Category Archives: Crime

My Two Favorite Books

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. This guy is a genuine big-brained hominid, one of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and he writes to convince his readers that our world is getting steadily better, century after century. And he proves it with facts!

Changes can be either good or bad. However, contrary to popular opinion, cultural changes around the world tend, on average, to be good, in the sense that they bring greater happiness, freedom, health, and prosperity to more ad more people.

His two latest books are possibly the two most important books I have ever read.:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker shows that all down through history, for the past several thousand years, the world has been slowly  getting safer from violence of all kinds including muggings, rape, murder, and war, freer from disease, poverty, and superstition, more prosperous, better fed, and happier. These are real cultural changes that usually happen so slowly that most of us are not even aware of them. But our lives are much better now than they were back in the “good old days” when you might have had to get your appendix cut out by candlelight at 3 AM. With no anesthetic.

I recommend you read both books.

Gun Control in the Democratic Debate

The clip above is from the first Democratic presidential campaign debate last week. Gun control is one of the most divisive issues in the country; people are either for lots of it or against any of it. There seems to be very little in between.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees “the people” the right to bear arms, but it provides no guidance about what kinds of regulation might be permissible or proper.

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

United States (2011-03-24). United States Bill of Rights (Kindle Location 8). . Kindle Edition.

Arms Are for Militias

It’s clear the Second Amendment (above) refers to militias, which no longer exist in the United States in the same form or for the same purposes as they did when the Constitution was written. They have been  replaced by a standing Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, National Guards, and other military institutions, some of which the framers of the Constitution could never have imagined.

Nevertheless, the writers wrote, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be abridged.” The Supreme Court has ruled this right is still protected, even though the stated need for it no longer applies.

Reasonable Gun Control Is not Forbidden

While “the people” are guaranteed the right to bear arms, this does not necessarily mean we have to let criminals or mentally ill people have guns. As Hilary said, “We are losing 90 people a day to gun violence” in this country. We have every right and responsibility, through our representatives, to try to prevent this.

We have the right to require background checks on people before selling them weapons, as we sometimes — but not always — do. There is a glaring loophole in this policy: background checks are only required if you want to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. You can go to a “gun show” nearly every weekend in any moderately large city and buy guns with no questions asked.

Bernie sounds good on gun control.

Bernie says this loophole must be closed. I agree.

He says felons and mentally ill people should not be allowed to own guns. I agree.

He says that if a dealer sells a gun legally and the buyer uses it to commit a crime, the dealer is not liable. However, if the dealer has intentionally or carelessly sold the gun illegally, then  the dealer is also responsible for the crime committed by the buyer. I agree completely!

One of the ways some dealers sell guns illegally is the so called “straw man” sale. This is when somebody buys a gun for somebody else, who might not pass a background check. It’s always illegal for the buyer to do it, and it’s illegal for the seller if he or she knows it’s happening. That is, a dealer cannot knowingly sell a gun to one person for somebody else.

For a variety of reasons, this is seldom enforced, though it happens a lot. Bernie says it must be enforced, and I agree.

Hilary says Bernie is soft on gun control, but he sounds pretty good to me. His opinions on this issue just make sense. They provide reasonable control without making gun ownership difficult or illegal for responsible citizens.

Bernie is unique in this election cycle. Nobody else is even in the ballpark. They have no clue about the things that matter to most of us.

As one hard-working but very poor young man said recently at a Sanders rally, “I want to see change. And I believe Bernie Sanders is the one to do it.” I agree. Bernie is the ONLY candidate with any grasp of our problems and a plan to fix them.

Can he succeed? I don’t know, but nobody else is even talking much about the real issues facing the country. Issues many of us face every day. Issues like creeping poverty. Like life-long, crushing debt for college graduates. Like crumbling overpasses and bridges on the highways we travel. Like reasonable, practical gun control. Like staying out of war, except as an absolute last resort. Like making enough money to live on if you work full-time at one job. Bernie Sanders is the ONLY candidate in either party to propose any rational solutions to these problems.

I was never a particular fan of Sanders until this campaign, but Bernie Sanders sounds better every time he opens his mouth.


Number One with a Bullet

I was glad to receive this link recently. The video contains statistics I had wondered about for years, but hadn’t taken the time to look them up. In the USA, we have 90 guns for every 100 people,  far more guns per capita than any other country on earth. Serbia comes in second with only 58.2.

In spite of this fact (or maybe even because of it), our murder rate is low. Out of 218 nations, our annual murder rate comes in at number 111, placing us “near the top of the bottom half.”

Next time you year that America has  the highest murder rate in the world, you’ll know we’re not even close. Honduras is number 1, with 90 murders per 100,000 people in 2012. Our rate was 4.7, placing our murder rate below that of most other countries.

So you say even one murder is too many? Of course it is. So let’s focus on stopping murder instead of stopping guns.

Black Wall Street Journal Editor Speaks Out

“Let’s not pretend that our morgues and cemeteries are full of young black men because cops are shooting them. The reality is that it’s because other black people are shooting them, and we need to talk about black criminality. Blacks are only 13% of the population, but they’re 50% of  homicide victims in this country. And 90% of those are killed by other black people.”

Jason Riley, Editorial Board Member,  Wall Street Journal