Products of Fear

Beware of the tiny gods frightened men create.

Hafiz (13th century)

This week’s featured posts are “I’d rather have Trump” and “Why are middle-aged whites dying?“.

This week everybody was talking about the off-year elections

In Houston, we saw that fear is still a winning tactic. A LGBT-rights ordinance decisively lost because it got characterized as a “bathroom ordinance” that sexual predators could take advantage of. Of course, similar ordinances exist elsewhere, and no one has assembled evidence that sexual predation is rising there. But how can you not want to protect that little girl in the commercial?

In Kentucky, it was the 2010 phenomenon all over again: When turnout is low, radical conservatives win. All those demographic projections that show the Republican electorate dying out mean nothing if Democratic constituencies don’t vote.

The one really encouraging result came from Ohio, where voters passed a measure that attempts to eliminate gerrymandering of state legislature districts. It has no effect on congressional districts, but it’s a step in the right direction.

and why white Americans are dying

I try to personalize the statistics in one of the featured posts.

and police vs. Tarantino

Movie director Quentin Tarantino has been called a “cop-hater” and accused of calling for “violence against police officers”. Police unions in New York and Los Angeles have announced boycotts of his new movie.

So what exactly did he say to incite all this? He spoke at a rally against police brutality and said:

What am I doing here? I’m doing here because I am a human being with a conscience. And when I see murder, I cannot stand by and I have to call the murdered the murdered. And I have to call the murderers the murderers.

Here’s the weird thing about this controversy: Cops are killing innocent unarmed people, or harmless people who have committed minor infractions. That’s not disputable; we have the video. Lots of video. Case after case, all over the country.

Everyone agrees that the vast majority of cops are not doing this. But for some reason they are choosing to identify with the ones who are. And by doing so, they are the ones who are slandering cops, not Tarantino. Tarantino is denouncing cops who murder people. If you then decide this is an offense to all cops, then you are the one saying that all cops are murderers. Not Tarantino.

Meanwhile, there was a weird turn in one of the stories that fed the war-on-cops meme. When a Houston deputy and an Illinois lieutenant were shot within a few days of each other last summer, suddenly the media — especially conservative media — were full of law enforcement officials blaming President Obama and Black Lives Matter for creating the hostile environment that had made it “open season on cops”.

Now that the case of Fox Lake, Illinois Lt. Joe Gliniewicz has been investigated, though, we get a different result: Gliniewicz’ death was “a carefully staged suicide … [that] was the end result of extensive criminal acts that Gliniewicz had been committing.” He had been stealing money from a program intended to mentor young people, and he staged his suicide to look like murder, hoping he would not be exposed.

Fortunately, the massive manhunt looking for the one black and two white men Gliniewicz had mentioned on the radio before his death didn’t turn up anyone fitting the description.

Trevor Noah captured the absurdity of some of the defenses of police:

The police are just trying to make a basic point: People are treating them unfairly just because of who they are and how they look. People keep following them around with cameras, watching everything they do, suspicious that they’re always about to break the law, leaving police afraid to even get out of their cars for fear that someone might whip out a phone and brutally film them. Who can imagine how that must feel? And if you listen carefully, all the police are saying is “phones down, don’t shoot.”

and Ben Carson

Carson is neck-and-neck with Donald Trump for leadership in the national polls of Republican voters. This week he faced a bunch of bad publicity, as I discuss in one of the featured posts. Whether this will puncture his bubble or give him increased cred for being “persecuted” by the “liberal media”, I can’t predict.

and you also might be interested in …

The Keystone Pipeline is dead. The process was agonizingly slow, but in the end President Obama seems to have played it right. He stalled until circumstances swung against the pipeline, and his decision seems more like a final nail in the coffin than a deathblow.

I stand by pretty much everything I wrote in “A Hotter Planet is in the Pipeline“. The big thing I learned in researching that article was that if we’re going to avoid a climate disaster, most of the fossil fuels we’ve already discovered will have to stay in the ground. That’s a fact that’s hard to wrap your mind around, and I think most Americans still don’t grasp it.

This week’s guns-make-us-safer story comes from a Cracker Barrel in Sanford, Florida, where a man’s gun fell out of his holster and went off. According to The Palm Beach Post, the bullet hit a kettle and split into fragments, wounding three people, including the gun-owner’s fiance. (Dump that loser, girlfriend.)

As somebody — I wish I could remember who — was saying on Facebook, incidents like this are treated as accidents, but they’re really not; they’re negligence. WFXT’s legal analyst says, “.” But if so, that law needs to be changed. Carrying a gun is serious business. If you don’t know how to keep it from going off, then you are endangering the public every time you go out armed.

Politically, that’s a gun-control battle I’d like to see. Make the NRA defend these bumbling fools, rather than spin fantasies about the John-Wayne-like good guy with a gun.

I didn’t post a guns-make-us-safer story last week, but I missed this one:

When Naomi Bettis called 911 on Halloween morning to report a gunman going on a shooting rampage in the streets of Colorado Springs, Colorado, it was her second call for help. Bettis had earlier called 911 to report a suspicious man brandishing a rifle, only to be told by the emergency operator that no help was coming because Colorado is an open-carry state.

That delay contributed to three people winding up dead.

The rationale for banning open carry is similar to that for banning drunk driving: Neither the drunk driver nor the guy walking down the street with a rifle has hurt anybody yet. And maybe they won’t. (Every night, I’ll bet thousands of drunks drive home without incident.) But it might be a good idea for police to notice them sooner rather than later.

Juan Cole begins his discussion of Ahmad Chalabi’s death with a Clarence Darrow quote: “I’ve never killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction reading the obituary notices.” Hoping to be set up as a pro-American ruler, Chalabi led the Iraqi exile group that fed the Bush administration the false intelligence it needed to justify invading Iraq. Cole concludes:

Chalabi was an accessory to one of the great crimes of the twenty-first century, the launching of an aggressive war with no casus belli and the ruination through incompetence and sectarianism of a great country.

and draws this lesson:

Persons full of overweening ambition and dedicated to the pursuit of narrow self-interest can often destroy the very prize that they so eagerly sought, crushing it to death in a satanic embrace.

The October jobs report was encouraging, with unemployment ticking down to 5% and the underlying numbers also looking good. For a little perspective, one of Mitt Romney’s promises was that his administration would create so many jobs that unemployment would go down to 6% by the end of his first term in 2017.

A statistic frequently quoted by people who don’t want to give the Obama administration credit for anything is the number of Americans not in the labor force. The Wall Street Journal took a look at who these people are and wasn’t particularly alarmed. Most of them are retired or in school.

None of this is to say that the American economy is unbelievably great or unusually rosy. By almost any conventional labor market measurement the economy has yet to recover from a recession that started almost eight years ago. But the notion that 92 million Americans are unaccounted for, that there’s a conspiracy in these statistics, or that we have no idea what 20 million prime-age Americans are up to, just isn’t right.

and let’s close with something both smart and amusing

Thames Valley Police explain the issue of sexual consent with a very British analogy.

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  • cadburybeauchat  On November 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Doug,

    As usual, another great work of thought for the week. Thank you very much. I look forward to your Sifts each week.

    Did I miss it, or have you dealt with the TPP thing yet? I know there is a lot to digest, especially since you’ve only recently seen the whole document. I can’t understand how President Obama has been such a strong supporter! I look forward to your thoughts.

    I also took the liberty of sending you a facebook “friends” request.

    Thanks again,

    Michael Pickel Brunswick, Maine

  • Courtney Bermack (@CBermack)  On November 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    For gun accidents == negligence, you might want Jim Wright, whose blog is Stonekettle Station. He talks on facebook about how there’s no gun accidents.

  • coastcontact  On November 9, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Yes! I would DEFINITELY prefer Trump over Carson. Neither comes even close to my ideal candidate. Wait, my near ideal candidate doesn’t exist. Compared to leading, flip flopping Hillary Clinton, Trump might be the best choice. At least we know where he stands.

    I read part of the first chapter of the latest Carson book and he writes about the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, you know – the first 7 amendments. When I read that and heard about the purpose for the Egyptian pyramids according to Carson, I started considering where I might live after leaving the USA.

    • Alan  On November 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      My preferred candidate reevaluates their positions based on the best available information. Your preferred candidate is a flip-flopper.

  • Anonymous  On November 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    The “Tea and Consent” video is quite good.

  • Philip Finn  On November 9, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    On the Chalabi matter:
    Another lesson might be how some people will reduce a prize to a dunghill as long as they get to be king of it. That’s why one has to be wary of all “freedom fighters”, a lesson Americans have yet to learn, in both foreign and domestic policy. Some genuinely envision a future greater, bigger than itself or themselves, but all too many are simply reducing their society down to a common tribalist denominator, one blind enough to elect them one-eyed kings.

  • Jacob McLees  On November 9, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    “As somebody — I wish I could remember who — was saying on Facebook, incidents like this are treated as accidents, but they’re really not; they’re negligence.”

    I read something very similar to this posted by Jim Wright on Facebook, so that’s my best guess.

  • Dan Willis  On November 10, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    I discovered your blog earlier this year and look forward to it each week. You write with such clarity. I just have one tiny wish–it is that you would put the dates for your posts at the top, next to the title. That way readers could determine if they already read an article in an instant.

  • Philippe Saner  On November 13, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    In other guns-make-us-safer news…

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