Forbes, one of the central arbiters of conventional business culture, has declared that, in business, if you’re 5 minutes early for an appointment, you are on time, but if you’re on time for an appointment, you’re late.
The implications of this idea are obvious. If you meet expectations, you’re a disgraceful slacker. If you don’t work late hours, you’re not committed to your job. If you don’t use your own money and other resources to make up for gaps in the office, you’re not a team player.
What’s Forbes going to tell us next? That if we haven’t given a pint of blood every week to our corporate owners, we’re parasites on the system?
There are hardly any restrictions to big money flows in political campaigns left, but one of the few remaining is this: the unlimited cash sources called “Super PACs” cannot coordinate with presidential campaigns. They must operate independently.
The non-profit Center for Public Integrity has released a report uncovering a direct connection between the Presidential campaign of Jeb Bush and the Super PAC that fictively works independently on his behalf, called Right to Rise. Public Integrity documents that the Super PAC Right to Rise is sending payments to a mysterious company whose sole known address is a post office box. Who owns that box? None other than Heather Larrison, the national finance director for Bush’s official presidential campaign.
In a nation run by laws, there would be investigations and arrests. In a nation run by money, there would be little notice. Watch and see what kind of nation we live in.
USA Today shares a useful new piece of technology…
… for people too drunk to count or with such a large bounty that they don’t need to count. Behold the Internet of Useless Things.
As we’re getting closer to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries, Donald Trump is having to hurry to assemble the practical political apparatus that his opponents in the Republican nomination contest already have a great deal of experience with. Trump is getting some special help with this task, however.
Last month, Scott B. Mackenzie, a Washington D.C. political consultant, established a political action committee called Patriots for Trump. The PAC is already spending money to establish local political teams in Iowa and New Hampshire that will finagle the system in Donald Trump’s favor.
Where that money comes from, we can’t say for sure. However, we can say that Scott Mackenzie has used some unethical means of gathering money in the past.
A couple of years ago, Scott Mackenzie helped to establish a PAC called Conservative Strike Force. That PAC sent out massive numbers of emails asking people to make donations to help out the campaign of Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia. The group begged, “Please donate whatever vou can right now. Ken Cuccinelli needs you!”
Conservative Strike Force raised 2.2 million dollars. It sent Ken Cuccinelli 10 thousand dollars. Ken Cuccinelli later successfully sued Mackenzie and others for their deceptive practices, resulting in a punitive fine.
In fact, Scott Mackenzie is Treasurer of 30 such political action committees. They solicit huge amounts of money from small donors, claiming that the money is needed to help Republican political candidates, but Mackenzie’s PACs use just a tiny portion of the money they receive to help any political campaigns.
Where does all the money go? According to the Center For Responsive Politics, one of Scott Mackenzie’s group, Freedom’s Defense Fund, spent 69 percent of the money it gathered from donors on direct payments to Scott Mackenzie.
It isn’t just financial ethics that Scott Mackenzie has problems with. Mackenzie also has trouble simply telling the truth. It was Mackenzie who established the Conservative Majority Fund a few years ago, a PAC that was devoted to spreading false rumors that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Those false rumors were also spread by Donald Trump. So, maybe it’s apt that Trump is having his ground game in Iowa and New Hampshire pumped up with the money Scott Mackenzie gathered through his dishonest schemes. It’s apt, but that doesn’t make it any less crooked.
I’ve been driving by this church sign in Searsport, Maine for over a week now, and every time I see it my teeth go on edge:
How can anyone possibly think this is a good idea to share? How can anyone believe this? How can anyone believe in an omnipotent God who lets innocent little girls suffer like this?
No. If your omnipotent God exists, He is a royal prick. If He doesn’t exist, you should stop pretending He does and focus on the real people who make horrors like this happen.
It has been two months now since the murder of Voncile Smith and her sons in Pensacola, Florida. It has been two months since the county sheriff there, David Morgan, held a sensationalistic press conference to announce that he had evidence that the murder was conducted by Wiccans who were practicing a Blue Moon murder ritual.
Dawn Perlmutter, a self-appointed “expert” on ritual murder, who actually has an art degree and no training in criminal justice, fanned the flames of Satanic Panic, saying that yes, it looked like a classic ritual murder to her. She had not actually seen any evidence related to the case.
Internationally, journalists jumped on the clickbait sensationalism. Almost none of them asked any critical questions, but repeated without scrutiny the claims of Sheriff David Morgan.
Sheriff Morgan then announced that, as soon as he got some laboratory test results in, he would make another public announcement about the case.
Two months have gone by now, and what update can we offer you?
The Escambia Sheriff’s Office still hasn’t come up with any evidence that there was anything at all Wiccan, or ritualized, or related to the Blue Moon, about the murders.
About two weeks ago, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office stopped issuing any press releases about any criminal cases at all. Sheriff Morgan never shared the results of those laboratory tests.
Internationally, journalists have ignored the fact that Sheriff David Morgan’s claims of a Blue Moon Wiccan Ritual Murder Cult have turned out to be completely bogus.
Last week, a comment left here by Ella reacted to Peregrin Wood’s characterization of Radical Islamic Instant Internet Brainwashing Hypnowave stories as an unfounded social panic. Ella claimed that it is right to be afraid, since here in the United States we have become so much more violent over the years:
“Violence, for whatever reason, it becoming accepted as normal in the USA now? How many college students have been gunned down in the past 10 years? How many civilians that are not ever mentioned other than in local media? How many officers that are not mentioned in national media? How many students in the lower grades have come to live in fear because of the shootings and killings in schools in other towns? America is becoming more violent rapidly, but it took years for it to get this way.”
I responded briefly, without citing any sources of information, that this simply wasn’t true.
“America is NOT becoming more violent. It is far LESS violent than in the past, actually. What has soared is the mass media fascination with violence. The scare is all about how people perceive the world, not about the world as it actually is.”
And Ella responded:
“Violence, according to some, is escalating in at least some American cities, over a year ago.
Currently, people in America that have died since January 1, 2015 from: Mass shooting 43; Domestic violence 1102; Murder by gun 8674; Homicide 12,678; Suicide 29,825.”
At that point, I offered to share some broader data, which is why I’m writing this article.
Ella’s earlier quote notes that trends in crime are best observed over long periods, since any one year might be unusually calm or violent but over many years such spikes and dips tend to resolve into trends. It’s a good argument, similar to the call people make about observing climate over long periods of time rather than reacting in a panic to one day’s weather.
So let’s look over a long period of time. I’ve patched together data from the annual Uniform Crime Reports data release called Crime in the United States, specifically Table 1 (national trends from 1995-2014) and Table 8 (city crime rates for a particular year).
Here’s the trend nationally:
Quite clearly, without doubt, violent crime in general and murder in particular (both of which Ella mentions) are on a notable decline.
Ella raises the case of the possibility of particular rises in particular cities during the current year. The New York Times article to which she refers cites Washington DC, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Baltimore as places where there may be spikes of violent crime and murder occurring compared to last year, 2014. I can’t share crime statistics for 2015 for those cities because, well, 2015 isn’t done yet. Besides, it usually takes criminologists about 9 months to tabulate all the data. But even if the perception of crime spikes in these cities compared to 2014 is accurate, against what trend are those spikes occurring? Against the trend of crime over the last 25 years. Let’s look at those trends for the cities Ella refers to (except for St. Louis, which like a handful of other cities has not had its crime data reported consistently in the FBI’s Crime in the United States over the last 25 years):
For violent crime in general, all four cities but Milwaukee have been experiencing a decline in violent crime over the past 25 years. For murder in particular, Washington and New Orleans have experienced sharp declines in recent years, while Baltimore and Milwaukee have experienced a very small declines.
What does this mean? For the nation overall, there clearly has been a decline in reports of violent crime. For three of the four of the cities Ella mentions, violent crime has also been on the decline. For Milwaukee in particular, a spike in violent crime in 2015 would occur against a backdrop of previous rises in violent crime (although not in murder), and would be therefore particularly worrisome. But for the other cities, a violent crime spike compared to 2014, unless staggeringly large, would still represent a decline compared to previous years.
America in general appears to be quite a bit safer than a generation ago. However, if you look hard for particular examples, in particular places, at particular times, and perhaps squint a bit, ignoring the general trend and other particular cases, panic-sustaining fear may be maintained. Be careful not to exercise this maneuver repeatedly, especially within an hour after eating: a painful brain cramp may follow.
When you think of the Islamic State, you think of atrocities. It is rightfully so. The Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you prefer to say in order to avoid saying “Islamic State) is infamous for its brutality. So, it is commonly said that the Islamic State must be stopped “by any means necessary” – a phrase that is shorthand for war, and all the horrible things that go along with war.
Bombing a hospital would fit right in with the kind of atrocities the Islamic State has become known for. Just imagine Islamic State fighters bombing a hospital for an entire hour, until the patients are burned alive… and there are children inside. It makes the blood go cold, doesn’t it?
Now, imagine your own country bombing a hospital for an hour, despite calls from desperate hospital staff to NATO headquarters pleading for them to stop the attack, as patients are burned alive, including the children. That’s what appears to have happened in Afghanistan. Some journalists are using the euphemism of “airstrike”, but what seems to have happened is that the United States military bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan for an hour, dropping bombs at least 20 times.
Why? The United States is still at war in Afghanistan. The United States, after 14 years, is still trying to defeat the Taliban. The hospital bombing was part of an attack designed to drive Taliban fighters out of Kunduz. The Taliban, after all, are terrible people, who do terrible things… like bombing hospitals.
It doesn’t get much airplay here in the United States, but groups like the Taliban and the Islamic State run the same kind of pro-war propaganda that we hear from our own political leaders. They point to American atrocities, such as this week’s bombing of a hospital, or the Abu Ghraib prison torture, or Guantanamo, and say, “We must never forget these brutalities. We must drive out the United States by any means necessary.”
So, by any means necessary becomes the low standard by which both sides go to war. It’s all in a good cause, both sides say, to bring peace, and to defeat the evildoers.
Can we admit, after 14 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and 24 years of fighting in Iraq, that this strategy isn’t working?
This message to the world appeared to me yesterday morning on a walk up the hill:
What are crab skins doing thanking me? What did I ever do for crab skins? What do crabs with skins look like? These are questions to which I fear I shall never have answers. When I am 72, I will wake up with a start from a dream in which a crab with skin on it, maybe with a little soul patch, scuttles up to my door with a bouquet of flowers and a little tiny crab-sized box of chocolates. Inattentive fool that I am, I will step on the crab as I hurry on the way to work. All the skinny crab wanted was to thank me, I’ll dream. And for what? I will never, ever know.
In Syria, it’s the government versus pro-democracy rebels versus the Islamic State versus the government versus the United States versus Russia versus Iran.
In response to the new involvement of Iranian and Russian soldiers in the Syrian civil war, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared, “We do not want to make a very complex situation in Syria even worse. I support President Obama’s effort to combat the Islamic State in Syria while at the same time supporting those in Syria trying to overthrow the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad. I oppose, at this point, a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria which could get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”
To be honest, I don’t know how to respond to this statement. I’m not sure I understand why the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria in particular could get the United States more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, while other forms of involvement wouldn’t.
I’m not at all certain that any presidential candidate can say with confidence what the right policy in Syria is. There are too many factors involved, changing at too rapid a pace, to justify any assertion about what the right thing to do is.
But then, maybe this perception is just a manifestation my own confusion by the chaotic situation in Syria. Have I got it wrong? Does anyone know of any coherent Syria policy, and have a strong logical line of argument to back it up?
What is this? Where is it?