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Friday, September 20, 2013

An Immodest Proposal

It should be clear by now that unilateral disarmament doesn't work, and pacifism is fatally flawed. Unfortunately, whenever a mass shooting happens, the Left immediately jumps to its default position: calls for more gun regulation, with hopes for confiscation.

That the former is useless, and the latter impossible seems not to register; in reality, that place where nothing is free and unicorns only appear in kids books, the Left would find greater odds of success in making the crazy sane, and the evil good.

By far the most delusional concept has to be "gun free zones", which serve only to clearly identify where utterly defenseless people are gathered in confined spaces so the murderously insane can go on their killing binges with impunity.

It is long past time to break that delusional cycle, and the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program provides the way out. FFDOs have to undergo training and regular qualification in order to carry a gun on the airplane. Their authority extends only as far as the flight deck door.

We need to extend that model by creating a Federal Violence Prevention Officer (FVPO) program. It would look something like this:
  • FVPOs are authorized only to stop actions with murderous intent.
  • Local police departments screen applicants. Approval for the program requires a completely clean background check, except for minor traffic violations.
  • Minimum age: 25 years old
  • Approved applicants must, at their expense, purchase an HK USP40 pistol, then successfully complete NRA approved gun safety and tactical shooting programs.
  • Semi-annual qualification shooting.
  • FVPOs may carry anywhere at any time.
  • FVPOs may not carry when drinking alcoholic beverages.
The point should be obvious, and no, it isn't to give Leftists the vapours.

Rather, the FVPO program will stop the fundamental insanity of telling the murderously insane exactly where they can go to kill at will for the 5-15 minutes it will take before the police can arrive. Additionally, it greatly increases the odds that someone will be in the vicinity of a suicide killer when he starts his spree.

In the realm of quotidian murders, the kind that go practically unnoticed by their hundreds in urban neighborhoods, incentives matter. Criminals and gang members are going to put a great deal more thought into popping off caps if they know there are hawks among the pigeons, and there's no telling which is which.

To be perfectly fair, this proposal requires addressing its downsides. Which are ... ummm ... There aren't any. No cost to the government, except for program administration costs. There are already law abiding and trained people carrying guns everywhere they go. They are called police officers. What possible objection could there be to adding to their numbers people who are just as law abiding, and at least as well trained?

Okay, there is one. Self defense is anathema to the Left. Insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing, hoping for a different approach each time. It is long past time to think different.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

With Government and Stagnation for All

Finally! We're heading for equality!

For the last 10 to 15 years, the rich are getting poorer and the poor are getting poorer.  Everybody's in the same boat and the falling tide is lowering everybody.

Better yet, all races are getting poorer at the same time!  We're all in this together!

I wonder where all the money has gone?

Ahhhh.  Found it!  The chart below is United States Government Spending (all levels) per capita in constant 2005 dollars.  We pay approximately 3 times as much per person as we did 40 years ago.

Yes, yes, I know.  I've painted the most dismal and pessimistic picture possible with these three charts. However, the above charts happen to match my observations and daily experiences so perhaps that explains my pessimism.

For better or worse, I think the United States requires forward momentum in terms of wealth generation to exist for the long term in its current form.  Another decade or two of stagnation coupled with continued growth of government spending per capita and the continuing onslaught on an increasing regulatory burden will cripple this country.

I'm strongly encouraging my daughters to look for opportunities beyond our borders.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One for the Physicists Among Us...

... who also like music: Bohemian Gravity

A Few Infographics

Income Inequality

Poverty Rates

Income Mobility

The Mystery Graphic

I'll update this post in a day or two identifying "The Mystery Graphic" along with some more commentary.  In the meantime, any guesses?

All four infographics clearly correlate with each other.  The correlation between "The Mystery Graphic" and Income Mobility looks to be quite high by eye.  Any causation between the four?  If so, which way does the causation run?


Someone had sent me the Income Mobility infographic a couple of months ago. When I saw it, it reminded me of one I saw many years ago when then Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D, N.Y.) quipped: "If you would improve your state's math scores, move your state closer to the Canadian border!" That infographic showed math scores by state and looked nearly identical to the Income Mobility one.

Hey Skipper identified the source for The Mystery Graphic it in his comment on 18-Sep-2013 at 8:26 AM which he then subsequently deleted. The Mystery Graphic is the percentage of the population that's black by county.  The darkest blue is used for counties that are greater than 50% black.

Personally, I think that the correlation between The Mystery Graphic and Income Mobility is the most interesting.  It seems that blacks never have had, and perhaps never will have, any Income Mobility.

The first guess is racism, but as an explanation it has several holes.  Whites are also prejudiced against Asians, yet Asians have higher median incomes than whites.  Also, many of the ancestors of today's Chinese-Americans immigrated to work on the railroad, and were treated only a little, if any, better than the black slaves in the south.  Men are accused of being prejudiced against women, but women now graduate from college at far higher rates than men.  There's plenty of prejudice against Jews even today, yet no affirmative action is required there.  In the middle east, Arabs sometimes seem ignorant and backwards, but Arab-Americans do quite well on average.  In the last several decades, every group except blacks have had significant income mobility.

Also, if the answer is overwhelming racism, then why on earth are blacks moving back to the South?  In fact, why are they staying there at all?  I believe that anti-black racism is more prevalent in the South, but ultimately, money trumps racism for businesses making hiring decisions and catering to customers.  You may loathe the black customer, but his money's just as green as everyone else's, and if you want it, you'll be nice enough to him.  If you need to hire someone to get a job done, and the black guy can do it for a bit less than the white guy, you're going to hire the black guy.

For whatever reason, blacks have no significant income mobility, and are hugely over represented in the lower quintiles of education, earnings and opportunity.  This has been the case for generations.  Affirmative Action has made only the tiniest difference (and some would argue that it's not a positive difference), massive increases in spending on public education has made no difference at all (for anybody of any race), and welfare has fattened them up, but hasn't provided any additional opportunity.

They are stuck, nobody knows why, and there doesn't seem to be a solution.  Bummer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stuck Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

In a line, that pretty much describes our Syrian national security dilemma.  

While it is a truism, it isn't necessarily trite to note that the choice of solution depends upon framing the problem.  The opening sentence itself contains a frame: what happens in Syria is important to US national security.  Obviously, context matters.  It isn't necessarily true that Syria's civil war should amount to anything but a particularly murderous current event.  Think Rwanda.  

Except that the Assad regime used sarin gas.  To which the enquiring mind might ask, "So?"  There has been plenty of slaughter to go around, and there seems to be no obvious reason to prefer death by shrapnel evisceration over succumbing to sarin.

That the reason isn't obvious should be put down to improperly framing the problem.  Sarin gas is one leg of the triumvirate that comprises Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Aside from pointless wordiness (why not Mass Destruction Weapons?), nerve agents are distinctly different from nuclear and bacteriological weapons.  All three are the antithesis of precise application of force, but nerve agents are unique.  Like bacteriological weapons, and unlike nuclear weapons, they do not cause any infrastructure damage.  Unlike bacteriological and nuclear weapons, nerve agents like sarin have no persistent effects.

Which means we always needed a different term for nerve agents.  Something along the lines of PMW: Profitable Murder Weapon.  It requires no intellectual exertion to demonstrate that some people, given sufficient power, will start from the basest convictions and create hecatombs. What makes PMWs different is that it not only makes hecatombs easy, it makes them profitable.  For the price of a few crop dusters, entire districts can be had intact with only the bother of clearing corpses.  Ethnic cleansing without having to queue up the cattle cars.

That should frame the problem exquisitely.

The Assad regime's undeniable use of sarin presents a meta-problem.  By that I mean a problem that exists above other problems in the same realm.  In national security terms, resorting to a PMW requires a response independent of normal Hobbesian international relations.  And, unfortunately, the only country able to transcend Hobbes is the United States.

Which is one of the reasons why President Obama is stuck between the devil and the deep blue Sea.  Taking the appropriate action against the meta-problem could run directly counter to our Hobbesian interests; since it is impossible to say which victory is worse for us, Assad's, the Sunni's or the Shia's, our national security policy should be aimed at all of them losing for as long as possible.  Indeed, the Obama administrations seeming fecklessness in this regard might well be a cover for a far more cynical foreign policy than his worshipers would ever be willing to acknowledge.

Therefore, if I was the National Security Advisor, my advice would be:  1.  Doing nothing is, counterintuitively, doing something.  2.  This is a meta-problem; doing nothing isn't an option.  3.  The goal of doing something is not to dissuade the Assad regime from using PMWs again, but to make it (or others similarly inclined) sorry they ever thought about it in the first place.

Mr. President, I grant doing so could shift the balance of power to a party that is contrary to our national interests, but since they all are, that is, practically speaking, an imponderable distinction without difference.  

Presuming the President took my advice, the speech I would have written would have made the punitive point clear, and left the suggestion that the Snowden affair might well be a false flag operation:  "Everyone significant in the Assad government and military -- our PGMs have you on speed dial."  The clear goal to make those loyal to Assad, and their families, start to fear us more than him.

Clearly, this isn't what has happened.  Yet just as clearly even President Obama's most fervent critics must admit that what to do about Syria is a dilemma for which either horn could be argued effectively, solely based upon how the problem is framed.

So, no matter the decision, I won't criticize the President for making it.

However, there is criticism aplenty for his administration.  That the Assad regime had significant quantities of a PMW was no secret, nor should the possibility of its use in a regime-threatening civil war have come as any surprise.  That the Obama administration reacted like a headlight-pinned deer when the first small PMW uses occurred is bad enough, but that it should maintain that glassy-eyed posture when Assad stopped fooling around and got busy is almost unfathomable.  

Unfortunately, Obama himself, and the Left in general, are responsible for their own paralysis.  Having excoriated President Bush for having made a far more thorough case for eliminating Saddam, then gotten Congress's approval for doing so, Obama faces charges of gross hypocrisy on one hand, or dereliction in the face of eminently foreseeable provocation on the other.

Just because I framed the problem as I did doesn't make it right.  It would be easy to frame this horrible situation purely in terms of amoral state interests.  I think that would be risking the long term consequences of short term thinking, but there is no denying that the only way to the long term is through all manner of short terms.  

Leaving aside the administration's curious incompetence -- which I think we should, because even competent foreign policy would likely be in the same position -- I have a great deal of sympathy for him.  There is simply no good way out.

Oh, one other thing.  I have learned to absolutely loathe the term "boots on the ground".  If there was ever a dehumanizing term with which to refer to those who swear to risk their lives on our behalf, that must be it.  They are soldiers, people, not boots.  It is bad enough that all manner of people thoughtlessly use that wordy slander, but for the Commander in Chief to include it in a state speech is appalling. 

Monday, September 02, 2013


I've added Andertoons, one of my favorite cartoonists, to this blog's sidebar, so now you can stop by for your daily chuckle.