal, it's hard for me to believe this bull market is going to end while so many financial journalists are calling for its demise so loudly and frequently. That's not how long-term bull markets usually end. Rather, it's usually the opposite: when nobody seems to have much bad to say about the stock market, that's the time to be nervously looking over your shoulder.
This bull market has been hated from the day it first started rising over five years ago. Many investors -- both pros and amateurs -- have never gotten over their fear from the 2008-2009 financial crisis and never got reinvested. For an individual, that's terribly disappointing. For a pro, it's potentially devastating. Some of those pros have been writing why the bull market is about to keel over ever since. They've got so much invested in their calls that the bull market can't last, it definitely does make one wonder if they can be objective at this point.
The fascinating thing that most people forget about the stock market is that in every transaction there are two participants: a buyer and a seller. The buyer thinks the price is going up, and the seller thinks that price is going down. No matter what you read or see on television, half the money in the market is betting on it going up, and half the money is betting on it going down.
So why have so many talking heads been predicting the end of the bull market for so long, while other investors continue to drive it up? Are the talking heads, as a class, smarter than everyone else? I think it's more likely that their incentives to not align with those of other investors.
Thanks to the shoddy drafting of the Obamacare law the DC federal appeals court has ruled that it's illegal to subsidize healthcare plans bought through the federal exchange. The law only authorizes subsidies for plans bought through state exchanges, not through the federal exchange that was created for states that decided not to create exchanges of their own. Obviously this was not the intent of the law, and under normal circumstances Congress would simply pass an update to the law to remove any grounds for controversy. Of course that's impossible due to the politics surrounding Obamacare, and now the whole scheme may be doomed unless the courts decide to apply the law as intended rather than as written. Which these judges, at least, have refused to do.
The 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia--not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov. The ruling relied on a close reading of language in the Affordable Care Act.
"Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states," wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion in the case known as Halbig v. Burwell, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith.
"We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly."
Obviously I think it would be best for the country for the whole law to collapse. The impossibility of properly fixing this "technical error" in the law is yet another example of how badly things can go when one party forces a bill into law against the will of the citizenry and with no support from the other party. Congress can't patch this mistake, and the courts shouldn't clean up Congress' mess.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka claims that there's a Christian Holocaust going on in Iraq now, with Christians being eradicated by Islamic terrorists across the region. The United States should act in some way to prevent or mitigate this religious cleansing. Fellow Christians should pray for safety for these brethren and pray that this adversity is an opportunity for the gospel to reach new corners of the world.
When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000.
In a region where Christians predate Muslims by centuries, over one million Christians have been killed or have had to flee because of jihadi persecution, while America is basically standing by and watching. This is the sad news that Breitbart's National Security Editor and one of the world's leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian
Dr. Gorka explained that "in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter "N" for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you."
Charles Krauthammer proclaims Israel's moral superiority over Hamas, but it's important to note that the Palestinians in Gaza are victims as well as aggressors -- they're victims of Hamas just like Israel is. To the extent that the civilians support a murderous, self-destructive terrorist government like Hamas they bring destruction on themselves, but let's not forget who bears the bulk of the guilt.
Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.
"Here's the difference between us," explains the Israeli prime minister. "We're using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles."
Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent "cycle of violence." This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d'etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.
Walter Russell Mead has some great thoughts on what happens if America reaches a deal with Iran that successfully limits their development of nuclear weapons and lifts sanctions. Rather than looking at whether or not such an agreement is possible, WRM points out that Iran doesn't need nuclear weapons to establish itself as a regional power and exert a lot of influence on the world's oil supply.
Thus, the people in Iran arguing for a nuclear deal could be making a very realpolitik, power-maximizing argument saying that Iran should prioritize establishing a regional hegemony over acquiring nuclear weapons. Then, when the regional hegemony is established, the U.S. will be even less willing or able to oppose Iran's nuclear drive than it is now, and a nuclear Iran that is also a regional hegemon would have immense power over the world's oil supply. Iran's dream of becoming a true global great power would have been reached.
What's extremely troubling and alarming about the establishment press debate over the nuclear agreement with Iran is that the deal's partisans by and large simply don't engage with this absolutely vital and indispensable question. This is the kind of silence that frequently occurs when a political establishment is about to make a truly monumental blunder; history's worst decisions are made by people with blinkers on, who ignore the wider implications of the choices they are making and concentrate of a limited and narrow set of considerations. To think about the Iran deal solely as a question of non-proliferation is to miss the essence of Iran's national strategy and its potential consequences for U.S. interests. Americans need to know whether the administration has really thought this issue through and, if it hasn't, there needs to be strong pressure from Congress and elsewhere for a serious and in depth reappraisal to begin.
So how does this play out well for America? I hope some smart people are figuring it out.
If we've learned anything from the mortgage lending debacle over the past five years it's that white collar crime pays off huge! Thanks to technology, however, low-skill crime is paying off worse than ever. McArdle wonders what would-be criminals will do when there isn't much profitable crime available, and I think I have the answer: live off the social welfare system.
The teenagers who used to boost cars, however, won't simply segue into new forms of crime. Hacking a credit card network is a different skillset from hot-wiring a car; the person who does one can't necessarily transition easily to the other. The low-skilled young men who choose crime as an alternative to low-wage work may simply find themselves with fewer viable ways to make money through criminal activity. So what happens to them?
No, I am not about to argue that we need some sort of social program for poor displaced criminals who are no longer able to practice their beautiful ancient craft. I'll be very happy if a lot of major forms of crime are thwarted. Yet I'm also interested in the empirical effects that this will have.
One of the primary reasons that the welfare system is expanding (including all sorts of programs that aren't typically included in "welfare", such as Social Security disability and unemployment insurance) is that many workers, not just criminals, are being displaced by technology. There appears to be an emerging class of people who are permanently displaced by technology and cannot contribute any economic value, and society will inevitably morph to care for them. The question is what the care will look like, especially as the productive proportion of the population shrinks.
The primary reason that teenagers should work is because it puts them in a position of having to win approval from adults rather than from other teenagers. The "real world" and the "school world" are completely different. The behaviors and attributes that win acclaim in the school world won't get you far in the real world, and most kids aren't wise enough to learn this just by hearing their parents repeat it. Teenagers who work at a real job earn far more than a few dollars per hour -- the experience they get will pay huge dividends for their whole lives.
It looks like an audacious plan to recover use of a 36-year-old satellite has ultimately failed as ISEE-3's thrusters have stopped responding to commands. Still, it's awesome that the attempt was made, and even cooler than it was done by a group of enthusiasts rather than a government team.
A team of space enthusiasts recently got permission from NASA to reconnect with the old spacecraft as it approached Earth. The idea was to put it on a new course so that it wouldn't just fly past. Instead, it would be commanded to go to a new orbit and join younger satellites in monitoring space weather.
On Tuesday, and then again Wednesday, the volunteer group sent commands to fire ISEE-3's engines again and again.
"And our first series of burns, we thought went OK," says Keith Cowing, a former NASA guy who is one of the leaders of the volunteer group -- the ISEE-3 Reboot Project. "And then when we went to the second set, pretty much nothing happened. And we tried it again, and nothing happened."
Instapundit posts a letter that echos stuff I've read based on early blood-type testing: around 16% of people have different fathers than their mothers told them. Men in our culture are so often portrayed as the bad guys (e.g., "deadbeat dads") that I think men as a gender should get some credit for being so trusting and accepting despite these high rates of false paternity.
I am familiar with a massive ongoing multi-generational genetic study. . . . (Please don't mention either it or my name.) The participants were predominantly "greatest generation" and their kids' generation. Middle-class and white a bit more than the general population. It was looking for hereditary cancers (not too common, maybe 10% or so, last time I checked).
But, of course, in the process of all this, they discovered so-called "false paternities". (Their rules prohibited them from divulging this info to participants.) Anyway, the overall false paternity rate for this bunch from the "Leave it to Beaver demographic" was about 16%.
16%. One in six. In middle America. Not your mom, of course, nor mine, but hey, that's going to be a lot of data to discuss around the dinner table.
I haven't been able to find the study data I've read in the past that showed similar results back when blood-typing was first discovered. From what I remember, the high paternal discrepancy rate actually led early researchers to doubt the accuracy of blood types.
Ali Khedery gives an insider's view of why Iraq is collapsing, and it's all because America stuck with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It seems like it takes at least one generation of occupation to really tamp down the flames of religious/ethnic civil war. The victors' military presence needs to outlast the most violence-prone years of the men who fought against them (basically ages 20-50 or so).
I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki's government.
By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.
The Art of Manliness posts Aesop's "The Mischievous Dog":
A mischievous dog used to run quietly to the heels of every passer-by, and bite them without warning. So his master was obliged to tie a bell around his neck that he might give notice of his presence wherever he went. This the dog thought very fine indeed, and he went about tinkling it with pride all over town.
But an old Hound said: "Why do you make such a fool of yourself? That bell is not a mark of merit, but of disgrace."
Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.
A society that no longer shares a common understanding of merit and disgrace is no longer a single society, despite geographical proximity.
XKCD has a fantastic illustration of all the surface area available in our solar system. Let's fill it up with people!
So Detroit has fallen so far that the United Nations is stepping in to advocate access to clean water for residents. This is obviously ridiculous because the majority of delinquent utility accounts can certainly afford to pay their bills. However, despite my antipathy for the collection of despots and bureaucrats we call the UN, it's not clear whether they or Detroit comes out of this looking more foolish. Detroit is still a major city in the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world, right?
WND has learned that after issuing a statement last week condemning Detroit's decision to send water shut-off notices to tens of thousands of customers behind in their payments, the U.N now plans to conduct confidential policy discussions with the Obama administration to be followed by a formal public report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
On Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Council's office in Geneva confirmed to WND that the U.N. plans to intervene directly in the Detroit water crisis, determined to apply international law to judge the U.S. in violation of human rights to safe water.
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, DWSD, announced in March it would send shut-off notices to customers with balances more than $150 overdue or who are more than two months behind in their payments. The department, which said nearly half of the 324,000 water and sewerage accounts are overdue, has put out 46,000 notices since March. About 4,500 accounts have had their water shut off.