Tonight's lessons at the FBI Academy were pretty interesting. One of them is that one must keep a sense of humor when dealing with maniacs, because the world is full of them. The second is that the world is no more full of them than it ever was.
One of my friends quoted the Atlantic Magazine today whose article asked the question of whether or not the West is slip sliding away. Well, let's presume that's the bet. Where will the rich and powerful end up if the West tanks? Where do the rich and powerful go now? East? South? Somehow I get the feeling that if we lost America, Dubai would not suffice. A subtitle of my barbell theory is that Stoics party with Epicureans, at least this one does, sometimes like its 1999.
I think I get it. People are always all the same. Throughout history are those who hustle because they can, and those who hustle because they must. But their desires are in a small arc, power, fear, glory. I'm going to read Thomas Aquinas and tell you what I get out of it. I'm going to reconcile it with Henry Kissinger's idealism. I sense a new rebirth in me a couple years down the road. This is the first inkling. That there is nothing left but to do good and expect triumph. And perhaps I will stop being lazy and expecting to be grandfathered into something. Or maybe not, who knows? The point is that history should teach us that there are a simple finite number of human experiences. Context may matter to get some precision in understanding, but the motivations are all the same. The ethics are all the same. The big questions are all the same.
The only thing that's different is how many people think they know, and how many people are actually on the planet. I'm sure there are some interesting consequences in all that, but all the intrigues are similar.
The other thing I think I remember, specifically, was that for all of the mass shootings between 2000 and 2013 there were about 460 dead. Now I might be wrong, that might be the one for just this year. Hold on, I can find out real quick. OK the correct number is 486 killed over 13 years in 160 incidents. Let us keep in mind that annually there are 15000 murders in the US. And so now people who think they are political activists are now motivated to think they can change the law for 300 million people. It's not going to happen unless it's in the interests of some powerful class of people running the show. Not going to happen. So I stop worrying.
This is another example of how the national media frame their discussions on race, as if every community with black Americans is 'The Black Community' and that every atrocity they can find is representative of how dysfunctional 'America' and our police and people are. The result is a rash of thin thinking and hashtag activism that only serves to give legs to a story whose conclusions have already been reached. Most importantly it disables local action. Now I see it can sow seeds of division among local people.
I have some interest in seeing local data more accurately presented. And I cite the precedence of the LA Times Murder page, and in fact the Guardian UK's countdown page. There is NO WAY that any national newspaper, much less an international newspaper should have more credibility than a local paper on exactly how police and neighborhoods act and react. The answer is a responsible and objective city desk that must evolve to become an unimpeachable source. To me that requires the cooperation not only of police and journalists, but the entire legal community.
I have been holding back screams when I see that judges, defenders and prosecutors silent as police have been taking a beating in the news. They, more than anyone, know how well the police and detectives are handling major crimes and how poorly bad arrests fail in court, but we don't have any of that input in the news.
So it seems to me that the choice is obvious. Have Presidential candidates and Congressional loudmouths and big city editors drive public opinion on how *your* community will or will not deal with police, or have unimpeachable data published as a permanent responsibility and artifact of your local news. If you can't tell the truth, others will lie for you.
The political responses will never be adequate. It's not until you have the mayors, the chiefs, the editors, the courts and the communities saying we all agree on what happened, and this is how it played out that the system will work. Its not just a Justice System it's an Information System that must be accountable to the people.
I have been having debates all year about who can be trusted if and when officers kill. And there are literally people I engage with who will swear that bodies disappear and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to know how many people are killed by police for any reason. No journalist should dare, DARE, report on a touchdown or a concert or a recipe, until everybody in the whole news organization is absolutely sure they know who is alive or dead in the communities they serve. If journalists can't do it, we computer geeks will do it - even if it means hacking every electronic device currently in existence or yet to come. So I'm telling you as a warning, if you value your profession, you had better start counting things that count and getting your math right before somebody bigger than you gets the political angle right. Right here, right now, in this democracy, people believe that police are getting away with murder and essentially snatching civilians off the street. And you will never be able to stop people with cameras in your community from going viral, so you had better be right with the facts. it's your only hope.
FYI. This is what I can get from the FBI for Greensboro 2013
Greensboro-High Point NC M.S.A.
Violent Crime 344.6
Aggravated Assault 214.3
Porperty Crime 3,448.50
Larceny Theft 2,313.20
Motor Vehicle Theft 158.1
If you think those numbers are boring, try arguing about statistical outliers when people are shouting bloody murder in your streets. Of course Greensboro isn't Baltimore isn't Ferguson isn't NYC.
If it were me, I'd have a countdown clock right on my front page, or in a community statistics section.
How many cops on staff. How many 911 calls fielded. How many cases on the docket. How many people in jail this week. People will want to know how many people are in jail more than they will read the obituary section, I'd bet. Get it together people. Bring your city desk out of the 70s, please. (Subscribe to NIXLE and get a starter feel for what you can do with social media). If I hear a siren in my city, I want to know why. You can do this.
This morning, for some reason, I recalled that I wrote a rap/song that helped me memorize the digits of pi out to 100. I was bored on a plane.
Also, I have found myself sitting in a middle seat next to an elderly man in a turban who was doing everything in his power to remain calm. He did a pretty good job. It wasn't until final approach that I realized he white knuckled the entire flight.
One time I caught myself laughing out loud at the reading material on my Kindle. It was the OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual.
On a commuter flight from Vail to Denver, I had a conversation with the leader of a famous Wall Street firm. Coming back from vacation with his daughters, he was reading an history of ancient Rome and gave me his card when I mentioned my company. I never called.
I rode first class from San Jose to Burbank late one afternoon. I had not eaten all day but had a couple beers and some melatonin. Sleepy, I stood up to go the the lavatory and promptly dead fainted in the aisle. The stewardess said I just missed my slamming my head on an armrest.
At DFW, we were next to land when the landing gear collapsed on the plane directly in front of us. It was a wind-sheary day, and we pulled up very quickly.
I have sat on a runway at LaGuardia for 4 hours. They gave us water and peanuts. I listened to Channel 9, but could not fall asleep.
I've been in airport freezes and evacuations at EWR, IAH and PHX, and I have lost two knives and one cigar lighter to TSA.
When I went to Bermuda on vacation with my new girlfriend. Security at the airport seemed to know her. I didn't understand why I was strip searched, but they showed me small weird things from her purse and asked me to identify them. I had no idea what they were talking about.
The worst airline in the world is Frontier, followed closely by Spirit. The best I've flown is Virgin, when they first started followed closely by Jet Blue. My favorite airport is Dulles and my least favorite was Stapleton, by a longshot.
I've been getting a lot of questions lately about microagressions. So microaggressions are slights and insults that make you feel persecuted. Taken separately, they're dismissible. Taken collectively they might contribute to a nervous breakdown. This term 'microaggression' is too new to be in your spell checker today, but the chatting classes are all over it.
I have some difficulty, despite my penchant for formality and many things erudite to see apply the adjective 'racist' to the term microagression, although I understand this is the entire point of raising awareness of this new first world problem. The difficulty stems from my thick skin (see Six Pounds of Racism) but also from my profound distaste for zero-tolerance and appreciation of the moral hazards therein.
The interesting difficulty with this particular bellweather, if it can appropriately be called that, is that one should expect to hear it testified to primarily from those folks with a greater presumable purchase in society. That is to say that this form of 'racism' particularly burns those folks in the upper classes of society. I think it should be obvious that thrown at someone like world-renowned scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the epithet 'nigger' would be considerably more painful to him than thrown at world-renowned rapper Snoop Dogg. I think it's reasonable to make this assumption based on their own public frequency in using the term themselves, although psychologically it's anybody's guess how thick anyone's skin is. That is the point of Six Pounds. Clearly however, those for whom 'microagression' is a debilitating issue have much more delicate sensibilities.
Whether or not one's psyche is weak or strong in this matter, the ubiquity of the chatting around microagression gives some people pause to reconsider the old chestnut that 'we are all of us racists deep down'. I defy that prescription, but I don't intend on proving it. I'm not so sure that the social soup I swim in is particularly characterized by its amenability to logical proofs, otherwise the microagression meme would have self-destructed at the mere mention of the term 'hate crime'. You would think that even the homicide count now slightly faded from memory of the #blacklivesmatter political flash mob would obliterate any discussion of microagression. But I suspect both mobs seek to reinforce each other in their never ending quest to 'have a serious national discussion about race'. That is, after all, their desire lo these many decades. The problem is, of course, that society doesn't take them as seriously as they would like to be taken. Chalk up one more frustration, as Bernie Sanders no dobut acknowledges, in the latent fury of activists desperate to snatch the mic.
So my little story goes a little something like this.
I am engaged to be married and I have flown across country from New York to fetch my fiancee, who lived at the time in a pleasant duplex on Beverly Glen in West LA. We pack up her Nissan Pulsar and hit the road on a cross-country journey back to New York. I love everything about her except her cat, Lucy which she took in just after the Northridge Quake sent animals scurrying in fright. Dog person that I am, even I can sympathize with that. Besides, I knew a cat was coming, one way or another so I have even decided to learn how to give the little beastie carsick pills. By the time we get to her hometown of Detroit, I've got the skill. Several days later, we wind up in Long Island and stay with my uncle one of its wooded suburbs while we hunt for apartments.
The cat gets loose. So now I have to be a good hubby to be and prove my love for the critter by hunting it down in this strange and foreboding place which is not-inexpensive suburb of Westbury, NY. I find myself creeping around this neighborhood peeking into people's yards and gardens. I have no idea where.. oh wait there she is. Lucky me I found her within 30 minutes of skulking around. Get the picture? Black man nobody knows from out of town checking around suspiciously in the bushes of million dollar houses. Of course I know I have a perfectly legitimate reason to be doing so. I have a cat to return, but what about the suspicious racist suburbanites of New York, and their evil henchmen in squad cars? Anyway, after some coaxing and a lot of bloody scratching, I've nabbed the cat and took her back to my fiancee. Huh? What do you mean that's not the right cat? I'm done. I have a laugh, some Bactine and a beer. I let the other cat go back in the yard where I found it. Two hours later, Lucy ambles back on her own. I hate cats.
But I wasn't questioned, detained, arrested or shot for prowling around a neighborhood in suburban New York and stealing somebody else's cat in a bold daylight robbery. Cats are more trouble than people. But only if you're me. Your mileage with the Prison Industrial Complex may differ. As for microaggression, I actually kidnapped somebody's cat. Am I going to Progressive Hell?
It was about 5 years ago on the Fourth of July. His face was bloody but the shouting had died down. A fight on the beach. I strolled over as it came into my periphery and stepped straight to the young man. I asked him if he was done fighting. I didn't care about the reason and I told him so. He looked me in the eye, breathing heavily and said "Yeah, I'm through." Implicit in my voice was the warning that I was stepping in and making it my business. I'm an asshole, I know. Assholes provide a very good function, they let the shit get out, because it's doing no good all bottled up inside.
That's the last time I thought I might have to fight, for real.
According to the LA Times, there have been 14 murders over the past 13 years in my town of 67,000. That's far more than I thought but pretty damned safe. That gives us a murder rate of (14/13) * (67/100) = .72. I had been quoting something like (4/17) and was fairly sure that the LAT was my same source. Either way, this is a very safe place to live. Now I've started this project to augment the following casually accurate YouTube presentation by Bill Whittle, with a purpose to pull out the most violent cities, and give a 'rest of America' statistic.
I've run into a bit of a sticky wicket at this early stage, which is that the data I have is dirty and I don't have the patience right now to clean it up and fix it. But here it is in its current state:
That doesn't change the fact that I do put together from time to time an entire library of stuff into my Evernote Memory Hole that supports the detail of what gives me the understanding that I have, aside from mere brilliant deduction and inspired induction. Here's another set of stats a bit more up to date but less comprehensive:
At some point I will migrate all of this towards a more permanent and easily navigable display, as I also intend to do with the larger project behind this one which will be a comprehensive set of snappy answers to stupid Second Amendment questions. Stay tuned. Stay safe. Stay sane.
As Cobb readers know, I'm hanging out with FBI folks these days. One of the agents I spoke with spent years trailing Azzam the American. Like most thoughtful Marine Corps troops and long war veterans he has had plenty of time to consider how Islamic jihadis actually are. He knows his Koran better than most of his foes in Afghanistan. Bottom line is that he understands as do most thoughtful people that Islam is not the enemy and jihadis are more fanatic and dangerous than religious. I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of 'moderate Islam' nor defend too great a tie between current monotheisms and common law. But some scholars (Scheherazade S. Rehman∗ Hossein Askari, 2010) did some interesting research into an idealized interpretation of the Koran vis a vis 'economic justice'.
Given the post-9/11 climate of global uncertainty, suspicion, hostility, and fear, interest in the relationship between religion and economics, politics, and social behavior has been rekindled. In particular, there has been considerable attention afforded to the impact of religion on economic, social, and political development and vice versa. However, before the impact of religion on economic performance or the impact of economic performance on religion can be examined, one should first ascertain the religiosity of a country. In this case, “how Islamic are Islamic countries?” or “what is their degree of ‘Islamicity?”’ In this paper, we assess, on a very preliminary basis, the adherence of Islamic countries to Islamic economic teachings and develop an Economic IslamicityIndex (EI2) to assess the extent that self-declared Islamic countries adhere to Islamic doctrines and teachings. We do this by measuring 208 countries’ adherence to Islamic Economic principles using as proxies 113 measurable variables.
The results of the Economic Islamicity EI2 Index can be seen in Table II, ranking 208 countries according to the 12 Islamic economic principals mentioned earlier, which are represented through 113 different proxies. These very preliminary results would indicate that the so-called and self-declared Islamic countries have not by-and-large adhered to Islamic principles. The average ranking of Islamic countries is 133 for the group of 56 Islamic countries. Islamic countries as a whole did not fare very well in an index that measures the degree of economic Islamicity. The highest ranked Islamic country is Malaysia (ranked 33rd), followed in order by Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Brunei, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey (see Table II).
You'll have to look up the entire paper to see the interesting results. But here's a clue. Ireland is #1, and the US isn't far behind. America is more Islamic than you think (in the top 8%), and that's not a bad thing.
From time to time we need to be reminded that not many writers in the English tongue have improved on Rudyard Kipling's classic poem 'If'. With Kipling in mind, I make a list of 27 items contemporaries might find useful.
1. The classic man has approximately 1/3 the number of shoes of his wife. He knows which few are his favorites and understands the rest are not purchased with his tastes in mind. He leaves her to her budget.
2. The classic man is comfortable at all times because he knows whatever can go wrong inevitably will. He never uses terms like 'swimmingly', instead he measures stresses at the weakest links and prepares for their breaking.
3. The classic man prefers not to eat movie theater food, and only goes for big screen blockbuster openings with his friends or family. He expects the chaos of crowds as part of the moviegoing experience.
4. The classic man indulges with moderation, and always has his steaks cooked to order.
5. The classic man always gives himself plenty of time when out and about in his vehicle. He never particularly minds the extra walk from the far corners of the parking lot.
6. The classic man's bedtime routine frequently involves passing out from a long day's work, but his morning routine is disciplined.
7. The classic man reserves very little of of his capacity for critical judgment on the subject of sugary soft drinks. Whiskey on the other hand...
8. The classic man's erudition is developed and deployed for the sake of unambiguity and wit. He always communicates with respect for the listener, never to prove his superiority. However the classic man has stinging comebacks for insulting posers.
9. The classic man's gentleness instructs his sons. His strength instructs his daughters. His unconditional love binds them all.
10. The classic man takes pride in all of his manual labors and chores in which he aims to be swift and thorough. He always avoids cutting corners and shoddy work.
11. The classic man's business is not in the street. When he uses the web, it is not to be anonymous or crude.
12. The classic man orders toiletries and other staples well in advance of their necessary use. Since he loyal to his brands, surprises are not in order.
13. The classic man has broad tastes in music and literature and is always curious to know what his acquaintances are enjoying. He is never too far from the fashion but slavish to none. He is, despite his habits, always prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
14. The classic man accepts change in technologies and methodologies with an eye to their purpose and effectiveness. He will often be stubborn in holding to an old-fashioned habit or two, not to be perverse but for the sake of his actual enjoyment of the practice. The classic man never forgets Chesterton's fence.
15. The classic man's home looks lived in because it is. It is orderly after his fashion and it speaks volumes about who he is.
16. The classic man is chivalric in all things. He will unselfishly protect the weak from predators wherever he is. He will balance his instinct to be the hero with practical situational awareness, but he will not stand idly by or simply record crime when he can intervene or encourage others to assist him.
17. The classic man has the right tool for the job, but it's all about the job, not about the tool.
18. The classic man may have the occasion to repeat himself for the benefit of those who don't quite understand the universality of his principles.
19. The classic man indulges in the sentimental and romantic with verve, but understands they are no substitute for virtue.
20. The classic man shares his burdens with those he respects most and in that way reinforces his desire to overcome those burdens.
21. The classic man enjoys slapstick in his children as well as their clever wit.
22. The classic man is modest with his endowments and does not titillate his neighbors.
23. The classic man has read at least 75% of the books on his shelves and always has reference books. He is entirely comfortable with digital libraries.
24. The classic man is dependably available according to his commitments. If he needs to be on call, then he is on call. No excuses.
25. The classic man will prepare himself morally and practically to make life and death decisions and will not shy from those areas of life which may ultimately demand it of him.
26. The classic man strives to be reminded of the true dimensions of human tragedy He is not petty.
27. The classic man dances, sometimes with discipline, sometimes with abandon, always with heart.
The other day somebody asked a question about the statistical basis for the views of 'racial realism', which in this (typical) case indicts young black males for a propensity towards crime. I wrote the following:
There is a statistical basis for proving that young black males are arrested for crimes in zipcode 90805 (aka 'the LBC') at higher than the national average rate. There is only human prejudice in the assumptions that young black males everywhere else will behave the same way. 'young', 'black' and 'male' are only three factors among hundreds, and they are not causal. I always like to throw geography into the mix when such questions are asked with a mind towards evoking that sense in the questioner.
You can safely assume that research done at this 'big data' level of detail has not been done, and that once it will have been done, that it will not substantially alter the popular prejudice, especially as long as Snoop Dogg remains famous.
This is a species of debunking the fallacy 'Every place is just like Compton', but I didn't want to talk about Ice Cube again. Nevertheless, I still hold to my fetish with geography's primordinate effect on ones ability to intake social information. Viz my old Neighborhood Project, and 'Racial Geography is Destiny'. But none of this speaks direct to the fundamental understanding that I thought everybody had which was essentially that 'controlling for SES, racial and ethnic differences are statistically insignificant'. But right now I'm missing an authoritative publication on that matter, which is particularly annoying because I just saw that spelled out very well in the same poorly cross-referenced place where I was asked that question.
So, like a splinter in my mind, the next time I come across something at Pew or Rand or perhaps in the archives here or at Booker Rising, I will know to search my own blogsite for 'controlling for SES'. Then I will append the proper citations here.
Somewhat tangential to this, in the air of ridiculous pessimism on race, it is interesting to take a peek at Pew's survey during the Obama honeymoon.
Despite the bad economy, blacks’ assessments about the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter century, according to a comprehensive new nationwide Pew Research Center survey on race.
Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president appears to be the spur for this sharp rise in optimism among African Americans. It may also be reflected in an upbeat set of black views on a range of other matters, including race relations, local community satisfaction and expectations for future black progress.
In each of these realms, the perceptions of blacks have changed for the better over the past two years, despite a deep recession and jobless recovery that have hit blacks especially hard.
The telephone survey was conducted from Oct. 28 to Nov. 30, 2009 among a nationally representative sample of 2,884 adults, including 812 blacks. (For details see page 67 in the full report).
I suspect all of that perception is reversed and imaginary Republican legislation is to blame. Just saying. Still, if you want to look closely at the reasons these stereotypes have legs, IE naming the failures in black communities, you will find the same set of problems. I will quote Glenn Loury from two decades ago to give a litany with the understanding that this was an operating theory of my sourjourn in the Race Man's Bucket.
Today's Race Problem
Nevertheless, as anyone even vaguely aware of the social conditions in contemporary America knows, we still face a "problem of the color line." The dream that race might some day become an insignificant category in our civic life now seems naively utopian. In cities across the country, and in rural areas of the Old South, the situation of the black underclass and, increasingly, of the black lower working classes is bad and getting worse. No well-informed person denies this, though there is debate over what can and should be done about it. Nor do serious people deny that the crime, drug addiction, family breakdown, unemployment, poor school performance, welfare dependency, and general decay in these communities constitute a blight on our society virtually unrivaled in scale and severity by anything to be found elsewhere in the industrial West.
What is sometimes denied, but what must be recognized is that this is, indeed, a race problem. The plight of the underclass is not rightly seen as another (albeit severe) instance of economic inequality, American style. These black ghetto dwellers are a people apart, susceptible to stereotyping, stigmatized for their cultural styles, isolated socially, experiencing an internalized sense of helplessness and despair, with limited access to communal networks of mutual assistance. Their purported criminality, sexual profligacy, and intellectual inadequacy are the frequent objects of public derision. In a word, they suffer a pariah status. It should not require enormous powers of perception to see how this degradation relates to the shameful history of black-white race relations in this country.
Moreover, there is a widening rift between blacks and whites who are not poor--a conflict of visions about the continuing importance of race in American life. Most blacks see race as still of fundamental importance; most whites (and also many Asians and Hispanics) think blacks are obsessed with race. This rift impedes the attainment of commonly shared, enthusiastically expressed civic ideals that might unite us across racial lines in efforts to grapple with our problems. The notion of the "beloved community"--where blacks and whites transcend their differences and cooperate in universal brotherhood to foster racial integration--has never achieved broad appeal. As sociologist William Julius Wilson stressed 20 years ago in his misunderstood classic, The Declining Significance of Race, the locus of racial conflict in our society has moved from the economic to the social and political spheres.
Indeed, standing at the end of the 20th century, one can almost see Du Bois's "problem of the color line" shifting before one's eyes. An historic transformation on race-related issues in the United States is taking place. Arguments about black progress are but one part of the broader endeavor to recast our national understanding of racial matters--an undertaking of enormous importance. It has been a very long time since the civil rights movement constituted a force able to mold the nation's moral sensibilities. A struggle that succeeded brilliantly to win legal equality for blacks after a century of second-class citizenship has for the most part failed to win a national commitment toward eradicating the effects of this historical inheritance. The civil rights approach--petitioning the courts and the federal government for relief against the discriminatory treatment of private or state actors--reached its limit more than a decade ago. Deep improvement in the status of many blacks has taken place, even as the underclass has grown, and there seems to be no politically effective way of mobilizing a national assault on the remaining problems.
What is more, there has been profound demographic change in American society since the 1960s. During this period, nearly 20 million immigrants have arrived on our shores, mostly from non-European points of origin. Hispanics will soon be the nation's largest ethnic minority group. Asian-American college students and urban entrepreneurs are more numerous and more important in the country's economic and political life than ever before. This development is making obsolete the old black-white framework, though blacks must occupy a unique position in any discussion of the nation's ethnic history. But nowadays, as a political matter, to focus solely on the old tension between blacks and whites is to miss something of basic importance.
It is against this backdrop that statistical analyses of the status of African Americans are being conducted. Assessing how much or how little progress has taken place for blacks, and why, is one of the most fiercely contested empirical issues in the social sciences. For years, liberal advocates of blacks' interests tried to deny that meaningful change was occurring. That assessment has always had problems, in my view. In any event, it is no longer tenable. Now the dominant voices on this subject come from right of center. They seem decidedly unfriendly to black aspirations. With great fanfare, these conservatives declare the historic battle against racial caste to have been won. They go on to say that, but for the behavioral dysfunction of the black poor and the misguided demands for affirmative action from a race-obsessed black middle class, our "problem of the color line" could be put behind us. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, with their new book, America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible, offer a prime example of this mode of assessment. This line of argument should not be permitted to shape our national understanding of these matters. Permit me briefly to say why.
No matter whether you agree or disagree with Loury, he's certainly not putting the cause on this on any genetic thing. Rather it is cultural and political.