Incentivizing Outrage

One of the primary laws of human nature is that people respond to incentives. Changing incentives changes people’s behavior, often dramatically.

Ten years ago, if a college student suffered some mild offence, they’d learn that complaining about it would get them labeled a whiner. They had an incentive to shrug it off and move on.

If the same student suffered the same minor offense today, our new incentives reward an entirely different response. If they shrug it off, nothing happens. No one cheers for them or celebrates them or calls them brave. But if they get outraged, and make a huge hairy deal of it, they can be all over YouTube, become a meme, and get their fifteen minutes of fame with very little effort.

Even better, they can get people fired. They can destroy the lives of people they’re mad at. That’s some serious power. It must make them feel really righteous.

(Imagine if you had the power to get someone you disliked fired, simply by acting like a toddler. You might pass on the opportunity the first time, maybe the second, but sooner or later, the temptation, the incentive, might make it irresistible.)

When Timothy Wolf ran away, he reinforced powerful incentives for students everywhere. They’ve learned all they have to do, to get whatever they want, is skip a few meals or go on strike or hold a rally, and do it all very loudly.

This could have been an amazing teaching opportunity, a chance to experiment with different approaches to the problem. For instance, the students could have been encouraged to deal with racism and perceived racism head on, one-on-one, with the people who have offended them. The students who really were being offensive would learn to behave or get out. The ones who weren’t might even be able to help the easily offended wise up.

It might not have worked. Other approaches might be better. But whatever the approaches, and whatever their results, they would have been better than teaching students that the most rewarding way to deal with any offense is to have a full blown tantrum and crank it up to eleven.


Timothy Wolfe – The Wimpiest Man In The World

The left loves destroying  the careers of anyone who dares to disagree with them. At first they destroyed people who actually said offensive things. From there they moved on to destroying people who said things that could be taken more than one way. And now they’ve destroyed the career of someone for not doing . . .something. His accusers never really said what they wanted him to do, but he didn’t do it, so they destroyed him. But in this case, a great deal of fault lies with the victim. He could have taken a stand, been bold, and taken the first step to reverse the tide of this kind of nonsense. Instead, he quit.

Timothy M. Wolfe was the president of The University of Missouri. He had been brought in to put their financial house in order, which is never a prescription for popularity.

This year, there were unproven allegations that two of the 35,000 students at the school heard slurs hurled in their direction, and recently someone used feces to smear a swastika on a wall. This, according to the PC crowd that infests the campus, was somehow Tim’s fault. Although a student believed responsible for one of these offenses was removed from the campus, that wasn’t good enough for the mob. They wanted to see Wolfe destroyed.

Jonathan Butler, a graduate student, went on a hunger strike, the adult equivalent of a toddler holding his breath until he turns blue. In his hyperbolic announcement he said, “During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

The football team had a big game coming up on Saturday. They announced they were on strike, knowing that a forfeited game would cost the school a one million dollar fine.

And so Mr. Wolfe bravely ran away. Turned and ran away, away. He gave into Buttler’s tantrum and the athlete’s threats, teaching all the students a valuable lesson: you can achieve unjust goals by acting like children.

What he should have done was hold a press conference and made the following speech:

I have come here to apologize for many things.  

I am very sorry that somewhere on this campus there is a vile creature who drew that swastika. We’re working on finding out who it is, and when we do, we will boot them from the school immediately. We may even use an actual boot. 

I am also very sorry to discover so many of our students are delicate snowflakes who freak out at every insult or offense, most of them imaginary. If you don’t like it here, please leave. We’ll even call Uber for you. Just get out. No one will miss you. 

Mr. Butler, I’m sorry that you think your tantrum will change my mind. By all means, starve yourself to death. Please send me the address of your funeral home, and I’ll send a bouquet. A very, very small bouquet of the cheapest flowers I can find at WalMart. Or, you can grow up. Your choice. 

And finally, I am extremely sorry that we’ve given athletic scholarships to football players who are idiots and pussies. I don’t expect athletes to be smart, but I do expect them to be tough.

There is a game on Saturday. Anyone with an athletic scholarship had better be there, suited up and ready to play. If you’re not, have your stuff packed and be off campus by midnight. If you’re still here on Sunday, you will be arrested for trespassing.

I’ve had enough of this crap from all of you. You’re supposed to be young adults, not petulant toddlers. If any part of reality is too unpleasant for you to handle, get your tender butt-hurt butts off my campus and make room for grown-ups who want an education.”

He would have won the respect and admiration of thinking people worldwide. He would have become part of history, remembered as the man who finally pushed back against our moronic tide of political correctness. His name would have become a verb; stomping down a PC foe would have been known as “going Tim Wolfe on him.”

Instead, he chose to be The Wimpiest Man In The World.

He won’t go down in history as the Wimpiest Man, because nobody goes down in history for being a wimp. History forgets wimps. Eventually, inevitably, some university president will stand up and push-back against this nonsense. Mr. Wolfe, however, will be forgotten, as he should be.


Jury Duty

I’ve been tagged for jury duty, and several scenarios are playing out in my imagination.

My first reaction was “Maybe I’ll get a chance to practice Jury Nullification.” If it’s a case involving drug possession, prostitution, ticket scalping, doing something harmless without a license, etc., I’ll be able to keep the defendant out of jail.

It will be tricky, though. Prosecutors hate nullification, and routinely dismiss any juror who even hints they know about it. If I get past that, and get picked, playing it out during deliberations will be a balancing act. If I bring it up immediately, the foreman may call for an alternate before deliberations get going, so I’ll have to wait. If the jury is headed toward Not Guilty based on the evidence, I won’t need to even mention it. But if they’re heading towards a guilty verdict, can I change enough minds to get a unanimous Not Guilty? I can always hang the jury, but that means the defendant may have to go on trial again; an acquittal would be a much better outcome.

But what if the case involves a real crime? If someone is really guilty of murder, rape, robbery, assault, fraud, animal abuse – anything where there is an actual victim – I want to see them punished, but that brings in a whole different slew of doubts and problems.

My first problem is knowing that cops lie. A lot. They’re trained to lie during interrogations, and all that practice lets them lie on the stand, under oath, naturally and perfectly. There will be no way to tell if the cops testimony is factual, pure perjury, or some combination of the two. I’ll have to dismiss any police testimony. 

Physical evidence presents another problem. I’ve seen dozens of videos of cops clearly planting evidence, and read many articles by former cops detailing how it was done. In some precincts it’s a very common practice. So how can I tell if a piece of evidence is real, or was dropped on the scene by Officer Friendly?

If it is an honest piece of evidence, how do I know the lab processed it correctly? There have been many many cases of labs screwing things up, cross contaminating samples, analyzing samples incorrectly, and quite a few instances, intentionally lying about the evidence. How can I trust any laboratory findings?

But at least there’s eyewitness testimony, right? Nope. Test after test confirms that eyewitness testimony, especially of unusual events, is often very wrong.

Have you ever told a story about something that happened to you, something you remember in detail, and discovered that you got it all wrong? Me too. Every time you remember something, the tale changes a bit in your head. Your brain plays telephone with itself, and much of what you recall, very clearly, never really happened the way you remember it.

So eyewitness testimony has to be heavily discounted, and maybe even ignored.

The only way I can make a confident decision is if there’s a clear video of the event, something I can see for myself. But that’s pretty rare. Since everything else is suspect, how can I be sure enough of the facts to put someone in a cage? On the other hand, I don’t want to free a dangerous individual who belongs in jail. This is going to be a very difficult decision.

Life would be easier I were more unaware.


I was filling out the jury questionnaire, preparing to mail it, but wasn’t sure where the courthouse was. I called the number, and talked to the woman in charge of all the jurors.

She asked me for the date and my juror number. “Oh, you’re all set,” she said. “That case was settled,  so you don’t need to send that in. You won’t be called again for at least six years.” I asked her what the case was. “It was a civil suit. A slip and fall.”



Are You Really 32 Times More Likely to be Killed by Your Own Gun?

Whenever there’s a mass shooting, the gun grabbers come out in force. One of their favorite memes is the claim you’re 32 times more likely to die from your own gun than you are to kill a bad guy. I’ve also seen the number claimed as 38 times more likely, and 42 times more likely. Nanny groups have trouble keeping their numbers straight.

Fortunately for them, it’s easy to spew a lie in one sentence. Unfortunately for us, it can take several paragraphs to disprove it. Fortunately for them, it is impossible to come up with an exact number of times guns are used for defense. Fortunately for us, we can still rip apart their claims in a short article like this.

Let’s start with some baseline numbers. In the U.S. in 2010, (according to the Wikipedia) there were 31,513 deaths by firearms. 19,308 were suicide, 11,015 were homicides and 600 were accidents.

Gun grabbers love the term “gun deaths,” a phrase that should pin the needle on your bullshit meter. 61% of all gun deaths are suicides. There are a variety of ways people can kill themselves, and they’re likely to choose the one closest at hand. In some instances the proximity of a gun makes it easy for someone who might have refrained if they had to use other means, but the idea that guns increase the suicide rate is easily dispelled. On a list the suicide rate by country, the US is in the fiftieth place. Many of the countries higher on the list heavily restrict or even prohibit guns.

So, we’ve just removed 61% of their number, but that still leaves us with a pretty high ratio of bad guys killed to good guys killed. Let’s break it down further.

It’s easy to count things like traffic accidents. We’re required by law to report them, and we need a police report to collect any insurance. As a result, we have very accurate numbers on vehicle accidents.

Counting things like Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs) is much more difficult. When a good guy uses a gun to chase away a bad guy, there’s no need to call the police – the situation is over. In fact, there is a very strong incentive to avoid involving the police. (“Hello, police? I just threatened someone with a gun!”) This makes getting a precise number of DGUs impossible, but there have many studies that give us a good range. On the low end, they estimate 800,000 DGUs. On the high end, 2.5 million.

A few studies have reported absurdly low numbers. Most of them were conducted by the government or anti-gun groups. I’ve seen them as low as 67,000, although most are around 100k.

There are two common methods of concocting low numbers. One is by counting police reports and/or news reports. This, of course, ignores the vast majority who don’t notify the cops or the media after they’ve defended themselves.

The other method is surveys, usually by phone, that are not anonymous. “Hi, this is the government calling. We know who you are. Please tell us if you’ve defended yourself with a gun.”

My completely unscientific gut feeling is that the 2.5 million number is too high. That comes out to about 1% of the population defending themselves with a gun, year after year after year. 100k DGUs, in a country of 290 – 315 million people (depending on when the survey was done) is absurdly low. It’s reasonable to conclude the real number is somewhere in the middle.

But here’s the often overlooked key statistic – in nearly all DGUs (85% – 92%, depending on the study) the gun is never fired. Merely brandishing it solves the problem. And when the gun is fired, the aggressor is often not hit, or is merely wounded. Killing a criminal during a DGU is extremely rare.

And this is how the gun grabbers generate their numbers. They completely ignore DGUs unless the defender kills the attacker. Then they include suicides, and wall-la! They’ve got a scary number that has no relation to reality.

Even if we go with the absurdly low numbers, their argument falls apart. If the number is, say, 100k, that’s tens of thousands of murders, tens of thousands of rapes, tens of thousands of assaults, and tens of thousands of robberies that never happened. Compare that to eleven thousand homicides (go ahead and toss in six hundred accidents, if you like), and the math is pretty simple – guns save far, far more lives than they take.

Nannies love the “for the children” argument. “Seven children are killed by guns every day!” But while most of us define children as people 13 and under, gun grabbers use their own special nanny definitions. They define everyone under 21 as a child. Seventeen-year-olds are children. Eighteen-year-olds are children. Nineteen-year-olds are children. Twenty-year-olds are children. Won’t someone think of the childreeeeeennnnnnn.

I seldom use the words “always” or “never,” because it only takes one exception to be wrong. Nannies always lie. I have never seen an exception. It doesn’t matter if they’re going after guns, food, tobacco, vehicles, weed, lifestyles or anything else. Any numbers they quote are lies. Sometimes they just make up the numbers. Other times they use tricks like the one we’re discussing. No matter what their technique, if a nanny quotes a number, it’s almost always a lie; a lie of omission, a lie of commission, or a lie of pure imagination.

“You’re 34 times more likely to die from a gun in your house than to kill an intruder.” Change “kill” to “defend yourself from” and their dishonestly becomes obvious and undeniable.

Additional Information:

A Reason article on DGU studies.

A chart of some older DGU studies, with their conclusions.


Bernie Sanders is Right About One Thing. Maybe Two.

Bernie Sanders is very good at pointing out problems. A few of his favorites are imaginary, but most are real, and all of them have been created by big government. Bernie has a way of expressing them in a way that appeals to our inherent class envy.

Bernie’s solutions will make things far worse. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of our lives.

Alternet, that bastion of fine journalism, has published a list of Bernie’s political solutions to our problems. I thought they would be fun to go over while waiting for PetSmart to deliver my orders for barrels and fish.

1. Time for big thinking and new ideas.

Isn’t it always time for big thinking and new ideas?

One new idea would be to avoid this cliché, which has been spewed by every politician, in various forms, since there have been politicians.

His bold new idea: Socialism. Wait, didn’t that, and its kissing cousin communism, kill over a hundred million people in the last century? Oh, never mind, Bernie is the *good* kind of socialist. Not the bad kind. Nuh uh. Not him.

2. America’s problems are worse than ever.

Overall, things are better than they’ve been for all of human history. Nearly everything that’s worse has been made worse by government.

3. Economic inequality is the top issue.

The actual problem is a moribund economy, not income inequality, but let’s accept his claim for the sake of argument. Why is there such income inequality? Would it be as widespread if citizens were free to start any business without having to deal with the huge, often insurmountable, government-imposed barriers to entry that makes it impossible for the new guy to even try competing with the established guys?

Bernie’s wants to reduce the inequality by tearing down the rich. It has never occurred to him it would be better to allow the poor and middle class to build themselves up.

4. The middle class is being destroyed.

Yes, it is. See #3.

5. Poverty is worse than is acknowledged.

People paying attention (i.e. not trusting the numbers put out by Bernie’s government) have a pretty good idea of how bad it is. Many of us are desperately trying to cling to the middle class rung of the ladder without slipping into poverty. We can feel it nipping at our heels, and it’s terrifying. We need Big Brother out of the damn way so we can get back to climbing. Or even just keep hanging on.

6. The country needs a real jobs program.

We sure do, but creating more government drones is the worst possible solution.  The only job program that has been proven to work is to get the government out of the damn way and let people create jobs. For a real life example, look up what happened in New Mexico when Gary Johnson was Governor.

7. Raise the minimum wage and fight for living wages.

The primary effect will be to dramatically increase unemployment, mostly among the poor. Good plan.

8. Close the pay equity gap for women.

The oft spouted 72-cents-on-the-dollar claim has been debunked so many times, so thoroughly and so often, that the credibly rating of anyone repeating it is immediately lowered to “homeopath.”

9. Provide basic government health care for all.

Yeah, how’s that working out? I just got a letter saying my premiums were going up 20%.

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” – P.J O’Rourke.

10. Expand Social Security and other safety nets.

We need safety nets, but the government is the worst, most inefficient way to provide them.

The Social Security piggybank is empty. There’s nothing in it but T-Bills, IOUs the government wrote to itself while they squandered the actual money. It’s not a fund; it’s an accounting trick.

If we had been allowed to invest the money we’ve been forced to pay into SS, we’d all be retiring as millionaires.  Literally. It’s a math thing. Bernie isn’t good at math. Math is hard.

Food stamps should be left alone, for now. They are one of the few programs that actually helps people, and the cost is trivial compared to most other government programs. I’m far less concerned about someone spending food stamps to buy a $15 steak than I am about the military buying a boxcar full of $600 hammers.

The best solution, one that doesn’t even occur to people like Bernie, is to make safety nets far less necessary. And the way to do that is, once again, to make it easy for people to start businesses.

“Well, Bob, your neighbor Joe was going to start a business, and if he had, he would have hired you. But he looked at the cost of government compliance – rules, regulations, licenses, fees, taxes and restrictions – and decided not to start it. So here, have some food stamps.”

11. College and universities must be free.

If you think education is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.

As usual, he ignores the real problem: government is almost entirely responsible for the huge cost increases in education. By making virtually unlimited loans available, they’ve allowed colleges to raise their prices by 5% over inflation for the past twenty years, while saddling people with a lifetime of debt for an often worthless education.

There’s also the issue of accreditation, which presents an impossible barrier to entry for new institutions. This keeps the supply low as the demand increases, and a first year econ student knows what that means.

When I become president, I’ll limit guaranteed student loans to $5k/year, $20k/lifetime. That’s not enough to cover tuition anywhere, so parents and kids will have to spend their own money now, instead of in the future, which will make them more careful about buying education. Schools will have to stop gouging if they want to stay full.

12. The rich must pay fair taxes.

The top 20% of earners pay 92% of all income taxes collected. The bottom 20% receive enough benefits that their effective tax rate is -15%. What he’s yammering about is already in place.

He’s advocating for a 90% top tax rate, which is proof he’s clinically insane.

13. Break up the largest financial institutions.

I actually agree with him on this one. If an institution is too big to fail, it’s too big. Failure is a very important part of real capitalism. The threat of it changes a corporation’s behavior. (Or it doesn’t, and they fail.) The government has established the precedent of repeatedly rescuing them from their failures with taxpayer dollars, which allows them to continue ruinous behavior without fear.

14 No more bad trade agreements.

I agree with the statement, but his errors about what qualifies as bad would require too much discussion for this already too-long article.

15. Move away from carbon based energy.

Being done. Mostly by private industries, who can see the huge profit potential in success. For those who think the government is the best way to find solutions, please join me in this meditative chant: “Solyndra, Solyndra, Soooolynnnnndra.”

16. Climate change must be addressed.

His ilk doesn’t just want it addressed. They want it obsessed about, venerated, worshiped, and used as an excuse to force all of us to change our lifestyles. Except for Al Gore. All still gets to fly between his mansions in his private jet because, hey, he’s Al Gore.

Renewable energy isn’t completely viable yet, but it’s getting there. Generating it is getting cheaper and more efficient. Even more important, battery technology is rapidly improving. They’ll both reach a point, probably in the next ten to fifteen years, where renewable energy becomes the cheapest form of power. When that happens, people will switch to it rather quickly. The biggest obstacle is, of course, Big Brother himself, who continues to get in the way at every step of the process.

17. The US must not fight endless wars.

I completely agree on him on this one issue. When I become president, I’ll cut the military in half, and have them prepare to be cut in half again. This will still leave us with the biggest military in the world, entirely capable of defending our borders.

But it will also make it impossible for us to march into the middle of every squabble and fight between (or within) other countries. We’ll have to sit back and let them work it out for themselves. *Maybe* we’ll supply weapons to the side we like, but even that needs to be very limited.

I will halt all R&D and investment in the F-35, and demand that the A-10 Warthog remain in production. (It’s a hellava plane that’s extremely useful in any battle, and will be indispensable if we’re ever invaded by Canada or Mexico.)

There, I’ve just cut the federal budget by a half trillion dollars a year.

18. Americans can’t afford to be apathetic.

Isn’t it nice that Bernie is telling us which emotions and attitudes are proper.

In a free country, the people could be apathetic about government because it wouldn’t be bothering them, and was no big deal.

In America, people become apathetic for a different reason: we’ve realized the system is horribly stacked against us and designed so any real change is nearly impossible. And who is it stacked by? Come on, let’s not always see the same hands.

19. Democracy reform starts with the plutocrats.

The best way to limit plutocratic influence in government is to have far less government to influence. Without the plethora of rules and regulations that stifle new business, corporations would have to actually address competition, instead of rent-seeking. We’d all benefit greatly from that.

Big business and the wealthy control the government via laws and regulations they’ve helped enact for their own best interest (and no one else’s.) His solution is…more laws and regulations. It’s like concluding that since lemon juice isn’t curing your yeast infection, you obviously need to apply more lemon juice. This is, or should be, known as The Krugman Fallacy.

20. The Supreme Court must be changed.

Um…Bernie…you know that happens as part of the process, don’t you? Slowly, very slowly, but it happens.

Unfortunately we have to conclude, based on most of their decisions, that the qualifications for the job don’t include having read the constitution, or even skimmed it.

When I become president, I’ll nominate Judge Andrew Napolitano to the Supreme Court, then hire a company to clone eight more of him to fill the rest of the positions.

* * *

Our current presidential candidates are interchangeable talking heads who are indistinguishable from each other. You could pull the head off any Republican (mmmmm…oops, sorry, just getting distracted by that appealing image) and glue it to any other Republican’s shoulders without anyone noticing. (You would, of course, use Crazy Glue) Rip off Hillary’s head (mmmmm….oh, sorry, again) and plunk it on Warren’s shoulders and the only difference would be the depth of corruption.

Bernie stands out in this morass as something different. He’s an entertaining little Muppet, spewing out spew that’s different from his competition’s spew. (He should do it while making little toy laser sounds: sPew sPew sPew.)

But in the end, his solutions are essentially the same as any politician’s – more More MORE government. Bigger and badder but somehow, magically, this time, better. Because this time, it will work. Really. Trust him.

And a frightening number of people are buying it.


The Clue Absorbing Field

All of us are wrong about some things, but there is a special subset of humans who are wrong about everything. Politics, science, economics, art, history, human nature, culture, music – the subject doesn’t matter. They are predictably, inevitably and always wrong.

I’m working on a scientific-sounding theory that explains this phenomenon. My hypothesis is these people are surrounded by a Clue Absorbing Field. Call it a force field if you’re into science; an aura if you’re into woo.

Clues hurled in the direction of normal people sometimes stick and sometimes bounce off. Over time, we accumulate enough clues to get {at least a little} smarter.

But whenever a clue heads in the direction of someone protected by a CAF, said clue is immediately absorbed, dissolved and dissipated before it can make physical contact. No matter how many facts and clues you hurl in their direction, they have no effect. The field also sucks any existing clues out of their body and destroys them.

It is possible that this field is not absorptive, but reflective, and approaching clues simply bounce off. Or it could turn out the field doesn’t really exist, and I’m just making stuff up. This can only be determined by expensive research.

Since this will have limited commercial application, it obviously should be funded by a government grant. Anyone who thinks this would be the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars needs to get a clue. It’s not even close.

I estimate $650,000 will be sufficient to fund this important study. This will, of course, be a preliminary study. Once completed, it will be used to justify more extensive (expensive) studies.

I just need to get the grant proposal into the hands of a federal decision maker who is surrounded by a Clue Absorbing Field.


A Keyboard for Progressives

PC PC Peripherals is proud to announce their new keyboard. It’s specially designed to withstand the rigors of lefty facebooking, tweeting and blogging.

For years our friends have have to replace keyboards with worn out R, A, C, I, S and T keys. Their 1 key wears out even faster, from typing so many exclamation points.

The great minds at PCPCP have created a solution to this nagging problem. Our keyboards are specially designed for far lefties. They feature heavy duty R, A, C, I, S, T and 1 keys! Now you can smear all your opponents without worrying about wearing out your keyboard!

And the future is built in. We’ve also beefed up the M, O, G, Y, and N keys, so when Hillary or Elizabeth Warren take the oval office, you’ll be able to call anyone who opposes their policies a misogynist over and over again!

You can enjoy this long lasting keyboard for just $69.99. As an added bonus, we’ll include a free subscription to Mother Jones!!!!!

(See? We can use multiple exclamation points without fear!!!!!!!)