“Virulent Innumeracy” and emotional blackmail

In their Sunday edition yesterday, the Washington Post devoted an entire page showing the name of EVERY victim of mass shootings in the United States over the past 50 years.  I’m sure it was meant to be a powerful and thought-provoking image.  But the thoughts it provoked in me were probably NOT the ones the Post’s Editorial Staff intended.

WaPo guns

Since 1966 there have been 165 mass shootings in the United States with 1196 victims.  Employing simple math (we’re still allowed to do that, right?) shows that 22 people a year are killed in mass shootings in a country of more than 300 million people.

This is what one of my PoliSci professors at Virginia Tech called, “virulent innumeracy.”  That is to say, trying to take something that is exceedingly rare and make it appear MUCH more common by presenting it in an emotionally-charged manner.  The goal, of course, being to use the emotional impetus from those presentations of facts to spur major policy changes.

How rare are fatal mass shooting victims?  Well, consider that 700,000 people have died in the US since the AIDS epidemic began.  That comes out to more than 25K annually.   Last year alone, 70-thousand people died of opioid abuse.  According to the National Weather Service, the number of fatal lightning strikes in the US each eclipsed 25 in all but two years over the past decade.

If you want a political spin, consider partial-birth abortions—the procedure that abortion supporters assure us is as rare as an oyster in the desert.  There are 10,000-12,000 such abortions every year.  That is 700% greater than the number of mass shooting victims.

It goes without saying that any senseless death is tragic and we should always endeavor to do better.  But that effort should also reflect the severity of the problem.  No one feels compelled to reduce the national speed limit to 20 MPH in order to cut into the number of highway automobile deaths.  There is a reason for that.

And when the proposed solutions to an issue begin inching into Constitutional territory, the “problem” we’re addressing had best be on the level of the Bubonic Plague.  If you are going to talk about taking away gun rights, at least acknowledge you are messing with a constitutional right on par with freedom of religion, voting, free speech, privacy. And then treat that with the gravity it deserves.

In a nation full of *thinkers,* this effort at emotional blackmail by the Washington Post would fall flat.  People would run the numbers and see that mass shootings are comparatively quite rare.  Sure, there would be concern over the recent upward trend, and a willingness to explore reasons why that is the case.  But people would also see that since these are such rare occurrences, chipping away at basic Constitutional rights as a response would be (pardon the pun) overkill.

Unfortunately, we are NOT a nation of thinkers.  We have been conditioned to be a nation of *feelers.*  As such, this effort will join many other emotional appeals being pushed by politicians and pop culture to make people more open to the idea that mass shootings are as common as bad traffic…and drastic action is needed…NOW.

Democratic Presidential hopefuls “make a killing.”

Yes…politicians lie, exaggerate, demagogue and pander 24/7.  That’s what they do.  If we raised hell every time this happened we wouldn’t have time to take a piss.

But this goes beyond the usual partisan hackery.  This is borderline libel—and 100% inappropriate.

brown flowers.jpgToday marked the five-year anniversary of the fatal confrontation involving Michael Brown and a police officer in Ferguson-Missouri.  No need to re-hash the details.  We remember it all too well…and the violence that followed when a Grand Jury concluded there was not enough evidence to indict the officer.

What far too many people choose NOT to remember are the results of two separate Justice Department probes.  They concluded that there was no credible evidence Brown held up his hands and said “Don’t Shoot” after Officer Darren Wilson drew his gun. Did you read that? The whole “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mantra that developed in the wake of the shooting? IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.  A rational person would feel pretty damned stupid after adopting a narrative based on something that was fabricated. But that didn’t stop this lie from becoming accepted as the truth by many.

Most of the Democratic Presidential candidates today marked the five-year anniversary.  For the most part, they focused on the incident, and the subsequent formation of Black Lives Matter.  But two of the front-runners took it a disgusting step further.  Below are the comments of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

presidential libel

Words mean things.  “Murder” has a very specific meaning.  Harris, as a former prosecutor, most certainly knows what it means.  Warren, as a former Harvard Law Professor, most certainly knows what it means.  Murder is the non-justifiable taking of a human life.  Murder does NOT include what happened five years ago in Ferguson-Missouri.  Every single inquiry showed it was a justifiable shoot.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder made this a cause celebe in 2014.  If there were ANYTHING wrong with this shooting you can bet your life savings that Holder’s DOJ would have uncovered it.  But they didn’t.  Because it was a clean shoot.  A terrible incident, but one where the blame rested SOLELY with the deceased.

These comments should be immediately retracted and a sincere apology offered to Officer Darren Wilson.  But since both Warren and Harris are liberal media darlings, they don’t have a thing to worry about.  It is highly unlikely they will face a tough round of questioning from the reporters who follow their campaigns.  They check enough “Woke Boxes” to permit them to get away with most anything.

Being a liberal means never having to say you’re sorry.  Even if you indirectly accuse someone of murder.

It’s Not “Fake News.” It’s “Bullshit”

Would you like to see Fake News?  I mean—not just Fake News.  But pure unadulterated horseshit?  Here you go. Fresh from this afternoon with the Daily Beast.

A photo made the rounds last night of a bunch of high school boys wearing Mitch McConnell t-shirts kissing, “choking,” and giving the thumbs-down to a cardboard cutout  of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  It, of course, was stupid and idiotic. And of course AOC made an issue of it since she is the queen of Passive-Aggressive Victimhood.

Mitch McConnell’s re-election team responded, saying these were high schoolers, not members of their campaign staff.  “Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender.”

Enter the Daily Beast.  Their headline said something that McConnell’s campaign not only did not say…but did not even IMPLY. (see below)


Of course, the sub-moronic AOC re-tweeted the article using the fabricated phrase, “Boys will be Boys.” And the reliably-shitty Newsweek followed up with a story on AOC’s re-tweet of a quote THAT WAS NEVER SAID!

Within hours “Boys will be Boys” will be trending on Twitter…it will be the go-to phrase for Feminist rage-harpies as they rail against Mitch McConnell…it will trigger PTSD in people who still think Brett Kavanaugh was a serial rapist.

And nothing will happen.  Tomorrow, another suck-ass media outlet will follow the Dan Rather Principle and try to discern motivations, rather than merely reporting facts.  They will falsely attribute words to a (conservative) source—and we’ll do the same effing thing on Thursday, Friday, etc. etc.

And liberals will be mystified as to why no one trusts the media.

The Anatomy of Fake News

Once again…”Fake News” doesn’t have to contain factually incorrect information.  More often it simply amplifies misleading information while minimizing or ignoring clarifying information.

Example #41,981,023 appeared in a photo released overnight by the Reuters Wire Service.  It shows a woman, a child and a soldier in a desert area.  This is the official caption Reuters used.


I must say this is pretty masterfully crafted.  The caption does not mention the soldier’s nationality.  The clear implication is that he is American, since the Narrative tells us that every American involved in border enforcement is a Bigoted/Nazi/Fascist/Trumpian/Puppy-Kicker.   It was designed to create responses ranging from the solemn (“This is Trump’s America), to much more indignant diatribes.

The photo, however, did not include some crucial context.  This is a Mexican soldier who stopped them in Mexico.  The photo is intentionally angled low enough not to show any of the flags or ID on his uniform because that would let everyone know this is a Mexican soldier.  That changes the photo’s dynamic.  By quite a bit.  What blows it into angstrom-sized pieces is information that is buried in the EIGHTH PARAGRAPH of the accompanying story.

“Lopez Obrador’s spokesman Jesus Ramirez said the image was an example of the National Guard doing its job of looking after public security.  He said the soldier did not impede Perez from crossing, but advised her of the dangers of doing so.”

That’s right.  Not only is this not an evil American guard…it’s a Mexican guard.  And he’s NOT preventing them from crossing the border…he is merely advising them on the perils of the subsequent journey.  Technically, she’s begging to be let out of Mexico.

Like all Fake News, this information is presented in such a manner so as to provide the news outlet plausible deniability once they’re called out.  That can argue that the caption includes no mention of the soldier’s nationality…and that the clarifying information IS included in the story.

But again, Reuters and other progenitors of Fake News know that 75-80% of their consumers do not look past the picture and/or headline of a story.  This was crafted in such a way to generate maximum outrage from those who oppose Trump’s border policies; while burying information about the photo that does not jibe with the narrative.  Reuters engineered this to be shared by angry Trump opponents, while maintaining their journalistic integrity—or whatever remains of it.

One upshot is that the photo and it’s gross misrepresentation is bringing one uncomfortable fact to light.  Mexican soldiers are doing FAR more to secure the US border than are American Democrats.

More Government = Less Affordability

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Democratic Presidential candidate (and erstwhile Soviet aficionado) Bernie Sanders this week unveiled his plan to forgive an estimated $1.6 trillion dollars in student loan debt—a move that could impact up to 45 million people who are still paying off college loans.

The viability of this boondoggle is a subject for a blog post of its own.  Indeed, I grew frustrated yesterday with the number of people who supported the concept of the government forgiving private, voluntarily-incurred debt.  Maybe they could include the proposal in the Adulting is Hard Act of 2019.

One of the arguments in favor of the idea points to the skyrocketing increases in college tuition over the past generation.  This is a fair point.  Any study shows that those numbers are headed through the roof.  But why is that?

This handy-dandy chart from the American Enterprise Institute offers a clue.  It examines the increase in costs (since 1997) for several entities.


You’ll notice the ones whose costs have increased all have one thing in common…direct government involvement or oversight—be it through regulations or underwriting risk.  Those entities who costs are DECLINING are comparatively-free of direct government oversight.

In fact, as you go up and down the chart, you can see the DEGREE of government involvement is also a near-perfect predictor of the increase in cost.  I.E., the more heavily government is involved, the steeper the price increase.  And Vice-Versa.

The government has FAR less incentive than a private entity to keep expenditures down to a bare minimum.  That comes with the territory when you can *literally* print your own money and/or extract it from people.

As a result, when the government gets involved in what are otherwise free-market ventures by underwriting loans, those making the loans and those who serve as beneficiary can now behave like the government.  They have FAR less incentive to tamp down on ancillary costs while making their product available for the lowest price possible.

A Civil War-era privateer is quoted during Ken Burns’ famous PBS Series, “You can sell the government anything at any price you’ve got the guts to ask.”  When you are negotiating with someone that has unlimited resources, money is truly no object.

Therefore it should not came as a surprise that the cost of a college education has increased exponentially, with the precipitous rise beginning (more or less) when governments began underwriting and guaranteeing student loans.

Does this sound familiar?  That’s because you remember the housing crisis…ancient history…less than two decades ago.

Here is the bottom line.  The private sector isn’t perfect and the public sector isn’t 100% evil. But the vast majority of the time, the side that has the greater incentive to provide high quality service at the lowest possible price is the Private Sector.

Despicable Media

Demonstrating media bias in the age of President Trump is about as low as low-hanging fruit can get.  It is only slightly easier to find water in the middle in the Atlantic Ocean.  His chaotic and (at times) infuriating Presidency has served a noble purpose insofar as it has blown the lid of the thin veneer of impartiality that some outlets had been clinging on to like remoras.

But today produced an example that I couldn’t let go of.  Mostly because it involved so many outlets saying the same thing.  A “narrative,” if you will.  And it was packaged with the savvy of a Madison Avenue marketing campaign to elicit maximum consumer engagement.

fort sillFort Sill, Oklahoma is a sprawling Army munitions base that has been open for well over a century.  During World War II, it served as one of the sites where interned Japanese-Americans were held under orders from President Roosevelt.

This week, the Trump administration announced plans to temporarily house 1,400 migrant children at the base.   But the headlines this morning in many major outlets were constructed so as to make the consumer feel that Trump was rounding up children and sending them to Concentration Camps.  Here are just a few examples.

The Hill: “Trump administration to send migrant children to former Japanese internment camp”

CBS News: “Migrant children will be kept at Army base used as a Japanese internment camp in World War II”

Time Magazine: “Trump Administration to hold migrant children at base that once house interned Japanese.

Now, in true media fashion, if you read beyond the headline you discover that the fact that the base was once used for FDR’s infamous internment efforts is mere intrigue.  Really, it’s not salient to the story at all.  But the trivial connection offered Trump-hating media outlets a chance they could not pass up—a chance to link Trump with some of the darkest days in history.  Honestly, I’m surprised some of them did accompany their news tweets with images from Auschwitz or Dachau.

If this were the extent of the story, that would be plenty bad.  But there is another element that makes it altogether infuriating.  You see, in 2014, migrant children were housed temporarily at Fort Sill-Oklahoma, and not a single media outlet brought up the specter of them being herded into concentration camps.  Why?  Because Barack Obama was President.  In 2014 Fort Sill’s status as a “former Japanese Internment Camp” was still intact.  But it curiously didn’t make it into news headlines from the day.  I have run multiple search engine checks and have found nothing.  Curious, no?

Of course the carefully-crafted headlines have done their work.  They also served as a clarion call for lefty luminaries to weigh in and got their shots in at Trump.  Socialist Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ self-righteous pablum was representative of the outrage.

The internment of Japanese Americans is a stain on our history. It abhorrent that 75 years later, this administration now wants to hold migrant children in one of those same camps.  We will look back on Trump’s racist child prisons as an abomination.

I did a similar check and found nothing from Bernie in 2014 that held the Obama Administration similarly accountable.  Very strange.

Fake News doesn’t have to be factually incorrect. It just has to present facts in a manner that consciously advances a narrative. This is also achieved by OMITTING crucial facts.  Today offered a sterling and sickening example of that.

Tomorrow, many of the same agencies that vomited out this vile garbage today will claim they are victimized when Trump says something mean about them.  I will not go as far as Trump and call the Media an “Enemy of the People.”  But they sure as hell aren’t our friends.

Bill Buckner: Undeserved scorn and redemption.

bucknerBill Buckner died today at the age of 69.  He had been battling dementia for a couple of years.  His career is a testament to how cruel baseball can be, but also to how much it exposes character. It also shows us how redemption IS possible…if we possess the patience of Job.

Buckner was a superb left-handed hitter who came up with the Dodgers, played with the Cubs, and spent his golden years with the Boston Red Sox.  The numbers are outstanding.  A .289 lifetime average…including a battle title with the Cubs in 1980 when he hit 324. He is one of a handful of players to have played in four decades.

For his time, only Rod Carew was a better contact hitter.  Buckner struck out only 459 times in nearly 7,000 at bats.  He NEVER struck out more than twice in a game!!

But despite playing more than 18-thousand innings in his major league career, Buckner will be remembered most for a single inning…and a single ground ball.  A ground ball he should never have seen.

In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were leading the New York Mets 3-2 in the World Series.  Boston was about to shed it’s image as cursed losers, claiming a title for the first time since 1918.  They went into the bottom of the tenth at Shea Stadium, leading 5-3.

During the season, Red Sox Manager John McNamara often substituted Dave Stapleton for Buckner with a lead late in the game.  Buckner was playing with a severely injured Achilles, an ankle injury that had plagued him since 1975.  But McNamara chose to leave the hobbled Buckner out on the field as the Sox tried to get the final three outs.

The Sox got the first two outs quickly.  Then came a single.  Then another.  Then a third.  Then a wild pitch. Suddenly it was 5-5 with a runner at second.  The speedy Mookie Wilson hit a slow grounder to first.  Buckner wobbled to his left and stabbed at it—but it rolled between his legs.  Two runs scored.  The Mets won and evened the series.  They won the next day to take the Series 4-3.  The Red Sox frustration continued, and Buckner became the scapegoat.

Never mind that cleanly fielding the ball would have simply sent the game into the 11th inning.  Never mind that Wilson may have been fast enough to beat it out for a hit anyway.  No.  The mob had found their goat.

Baseball has a nasty habit of freely administering the “goat” tag in a most undeserving manner.  Fred Merkle’s infamous “boner” in 1908 cost the Giants a pennant, even though his sin (not touching second base on a game-winning base hit) was standard practice at the time.  Mickey Owen is forever remembered for his “dropped third strike” in the 1941 Series.  Never mind that it simply tied the game between the Yankees and the Dodgers, and it was simply one game in an otherwise-unremarkable series.  And this is to say nothing of pitchers who have given up significant homers.  One pitch, one swing, one decisions DOES a career make.  It is cruel as hell.  Imagine your entire career being determined largely by a singular event.

The hell of it is, not even FANS are immune.  Steve Bartman’s private life was ended when he tried to catch a foul ball in a playoff game in 2003 at Wrigley Field.  It prevented Moises Alou from making the catch.  Bartman was escorted out of the stadium amid fans tossing beer at him.  History doesn’t remember that Cub’s Shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error on a sure double play ball later that inning was FAR more costly in the Cubs loss to the Marlins.  No.  The Baseball Gods had chosen their Goat.  And that was that.

It apparently took Buckner years to reconcile his undeserving place in baseball history.  At one juncture he moved to Idaho and began working in real estate.  But time heals all wounds.  And eventually, Buckner made peace with the Red Sox fans and with baseball in general.  He even appeared on an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where he made light of his infamous error.  Baseball is cruel, yes.  But all sins are eventually forgiven.  Even those that are not your fault.

On Bill Buckner’s passing, I will do all I can to NOT remember one simple ground ball hit in one inning of one game 33 years ago.  The only thing I choose to remember is one of the great contact hitters of his generation.  A throwback to a day when it was considered unmanly to strike out.

THAT was Bill Buckner.

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