Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Choosing Sides

20.12.2014 (10:16 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Society ::

Today was a bad day to be a police officer – 2 New York City cops were murdered execution-style by career criminal Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Brinsley, who had shot his girlfriend hours before, committed suicide in a subway tunnel after the murders.

From the article:

Mayor de Blasio and Police Comissioner Bill Bratton addressed the media at Woodhull, where hundreds of cops gathered in the wake of the shooting. Bratton spoke first, identifying the slain officers as Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. He also identified their killer: 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley. “They were, quite simply, assassinated — targeted for their uniform,” said Bratton. According to the NYPD chief, Brinsley, “Took a shooting stance on the passenger side and fired his weapon several times through the front passenger window, striking both officers in the head.”

“Officer Ramos and Officer Liu never had the opportunity to draw their weapons,” he continued. “They may never have had the chance to see their murderer.” Bratton also confirmed that Brinsley, whose last known residence was in Georgia, shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore on Saturday morning before traveling to New York. According to the Baltimore Sun, the 29-year-old woman is currently in a hospital in serious condition.

Bratton said that Brinsley appeared to have “a very strong bias” against cops, and that he had used Instagram to threaten violence against them earlier today. “They Take 1 Of Ours….. Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner [sic] #RIPMikeBrown This May Be My Final Post,” said a post featuring a handgun. “I’m Putting Pigs In A Blanket.”

In an ironic, but hardly surprising, bit of waffling, Al Sharpton – who in recent weeks has been busily agitating against police departments all over the United States – had this to say:

“I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today,” Sharpton said in a statement. “Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.”

Sharpton’s backpedalling doesn’t mitigate his involvement in – and partial responsibility for – these killings.  Such is the power of the bully pulpit and make no mistake, Sharpton is a bully who uses his race as a weapon.

In fairness, the reprehensible Sharpton’s involvement with the Brown-Garner protests doesn’t mean that police killings are not a problem.  Cops are employed by the people to serve and protect, not to act as executioners, and public oversight of their actions is both right and necessary.  In our system, that oversight is ultimately the function of the grand jury and, the protests to the contrary, both cases were thoroughly reviewed by citizen panels.  Although the decisions weren’t to the rioters satisfaction, justice was probably served – to the extent possible.  I say probably, because justice is not – and can never be – a binary function, not in cases like these.

But today’s police killings are another thing entirely.

Nearly simultaneously, more protesters disrupted business at Minneapolis’ Mall of America.

12 people were arrested for protesting illegally on private property, but no major violence was reported.

Black lives do matter.  They do.  However, they do not matter more than anyone else’s.  That is the definition of equality and this point is a non-negotiable truth of American life.

The problem with the anti-police protests and Sharpton’s race-baiting demagoguery is that both ignore another fundamental American truth, which is that minorities commit a vastly disproportionate number of crimes in this country.

The African-American population accounts for approximately 12% of American citizens, but according to the US Department of Justice, blacks accounted for 52.5% of homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008.  Similarly, in 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58.5% of youth arrests for homicide and 67% for robbery.

I feel obligated to defend these statistics by reminding the reader that the data have nothing to do with racism – they represent hard, cold facts.  Unfortunate, but nonetheless true.

The corollary to these statistics is that, the more crimes a group of citizens commits, the more run-ins members of that group are going to have with with police.  So, it’s hardly surprising that African-Americans are “disproportionately” involved in violent encounters with police, relative to their percentage of the overall population.

Another blow to the myth of African-American’s being unfairly targeted for killing by whites is the fact that most murders are intra-racial, with 93% of black victims murdered by blacks.  In contrast, 84% of white homicide victims murdered by whites, meaning that, if anything, the exact opposite is true.  But that is a subject for another time.

In the moment, what is important to realize is that this country’s police forces are not in the business of oppressing the citizenry, regardless of their race, creed, or color.  Criminals are criminals and the law is the law.  Everyone in America knows the rules of behavior and the consequences for violating those rules.  Being a criminal is an active choice these people make.  This cannot be denied, even by men like Al Sharpton.

Regardless of the Brown-Garner cases, the choice before us is simple:  If Sharpton and the worst of those whose passions he has chosen to inflame are going to deliberately stalk and execute police officers, the American people will have to choose sides between those who enforce law-and-order and those who circumvent and destroy it.

Fighting for 15

04.09.2014 (6:49 pm) – Filed under: Finance,Society,Stupidity ::

image

For some perspective, $15/hr is scarcely less than what new, degreed teachers earn at many school districts here in Texas.  The low pay of teachers aside, it’s ridiculous to equate the value of these jobs in terms of wages.

The fact is, flipping burgers and bagging fries are not skills. I’ve been there, done that, and I know first-hand, it’s not fun. Neither is it a career.  The lack of remuneration should be expected. 

Consider: The minimum wage exists because the market value of fast food work is less than the legislated minimum.  Any attempt to justify an increase in entry-level pay by striking is little more than an exercise in mob rule.

The Power of No in Parenting and Education

15.12.2012 (11:34 pm) – Filed under: Child Care,Education,Parenting,Society ::

I first have to say that I know a lot of great teenagers. I’m immensely proud of my sons and almost as much so of many of their friends. I stopped as I was writing this and nearly discarded it, keenly aware that I could inadvertently hurt one of these great kids by causing them to think that this essay was directed at them. It’s not. This for the millions, the lost, not the dozens I know so well.

As comforting as the example of these fine young people is to me personally, it’s nonetheless true that some parents and society as a whole have failed to teach a sizable percentage of this generation of young adults the value of the word “No”. No, as in:

  • “The actions you are taking are unacceptable and will be met with punishment if you repeat them.”
  • “The line of thinking you are pursuing is invalid and these are the unassailable reasons why.”
  • “The things you see in video games, movies, and on the Net are not representative of proper ways of behaving.”
  • “There are people who say that there are no absolutes, no truly right or wrong actions, no definable moral code; however, these people are absolutely wrong and in this house you will follow a code of ethics and morality or face the consequences.”

Our young people hear the word “No” often enough, but in the wrong ways. In our schools and in too many homes, the word “No” is used to tell children that they cannot judge themselves and others in terms of right and wrong, that they cannot hold opinions that might conflict with others’, no matter how obviously foolish, and they certainly cannot give such opinions voice. At other times, “No” is used to say, “No, you cannot be educated to the best of your ability because that would mean someone else cannot keep up with you” and “You cannot carry on the traditions of Christmas and Easter here, because one person chooses to be offended by the things that this country has always believed in.” In such circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that value of the word “No” has been destroyed.

At the same time, in politically correct circles, the idea of judging and correcting a wayward child is all but verboten. There are no right or wrong actions, only ambiguous desires and causeless effects, neither of which have any moral value attached. In progressives’ fantasy world, children grow up free and unhindered by anything as base as ethical judgments of their actions and automatically self-correct their aberrant behavior.

Of course, we see the effects of this failed experiment all around us. Raising children in an amoral, rule-free manner will not reliably result in young adults who live by a well-ordered, societally-sanctioned code of ethics. It is true that many youngsters rise above their upbringing and do so to their credit; however, at the macro level, this way of creating future citizens is doomed to fail. The lack of obedience and proper behavior we see in many of our youngsters is both the ultimate failure of liberal permissiveness and its inevitable result.

In our enlightened society, punishment of misbehaving children is considered crude, gauche, and even criminal. Yet there is no way for children to learn that their actions and thought processes are wrong unless someone corrects them.  Sometimes, this has to be done with enough oomph to make the lesson stick. Unfortunately, as unpleasant as it is – and it is unpleasant, for adult and child alike – there are occasions when the best mechanism for the delivery of a rebuke or reminder is by way of the buttocks.

(Understand that I am not suggesting anything in regard to the perpetrator of the crimes in Connecticut. Some children become even more incorrigible as a result of a structured, moral upbringing and this might or might not be true of this psycho. I have no idea and not much more interest. What is important is fixing the future.)

In the final analysis, considering society as a whole, there is no doubt in my mind that we have erred by sparing the rod and spoiling too many children. The sad fact is that, by pandering to the don’t worry, be happy, do-it-if-it-feels-right crowd, we have vastly diminished the rights of parents and the community to demand good and proper behavior from children and their ability to enforce their rightful authority.

Of Men and Prejudices

20.04.2011 (4:40 pm) – Filed under: Philosophy,Political Correctness,Society ::

The idea that prejudices can and should be eliminated is a fallacy. So long as a man can observe and judge, he will use information to generalize about groups of people, some favorably and others not. Ultimately the question comes down to whether an individual should be allowed to form his own opinion, whether right or wrong, or be forced to accept and espouse the common wisdom. The answer should be obvious.

Gunman Dead at U. of Texas

28.09.2010 (10:04 am) – Filed under: Crime,Society,Stupidity ::

image A psycho gunman was loose on a college campus this A.M. and is believed to have committed suicide.  A second armed perpetrator is alleged and the search is underway for this person.

I’ve asked this question before, but what ever happened to the era of quiet desperation when the terminally insane simply shot themselves? What’s with the incessant need for sinking people to take others down with them?

Latest news indicates 10 shots may have been fired from an AK-47. The gunman aside, no one seems to have been hurt.

9/11 – Nine Years Later

11.09.2010 (5:47 pm) – Filed under: Society,Terrorism ::

Nine years ago I was working in my home office when the first tower was struck at the World Trade Center.  Glued to the television as the skyscraper, a monument to western civilization’s ingenuity crumbled, I understood, truly for the first time, the existential, exponential relationship between creation and destruction. 

More than anything, the Muslim terrorists who used jumbo jets, another hallmark of western society, to destroy our great and glorious structures exemplify the petty, self-indulgent pathology of spoiled children whose inability to create manifested itself through the only avenue they could master:  destruction.

There are those, of course, who sympathize with the misanthropes who killed over 3,000 Americans on 9/11/2001, as well as those who cheer the memory of their craven act of murder.  Still others long to follow in their footsteps as killers, wrongly believing in a religion they barely understand even as it incubates their xenophobia and hatred of the infidel.  That is, me, and, dear reader, very likely you as well.

The World Trade Center, the jumbo jets, and the date, 9-11, were all chosen as symbols that, once destroyed, would strike fear into the hearts of westerners in general and Americans in particular.  There is, the terrorists’ thinking went, no place that is safe from us.  This is true.

Western society is, unlike that of Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and tellingly revealed in the recent film The Stoning of Soraya M., open, insecure, and therefore vulnerable.  This openness is based on our fundamental freedoms of association and religion and two basic assumptions:  that citizens are rational actors and essentially of the same democratic, Christian mindset. 

As much as anything else, 9/11 demonstrated that not all of these assumptions hold in our increasingly multicultural society. 

(It must be understood that western values are anathema to Muslim fundamentalists whose legalistic embrace of Sharia has evolved little if at all in the last 1300 years.  There should be no expectation that such people have any respect whatsoever for our systems of law and governance or our way of life.  Such would be entirely too optimistic even in the best of times, of which these are not.)

Instead of assuming that America will go on as she always has, let us consider 9/11 a symbol of the true nature of the world.  America has enemies who are small in number but determined and aggressive.  On the positive side, our military forces and defense apparatuses have our external security situation relatively well in hand.  Unfortunately, our energy dependency plays into the hands of Muslim terrorists.  Also, financial systems are in disarray because we have pursued ill-advised fiscal and social policies.  Similarly, our internal politics are highly polarized and personalized, facts that blind us to our essential homogeneity.  We are all Americans and we are all in the same boat, the biggest and best in the world, and our vessel is leaking like sieve.  It is time to bail together, before it is too late.

On this day, above all days, let us consider how to love our fellow Americans, to appreciate the many blessings God has bestowed upon this country, to reflect on ways we can improve our country’s financial and political health, and, most importantly, to act to preserve this nation so that our children and grandchildren live in a nation we will be proud to have left them.

This may mean compromising with liberals when you want to fight or vice versa.  The truth is that Americans have so much in common that it is foolish to let fringe political issues divide us.  Bearing in mind that the purpose of government is not to run our lives but to secure them, let’s move forward in unity on energy, education, and the economy, the three “E’s” that will make or break our country.

Things Americans Must Not Do

26.08.2010 (3:22 pm) – Filed under: Islam,Society ::

A) Commit crimes against Muslims for no reason; i.e., no stabbing cabbies, etc

B) Burn Korans for no reason. Yes, it’s your right, but don’t be an ass with your freedom

C) Allow Islam to gain influence over American policy or law. The U.S. was founded by Christians for the freedom of everyone, whereas Sharia destroys freedom

D) All of the above.

What’s your choice?

Americans Should Celebrate as Income Inequality Increases

10.04.2010 (11:16 pm) – Filed under: Business,Finance,Society ::

The Business Insider has a new series of charts describing the “bum deal” working Americans have gotten in the last few decades, including this one demonstrating the fallacious but de facto standard liberal meme, namely that Americans should earn roughly equal shares of the income pie:

If you aren't in the top 1%, then you're getting a bum deal

An objective examination of this line of thinking reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider the case of a burger-flipper at McDonalds.  Let’s set the value of his work at 10 units.  (No, it doesn’t matter what the unit is, the value is relative to other occupations, not absolute.)

Now consider the store manager.  She could easily do the flipper’s job – probably has done it in the past, in fact – as well as any other job in the store.  Indeed, her ability is probably better at each and every position in the store than the people who hold them.  Her value is clearly greater than the flipper’s.  Let’s estimate it as 25, or 2.5x the flipper’s.  Debatable, but reasonable, I think, given my personal experience as the flipper.

Now, consider a highly-trained bio-chemist whose work in generating a sustainable, cost-effective algae-based energy source fundamentally alters the western world’s relationship with the OPEC nations.  What’s his value relative to the McDonalds store manager?  Infinite, in reality.  Even if we set it at 100x, that gives the chemist an overall relative value of 2500.

In any rational system of employment and compensation, a person’s earnings should reflect their value relative to other workers.  The ground-breaking bio-chemist in the scenario above should earn at least 500 times more than the burger-flipper because the value he provides to the world is infinitely greater. 

In fact, income inequality is reflective of capability inequality.  If one believes that income inequality should be removed from society, the proper way to do so is not to levy taxes, steal from those who produce wealth, and redistribute the booty to liberals’ constituents.  The right approach would be to eliminate the capability gap.  Unfortunately, this requires the participation of those at the bottom end of the economic scale, something that’s not been forthcoming.

On one level, this lack of interest in changing economic lanes is understandable because it’s not something that can be done immediately.  Rather, improving capabilities requires sacrifices of time, money, leisure, and style.  There’s nothing fun about buckling down to get an education; however, there’s no substitute either.  Every person in America has the opportunity to get a quality education.  Unfortunately, far too many squander their own chance at economic mobility (and do fatal damage to others’ at the same time) because they simply are unable to comprehend the value of what they are giving up.

For those who do, it’s obvious that income inequality equates to opportunity.  Why would the bio-chemist spend years in school, honing his mind to levels unimaginable by the burger-flipper, in order to receive a salary identical to that of his value-inferior?  He wouldn’t, of course, because there is no reason to work hard for success if victory brings no reward. 

The fact that the United States has a wide distribution of incomes demonstrates that there is an opportunity for people who work hard to succeed far beyond the imaginations of most men and women. 

America's income spread is nearly twice the OECD average

This is as it should be, for it’s an American imperative to produce over-achievers at a higher rate than the rest of the world.  That is, after all, the only way that we can continue to lead nations such as China and India whose larger populations give them an inherent competitive advantage.

If there is a problem with income inequality, it’s that possession of wealth can lead those who have it to game the system in order to keep accruing larger and larger piles of money without actually producing anything of value in return.

It goes without saying that criminal activities such as fraud, insider trading, tax evasion, and other abuses of the system should be actively discouraged, not because they cause income inequality but because they destroy the integrity of the system of opportunity Americans have as their birthright.

It is this system that matters, not the particular result at any point in time, and it is this system that post-modern liberalism, with its excessive emphasis on removing inequalities of every sort, attacks and undermines at every opportunity.

Far from criticizing the inequality of incomes in the U.S., we should celebrate them, for the gap indicates that the system of free enterprise envisioned by the Founding Fathers as the economic engine of this country is still firing on several cylinders, despite liberal policies that have markedly reduced the efficiency at which we are allowed to operate.

Remembering the Real American Dream

10.03.2010 (10:46 pm) – Filed under: Society ::

What is the American Dream? Is it dead? Some seem to think so. And they may well be right, according to the modern definition of that Dream. In computing the term Moore’s Law (no relation, sadly) means that “number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years”.

Similarly, the modern (ne liberal) definition of the American Dream, per Reuters, is that “each generation will live a better life than the one before”. Both of these expectations, while sustainable in the short term, are unrealistic given the realities of the physical world.

Just as there is a limit to the density at which electronics can function there is a limit to how much financial success a country can sustain when many of its potentially most productive members have forgotten the work ethic that created our past successes. In the absence of a general willingness to work, it’s inconceivable that American success can last.

Polimom noticed this failed thought process:

What America promised was opportunity regardless of one’s social class or historical antecedents. There was never a guarantee of success, nor was there a guarantee that children will — or even should – expect a higher standard of living than that of the prior generation. Yet we’re measuring the success of our society these days on this flawed assumption.

American has never been the land of guaranteed success and it never should be, the pathos of modern Democratic liberalism notwithstanding. This country was founded not on certainty of reward but on the possibility of it.

Hard work and clear thinking have always been the primary ingredients in the recipe for the American Dream and a dash of good fortune never hurt either. The Dream itself has been redefined, to paraphrase Polimom, and not in a good way.

Opportunity has given way to promises in the modern definition of the dream and this new Dream, like Moore’s Law of computing power, cannot sustain itself indefinitely. Nor should it, for the companion of universal success is the death of individual incentive and with it achievement.

Here is what James Truslow Adams, coiner of the phrase American Dream, had to say:

It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are

Guaranteed success is no success at all. If every runner were guaranteed a gold medal, which of them would train as hard? Only success earned through hard labor, creative thinking, and even doubt and fear, is worthy of the name.

Such success is the true American Dream.

Things We Dare Not Do (and What That Says About Society)

12.02.2010 (8:05 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Free Speech,Justice,Society ::

Despite being married, 23-year-old Alyssa Branton was stalked for months by a much older man who recently shot her dead outside her office building after she refused his advances. Despite providing more than 70 pages of documentation detailing Roger Troy’s bizarre and unwanted behavior, Branton was denied the restraining order that might have saved her life by a Florida judge. His reasoning? She hadn’t provided proof that Troy was a menace.

Evidently for some judges a victim’s knowledge of the danger she’s in doesn’t become proof until the murder is on the books. Judge Moxley, a former prosecutor, should have known better than to allow Troy to harass Ms. Branton unfettered. Her death is the direct result of his failure to intervene on her behalf. When did it become wrong to protect young, beautiful women against perverted, violent older men? That fear of wrongly limiting Troy’s rights caused Moxley to rule as he did is conjecture on my part, yet why else would he fail to execute his duty to protect Alyssa Branton?

Significantly, the Branton case is but one example of society’s impotence in the face of violent criminals. The failure to act to protect the defenseless from violent attacks has never been more evident than in the recent beating of Aiesha Steward-Baker in a Seattle transit tunnel. This brazen stomping took place in full sight of at least two Metro Transit system’s security guards who did nothing to stop the attack even after Baker was knocked down and was kicked repeatedly in the head and face.

Baker, who her attackers allege was violent herself, had repeatedly asked Seattle police for help that evening and was obviously hoping Metro security would protect her. Instead the men ignored her pleas for help and allowed the attack to escalate while they tried to talk the other girl out of her violent frenzy.

When did the idea that paid security forces are not allowed to use force to fulfill their basic duty become the rule that must be obeyed? The guards’ failure to act is an abomination and an abdication of their manhood. Yet they do not deserve the blame; rather, our system that is dominated by the ever-present fear of being sued in court is what created the circumstances that forbade them from interfering on Baker’s behalf. Such is duty and chivalry in the age of the liberal trial lawyer.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is actually increasing the scope of its police powers by obtaining personal cell phone call data, not only for matters of national security but also for routine matters such as bank robbery, etc. This is in addition to making increasingly sophisticated attempts to mine Internet browsing and email history.

The pattern is clear: Americans are discouraged, at risk of their freedom, from taking matters of their own personal security into their own hands even as local law enforcement fails to meet their needs for fear of making mistakes that might lead to public embarrassment or civil lawsuits. At the same time, the federal government is moving to make personal privacy a thing of the past.

Indeed:

the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records"

The three cases I’ve briefly outlined above reveal a deeper pattern that we must strive to correct. Individual rights to privacy and personal security have, far from being protected by our system of jurisprudence, been diminished to the point at which Alyssa Branton was murdered in plain view of witnesses after the system failed her.

The cause of the system failure is clear, for the ability of both law enforcement and individual citizens to make judgments has been removed and a complex, legalistic web of process and procedure has been band-aided together in place of common sense and decency.

The number and type of actions that we dare not take has increased dramatically in the post-WW II era. Gone with such acts of courage and principle seems to be the American ideals of truth and justice. In their place, politically correct, non-offensive behavior is required and society has become a dimmer, less secure place as a result, at least for people like Alyssa Branton and Aiesha Baker. In contrast, the criminals who attacked them seemed confident enough in their right to act as they damn well pleased, didn’t they?