Saturday, October 3, 2015

How you can stop mass shootings with a click of a button

You have a critical role in stopping the next mass shooting and you won't believe how easy it is.  It's not a donation.  It's simply changing a channel.  It is that effortless, and I'll explain why after explaining how.

Whenever you see news coverage of a mass shooting event that includes any details about the shooter, change the channel.  Most content providers these days get near real-time data about the number of people watching, and if you want to help, all you have to do is reduce those numbers.  Change the channel if they're giving details about the shooter, showing his picture, reading from his blog or trying to find his motive.  That's it. 

Here's why it works, from the WSJ article:  What Mass Killers Want—And How to Stop Them

Let me stress that this whole article is worth a read.  I hope the snippets that follow will encourage you to read it through, because you'll understand the phenomenon and how to help better, but here are the basics:

Whatever the witch's brew of influences that produced this grisly script, treating mass killings as a kind of epidemic or contagion largely frees us from having to understand the particular causes of each act. Instead, we can focus on disrupting the spread.

There is a precedent for this approach in dealing with another form of violence: suicides. A 2003 study led by Columbia University psychiatrist Madelyn Gould found "ample evidence" of a suicide contagion effect, fed by reports in the media. A 2011 study in the journal BMC Public Health found, unsurprisingly, that this effect is especially strong for novel forms of suicide that receive outsize attention in the press.

Some researchers have even put the theory to the test. In 1984, a rash of suicides broke out on the subway system in Vienna. As the death toll climbed, a group of researchers at the Austrian Association for Suicide Prevention theorized that sensational reporting was inadvertently glorifying the suicides. Three years into the epidemic, the researchers persuaded local media to change their coverage by minimizing details and photos, avoiding romantic language and simplistic explanations of motives, moving the stories from the front page and keeping the word "suicide" out of the headlines. Subway suicides promptly dropped by 75%.

This approach has been recommended by numerous public health and media organizations world-wide, from the U.K., Australia, Norway and Hong Kong to the U.S., where in 2001 a similar set of reporting guidelines was released jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health and the surgeon general. It is difficult to say whether these guidelines have helped, since journalists' adherence to them has been scattered at best, but they might still serve as a basis for changing the reporting of massacres.

How might journalists and police change their practices to discourage mass shootings? First, they need to do more to deprive the killer of an audience:

Never publish a shooter's propaganda. Aside from the act itself, there is no greater aim for the mass killer than to see his own grievances broadcast far and wide. Many shooters directly cite the words of prior killers as inspiration. In 2007, the forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner told "Good Morning America" that the Virginia Tech shooter's self-photos and videotaped ramblings were a "PR tape" that was a "social catastrophe" for NBC News to have aired.

Hide their names and faces. With the possible exception of an at-large shooter, concealing their identities will remove much of the motivation for infamy.

Don't report on biography or speculate on motive. While most shooters have had difficult life events, they were rarely severe, and perpetrators are adept at grossly magnifying injustices they have suffered. Even talking about motive may encourage the perception that these acts can be justified.
Police and the media also can contain the contagion of mass shootings by withholding or embargoing details:

Minimize specifics and gory details. Shooters are motivated by infamy for their actions as much as by infamy for themselves. Details of the event also help other troubled minds turn abstract frustrations into concrete fantasies. There should be no play-by-play and no descriptions of the shooter's clothes, words, mannerisms or weaponry.

No photos or videos of the event. Images, like the security camera photos of the armed Columbine shooters, can become iconic and even go viral. Just this year, the FBI foolishly released images of the Navy Yard shooter in action.

Finally, journalists and public figures must remove the dark aura of mystery shrouding mass killings and create a new script about them.

Talk about the victims but minimize images of grieving families. Reports should shift attention away from the shooters without magnifying the horrified reactions that perpetrators hope to achieve.
Decrease the saturation. Return the smaller shootings to the realm of local coverage and decrease the amount of reporting on the rest. Unsettling as it sounds, treating these acts as more ordinary crimes could actually make them less ordinary.

Tell a different story. There is a damping effect on suicide from reports about people who considered it but found help instead. Some enterprising reporters might find similar stories to tell about would-be mass shooters who reconsidered.

If you see any information outlet failing to do the right thing, change the channel.  Only a drop in ratings will help them alter their coverage, and you drive ratings.  If you want to do even more, then write the management of the information outlet where you saw sensationalized coverage, send them the link to this or a similar article, and let them know you'll contact their advertisers about that station's perpetuating of the "blood porn" problem in our society. 

This will have more impact than getting a CCW and carrying, though if you want to I encourage that.  Changing the channel, contacting management and contacting advertisers can have nationwide effects.

Make a difference today and we can reduce or even eliminate these horrific events.  You can change the world with the remote control in your hand.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Right to Self-Defense

As terrorist attacks of opportunity increase (and they will) we're going to continue to see why the 2nd Amendment beats camera surveillance.  Filming crimes so that suspects can be arrested later is a weak and ineffective response compared with actually being able to stop the crime or attack in progress.  Where the right to self-defense is respected and exercised, fewer innocents die when terrorists or criminals act.  It's that simple.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If the FBI says "science" you should probably acquit

I'm pro law enforcement.  I support our police in their very tough job.  Even so, there have been some disturbing trends in recent years.  The militarization of our police has led to a police vs. civilians mentality that can be dangerous and even lead to out of control officers.  There are some great programs like community-oriented policing that help to combat that and remind officers and the average citizen that we're partners in making our neighborhoods safer.

Also, despite my pro law enforcement stance, I know you should never, ever talk to the police if you're suspected of anything.  Their job is to support the prosecution and put bad guys in jail.  For more, check out the videos linked here.

That brings me to some shockingly bad police work and going too far to get a conviction.  Most people trust the FBI.  If they are involved, we feel like they'll get the job done and the bad guy will go to prison.  Unfortunately, so do a lot of innocents.

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

From that article:
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
The Constitution, especially the Fourth and Fifth amendments, is designed to protect the innocent.   Penned by people who had seen friends go to prison at the whim of the crown, the intent was to prevent the government ever having the power to abuse its right to use force or imprison.  This should never have happened.

That's not the scariest part.  They've done it before.  Hearing about this issue triggered a memory of one from a decade ago.  This is again the FBI misrepresenting data to get false convictions.

Science Casts Doubt on FBI's Bullet Evidence

This article explains that the FBI for years has used trace impurities in lead to match crime scene rounds to rounds in possession of suspects.  The theory is that each batch of ammunition varies enough to determine if bullets used in a crime match a box in the suspect's possession.  If it matches, the rounds came from the suspect and the suspect is guilty.  It's often used when there's little or no other evidence.  It's so convincing California nearly passed a law based on the idea.

And it's junk science.
A Times examination of technical studies and trial transcripts -- and interviews with former FBI technicians, independent scientists and legal scholars -- suggests that the bureau's use of evidence derived from the lead in bullets may be based on faulty assumptions that greatly overstate the importance of matches.

The FBI likens its lead technique to fingerprint analysis. Bullets found at crime scenes are tested for minute amounts of arsenic, tin, silver and other contaminants or additives. Those findings are compared with results of similar analysis of bullets found in the possession of suspects. FBI examiners have claimed in court to be able to link one bullet to others from the same production run -- even from the same box.

The technique has proved especially important in cases in which prosecutors have little or no direct evidence, such as fingerprints or an eyewitness identification.
There is no dispute that trace elements of chemicals can be precisely measured in bullets. The controversy centers on how the FBI interprets the data.

For years, FBI laboratory examiners operated on the assumption that each batch of bullet lead was unique. So if the same trace elements were found in the same concentrations in two bullets, the reasoning went, those bullets must have been made at the same time and in the same place.

Premises Questioned

Recent scientific studies have concluded that this premise is wrong. Studying blocks of lead used in the manufacture of bullets, researchers have found the same chemical makeup in batches made at different times. They also have reported that the concentration of trace elements can vary significantly in the same casting of lead.

If the skeptics are right, the matches found by FBI lab technicians are meaningless.
Woops.  The trace impurities don't just differ from batch to batch but from round to round.   So a match could have come from anyone's box of ammunition, and two rounds fired from the same box may differ significantly from one another.

In both of these stories, it seems like the FBI was aware of the flaws and went ahead in overstating the significance of the evidence anyway.

The FBI won't want me on any juries.  If they say, "science" or "forensics" I'll be forced to acquit if there's no other strong evidence in the case.  I won't be party to a 95% error rate.  Understand that if the FBI techs said someone was guilty based on microscopic hair comparison, 95% of the time that wasn't true.  That's huge.  You could essentially acquit anyone they claimed was guilty if microscopic hair evidence was the basis for their argument.

Fortunately for the FBI, most people won't hear or remember these stories.  Don't be most people.  I appreciate law enforcement, but can't support putting innocent people in jail because of overzealous misrepresentation of evidence.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Progressive in the early 20th Century Meaning of the Word

She defines progressive differently than the early 20th century progressives did.  She said:  "I prefer the word ‘progressive,’ which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century." Source  Woodrow Wilson, the first Leftist American Progressive president, brought us internment camps in World War I and thug squads to beat those who disagreed with his policies.  Wilson's propagandists are rumored to have been where Joseph Goebbels got his inspiration.  Hillary's stale ideas shouldn't be America's future.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Summary of Obama's Middle East Diplomacy

This sums it up nicely.  A little more smart diplomacy and we may have World War III.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Barack Obama's Imaginary Son

Barack Obama's imaginary son has a really hard life.  You should read about it here:

The Extraordinary Life of Barack Obama’s Imaginary Son 

A preview to convince you to go look:
One day this country can hopefully move on from racism experienced by imaginary people — and, let’s face it, the country doesn’t have the best of history of its treatment of imaginary people. We have, however, made progress in the civil rights of imaginary people and for that we, as a country, should be proud. We shouldn’t ignore, however, the real truth that racism toward imaginary sons is still a real problem, as our President constantly reminds us. We can’t be afraid to have the conversation, no matter how painful it might be, about continuing the racial healing of imaginary people.
 For more fun on Pres. Obama, here's Sean Davis commenting about how Kim Jong-un learned to intimidate filmmakers.

Loosely related, Lindsey Graham, who some have characterized as an addled waste of skin and/or oxygen, commented that he might be considering a presidential bid.  Mollie Ziegler Hemingway helpfully compiled a list of 6 Grahams you'd rather see run for president.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Michael Brown and the Unsympathetic Case

Activists seem to frequently take up a case as emblematic of their cause and demonstrate regarding that case.  Unfortunately, they often choose unsympathetic cases to hold up.

A quick example those familiar with politics will remember is Mumia Abu-Jamal.  He's been held up by the anti-death penalty crowd, but his case is particularly unsympathetic.  He shot officer Daniel Faulkner in the back, then shot him once the officer was down, helpless on the pavement.  Wounds to his hands indicated officer Faulkner was holding his hand in front of himself, trying to defend himself while helpless on the ground.  Mumia is a murderer.  I'd support putting him down to protect the rest of society because he's capable of executing someone in cold blood.  That he murdered a police officer just conducting a traffic stop makes it so that I could activate the lethal injection myself without any regret.

The current big news story about Michael Brown is another example of activists choosing a singularly unsympathetic case.  He's been taken up as an example of police brutality and racism.  Unfortunately, as the facts have come out on the case, it turns out Michael Brown was a bully, a criminal and a wannabe cop-killer.  He wasn't shot in the back, didn't put up his hands, and was only unarmed because he lost the struggle with the officer for his gun.  He was stupid enough to think that after years of bullying smaller people, he could do the same with an armed officer.  He died trying to do it.  I'm comfortable with the results of his attempt at cop-killing.  For a slightly longer explanation, I would recommend this blog post:  Morons Riot in Ferguson to Defend Rights of Stupid Big People to Rob, Beat Up Small People

Here's a taste, then go read the rest:  "After Michael Brown, a really stupid big guy, strong-armed a box of cigars from a store, he was stopped by Officer Darren Wilson, who caught him with the cigars.  Because Michael Brown was a really big guy, and really stupid, he thought he could beat up Officer Wilson, and began doing so.  Officer Wilson then proceeded to demonstrate to him that force really does equal mass times (velocity squared), pumping six bullets into Michael Brown."

Michael brown wasn't a victim.  He was a victimizer.   He doesn't represent police brutality or racism.  He represents a justified self-defense shooting by a police officer in fear of his life.  While I might wish Michael Brown had chosen a much wiser course and learned earlier or less lethally that his behavior was socially unacceptable, I feel no outrage about the result.  It was a natural consequence of his behavior, an inevitability given the life of thuggery he lead. Legal experts reviewing the grand jury's work report that the grand jury was unusually fair, careful and thorough. 

The worst part is that there are bad and racist cops out there, and cops who are just apathetic.  They're not the majority, and all police don't deserve to be characterized that way, but the bad ones really are out there.  By choosing Michael Brown as the emblem of their movement, those wishing to correct actual inappropriate behavior by police undermine their case and make themselves look unrepentantly idiotic.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Immigration Polices Fail two Sacramento Area Deputies

On Friday, there was a massive manhunt in the Sacramento, California area.  A man shot a Sacramento sheriff's deputy in the head, killing him, as the deputy responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle in a motel parking lot.

The man then went on to shoot one civilian who refused to give up his keys during a carjacking* and two Placer County sheriff's deputies when they approached his carjacked vehicle.  One of those deputies died.

This is horrible in every way.  Shooting a police officer will never make any criminal's situation better in any way.  I know, criminals don't care what I write, but in case any ever reads this:  shooting a police officer will not help you.  It virtually guarantees your capture and lengthy incarceration.

Now here's the really sad part.  Local news reports that this murderer was deported for committing crimes before.  TWICE.

From a local news station:  Officials: Suspect in shootings of NorCal deputies deported twice
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte, who also goes by Marcelo Marquez, was sent back to Mexico in 1997, and again in 2001.
Officials said Monroy-Bracamonte was removed by an immigration judge following a conviction in Arizona in 1997 on charges of possession of narcotics for sale.

He was then arrested a second time in 2001, according to immigration officials.
 This isn't a partisan issue.  Both of the major parties have failed us utterly in keeping us safe regarding illegal immigration, something most Americans want stopped to the degree it can be stopped, and we know we can do better than we're doing right now.

If either party cared, we'd have two fewer sheriff's deputies dead at the hands of a known criminal who never should have been in the U.S. to start with.

Post script:  If this shocking story is the first of its kind that you've heard, there are a tremendous number that national news doesn't want to report on, for fear of being called "racist."  What keeping criminal illegal aliens out of the U.S. has to do with race, I'm not sure, but here are more examples:  7 Horrible Crimes Committed In America by Illegal Aliens  Number 5 is truly unbelievable--a serial rapist had been deported 9 times.

*A quick note:  If someone tries to carjack you, never argue.  If you can not move your vehicle, hand over the keys, let the police handle it.  If you can move, use your car as a weapon.  It's more effective than the gun the guy's holding.  In states where you can actually get a CCW (which is most of them), do society a favor and shoot your assailant.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Food Deserts are a Lie

I was watching a program on Hulu and one of the ads was for an organization seeking to end food deserts.  I was shocked.  We've known food deserts were a myth (at the most charitable), or perhaps a deliberate fabrication.  This was reported on in 2012 by a paper no one can call a Right wing rag:  The New York Times.  Here's that article:  Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity

That's a very kind and understated title given the actual findings of the studies.
"...two new studies have found something unexpected. [Poor urban neighborhoods, called 'Food Deserts'] not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.

"Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, 'you can get basically any type of food,' said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. 'Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,' he said."
There's great food available in poor urban neighborhoods.  That means if we'd like to help with childhood obesity, we should be teaching poor urban parents about healthy choices and preparing the fresh, healthy food that is abundantly available to them.  Both of those goals are admirable, and not a function of government.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Corporate Deserters

Burger King's acquisition of Canadian company Tim Hortons with plans to move corporate headquarters to Canada has spurred discussion recently.  Others have commented and commented well on this, so I'll add just a few thoughts.

There's a tangible reason companies are doing this.  Canada's corporate tax rate is very competitive, approximately 15%.  America's corporate tax rate is 35%.  Obama's solution, as a proper disciple of Saul Alinsky, is name-calling, because it works so well.  He says they're corporate deserters who want to avoid paying their fair share.  For more on the "fair share" tripe, here's a previous post.

I'll digress briefly on corporate taxes, because they're a silly concept.  Any tax levied against a corporation is paid by you.  Companies factor the cost of taxes into the price of the products they provide to you.  As all companies pay them, all companies must do this, so the price of anything you buy whether it's a good or service costs more.  The anti-corporate/anti-business attitude that spurs sky-high corporate taxes is propped up by the ill-informed who don't realize they're supporting a hidden tax on themselves.

Name calling really isn't a great solution, since it's ineffective.  "Corporate deserter," that sounds terrible until you consider it as though you were in that situation.  What if you could increase your income by 20% by moving to a new state?  Nothing else in your life would change except your new neighbors would be smart enough to (1) not hate you for being successful and (2) not call you names for choosing to keep more of what you've worked hard to earn.  You'd move, I'd move and we'd do it today.

There is no patriotic duty to endure undeserved abuse at the hands of your government.  There is no patriotic duty to watch your government squander what you've poured life, sweat and effort into when you can prevent them from doing so.  It is not "deserting" to flee such abuse.

Instead of name-calling, perhaps Mr. Obama should consider urging congress to make our corporate tax rate competitive instead of punitive.