The DOJ and Darren Wilson

The DOJ released their report today on why they will not be prosecuting Darren Wilson. The report concludes that the shooting of Michael Brown was most likely justified, citing the favorable testimony of disinterested witnesses and the unreliability of the witnesses who said Michael Brown surrendered. They report includes a lot more testimony than the Grand Jury report and is pretty convincing.

Mataconis:

Given the available evidence, this seems like a proper decision by the Justice Department. Even leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not one believes the state Grand Jury made the right decision in declining to indict Wilson on any charges at all in this case, there was quite simply no evidence that Wilson acted in a manner that even came close to violating Federal civil rights laws. Instead, this seems to be a police encounter gone wrong. If Wilson acted improperly, it doesn’t appear to have been out of any racial motive, and the evidence that has been released both in connected with the Grand Jury investigation and this investigation seem to make clear that Wilson’s use of force was, in the end, appropriate under the circumstances. Indicting him on Federal charges would have likely just led to an acquittal, and would have been an unjust application of Federal law.

I didn’t believe Wilson’s story because the idea of Michael Brown charging at him from so far away made no sense to me. But that now appears very likely to be what happened. People do stupid things, especially young male people.

There is one thing to note, however, from Ken White, a former prosecutor:

I find it remarkable because most potential prosecutions don’t get this sort of analysis. Most investigations don’t involve rigorous examination of the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. Most investigations don’t involve painstaking consideration of the defendant’s potential defenses. Often investigators don’t even talk to potential defense witnesses, and if they do, don’t follow up on leads they offer. Most investigations don’t carefully weigh potentially incriminating and potentially exculpatory scientific evidence. If an explanation of the flaws in a case requires footnotes, you shouldn’t expect it to deter prosecution.

Instead, I’m more used to the prosecution assuming their witnesses are truthful, even if they are proven liars. I’m more used to contrary evidence being cynically disregarded. I’m more used to participants in the system stubbornly presuming guilt to the bitter end. I’m more used to prosecutors disregarding potentially exculpatory evidence that they think isn’t “material.” I’m more used to the criminal justice system ignoring exculpatory science and clinging to inculpatory junk science like an anti-vaxxer.

Why is this case different? It’s different because Darren Wilson is a cop. Cops get special rights and privileges and breaks the rest of us don’t. Cops get an extremely generous and lenient benefit of the doubt from juries. Nearly every segment of the criminal justice system operates to treat cops more favorably than the rest of us.

I would make two points of minor disagreement here. First of all, the reason this case was investigated so thoroughly was because of the national pressure that was brought to bear. The government was forced to explain, in great detail, why they were not going to bring a case. Of course, most of the time they don’t even bother. They don’t bring charges and we’re just supposed to accept that.

And that brings me to a second minor disagreement: it’s not just cops. Everyone who is in the system is treated differently than the rest of us. Just this week, David Petraeus was allowed to plead out to a misdemeanor for leaking the kind of information that would land most of us in prison for a felony. Hillary Clinton was revealed to have violated protocols and State Department rules, something that would ruin most people’s careers (and Clinton has a long history of breaking the rules and getting away with it). Seven cops and prosecutors were revealed to have lied their asses off in an effort to put an innocent man in jail and may face no consequences. More pot convictions were handed down to people who probably touched less of the stuff than our last three Presidents. The problem is more noticeable with cops because they are authorized to use deadly force and because of reflexive “thin blue line” defensiveness whenever a cop is accused of wrong-doing (although, to be fair, no cop will ever kill as many people as the State Department does with their unaccountable bungling). But this problem is general and it is widespread.

Darren Wilson didn’t shoot Michael Brown in the back. He almost certainly didn’t shoot him after he surrendered. But it’s hard to blame people for distrusting the system when it so often concludes that the people within are incapable of wrong-doing, be they cop, bureaucrat or politician. It’s hard to blame people for distrusting the system when it gives us a hell of a lot less benefit of a doubt, whether we’ve shot someone or made a mistake on our taxes. It’s hard to blame people for distrusting the system when it throws non-violent pot offenders in prison for half a century while concluding, almost instantly, that the people who seared a toddler did nothing wrong because they were acting on behalf of the state.

(And, in this particular case, it’s hard to blame people for distrusting the system when the DOJ has also released a report showing massive systematic racism in the city.)

I’m glad that Wilson will not be prosecuted for what now appears to have been a justified shooting. It’s one of the few things Holder’s DOJ has done right. But I wish this kind of skepticism was applied a lot more often and to people who are not cops, politicians, prosecutors, bureaucrats or political hacks.

Thrill (actually, Thrill’s sister; smarts clearly run in that family) made a very good point when the Grand Jury verdict was handed down:

My sister said it perfectly: “This is the wrong case to ask the right questions about”.

It’s now pretty conclusive that this was the wrong case. But let’s keep asking the right questions.

The Fear of Walker

It is currently March of 2015. The next presidential election is safely 20 months away. For the moment, Hillary Clinton is the presumed front-runner for the Democrats. She hasn’t declared yet because she knows the allegations of corruption and incompetence will come pretty quickly. Her hope is that she can ride her current popularity through the inevitable shitstorm. The shorter that ride is, the more likely it is to end at 1600 Pennsylvania.

(A big shoe dropped this week when it was revealed the Clinton was using her personal e-mail to conduct State Department business in violation of State Department rules. More will come.)

The Republican field is still in flux but Scott Walker is emerging as a potential candidate. Walker has a good chance since he’s conservative enough to rally the base but has also won three elections in a blue state.

So how do you react to this if you’re a Democrat?

You panic.

A couple of weeks ago, Rudolph Giuliani made a silly statement about Barack Obama. Walker refused to comment on it. This was not evasion; this is Walker’s style. He prefers to avoid political bullshit and concentrate on policy. During the debates for his last election, his opponent tried to goad him into some kind of outburst and Walker refused, sticking to the boring trivia of, you know, running the state.

Nevertheless, the media exploded when he refused to condemn Giuliani’s remarks. Similar accountability is never applied to Democrats. Hillary Clinton will not be asked to denounce everything said by Al Sharpton or Robert Reich or Bernie Sanders. But apparently if Walker refuses to denounce a fellow Republican for an unofficial remark, it’s the end of the world.

Then, of course, you have the union thing. The WaPo ran a piece on Walker’s union-busting, conveniently forgetting that the legal changes were entirely about public employee unions. (Since the article was written, the Wisconsin legislature has passed a “right to work” law. I’ve written about that before.)

Thus far, a couple of warning shots. Nothing major. But this weekend, it got really stupid. First Jezebel, then the Daily Beast, then every left wing blog on the planet ran an article claiming that Scott Walker had stopped Wisconsin universities from reporting sex crimes. That report turned out to be total crap:

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

The fail here — apparently involving a reporter who wrote a recent ill-informed hit piece on Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept — is amazing. They ignored that sex crime reporting is a federal requirement and can not be overridden by a state. They didn’t bother to call Scott Walker’s office or the University of Wisconsin to confirm it. They didn’t apply any degree of skepticism. They went right to some bizarre idea that this was macho posturing by a Republican candidate.

The thing is, there is substance to go after with Walker. He’s set to sign a right-to-work law after saying it wasn’t a priority. He has changed his position on immigration. He just cut $300 million from the State university system. And after balancing Wisconsin’s budget, he enacted an ill-advised tax cut that could plunge the state right back into debt. Maybe you like those policy decisions; maybe you hate them. But criticizing him for those policies would at least be substantive.

I have no idea why they are going after him for this garbage except that … they have to demonize Scott Walker. Not just for practical reasons, but for emotional ones. To the Democrats, any Republican president seems demonic. And nothing is more demonic than a Republican candidate who could win.

Hottest Ticket In Town

About an hour to go before the big show and the High School girl’s penchant for cyber bullying is in full flourish. A packed house, sans the petulant Democrats, awaits the Benjamin Netanyahu address to the full Congress. No one from the Obama Administration will be present, no State folks, no Israeli ambassador, the President can’t even be bothered to watch, butt hurt indeed.

Netanyahu went out of his way yesterday, while addressing the folks at AIPAC, to dispel any rumors of a rift between the two governments, as if. They don’t call it “diplomacy” for nothing. But the folks, both here and in Israel, know better.

How funny, the guy that threw our most valued ME ally under the bus ( or thrown them to the wolves, pick your own metaphor), the guy that started his presidency with the most wild eyed pie in the sky notion of eliminating all nuclear weapons world wide, just guaranteed every kid in the ME block going nuclear themselves.

So now we have a bad deal in the works, with the school yard bully, the same bully that continually bloodys our nose even after taking our lunch money, yet we still think that the biggest sponsor of world wide terrorism can be trusted to honor a treaty, a treaty btw that no one knows the particulars of, and with a party that has never honored treaties in the past, this is the Chicago way.

TBH, I am surprised that the Israeli AF has not taken out the Iranian nuclear factories ala Osirak, long before now. To put your very existence in the hands of Obama and his ability to deal, or in the IAEA and their inability to accurately monitor the cheaters in Tehran? Ridiculous.

Bibi will make a passioned case about the consequences, not only for Israel, but for everyone who fears a terrorists approach to nation building, and the need for real sanctions, the stick, to shape the manners of a nation who has shunned them in the past.

Obama has made this speech more than just historic, a not to be missed affair. Normally it is Boehner who gets manipulated with this type of alacrity.

As an aside, just heard that Boehner is now calling for a House vote on a clean DHS funding bill, he is such a playable light weight.

So, break out the popcorn, Bibi is about ready to rock the house.

PC Eats Itself

I’ve written in this space many times about the cult of political correctness and the rise of speech codes. There are many idiotic aspects of the push to create “safe spaces” in our society where people will never ever be offended (as long as they’re not Christian or something) and only hear approved (liberal) speech. But one aspect I’ve rarely written about is this:

It will never work.

It will never work because there is no possible way to construct a speech code so that no one will be offended. The push toward speech codes, free speech zones, “safe spaces” and an end to “microaggressions” will founder because the politically correct are creating a rhetorical minefield that can never be safely navigated.

Viz:

For all of 15 minutes last weekend, Patricia Arquette was a progressive hero. Arquette, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Sunday evening for her role in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, used the final few seconds of her acceptance speech to deliver a stirring plea for female equality. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights—it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” Arquette declared, to enthusiastic cries of approval and passionate finger-pointing from fellow celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep.

We’ll put aside whether the pay gap is a myth or not and the received wisdom that pay equality should be mandated by government. We will note, however, that the very liberal entertainment industry is one of the worst in terms of pay equality.

But in the time it took for Arquette to move from the Academy stage to answer questions from the press, she went from a liberal champion who used her two minutes of fame to speak passionately on behalf of a cause that she believed in to the latest target of the left’s ritualistic Two Minutes of Hate. Her offense: “It’s time,” she said, “for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

“Twitter got into a rage over Patricia Arquette’s Comments in the Oscar Press Room,” is how Buzzfeed described the ensuing online outcry. “It is definitely not time for ‘all the gay people’ and ‘all the people of color’ to set aside their own battle for equality in order to fight for straight, white women now,” thundered Amanda Marcotte in a piece for Slate titled, “Patricia Arquette’s Feminism: Only for White Women.” A blogger for Fusion.net accused the actress of “feminist whitesplaining.” Arquette stepped in it. By seemingly prioritizing the struggles of one historically disadvantaged group (women) over those of others (blacks, Latinos, gays, etc.), Arquette ran afoul of the rules of the identity-politics game foisted upon our political discourse by the self-appointed, Twitter-enabled arbiters of the “national conversation.”

It’s been a week and I’m still trying to figure out what was so offensive about Arquette’s later remarks. It seems to have something to do “intersectionality” — the egghead idea that we all live in various forms of oppression. White women are oppressed but not as much as black women, who are not as oppressed as black lesbians unless they are wealthy black lesbians unless they are Republican wealthy black lesbians with a slight limp. Arquette’s “crime” was forgetting where she was in that matrix of oh-woe-is-meism and therefore falling into the gears of the left wing’s perpetual grievance engine.

(As an aside, I’ve never known a conversation that was ever improved by discussion of “privilege” or “intersectionality”. Yes, sexism and racism exist. Bravo for realizing that. But people’s lives are their own. Our lives are influenced by our race, gender, sexuality or whatever but they are not defined by those things. Yes, it’s sometimes hard for men to understand what women deal with or for whites to understand what blacks deal with. But the idea that you never understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes is an old one. And, as a general rule applied to everyone, it is better path to insight than pointy-headed academic-speak about “intersectionality”.)

This is one of many reasons why the far Left will never be taken seriously in this country. While they hate white male cisgender oppression or whatever, they don’t hate it nearly as much as they hate each other for insufficient ideological purity. Feminism, in particular, has been prone to this in recent years, jumping all over a feminist who dared to question the misandry that occasionally manifests itself or making an enemies list that is topped by two prominent feminists deemed to be insufficiently militant.

But this also illustrates why speech codes and hate speech laws could never work because there is nothing you can say that won’t end up offending somebody. There is no way to navigate this “intersectionality” nonsense without stomping on someone’s real or perceived grievances. That would go double if you expanded “being offended” to groups the Left wing tries to pretend can never be offended — conservatives, men, whites, Christians or that Apotheosis of Oppression, Sean Hannity.

Look, you should try to not to offend people if you can avoid it. You should try to understand where other people are coming from. But that’s not some new-fangled progressive idea; that’s just good manners. And we can’t and shouldn’t try to police people’s speech in a vain effort to spare a protected groups’ feelz. Because, as the reaction to Arquette’s tiny non faux pas illustrates, it is literally impossible to do so.

New School Russia is Old School Russia

We got another startling reminder of exactly who we’re dealing with this weekend when a Russian opposition leader was brutally gunned down just meters from the Kremlin. Russia is seeing some protests. What they really need is a rebellion.

I suppose we can’t say for sure that Putin is behind this. But it is odd, isn’t it, how his enemies keep dying under mysterious circumstances.

There’s not much we can do about Putin at the moment. But based on his success in the Ukraine, he is clearly starting to look North. And the countries he is looking at our NATO members.

This could get very ugly very fast.

CRASH!!!

Well, the site went tits up. I posted comments on two separate threads, neither showed up in the comments section. I imagine everyone is now unable to post comments. Thus, we find ourselves adrift.

“What in Hell goes on in New York?”

Entering Hard Hat Area

As opposed to emailing the relevant folks for status and in the interest of addressing any uncertainties as to who now has the car keys to the blog and what changes cosmetically are afoot, I thought I would post a repository, a place where those in charge can identify themselves.

The last few posts related to the subject intimated that either Thrill or Alex (or both jointly) would handle the admin duties and tackle the Herculean task of exorcising all the gremlins that have taken up residency on our blog. Not an enviable chore, but necessary. A number of good suggestions were offered up in the other post, but for now just getting the basics to work would be nice.

So far only Cress and Xetrov have volunteered to guest author, how do we get these guys author privileges? I still have the author template that Jim sent me originally, I would be glad to forward it over to both and help them get started, but they need permission from the admin guy.

On my “dashboard” to the site I have access to all the commenter’s email address. Since the PM services and the “contact” button are still busted, if anyone has questions or concerns they can shoot me an email, I have gotten a few already. I don’t mind being a buffer for admin so they don’t get overwhelmed, but since somebody needs to be “The Man”, he can come here and post anything he wants to disseminate to the group.

What to Expect When You’re Shooting

Just a quick post today on guns. Or, rather, a link to a great post at the Federalist that details 14 things people should know before they write about guns. Excerpt:

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” may be widely mocked by ignorant gun controllers, but it’s true (also true is the fact that guns don’t kill people, bullets do, if we want to be really pedantic). A gun cannot load a magazine by itself. A gun cannot secure a loaded magazine by itself. An empty gun cannot chamber a round or rack the slide by itself. A gun cannot pull a trigger by itself. Each of these actions requires agency by a human being.

These are all reasons why I personally dislike the term “accidental” shooting, because it suggests a lack of accountability and responsibility. A more appropriate term is “negligent” shooting, since human action is required to load a magazine, secure the loaded magazine, chamber a round, and pull the trigger. It’s why the basic gun safety rules are so important: if followed religiously, they reduce the probability of negligent shootings to 0%.

Radley Balko has talked about this in the context of police shootings. The press coverage will frequently say something like “the officer’s gun discharged” as though the gun unholstered itself, undid its own safety, floated through the air and shot someone.

He also gets into supposed “safe gun” technology which is not terribly reliable and not nearly as useful as the gun rules that I and every other gun owners learned the second one was shown to us:

1. Treat all guns as though they are loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re prepared to fire.
4. Always confirm your target, as well as what’s in front, behind, and around it.

Each rule is effectively a backup in case you ignore a previous rule. If you always assume a gun is loaded, then you’ll never have to say, “Your Honor, I didn’t know it was loaded.” If you screw up the first rule, the rule #2 will prevent you from shooting someone unintentionally, because your muzzle will always be pointed in a safe direction. If you screw up the first and second rules, rule #3 will ensure that the weapon is never actually discharged. And in the event that you believe your life is in mortal danger, rule #4 will prevent you from firing on an individual who’s a non-threat, or prevent you from firing through a threat into an innocent person.

It’s good stuff for those of us who have been continually frustrated by incompetent media coverage and politicking on the subject of guns. If a Republican says anything remotely wrong about anything, he gets no end of shit about it. But Democrats and the media constantly make statements about guns that are equivalent to saying the Earth is flat.

They’re Coming for Your Vittles Too

One of the fantasies being pushed around in progressive circles is the idea of “national food policy”. I’ve been mulling this article for a few months and have finally decided on a response. Here is their case:

The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air. If a foreign power were to do such harm, we’d regard it as a threat to national security, if not an act of war, and the government would formulate a comprehensive plan and marshal resources to combat it. (The administration even named an Ebola czar to respond to a disease that threatens few Americans.) So when hundreds of thousands of annual deaths are preventable — as the deaths from the chronic diseases linked to the modern American way of eating surely are — preventing those needless deaths is a national priority.

The national food policy could be developed and implemented by a new White House council, which would coordinate among, say, the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA to align agricultural policies with public health objectives, and the EPA and the USDA to make sure food production doesn’t undermine environmental goals. A national food policy would lay the foundation for a food system in which healthful choices are accessible to all and in which it becomes possible to nourish ourselves without exploiting other people or nature

They then go on to list a smorgasbord of Nanny State desires: restrictions on advertising, farm policies guided by environmental concerns (because starvation is a good cure for obesity), a “fair wage” for people in the food industry (because food made at minimum wage makes you fatter), humane animal treatment, sequestering farmland for global warming purposes and making sure “all Americans have access to health food”. The last one is particularly odd because all Americans do have access to healthy food. The so-called “food deserts” are a myth. The problem is that too many people choose to eat junk.

Reading it again, I’m struck by the ignorance and panic-mongering. To give one example: farming has become much more environmentally friendly over the last couple of decades thanks to improved methods, technological advances and genetic engineering. We are feeding more people on less land than we used to.

I have to agree with Daniel Payne.

As a practical matter, this plan is utter nonsense and transparently authoritarian. In the past I have used the term “food system” as shorthand for the industrial paradigm of food production, but for Bittman et al. to talk about the “food system” in such a way exposes it for the ridiculous concept it really is. There is no “food system,” not in the sense of a truly unified body of fully interdependent constituent parts: the “food system” is actually composed of millions of individuals acting privately and voluntarily, in different cities, counties, and states, as part of different companies and corporations and individual businesses, in elective concert with each other and with the rest of the world. To speak if it as a single “system” is deeply misguided, at least insofar as it is not a single entity but an endlessly complex patchwork of fully autonomous beings.

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to speculate whether government food policy would be a good thing or a bad thing. We know. We already have a raft of government food policies and they have been a disaster. Our government has spent decades pushing food policies that helped create the very problems these authors lament. And it was based on special interests, nannyism and junk science.

Our government spent years telling us how bad salt was for us. The health nuts wanted dietary salt restricted by law. They have now been forced to admit that the salt guideline they pushed on us for decades was unhealthily low and that salt intake is only important to high-risk individuals.

After years of telling us that cholesterol was evil, they’ve had to admit it’s not that harmful. After years of pushing us away from animal fats toward trans fats, they had to reverse course when it turned out trans fats were worse than animal fats. Ron Bailey today summed up just how wrong the nannies were.

Most of the government’s recommendations were derived from “consensus statements” based largely on the results of observational epidemiological studies. The new revisions tend to be based on prospective epidemiological studies and random controlled trials. Observational studies may be good at developing hypotheses, but they are mostly not a good basis for making behavioral recommendations and imposing regulations.

(I would add that the low-fat fad had its origin in the seriously flawed and possibly fraudulent Seven Countries study.)

The thing is that all these supposed menaces were presented with absolute certainty. Salt was evil. Animal fats were killing us. Cholesterol was destroying America. Organizations like the Center for Pseudoscience in the Private Interest would label foods as lethal and scream for restrictions and bans. People who dared to question them were branded as tools of “industry”.

We’re still not done. Our government spends billions of dollars subsidizing food production and targets subsidies toward the foods that are the least healthy. It is spending enormous amount of money and destroying our freedom to get us to burn ethanol. That is, it wants us to burn food in an engine-destroying, atmosphere-polluting, greenhouse-gas belching special interest orgy.

Under Obamacare, restaurants were forced to include calorie counts on their menus. But calorie listings not only cost money, impinge freedom, they don’t fucking work.

Under Obama, school lunches have been made almost inedible and high schoolers are going hungry. Day care centers will soon be forced to limit juice and ban fried foods. The condescending privilege is so thick you can taste it. The Obama people think every school and daycare in the country can run down to Whole Foods and pick up some low-fat, low-sugar organic produce that never casts a shadow. And then they wonder why daycare is so expensive.

Yet somehow, these decades of failure, decades of misguided policy, decades of junk science, decades of lunacy are seen not as a reason to hesitate but as justification to exert more control over America’s diet. Because with the progressives it never really is about facts; it’s about control.

The latest demon du jour is sugar. Progressives are calling for restrictions on sugar based on the rantings of crackpots like Robert Lustig, who claims sugar is a “dangerous drug” and “poison”. With more junk science in tow and such insane abuse of the English language, the nannies are now advocating for a sugar tax, specifically on the most vile of concoctions — sugary drinks — to … well, it’s not clear what.

The stupidity of that is simply mind-boggling because our government already spends billions of dollars driving down the cost of sugary drinks through farm subsidies. So they want to tax us once to make sure we have enough high fructose corn syrup to keep us fat and happy. And then they want to tax us again to keep us from drinking our subsidized drinks.

(Lustig, in a moment of sanity, at least acknowledges that we eat lots of sugary stuff because the government subsidizes it and advocates for eliminating those subsidies.)

That’s to say nothing of progressive opposition to genetic engineering, free trade and other innovations that have made our food safer, healthier, cheaper, more plentiful and more environmentally friendly than ever before.

I’m with Penn. Fuck these busybodies. Let’s put aside the arguments about freedom and personal responsibility — even though those are the most important ones. Let’s concentrate on this: they have been wrong, over and over again. If the had the power twenty years ago that they want now we’d have less food, less money, more obesity, worse health and a dirtier environment.