One of America’s most-accomplished trolls draws me in again

I’m not proud of the fact that, whenever I’m exposed to a Michelle Malkin column, I feel compelled to write something in response. She’s not trying to inform, or persuade, or even make sense; she’s just trying to get a rise out of people and damn it if she doesn’t succeed more often than not. This turd of a column crossed the transom of my consciousness this morning and I’ve been feeling agitated ever since. It’s already been thoroughly and expertly rebutted; there’s really no need to say anything. So, it with no small sense of shame that I’m going to take time out of my Monday morning to write about something that doesn’t merit publication, reading, or consideration.

If you don’t actually want to read the whole thing (and truly, I do not blame you), I’ll try to summarize it for you: Malkin takes Hollywood celbrities, Al Sharpton, “demagogues decrying systemic racism”, narcissistic liberal journalists, and hipster colleges kids for believing that race had something to do with the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Then, she…well, I’ll let you read it for yourself:

Here’s a reality check. While narcissistic liberal journalists and college kids are all posting “Hands Up” selfies in hipster solidarity with Ferguson protesters, it’s law enforcement officers who risk their lives in “war zones” every day across the country.

You see what she did there? Without explicitly stating it, she made the claim that ‘kids being killed by racists cops aren’t the problem, it’s the cops whose lives are truly in danger.’ Before going any further into this Gish gallop of a piece, we have to address the most damning problem with Malkin’s proposition: The fact that police do, in fact, have dangerous jobs, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not racism played a role in Brown’s killing. Not. One. Damn. Thing. It’s a not-particularly-clever attempt to deflect the argument.

You can understand why she’d want to toss a red herring into the discussion: There is a mountain of evidence that law enforcement is racially skewed in the United States (click herehere, here, here*, or here for a few easily retrieved examples). Frankly, I struggle to believe that anyone who has ever so much as visited the United States would be unaware of the bias in law enforcement.

So, yeah, the premise that police have dangerous jobs somehow means we shouldn’t talk about the systemic racism in law enforcement if stupid. But, if you think I’m letting you off that easily, you don’t know me very well.

Malkin goes on to note that one police office dies “in the line of duty” every 58 hours. This statistic is accurate, but terribly misleading for a couple of reasons. One is that she is using a 10 year average which tends to overstate the current death rate, which is down 50% from that level. The other, far more serious, problem with her statistic is obvious when you look at the page. The numbers include all deaths in the line of duty, not just deaths from violent attacks or even deaths related to the police work. I’m not saying that these deaths aren’t genuinely sad, but rather that deaths by heart attack in the line of duty don’t really tell us much about how dangerous it is to be a policeman.

Even if we use these numbers, exactly how dangerous is police work compared to other jobs? Well, using 2013 numbers, 105 officers died in the line of duty. How many officers are there? There were ~1.22 million federal, state, and local, in the United States in 2013. That’s a rate of 8.6 per 100,000. How does that compare to other jobs? It’s high, but it’s nowhere near the highest. It’s below construction (10.8/100,000), transportation (16.3) and well behind mining (27.8) and agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting (29.6).

But, to close this out properly, let’s compare the death rate of police officers, to, say, black children and teenagers. That seems fair, right? It turns out that a black child or teenager dies by gun violence every three hours. Even if we assume that “gun violence” is the only cause of death among black children or teenagers (and you know it isn’t), that means that “being a black child or teenager” is just over 19 times more dangerous than being a police officer.**

So, seriously, if Michelle Malkin were intellectually honest…you know, there’s no point in even completing that statement, is there? For what it’s worth, I believe that police have horrifically dangerous job, I am thankful for the sacrifices officers make to protect me, and I believe that there’s institutional racism in law enforcement. There’s nothing mutually exclusive about those beliefs. Malkin I’m certain, knows this but doesn’t care. She’s just trying to get a reaction.

And she just did. Well played, Michelle. Well played.

 

* OK, this one’s really about racism within the police departments. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to suggest that cops who are racist to their co-workers are likely racist in their enforcement of the law.

** I know full well that I’m not taking the number of black children and teenagers into account which isn’t exactly cricket, but, in fairness, Malkin uses the raw number, not the rate, so it’s very much an apples to apples, right?

 

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Progress report

I’ve contacted several city governments concerning their purchases of certain items (no hints yet) and I’m waiting on a response from all of them. There’s actually a pleasant degree of transparency in city purchasing. The trick is to figure out how these items are named and coded on the relevant documents. I hope to have something concrete to report by the end of next week.

I say “hope” because they’re was a certain reluctance in the voice of each and every clerk once they understood what I was asking for. That suggests I’m on the right track, no?

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Please consider helping Paul Galusha

EDIT: I messed up the donation link. It should be correct now.

This is the sort of story that makes me sick to my stomach. Paul Galusha of Pensacola, Florida, was driving his wife’s car when a city services truck ran a stop sign and ran into him. The car was totaled and Galusha suffered serious injuries.

I won’t recount the whole store here, but the bottom line is that this accident was ruinous for Paul and his wife and the city of Pensacola has refused to even consider covering the amount of damage they did to these people. It’s a really ugly legal situation that makes it almost impossible for the Galushas to even get back to where they were. As it is, they’re faced with crippling debt because of something the city did and the city isn’t stepping up to take responsibility.

If you have the time, please click this link for contact information for the city council in Pensacola. If you have the money, the page gives you a way to donate to these folks. I don’t know them personally, but it could just as easily have been you, or me, or someone we know.

Pensacola’s mayor, Aston Hayward, has promised to “run the city like a business.” Fortunately, cities aren’t businesses and are, in theory, accountable to voters. Help me prove that theory. Let them know how you feel, the louder the better. And, if you live in Pensacola, I urge you to vote against anyone in city government who doesn’t actively attempt to right this wrong.

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On a jet plane with Sarah Palin (figuratively speaking)

This is one of those “Hey, I’m writing from a plane” posts. Can’t wait to be back home. I have Things To Do. However, first things first: My inbox has been filling up with commentary on the early days of the Sarah Palin channel. The passage that’s been drawing the most interest is this one, Palin’s response to Elizabeth Warren’s claim that fast food workers should earn a living wage.

“We believe — wait, I thought fast food joints — don’t you guys think that they’re like of the devil or something? Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint that you just don’t believe in — I don’t know, I thought you wanted to send them to purgatory or something. So they all go vegan. And wages and picket lines, I don’t know, they’re not often discussed in purgatory are they? I don’t know, why are you even worried about fast food wages? Well, we believe — an America where minimum wage jobs, they’re not lifetime gigs, they’re stepping stones to sustainable wages. It teaches work ethic.”

Let me start by saying that most extemporaneous speech looks pretty silly when its transcribed word-for-word. Style wise, I’ll give her a pass. She’s not very good at this, but I wouldn’t consider it a damning failure.

As for the content…look, this is Sarah Palin we’re talking about here. Her schtick is to act folksy and mix in as many buzzwords as she can in the time allotted. It’s nonsense, and not in the “oh piffle, she’s saying things that aren’t true or I don’t agree with” sense. The words she’s saying literally have no meaning. If you try to string together logical propositions from a Sarah Palin speech, you’ll fail, because they just aren’t there. That’s always been true of her and there’s no reason to expect her to be any different now that she has her own vanity project.

Mostly, I’m just tired of her. She hasn’t improved at anything since bursting onto the public stage six years ago. I watched one episode of her show. She’s not a better speaker, she’s doesn’t appear to have learned anything new, she can’t interact with other people. In short, she doesn’t add anything to the discussion. She just is, and that’s not enough for me want to pay any more attention to her.

Says the guy who just wrote a whole post about her…

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A quick one (while I’m away)

I’ve been doing some traveling and, while I love this weird, fever dream version of what we used to call a “telephone”, it isn’t terribly conducive to writing anything beyond one hundred and forty-odds characters. That said, I’ve noticed a disturbing feature that had quietly become ubiquitous in American cities that I find disturbing. I’d like to do a little research before I post anything, and, as luck would have it, I’ve acquired a couple of contacts who ought to be able to help. So…be patient. I think I have something good in the works.

Oh, and I still need to say something about the U.S supreme court’s curious compulsion to embrace the fallacy of composition, but I need a proper keyboard, our at least a Bluetooth one that works well with android,  to get that one down on non-paper. On the off chance you were wondering what to get uncle Pancakes for his birthday…

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Not sure if ironic or…

Anyone else having trouble with Adobe Flash crashing in Chrome every few minutes?

flash

And yes, you Apple folks can feel a little superior right now.

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Proton Mail – Is this what really secure email looks like?

I’ll answer my own question with a definite “maybe” (and a Fry fistful of American dollars). Proton Mail’s Indiegogo funding has been remarkably successful so far, easily surpassing the base goal of $100,000. With five days remaining, there is a real chance they could hit all of the “bonus” funding benchmarks and wind up with a formidable suite of products.

The current feature list includes:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Expiration
  • Unsend
  • Scheduling
  • No Ads
  • Swiss-Based (kind of a big deal if you’re at all aware of U.S. policy)
  • Compatible (with other systems)
  • Zero-access (for the admins)
  • No installation
  • Free forever

I just received my beta invite, so I haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet. I’ve added my Proton Mail address to my contact page, and, if all goes well, I’ll move my domain email over to them.

Proton Mail is a very important experiment and it has the potential to make internet messaging secure for a while. I’m happy to spend a few bucks to push the project forward a few feet. If you’re interested, check it out, and if you’ve used Proton Mail, let me know what you think.

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The Queen City on the Ohio

It would be fair to say that my values are not typical of those expressed in my town’s newspaper. If one were to judge Cincinnati, Ohio strictly on the editorial content of the Cincinnati Enquirer, one might conclude that Cincinnati that the baseball team isn’t the only thing that’s red about this town. The paper leans hard to the right on economic and social issues with a smattering of racial ickiness thrown in for good measure.

As you might guess, they have been unwilling to publish any and all letters I’ve written to the editor. However, as I spend literally several minutes on these things, I’ve decided to go ahead and share them with you, my most favorite reader(s) in the whole world wide web.

Today’s subject is a letter written to explain, in simple terms, Rand Paul’s “Economic Freedom Zone” scheme. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Mike Menkhaus:

What are potential sales if all the income of potential customers is exempted from taxes? Note that the decision about what will be purchased by customers now lies solely within their own purview. Vendors who provide the most desired and needed products and services will be most successful. Realize also that this is not the case for money deducted from income by the government for tax purposes – purchase decisions for that money is determined by bureaucrats based upon what is politically expedient.

There’s a lot more. It’s a marvelous oversimplification of libertarian economic theory. In fact, it was so simply that I felt compelled to fill in a few blanks:

Dear sirs,

I am writing in response to Mike Menkhaus’ outstanding letter to the editor “Simple way to understand Paul’s economic zones” on 24 July, 2014. While I appreciate the simplicity of the examples that Menkhaus cited, I’d like to expand on a couple of points that he appears to have skipped over in the interest of clarity.

Mr. Menkhaus’ example seems to imply that there is a direct inverse relationship between economic activity and tax rates, which is true up to a point. However, history has shown that there is a point at which lowering taxes actually decreases economic growth. This seemingly counterintuitive fact is due to the loss of infrastructure investment (roads, utilities, law enforcement,education) that government spending produces. Without a solid, safe foundation upon which to build, economic growth is stifled.

The other point that Mr. Menkaus failed to mention is that the vast majority of people currently living in these proposed Economic Freedom Zones already pay essentially nothing in personal income taxes. Lowering tax rates in these zones would do very little to increase purchase power or demand. The greatest beneficiaries of these zones would people people who already have a large amounts of discretionary income. A better answer would be simply to cut people who have no discretionary income a check, but that’s another discussion.

This leads me to the final, most obvious point that I’m sure Mr. Menkhaus left out due to space considerations: Lowering income tax across the board so long as it is accompanied by a tremendous increase in capital gains taxes and the implementation of an accumulated wealth tax. If you want to use tax policy to create economic growth, as Mr. Paul clearly does, the best way to ensure that money continues moving is to incentivize people to spend it and create jobs.

I would like to commend Mr. Menkhaus for his outstanding but oversimplified explanation of Mr. Paul’s economic policies. I hope that my letter expanding on his ideas provides people with additional understanding of the details of these policies.

Thank you,

WTF Pancakes
Cincinnati, OH

I’m not really expecting to see it in print, but I didn’t want to let what little work I put into it go to waste. I didn’t mention it in my reply, but I think Mr. Menkhaus deserves kudos for referencing a book that has two “editorial reviews” on Amazon.com…by Ayn Rand and Ron Paul. This circle has now officially been jerked.

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Google+: Coda

Skud wrote a marvelous “alternate universe” version of Google’s announcement of the end to their odious “real names” policy. It’s hard to find an ideal quote to pull from it because it’s all good, but let’s go with this one:

We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when they sought support.

Really, they’re all good and I urge you to read the whole thing. I do feel, however, that Skud missed a couple of points. I’d add something along the lines of:

“We also wish to apologise for the misleading, confusing, and frequently self-contradictory rationales we published to justify our real-names policy. There is no evidence that requiring real names encourages the kind of community we wish to foster, and our encouragement to use pseudonyms that “looked real” was misguided and, frankly, irresponsible. Those excuses were insulting to our users and fostered justifiable distrust towards Google and Google products. Going forward, we will deal honestly with our community, even if the truth is awkward or unpleasant.”

I think that about covers it. Maybe, maybe if Google were to publish something along those lines, I might reconsider having an outpost on G+. I am not holding my breath.

(for a little bit on my experience with Google+, start here)

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If you lessen the value of life…

Just a quick one today. A couple of universities have produced studies on the impact of the “Stand Your Ground” laws. The results were, at least to me, wholly unsurprising. The TL/DR: A lot more deaths and no less crime.

In this case, “a lot more deaths” means 600 additional homicides per year per state. The studies didn’t determine whether or not the additional homicides were “justified” under the SYG laws or not; they restricted the studies to people killing other people.

Another finding that might surprise some folks is that SYG laws did not lead to an increase in gun ownership. I’m not sure if that means anything significant, but I thought it was interesting.

The takeaway is that, if you lower the bar for legally killing other people, then more people are going to be killed. Interestingly, in the increase in homicides seems to be restricted entirely to white males (the killers, not the kill-ees). Again, I’m not terribly surprised.

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