Make a Difference

Tag: us

How Good is the US Economy?

When even the New York Times struggles to find words to say how good the US economy is, you know it’s good:

We Ran Out of Words to Describe How Good the Jobs Numbers Are

The economy is in a sweet spot, with steady growth and broad improvement in the labor market.

The real question in analyzing the May jobs numbers released Friday is whether there are enough synonyms for “good” in an online thesaurus to describe them adequately.

So, for example, “splendid” and “excellent” fit the bill. Those are the kinds of terms that are appropriate when the United States economy adds 223,000 jobs in a month, despite being nine years into an expansion, and when the unemployment rate falls to 3.8 percent, a new 18-year low.

There are so many jobs on offer in the US that almost everyone who wants to work will find work

There are so many jobs on offer in the US that almost everyone who wants to work will find work

Large numbers of black and Hispanic people are starting to feel they are better off under the present administration. Less resentment means less violence and other crime, and fewer votes for the Democrats. That may be one of the reasons the Democrats are still so strenuously pushing the “Trump is a racist” line. Fewer and fewer people are buying it.

Mass Murders and Gun Control

Every time there is a major public shooting in the US, there is an outcry on Twitter and Facebook; It’s so easy! Can’t they see what the problem is? Just take the guns away! Don’t they care about their children? And then the laments; nothing will change. They don’t care. They are only worried about votes.

The reason nothing changes as a result of these Facebook tirades is that they consist of little but slogans. They don’t address the real problems, and consequently, offer no real solutions.

Take, for example, the claim there have been eighteen school shootings in the US this year. Even the Washington Post, no friend to Trump or the Republicans, has examined this claim and found it to be false. The group that compiles these figures uses as its definition of a school shooting “Any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” This has included, for example, when a man unrelated to the school committed suicide in his car hours after the school closed and the carpark was otherwise empty, or when a group of university students were at a meeting of a criminal justice club in Texas and a student accidentally fired a real gun rather than a training weapon. No one was injured. Or when a police officer’s gun accidentally discharged in a high-school carpark, again, injuring no one. In reality, eleven schools in the US since Columbine in 1999 have experienced mass shootings involving student fatalities.

Eleven mass shootings in schools in eighteen years is a horrendous figure. It indicates a problem that needs to be addressed. It does not need to be exaggerated.

Sadly, media reports seem to delight in sending the message that the US is a dangerous and unpredictable place to visit. Again, this is untrue. The US is not in the top ten countries in the world for gun related deaths, not counting active conflict zones. The US sits between eleventh and eighteenth, depending on whose figures you consider reliable. But this does not take into account that two thirds of firearm related deaths in the US are suicides. This figure is certainly a by-product of the easy availability of guns in the US, and of the quickness and deadliness of guns compared with other methods.

Of genuine gun murder victims, sixty percent are black males between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. Black males in that age group also commit nearly fifty percent of all gun related murders, despite making up only about five percent of the population. Most fatal gun violence occurs in specific areas, and in specific racial groups. If you stay out of those areas; anywhere that has a long history of Democrat control, anywhere that has a high proportion of blacks or of illegal immigrants (I know you are not supposed to say these things, but they are true nonetheless) you are safer in the US than almost anywhere else in the world.

Mass shootings, though they are terrifying, in part because they are apparently random and feature loudly in headlines and news reports, account for only approximately one percent of all gun related murders.

Nor is the gun debate in the US a Democrat vs Republican conflict. At any time when Barack Obama was president and the Democrats controlled both the US Senate and Congress, they could have introduced stricter gun control measures. They did not. Incidentally, ninety percent of recent mass shootings in the US have been perpetrated by Democrat voters, including the most recent school shooting.

Is stricter gun control the answer? It is not clear that it is. One of the few safer places in the world than the US is Switzerland. More than thirty percent of adult Swiss own a gun, a rate higher than the US (statistics showing much higher rates of gun ownership in the US are based on the number of weapons vs the population, but this ignores the fact that many US gun owners own multiple guns) and yet at 0.6 per 100.000, Switzerland has one of the lowest rates of gun related homicide. In addition, some parts of the US where it is difficult to buy a gun legally also have the highest rates of gun related homicide, while some states and cities where open carry is permitted have amongst the lowest rates.

Are gun-free zones the answer? Definitely not! Ninety-six percent of recent mass shootings have taken place in areas in which guns were banned. Designating an area as a gun-free zone, whether a school, a club or a public event, does nothing except advertise to potential murderers that they will have anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of uninterrupted killing before anyone arrives who has the capacity to stop them.

Are the latest mass shootings President Trump’s fault? It is hard to see how when there has been no increase in gun related deaths including mass shootings during his term, and such a high proportion of gun deaths are perpetrated by Democrat voters and in Democrat controlled cities. It is true he and Congress declined to enact a regulation proposed by President Obama which restricted gun ownership for anyone receiving a government benefit who had been treated for a mental illness. This regulation was resisted strongly by the ACLU (no friend to the Republicans) and by mental health advocates.

One fifth of the population will receive treatment for mental illness during their lifetime, and despite Facebook posts to the contrary, and media and police reports claiming almost every example of Islamist violence as evidence of mental illness (a gross injustice to the genuinely mentally ill, just as describing muslim rape gangs as Asian rape gangs is a gross injustice to Asians) there is no correlation between receiving treatment for mental illness and an increased likeliness of committing violent gun crime. So no, recent mass shootings cannot be blamed on President Trump.

Another claim that is sometimes made is that Australia has solved the problem of mass shootings by a massive buy-back of weapons, and imposing restrictions on what weapons can be privately owned.  In reality, Australia had so few mass shootings before those controls were introduced that it is impossible to draw any valid conclusions about their impact on the rate of mass shootings, while the rate of gun ownership has now increased to pre-buyback levels, and the rate of violent crime overall has not changed. In other words, Australia cannot be used as an example, and even if it were, it would not be a very good one.

In addition, it is clear that if access to guns is made more difficult, those determined to commit mass murder will still find ways to do so, for example using improvised explosive devices or vehicles, sometimes with devastating results, as has been seen in the last year in the US, Europe and Australia.

Let’s review.

Increased gun ownership leads to an increase in completed suicides. Increased gun ownership in itself does not seem to lead to a higher rate of violent crime or murder. Those are much better correlated with drug abuse, gang membership, illegal immigration and some racial and religious groups. There is no realistic prospect of enacting legislation which restricts gun ownership in those areas or to those groups, or even of having a sensible discussion which takes those factors into account. Does that mean nothing can be done? No.

The largest group of firearm related deaths are suicides. A person determined to commit suicide will find a way to do so, but removing or even delaying access to guns will help to prevent impulses to suicide becoming completed suicides. People seeking treatment for depression or presenting as depressed should be asked if they have firearms at home, advised of the risk, and asked to consider other arrangements for safe-keeping. If acceptable to the patient, options should be discussed with family or close friends who should also be made aware of the risk to the patient of easy access to a firearm.

The second largest group of gun deaths and by far the largest group of murders are young black males in urban areas. Most of these deaths are related to drug use or gang conflicts, or incidental to the commission of petty crimes. Many of the areas in which these deaths occur already have strict gun controls in place. It is not clear that more laws is the answer. Instead, communities in which there is a high level of crime and violence need to take responsibility to reduce the level of crime and violence amongst their members, and to encourage positive relationships with law enforcement. Existing laws relating to drug use, gang membership and firearm ownership need to be enforced, with no excuses about no-go areas or about ethnic or gang violence being of less concern than other forms of crime.

Mass shootings and mass murders of any kind are extremely difficult to predict. But there are levels at which any community or group can be prepared. As a first step, put an end to the madness of gun-free zones. Nothing could be a more effective advertisement that a location or event is a soft and easy target.

Armed guards should be present any school at which parents and community agree that this is desirable. We take for granted that politicians and celebrities should have armed protection, and we are used to armed guards at banks and jewellery stores. Are children less deserving of protection? It is simply silly to say we should not have to do this. Of course we shouldn’t, but that is naïve and irrelevant. We do have to, just as we have to lock our doors and watch out for shop lifters and not leave our phones lying around. Having an armed and trained person on site means a response to violence or threats of violence in seconds rather than minutes. More importantly, it is a powerful disincentive. Either way, it saves lives.

There is one way in which a change to gun regulations would help. The recent school shooting was committed by someone about whom law enforcement had had more than one credible warning, and yet he was able to acquire a semi-automatic sports rifle capable of firing a two rounds every three seconds. That is simply absurd. People who have made threats about committing mass violence should not be permitted to acquire weapons legally. They will still be able to acquire them illegally, and they will still be able to plan and carry out murders using other means – vehicles, for example, or easily made aerosol poisons such as ricin, or IEDs. But difficulties in obtaining weapons legally may at least slow them down, and give law enforcement more time to track and apprehend them.

Gun control will reduce the number of peaceful, law abiding people who own weapons. There is no evidence it will stop mass murders or gangland violence. You cannot stop evil people planning and doing evil things. You can make it more difficult for them by restricting legal access to weapons for people with criminal records or who have made threats of violence, you can respond more quickly and more effectively, and you can ensure punishments are severe enough to act as a deterrent. These are the strategies that reduce the number of gun deaths.

If Libya, Why Not … ?

Bill O’Reilly says that despite lack of clarity about process (eg, no congressional approval, no clear and present danger to the US), America’s involvement in Libya is a good thing:

On the left … Ralph Nader is calling for impeachment. Michael Moore has suggested that Obama give back the Nobel Peace Prize. Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants to cut off funding for any military action against Libya.

On the right, Pat Buchanan banged the isolationist drum: “Why is the United States, all the way across the ocean, got to go in and stop Arabs from killing Arabs? … Why are we in there?”

To prevent a massacre? I believe that’s the reason, Mr. Buchanan.

Congressman Ron Paul was equally blunt: “What are we doing? We are in this crisis, and they decide to spend all this money. It makes no sense at all.”

Here’s my question for Paul: Would you be comfortable, congressman, watching thousands of human beings being slaughtered by a terrorist dictator when you know that your country had the power to prevent it?

In fact, the no-fly zone was up and running in hours, and Gadhafi’s forces have been seriously damaged. Now the rebels have a chance to eventually overthrow the dictator, and mass murder has been avoided at least for the time being.

This is not a complicated issue. If America is indeed a noble country, it should act to save lives when it can. That doesn’t mean getting bogged down in quagmires like Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. But when quick, decisive action can defeat evil, it should be taken.

I believe in the basic nobility of America. I also believe few other nations have the motivation and power to confront evil that this country does. If it’s all about us, if all we think about is our own sacrifice, then American exceptionalism disappears.

All of that is true. The strong have a responsibility to protect the weak. No one would ever want another Rwanda.

But once you begin to take on the job of the world’s policeman, where do you stop?

If we should intervene in Libya, why not Syria, where the situation seems to be just as bad. And if Syria, why not Burma? And if Burma, why not Zimbabwe?

If we have a responsibility to protect those who cannot defend themselves, why has there been no intervention in Sudan, where there has been much greater loss of life, along with uncounted rapes and mutilations, over a much longer period of time? Why no intervention to protect Christians in Iraq, or Nigeria, or Egypt?

I am not sure O’Reilly is right about Libya. A no fly zone, so rebels are protected against air attack while they fight their own battles might be justifiable.

Fighting those battles for them, so that one brutal government can be replaced by another, is not.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. It does mean we need to think very seriously about what we want to achieve, the cost of achieving it in human life and in relationships with other nations, and the likelihood that our goals can be reached, before we act.

It is not just intentions that count, but outcomes.

A Tree By Its Fruits

So what kind of fruit tree is Obama?

From Hot Air:

The Bible says that you will know a tree by the kind of fruit it bears, meaning that you will know what someone believes by what they do. Considering the ‘revolution’ in Egypt, I would like to quickly examine three examples of foreign policy maneuvers that Obama has taken, including Egypt.

First, let’s look all the way back at June/July of 2009. President Zelaya was working with Castro to subvert the Honduran Constitution to turn Honduras into a dictatorship. The government of Honduras acted quickly and had the military remove Zelaya from the country. This measure had the support of almost the entire Honduran Congress (1 person voted against it), Attorney General, and the Honduran Supreme Court. They acted constitutionally to remove Zelaya from power.

So what did Obama do? He dubbed it an illegal military coup and said they must stand up for the rule of law and reinstate Zelaya back to power. However, the interim President of Honduras who was serving out Zelaya’s term, Robert Micheletti, said they acted constitutionally and would not return Zelaya to power. In return Obama helped to isolate honduras by voting with the other members of the OAS to suspend Honduras’ membership and moved to cut off aid to Honduras despite them being such a poor country.

Next up, Iran. Remember the 2009 Green Revolution? Most of you are more familiar with this so I’ll make it short. Iran basically cheated their people out of free and fair elections by ignoring the ballots and declaring Ahmadinejad the victor. It was only an hour or so after the people voted with paper ballots that the Iranian government declared him the winner, and at that point the people knew they’d been had. They poured into the streets of Tehran in protest as the world watched on. But instead of condemning the falsified elections and calling for free elections, Obama said that the US would continue to work with the Iranian government and added that it wasn’t our place ‘meddle’ in Iran’s affairs. In fact it took Obama 10 days to make a strong public statement against Iran, but only to condemn the widespread brutality as Iran was suppressing it’s people. I don’t think he ever called for new elections once. Iran successfully suppressed  their people and Ahmadinejad remains in control. Obama was pretty much silent through this entire revolution.

And now that a revolution is happening in Egypt, our ally, Obama has taken center stage and has been publicly vocal against Mubarak calling for him to step down. In fact, I don’t believe he ever voiced support for Mubarak at all, instead saying that the people have spoken and Mubarak must go. Obama has even called for elections though we know elections in the middle east never yield democracies. On top of that, Obama has advocated that a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, should play a part in the new government of Egypt. This has major implications for Israel as the Muslim Brotherhood truly hates Israel and wants to wipe them off the map. And now that Mubarak has stepped down today, Egypt will likely continue toward elections and could be well on it’s way to a theocracy just as Gaza turned into a theocracy in 2006 and Iran in 1979.

These are just three examples of Obama’s Foreign policy moves and they all have one thing in common. In every case Obama stood on the opposing side of US interests whether it was to side with a dictator wanna-be, a fascist Islamic theocracy, or against an ally and in favor of another Islamic terrorist organization as part of his replacement. And discounting Honduras, Iran and Egypt have the anti-Israeli component in common.

I know you are not supposed to assume malice when stupidity might be an adequate explanation. But to get so many important aspects of foreign and domestic policy so badly wrong requires a special kind of stupid.

We have the same problem here in Australia, where we are lumbered with most spectacularly inept government in Australia’s history. But no one takes any notice of us anyway. A mountain of overspending and alienating our friends is only going to cause us some pain and inconvenience.

When the US alienates its friends and gets itself so deep in debt it cannot see the light of day, then the whole world is in trouble.

Hosni Mubarak Deserves Better From the West

Hosni Mubarak took over as president after his friend and mentor Anwar Sadat was murdered in 1981 by islamic extremists.

Over the past thirty years, Mubarak has confirmed and strengthened the fragile peace negotiated by Sadat between Israel and Egypt.

He has worked with, and counted as friends, successive American presidents and UK Prime Ministers.

He has comdemned the use of violence by extremist groups. To give just one example, after the Israeli ‘Cast Lead’ operation to stop incessant rocket attacks from Gaza, Mubarak said that Hamas was to blame for spilled Arab blood, and that resistance movements must take responsibility for the welfare of their people.

His friendships with Western leaders, and his recognition of Israel and its right to exist have been dangerous for him, as they were for Anwar Sadat, and have cost him political and popular support.

Despite the ‘no see, no tell’ policy of some media organisations, independent sources have pointed out that one of the reasons for protests against Mubarak is precisely that he is perceived to be a ‘Jew lover’ and a traitor to Islam.

Mubarak - Friend to the US and Israel = Traitor to Egypt

Egypt is no paradise. There is widespread poverty and corruption. I have been alarmed at the lack of action by authorities to protect Coptic Christians and other minority groups.

But most of Egypt’s problems persist in spite of Mubarak’s efforts, not because of them.

Nine out of ten women in Egypt suffer the mutilation called female circumcision. Mubarak has twice outlawed this practice, without success – the imams say it part of the islamic faith. He has encouraged his wife to be active in promoting education for women, and in lobbying for an end to FGM.

He has ruled over a country in which 82% of the population believe adulterers should be stoned, 84% believe apostates from Islam should face the death penalty, and 77% believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off.

These same people want democracy. In a country in which the only credible opposition is the Islamic Brotherhood.

Supporters of the Islamic Brotherhood protesting in London make clear what history makes obvious – that democracy and sharia are incompatible. The Islamic Brotherhood wants democracy only long enough to implement islamic law.

Anti-Mubarak, Anti-democracy Protestors in London

Yet after a few days of protests, the US President, shortly followed by the Prime Minister of Australia, have called for Mubarak to step down immediately.

This is all the more astonishing after the failure of either the US or Australia, or any other major Western power, to offer unqualified support to the Iranian protestors a year ago, protests against a genuinely vile and violent regime.

Israel has been dismayed, not only by the threat to its own security should the Islamic Brotherhood take control of Egypt, but by the wholesale and opportunistic abandoment of one of the West’s key allies in the Middle-east.

Other states friendly with the US will be watching closely. Why should Yemen or Saudi Arabia, for example, or Israel, have any faith in American promises of friendship and support?

Not that Obama’s actions are winning him any friends. The general view in the Middle-east seems to be that the US is selling out its allies and interfering in Egypt’s affairs in pursuit of its own agenda.

Hosni Mubarak, and the people of Egypt, deserve better from the West.

© 2024 Qohel