Do Police Kill Blacks At The Same Rate as Lynching?

So, I encountered the following badge on Facebook:

That is a shocking claim, isn't it? I decided to try and see if it was true.

The source for the claim seems to be this article in the UK Guardian. Here's the fuller version of the claim:
Not terribly long ago in a country that many people misremember, if they knew it at all, a black person was killed in public every four days for often the most mundane of infractions, or rather accusation of infractions – for taking a hog, making boastful remarks, for stealing 75 cents. For the most banal of missteps, the penalty could be an hours-long spectacle of torture and lynching. No trial, no jury, no judge, no appeal. Now, well into a new century, as a family in Ferguson, Missouri, buries yet another American teenager killed at the hands of authorities, the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.

About twice a week, or every three or four days, an African American has been killed by a white police officer in the seven years ending in 2012, according to studies of the latest data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That number is incomplete and likely an undercount, as only a fraction of local police jurisdictions even report such deaths – and those reported are the ones deemed somehow “justifiable”. That means that despite the attention given the deaths of teenagers Trayvon Martin (killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman) and Jordan Davis (killed by a white man for playing his music too loud), their cases would not have been included in that already grim statistic – not only because they were not killed by police but because the state of Florida, for example, is not included in the limited data compiled by the FBI.
So the "rate" that she's talking about is "once every three or four days."

However, there's an ambiguity at work. The American black population in 1900 was 8.8 million; today, it is over 38 million. Thus, the "rate" in the statistical sense is only 0.231 the rate of lynchings in 1900 (assuming that 1900 is a good proxy for her claim about when lynchings were once-every-four-days, and that all her numbers are right).

So is the claim true? Yes, and at the same time also no.

Religious Tests

Matt Walsh writes:
The answer is clear. We object to the baker or the photographer refusing to service gay weddings because we’ve deemed that expression to be anti-gay. And anti-gay expression is always wrong. Remember what we’ve said time after time: it has no place in our society. Churches are in our society, aren’t they?...

We force chapels to marry gays and bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings because we find Christianity abhorrent and detest the very thought of anyone attempting to live by its tenets.

That’s all. That’s it. That’s what everything comes down to. Nothing more, nothing less.

If we have banned people from practicing their faith in their private lives because we disagree with it, why wouldn’t we try and eradicate the hive itself?

If Christians are barred from running their private businesses according to their religious convictions, then haven’t we made a statement about those convictions? They’re unwelcome. Illegitimate. There’s no place in a civilized society for them.

Spurious Connections

The correlations are legitimate, but...

No Common Ground

This is a fairly basic principle, and it's hard to see how you can work around the disagreement.
During an National Rifle Association event in Iowa in 2012, state Sen. Joni Ernst, now the Republican nominee for Senate in the state, said she carries a 9-millimeter gun around everywhere and believes in the right to use it even if it’s against the government if they disregard her rights.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said during a speech at the NRA’s Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa, as flagged by The Huffington Post on Thursday. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

As opposed to what exactly? The opposite of this statement is the following:

“I do not believe in the right to carry, and I do not believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Is there any free person anywhere that doesn’t reserve the right to defend himself against a person who would do him harm, or who believes that, should the government turn, he would be better off going quietly into the night?
The alternative positions are pretty hostile. Really, some of the ones linked by Memeorandum are so hostile and vile that I won't link to them. But here's Ed Kilgore, at least:
Now this is a guaranteed applause line among Con Con audiences, for reasons that have relatively little to do with gun regulation. The idea here is to intimidate liberals, and “looters” and secular socialists, and those people, that there are limits to what the good virtuous folk of the country will put up with in the way of interference with their property rights and their religious convictions and their sense of how the world ought to work. If push comes to shove, they’re heavily armed, and bullets outweigh ballots. It’s a reminder that if politics fails in protecting their very broad notion of their “rights,” then revolutionary violence—which after all, made this great country possible in the first place—is always an option. And if that sounds “anti-democratic,” well, as the John Birch Society has always maintained, this is a Republic, not a democracy.
I can understand not appreciating what you are reading as an attempt to intimidate you, personally. Still, the principle sounds reasonable to me. In fact, if I were going to articulate it, I'd not focus as she does on a right to defend. The right -- the one the Founders asserted -- is not limited to defense from the government's depredations. It is a right "to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Is there any American who doesn't believe that? Is it possible to be an American, in the spiritual sense, without believing it? The 14th Amendment makes citizens of everyone born here, but perhaps that isn't wise: perhaps it isn't birth but faith that makes Americans.

Smart, Smart Diplomacy

Secretary of State John Kerry:
We've said from day one that if North Korea wants to rejoin the community of nations, it knows how to do it. It can come to the talks prepared to discuss denuclearization. And the United States is fully prepared -- if they do that and begin that process, we are prepared to begin the process of reducing the need for American force and presence in the region because the threat itself would then be reduced.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a few hours later:
We the United States do not intend to change our policy on deployment of our forces in the Republic of Korea. In fact, I think it's just the opposite. We continue to strengthen and advance that policy we've had for over 60 years. We are upgrading it, adjusting on deployments, on rotational deployments. We think there is more stability, more security, more continuity in those deployments.

Bowling with Ebola

If you've been wondering how thoroughly an Ebola case in New York City would convulse the nation's media outlets, wonder no more.  Just turn on any cable new show or google "New York Ebola doctor."  It's going to be wall-to-wall for the duration.

Who Doesn't Benefit From A New Racial Slur?

So apparently in the confines of academia, there's a sense that it would be really nice if we could come up with a good racial slur to use against whites. Well, non-Southern whites, that is: everyone already knows a mess of slurs for uppity Southerners.
I cajole a few of them into “Cracker” and “Red Neck.” We can usually get to “Hillbilly” or “Trailer Trash” or “White Trash,” possibly even “Peckerwood,” before folks recognize the “Cletus the slack-jawed yokel” pattern of class discrimination here. And being that we are at a top ranked west coast university, not only do we all share basic middle class aspirations, but we can feel pretty safe in the fact that there are no “Red Necks” here to insult.
There probably are quite few. Southern poor whites are as underprivileged -- and as poor -- as almost any minority group. So naturally, of course, they're the one the culture is readiest to insult should they break out of their hills and come down into town where they don't belong.

What is really wanted is a good way to insult the rest of the white community. The first author takes a stab at it -- given that he's looking for a good way to insult white, left-leaning college students at his own university, I was amused to see that we'd gotten there first.

Still, it's not good enough, argues a second thinker. The problem is that it's possible to avoid being slandered by changing behavior, which is not how racial slurs are supposed to work. They're supposed to taint you forever, no matter what you do:
It is a label that denies the individuality of the target and forces him to into a set of predefined stereotypes. And there is nothing the target to can do to exempt himself. It is beyond achievement, effort, or choice. You just *are* are Black or Latino or Jewish or “white privileged”. Definitively, a person of Euro-Caucasian descent can never stop being white privileged.

And just like those other racial slurs, being white privileged undercuts anything a person individually accomplishes. Maybe he can be the nicest of the White Privileged that his Black and Latino friends know. Maybe he can be “one of the good ones” who “knows his place” as the beneficiary of American institutional racism. But he can never be other than white privileged. White privileged is the Bizarro-world version of the presumption that a Black student was accepted to an exclusive university because of his skin-color. If you are white privileged, it means that — although you might have never treated anyone inequitably based on their race, creed, or national origin, although you might have even shown a degree of favoritism to races different than your own, although you might have had no valuable socio-economic connections when starting out, although you might have worked very hard and risked much to achieve whatever you have — but still you vicariously share in the sin of every cop (white or black or brown) who stops and tickets a black man in an expensive car because he stood out on the highway. And it asserts you have even reaped unspecified rewards from those encounters—rewards not shared by other categories.

White privileged is the true white racial slur, and no one has been slow to throw it around. It is used the same as any other racial slurs: To deny the target his individuality, to brand him with the failures of the worst member of his category and with the stereotypes in the minds of others, to disparage the quality of his achievements and potential, and to implicitly demand more from him than others.
There's some merit to this suggestion. No one should be expected to take seriously an argument framed around a racial slur, which would dismiss 'privilege' arguments on the same terms. Further, it justifies a response exactly similar to the response we expect should we call someone of a given race by a slur. If that ends badly for you, most people will agree that you brought it on yourself.

So, motion carried. Good to know that our fine academic minds are still working on solving the hard problems bedeviling the nation! Thanks to their tireless efforts, we've devised a new racial slur. Surely there's nothing America needed more.

Better microscopes

I heard recently that a Nobel Prize had been given for advances in light microscopy, and wondered why we would be fooling around with light after determining some time back that really detailed pictures required electromagnetic radiation with smaller wavelengths.  The answer turns out to be that those smaller wavelengths really tear up whatever we're trying to look at, particularly living cells.  The new microscopy uses some kind of system of multiple passes that makes possible fantastic videos of living processes such as cell division, as you can see in the remarkable videos here.

Travel monitors

This actually strikes me as a pretty sane measure:  state health officials will be trying to monitor all incoming travelers from the Ebola-stricken countries for 21 days.  It's not airtight, obviously, and I have real doubts about whether the health officials will have the resources or the determination to follow through instead of treating this like a public-relations box to check off, but it's a step.  All our experience, including our good luck with the families of Thomas Duncan, Nina Pham, Amber Vinson, and the Spanish nurse, points to the probability that Ebola doesn't spread very readily early on.  If we keep a sharp eye on the people most likely to be developing symptoms in the next few weeks, we increase our chances of getting them into isolation before they're most dangerous.  At least, I'd like to hope that no one on this "watch list" could be turned away unthinkingly from an ER.

The Beggar's Opera - in Italian!

And a very good production, too (outside of Mrs. Peachum).

Sergeant at Arms, Do Your Office

The Sergeant at Arms is an ancient office that, for quite some time, has been chiefly ceremonial. Not today.

According to reports, most of downtown Ottawa has been locked down as at least one suspect is still reportedly on the loose. The gunman reportedly first attacked the soldier at the National War Memorial and then went into the Canadian parliament building. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is safe. Harper reportedly was to meet with Malala Yousefzai, who was recently named a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize....

Media reports now indicate that police are searching for multiple gunmen, and are also trying to block bridges into Quebec. One gunman who entered the Canadian parliament building was reportedly killed by Parliament's sergeant at arms.
Well done, brother.

UPDATE: Confirmation.
Fantino said parliament's head of security, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), had shot a suspect dead.

"All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this," Fantino said. "He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased."
UPDATE: "Sergeant at Arms gets standing ovation after shooting terrorist while wearing tails."

Why Would Any Man Vote Democrat?

So asks Dr. Gordon Finley, via Dr. Helen, via Dr. Glen Reynolds. Since such a well-educated consort wants to know, allow me to answer.

As a citizen of the Great State of Georgia, allow me to say that I am seriously considering voting for Michelle Nunn. My reasons are the same reasons she is doing very well across the state.
The reason Michelle Nunn is running more-or-less even with Perdue is that she comes from a family famous in the state for excellent service in the Senate. Her father is almost a watchword for what a good Senator should look like. In addition, she's made her career working with the Bush family ever since the first Bush administration. So Republicans can look at her and see a woman who can reach across the aisle, has plenty of respect from their own party, and has a kind of life-long apprenticeship from the man whose Senate career Georgia voters already most respect.

David Perdue comes from the same family as Sonny Perdue, a recent governor who broke key election promises to base voters, and was unimpressive as governor. David Perdue has no experience in politics from which to judge, but he made his career on Wall Street, a place whose name normally turns up in Georgia elections as a curse: e.g., 'If elected, I will defend the values of Main Street against Wall Street.'
For that matter, I am considering voting for Jason Carter, Jimmy Carter's grandson. This is not because I am enthusiastic about him as a candidate. It is because Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent, has been a terrible governor. Longtime readers of the page will remember that I supported his candidacy in 2010, on the strength of his having been a perfectly decent congressman (in my district) for a long time. His performance as governor ought to be disqualifying for a second term.

Partly I think the length of his service in Washington is responsible, as it detached him from his state for so long and attached him to powerful national interests instead. A man who had spent more time at home would not have bungled last year's blizzard so badly, because any native son of Georgia should have known how huge a disaster even a few inches of snow and ice would be for the state.

Setting all that aside, however, how can you excuse the worst unemployment rate in the entire nation? This isn't Detroit! A Republican governor with a Republican legislature, if he accomplishes nothing else, ought at least to be a spur to the economy. If he can't do that -- and very manifestly he cannot -- how can he possibly put himself forward for a second term?

Well, I know the arguments against voting Democratic, because they are helpfully mailed to me by various interest groups. Presumably a Democratic governor and Senator cannot be trusted on gun rights, and will try to drive Georgia against its grain on social issues. A Democratic Senate is harmful in terms of court appointments, including to the Supreme Court in the event that a vacancy should occur. It is also harmful in terms of oversight, and there is perhaps even a positive national program that a unified Congress could push on a reluctant, lame-duck President.

The issues Dr. Helen and her cohort raise frankly don't rise to the same level of consideration. I don't dismiss them, but they pale beside the issues of national destiny and character we face.

Why might a man vote Democratic? I have not decided that I will, because the national concerns especially are very pressing. But now you know why I might: because the Democrats have recruited better candidates, and the Republicans currently serving at the state level have done a disgraceful job.

Excellent News

A paralyzed man is able to walk again, thanks to cells taken from an adult's nose.

It may even be possible for this to be replicated, "if funding can be raised." A comment on the story says:
"Raisman, who hopes to see at least three more patients treated in Poland over the next three to five years if the funding can be raised, said"

Wait - what? "if the funding can be raised"? If this report is accurate, there should be no question of funding. The procedure surely should be repeated in a careful study of 30 to 50 people, with funding from the NHS.

The cost is trivial - if we have (as we do) fixed budgets, then cut back on varicose vein surgery and gender-reassignment surgery to cover the costs of this research, No brainer.
You would think.


People have been arguing for a long time about what tolerance means. I admire this 19th-century attempt to sort out religious vs. civil tolerance and, in the civil sphere, individual vs. government tolerance:
For the purpose of clearing up ideas on toleration as far as lay in my power, I have presented this matter in a point of view but little known; in order to throw still more light upon it, I will say a few words on religious and civil intolerance,--things which are entirely different, although Rousseau absolutely affirms the contrary. Religious or theological intolerance consists in the conviction, that the only true religion is the Catholic, a conviction common to all Catholics. Civil intolerance consists in not allowing in society any other religions than the Catholic. These two definitions are sufficient to make every man of common sense understand that the two kinds of intolerance are not inseparable; indeed, we may very easily conceive that men firmly convinced of the truth of Catholicity may tolerate those who profess another religion, or none at all. Religious intolerance is an act of the mind, an act inseparable from faith; indeed, whoever has a firm belief that his own religion is true, must necessarily be convinced that it is the only true one; for the truth is one. Civil intolerance is an act whereby the will rejects those who do not profess the same religion; this act has different results, according as the intolerance is in the individuals or in the government. On the other hand, religious tolerance consists in believing that all religions are true; which, when rightly understood, means that none are true, since it is impossible for contradictory things to be true at the same time. Civil tolerance is, to allow men who entertain a different religion to live in peace. This tolerance, as well as the co-relative intolerance, produces different effects, according as it exists in individuals or in the government.
from Protestantism and Catholicity compared in their effects on the civilization of Europe, by the Rev. J. Balmes, 1851, p.57.

Prudence and cowardice

A good article in The Federalist about John Adams, including his thoughts on arbitrary government, why laws can never be amoral, and this analysis of prudence:
Fellow revolutionary Benjamin Rush noted to Adams that their friend Charles Lee dismissed prudence as a “rascally virtue.” Adams replied that “his meaning was good. He meant the spirit which evades danger when duty requires us to face it. This is cowardice, not prudence.” That was not prudence properly understood.
By prudence I mean that deliberation and caution, which aims at no ends but good ones, and good ones by none but fair means, and then carefully adjusts and proportions its good means to its good ends. Without this virtue there can be no other. Justice itself cannot exist without it. A disposition to render to every one his right is of no use without prudence to judge what is his right and skill to perform it.
Prudence divorced from the other virtues would become amoral pragmatism.


This weekend I was camped at Stone Mountain for the Highland Games. It's been a long time I've been going. After dark I walked by the lake, and looked at the mountain by night. From the campground the mountain blocks Atlanta. The sky behind that black granite bulk is orange. Look far away to the east, and at last you can see a rebel pair of stars.

As a boy I lived in a land full of stars, but I can remember the first time I saw the orange glow. It was on the horizon to the south, when I was a teenager. Atlanta was advancing into the county, a bit at a time, and it was eating up the stars. Now it is hard to see the stars from that place by night.

Since then I've lived in China, where the sky can be viewed in gradations. Walk up a hill as tall as Stone, and looking back down you can see the sky divided like a sand sculpture into a half-dozen stacking fields of increasing dark. Of course, you lived down there where it was worst.

I've also lived in Iraq, where the natural sky was clear and weatherless by day as by night: but once in a while, when a dust storm would come up, it would all turn as red as Mars.

Currently I live in a place where I can see the stars again, as they were when I was a boy. I don't know how long I can stay in such places. What a luxury it is, and how strange that it should be one. How sad, too, to think of all the boys growing up in all the cities -- most of humanity, now -- who never see the stars.

2LT Grigsby, 10th Indiana Cav.

A man after Ymar's very heart.

The adults step in

In a really satisfying courtroom/scandal thriller, after our heroes struggle seemingly in vain against the shadowy forces of conspiracy, Wilford Brimley shows up in the last scene to drag everyone into a conference room, dress them down, and announce how this stinking corruption is going to be shut down once and for all.  Sadly, it doesn't happen that often in real life, but it sure seems to have happened recently in California, where corrupt DOJ officials got caught extorting $55 million out of Sierra Pacific on trumped-up charges that it started a 2007 wildfire.  The grown-ups in the federal judiciary, instead of closing ranks, stepped up and did their jobs.  The Chief Judge for the Eastern District of California took the unheard-of step of recusing all Eastern District judges from the case and asking his bosses in the Ninth Circuit to appoint a new judge from outside his district.

I admit this is not a case I've been following closely, so I won't claim to have sifted the evidence or to possess any inside information supporting Sierra Pacific's claims.  It would be fair to suspect me of being quick to believe accusations of corruption against Eric Holder's agency.  The fact remains that the California federal district judges are not known for their hostility to the DOJ, so if the Chief Judge for the Eastern District  smells a rat, and is enthusiastically backed up by the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, I imagine there's real fire underneath all that smoke.