10.18.2016

Mythbusting 101 Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

 
People believe a lot of things that we have little to no evidence for, like that vikings wore horned helmets or that you can see the Great Wall of China from space. One of the things I like to do on my blogs is bust commonly held myths that I think matter. For example, I get really annoyed when I hear someone say sharks don't get cancer (I'll save that rant for another day). From now onward, posts that attack conventionally believed untruths will fall under a series I'm going to call "Mythbusting 101."
 
 
Ten years ago, Certified Organic didn't exist in the United States. Yet in 2010, a mere eight years after USDA's regulations officially went into effect, organic foods and beverages made $26.7 billion. In the past year or two, certified organic sales have jumped to about $52 billion worldwide despite the fact that organic foods cost up to three times as much as those produced by conventional methods. More and more, people are shelling out their hard-earned cash for what they believe are the best foods available. Imagine, people say: you can improve your nutrition while helping save the planet from the evils of conventional agriculture - a complete win-win. And who wouldn't buy organic, when it just sounds so good?

Here's the thing: there are a lot of myths out there about organic foods, and a lot of propaganda supporting methods that are rarely understood. It's like your mother used to say: just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn't mean you should do it, too. Now, before I get yelled at too much, let me state unequivocally that I'm not saying organic farming is bad - far from it. There are some definite upsides and benefits that come from many organic farming methods. For example, the efforts of organic farmers to move away from monocultures, where crops are farmed in single-species plots, are fantastic; crop rotations and mixed planting are much better for the soil and environment. My goal in this post isn't to bash organic farms, instead, it's to bust the worst of the myths that surround them so that everyone can judge organic farming based on facts. In particular, there are four myths thrown around like they're real that just drive me crazy.


Myth #1: Organic Farms Don't Use Pesticides

When the Soil Association, a major organic accreditation body in the UK, asked consumers why they buy organic food, 95% of them said their top reason was to avoid pesticides. They, like many people, believe that organic farming involves little to no pesticide use. I hate to burst the bubble, but that's simply not true. Organic farming, just like other forms of agriculture, still uses pesticides and fungicides to prevent critters from destroying their crops. Confused?

So was I, when I first learned this from a guy I was dating. His family owns a farm in rural Ohio. He was grumbling about how everyone praised the local organic farms for being so environmentally-conscientious, even though they sprayed their crops with pesticides all the time while his family farm got no credit for being pesticide-free (they're not organic because they use a non-organic herbicide once a year). I didn't believe him at first, so I looked into it: turns out that there are over 20 chemicals commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops that are approved by the US Organic Standards. And, shockingly, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government. Why the government isn't keeping watch on organic pesticide and fungicide use is a damn good question, especially considering that many organic pesticides that are also used by conventional farmers are used more intensively than synthetic ones due to their lower levels of effectiveness. According to the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, the top two organic fungicides, copper and sulfur, were used at a rate of 4 and 34 pounds per acre in 1971 1. In contrast, the synthetic fungicides only required a rate of 1.6 lbs per acre, less than half the amount of the organic alternatives.

The sad truth is, factory farming is factory farming, whether its organic or conventional. Many large organic farms use pesticides liberally. They're organic by certification, but you'd never know it if you saw their farming practices. As Michael Pollan, best-selling book author and organic supporter, said in an interview with Organic Gardening,
"They're organic by the letter, not organic in spirit... if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off."

What makes organic farming different, then? It's not the use of pesticides, it's the origin of the pesticides used. Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use. This is different than the current pesticides used by conventional agriculture, which are generally synthetic. It has been assumed for years that pesticides that occur naturally (in certain plants, for example) are somehow better for us and the environment than those that have been created by man. As more research is done into their toxicity, however, this simply isn't true, either. Many natural pesticides have been found to be potential - or serious - health risks.2

Take the example of Rotenone. Rotenone was widely used in the US as an organic pesticide for decades 3. Because it is natural in origin, occurring in the roots and stems of a small number of subtropical plants, it was considered "safe" as well as "organic". However, research has shown that rotenone is highly dangerous because it kills by attacking mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of all living cells. Research found that exposure to rotenone caused Parkinson's Disease-like symptoms in rats 4, and had the potential to kill many species, including humans. Rotenone's use as a pesticide has already been discontinued in the US as of 2005 due to health concerns***, but shockingly, it's still poured into our waters every year by fisheries management officials as a piscicide to remove unwanted fish species.

The point I'm driving home here is that just because something is natural doesn't make it non-toxic or safe. Many bacteria, fungi and plants produce poisons, toxins and chemicals that you definitely wouldn't want sprayed on your food.

Just last year, nearly half of the pesticides that are currently approved for use by organic farmers in Europe failed to pass the European Union's safety evaluation that is required by law 5. Among the chemicals failing the test was rotenone, as it had yet to be banned in Europe. Furthermore, just over 1% of organic foodstuffs produced in 2007 and tested by the European Food Safety Authority were found to contain pesticide levels above the legal maximum levels - and these are of pesticides that are not organic 6. Similarly, when Consumer Reports purchased a thousand pounds of tomatoes, peaches, green bell peppers, and apples in five cities and tested them for more than 300 synthetic pesticides, they found traces of them in 25% of the organically-labeled foods, but between all of the organic and non-organic foods tested, only one sample of each exceeded the federal limits8.

Not only are organic pesticides not safe, they might actually be worse than the ones used by the conventional agriculture industry. Canadian scientists pitted 'reduced-risk' organic and synthetic pesticides against each other in controlling a problematic pest, the soybean aphid. They found that not only were the synthetic pesticides more effective means of control, the organic pesticides were more ecologically damaging, including causing higher mortality in other, non-target species like the aphid's predators9. Of course, some organic pesticides may fare better than these ones did in similar head-to-head tests, but studies like this one reveal that the assumption that natural is better for the environment could be very dangerous.

Even if the organic food you're eating is from a farm which uses little to no pesticides at all, there is another problem: getting rid of pesticides doesn't mean your food is free from harmful things. Between 1990 and 2001, over 10,000 people fell ill due to foods contaminated with pathogens like E. coli, and many have organic foods to blame. That's because organic foods tend to have higher levels of potential pathogens. One study, for example, found E. coli in produce from almost 10% of organic farms samples, but only 2% of conventional ones10. The same study also found Salmonella only in samples from organic farms, though at a low prevalence rate. The reason for the higher pathogen prevalence is likely due to the use of manure instead of artificial fertilizers, as many pathogens are spread through fecal contamination. Conventional farms often use manure, too, but they use irradiation and a full array of non-organic anti-microbial agents as well, and without those, organic foods run a higher risk of containing something that will make a person sick.

In the end, it really depends on exactly what methods are used by crop producers. Both organic and conventional farms vary widely in this respect. Some conventional farms use no pesticides. Some organic farms spray their crops twice a month. Of course, some conventional farms spray just as frequently, if not more so, and some organic farms use no pesticides whatsoever. To really know what you're in for, it's best if you know your source, and a great way to do that is to buy locally. Talk to the person behind the crop stand, and actually ask them what their methods are if you want to be sure of what you're eating.

 

Myth #2: Organic Foods are Healthier

Some people believe that by not using manufactured chemicals or genetically modified organisms, organic farming produces more nutritious food. However, science simply cannot find any evidence that organic foods are in any way healthier than non-organic ones - and scientists have been comparing the two for over 50 years.

Just recently, an independent research project in the UK systematically reviewed the 162 articles on organic versus non-organic crops published in peer-reviewed journals between 1958 and 2008 11. These contained a total of 3558 comparisons of content of nutrients and other substances in organically and conventionally produced foods. They found absolutely no evidence for any differences in content of over 15 different nutrients including vitamin C, ?-carotene, and calcium. There were some differences, though; conventional crops had higher nitrogen levels, while organic ones had higher phosphorus and acidity - none of which factor in much to nutritional quality. Further analysis of similar studies on livestock products like meat, dairy, and eggs also found few differences in nutritional content. Organic foods did, however, have higher levels of overall fats, particularly trans fats. So if anything, the organic livestock products were found to be worse for us (though, to be fair, barely).

“This is great news for consumers. It proves that the 98% of food we consume, which is produced by technologically advanced agriculture, is equally nutritious to the less than 2% derived from what is commonly referred to as the 'organic' market," said Fredhelm Schmider, the Director General of the European Crop Protection Association said in a press release about the findings.12

Joseph D. Rosen, emeritus professor of food toxicology at Rutgers, puts it even more strongly. "Any consumers who buy organic food because they believe that it contains more healthful nutrients than conventional food are wasting their money," he writes in a comprehensive review of organic nutritional claims13.

Strong organic proponents also argue that organic food tastes better. In the same poll where 95% of UK organic consumers said they buy organic to avoid pesticides, over two-thirds of respondents said organic produce and meats taste better than non-organic ones. But when researchers had people put their mouths to the test, they found that people couldn't tell the difference between the two in blind taste tests14, 18.

So, in short, organics are not better for us and we can't tell the difference between them and non-organic foods. There may be many things that are good about organic farming, from increased biodiversity on farms to movement away from monocultures, but producing foods that are healthier and tastier simply isn't one of them.


Myth #3: Organic Farming Is Better For The Environment

As an ecologist by training, this myth bothers me the most of all three. People seem to believe they're doing the world a favor by eating organic. The simple fact is that they're not - at least the issue is not that cut and dry.

Yes, organic farming practices use less synthetic pesticides which have been found to be ecologically damaging. But factory organic farms use their own barrage of chemicals that are still ecologically damaging, and refuse to endorse technologies that might reduce or eliminate the use of these all together. Take, for example, organic farming's adamant stance against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GMOs have the potential to up crop yields, increase nutritious value, and generally improve farming practices while reducing synthetic chemical use - which is exactly what organic farming seeks to do. As we speak, there are sweet potatoes are being engineered to be resistant to a virus that currently decimates the African harvest every year, which could feed millions in some of the poorest nations in the world15. Scientists have created carrots high in calcium to fight osteoperosis, and tomatoes high in antioxidants. Almost as important as what we can put into a plant is what we can take out; potatoes are being modified so that they do not produce high concentrations of toxic glycoalkaloids, and nuts are being engineered to lack the proteins which cause allergic reactions in most people. Perhaps even more amazingly, bananas are being engineered to produce vaccines against hepatitis B, allowing vaccination to occur where its otherwise too expensive or difficult to be administered. The benefits these plants could provide to human beings all over the planet are astronomical.

Yet organic proponents refuse to even give GMOs a chance, even to the point of hypocrisy. For example, organic farmers apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin (a small insecticidal protein from soil bacteria) unabashedly across their crops every year, as they have for decades. It's one of the most widely used organic pesticides by organic farmers. Yet when genetic engineering is used to place the gene encoding the Bt toxin into a plant's genome, the resulting GM plants are vilified by the very people willing to liberally spray the exact same toxin that the gene encodes for over the exact same species of plant. Ecologically, the GMO is a far better solution, as it reduces the amount of toxin being used and thus leeching into the surrounding landscape and waterways. Other GMOs have similar goals, like making food plants flood-tolerant so occasional flooding can replace herbicide use as a means of killing weeds. If the goal is protect the environment, why not incorporate the newest technologies which help us do so?

But the real reason organic farming isn't more green than conventional is that while it might be better for local environments on the small scale, organic farms produce far less food per unit land than conventional ones. Organic farms produce around 80% that what the same size conventional farm produces16 (some studies place organic yields below 50% those of conventional farms!).

Right now, roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and about 16 million of those will die from it17. If we were to switch to entirely organic farming, the number of people suffering would jump by 1.3 billion, assuming we use the same amount of land that we're using now. Unfortunately, what's far more likely is that switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species.

Already, we have cleared more than 35% of the Earth's ice-free land surface for agriculture, an area 60 times larger than the combined area of all the world's cities and suburbs. Since the last ice age, nothing has been more disruptive to the planet's ecosystem and its inhabitants than agriculture. What will happen to what's left of our planet's wildlife habitats if we need to mow down another 20% or more of the world's ice-free land to accommodate for organic methods?

The unfortunate truth is that until organic farming can rival the production output of conventional farming, its ecological cost due to the need for space is devastating. As bad as any of the pesticides and fertilizers polluting the world's waterways from conventional agriculture are, it's a far better ecological situation than destroying those key habitats altogether. That's not to say that there's no hope for organic farming; better technology could overcome the production gap, allowing organic methods to produce on par with conventional agriculture. If that does occur, then organic agriculture becomes a lot more ecologically sustainable. On the small scale, particularly in areas where food surpluses already occur, organic farming could be beneficial, but presuming it's the end all be all of sustainable agriculture is a mistake.


Myth #4: It's all or none

The point of this piece isn't to vilify organic farming; it's merely to point out that it's not as black and white as it looks. Organic farming does have many potential upsides, and may indeed be the better way to go in the long run, but it really depends on technology and what we discover and learn in the future. Until organic farming can produce crops on par in terms of volume with conventional methods, it cannot be considered a viable option for the majority of the world. Nutritionally speaking, organic food is more like a brand name or luxury item. It's great if you can afford the higher price and want to have it, but it's not a panacea. You would improve your nutritional intake far more by eating a larger volume of fruits and vegetables than by eating organic ones instead of conventionally produced ones.

What bothers me most, however, is that both sides of the organic debate spend millions in press and advertising to attack each other instead of looking for a resolution. Organic supporters tend to vilify new technologies, while conventional supporters insist that chemicals and massive production monocultures are the only way to go. This simply strikes me as absurd. Synthetic doesn't necessarily mean bad for the environment. Just look at technological advances in creating biodegradable products; sometimes, we can use our knowledge and intelligence to create things that are both useful, cheap (enough) and ecologically responsible, as crazy as that idea may sound.

I also firmly believe that increasing the chemicals used in agriculture to support insanely over-harvested monocultures will never lead to ecological improvement. In my mind, the ideal future will merge conventional and organic methods, using GMOs and/or other new technologies to reduce pesticide use while increasing the bioavailability of soils, crop yield, nutritional quality and biodiversity in agricultural lands. New technology isn't the enemy of organic farming; it should be its strongest ally.

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest myth when it comes to organic farming is that you have to choose sides. Guess what? You don't. You can appreciate the upsides of rotating crops and how GMOs might improve output and nutrition. You, the wise and intelligent consumer, don't have to buy into either side's propaganda and polarize to one end or another. You can, instead, be somewhere along the spectrum, and encourage both ends to listen up and work together to improve our global food resources and act sustainably.    

10.03.2016

Do facts matter anymore?

By Thomas Sowell

Published August 23, 2016


Amid the rioting in Milwaukee, there is also a clash between two leading lawmen there — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the city of Milwaukee's Chief of Police Edward Flynn. They have very different opinions about how law enforcement should be carried out.

Chief Edward Flynn expresses the view long prevalent among those who emphasize the social "root causes" of crime, such as income disparities and educational disparities, as well as the larger society's neglect of black communities.

Chief Flynn puts less emphasis on aggressive police action and more on community outreach and gun control.

Sheriff David Clarke represents an opposite tradition, in which the job of the police is to enforce the law, as forcefully as necessary, not to make excuses for law-breaking or to ease up on enforcing the law, in hopes that this will mollify rioters. Sheriff Clarke would also like to see law-abiding blacks be armed.

Differences of opinion on law enforcement are sharp and unmistakable — and have been for more than 50 years. However, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

Unfortunately, facts seem to play a remarkably small role in clashes over law enforcement policies. And that too has been true for more than 50 years.

In his memoirs, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that "all of us must assume a share of the responsibility" for rising crime rates in the 1960s because "for decades we have swept under the rug" the slum conditions that breed crime.

But the hard fact is that the murder rate in the country as a whole was going down during those very decades when social problems in the slums were supposedly being neglected.

Homicide rates among black males went down by 18 percent in the 1940s and by 22 percent in the 1950s. It was in the 1960s, when the ideas of Chief Justice Warren and others triumphed, that this long decline in homicide rates among black males reversed and skyrocketed by 89 percent, wiping out all the progress of the previous 20 years.

The same reversal in the country at large saw murder rates by 1974 more than twice as high as in 1960. This was after the murder rate had been cut in half from where it had been in the 1930s.
Ghetto riots, which erupted in the 1960s, were blamed on poverty and discrimination. But what were the facts?

Poverty and discrimination were worse in the South than in the rest of the country. But ghetto riots were not nearly as common in the South.

The most deadly ghetto riot of the 1960s occurred in Detroit, where 43 people were killed — 33 of whom were black. In Detroit at that time, black median family income was 95 percent of white median family income. The unemployment rate among blacks was 3.4 percent and black home ownership was higher in Detroit than in any other major city.

What was different about Detroit was that politicians put the police under orders that restricted their response to riots — and some rioters said "the fuzz is scared." It was black victims who paid the highest price for letting rioters run amuck.

By contrast, Chicago's 1960s mayor Richard Daley came on television to say that he had ordered his police to "shoot to kill" rioters who started fires. There was outrage among the politically correct across the country. But Chicago, with a larger population than Detroit, had no such death rate in riots.
In later years, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's aggressive police policies in high-crime neighborhoods cut the murder rate down to a fraction of what it had been before.

But, in England, opposite policies prevailed, with what London's "Daily Telegraph" newspaper referred to as "politically correct policing" that has police acting "more like social workers than upholders of law and order."

Although England had long been regarded as one of the most law-abiding nations on Earth, riots that swept through London, Manchester and other British cities in 2011 were virtually identical to riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and other American cities. Most of the British rioters were white but what they did was the same, right down to setting fire to police cars.

But do facts matter anymore?

The Golden Tiki




7.17.2016

The War on Cops

By Thomas Sowell
Published July 12, 2016


There was never a more appropriately named book than "The War on Cops" by Heather Mac Donald, published a few weeks ago, on the eve of the greatest escalation of that war by the ambush murders of five policemen in Dallas.

Nor is this war against the police confined to Dallas. It is occurring across the country. Who is to blame?

There is a ton of blame, more than enough to go around to the wide range of people and institutions that have contributed to these disasters. In addition to the murderers who have killed people they don't even know, there are those who created the atmosphere of blind hatred in which such killers flourish.

Chief among those who generate this poisonous atmosphere are career race hustlers like Al Sharpton and racist institutions like the "Black Lives Matter" movement. All such demagogues need is a situation where there has been a confrontation where someone was white and someone else was black. The facts don't matter to them.

The same is true of the more upscale, genteel and sophisticated race panderers, including the President of the United States. During his first year in the White House, Barack Obama chastised a white policeman over his handling of an incident with a black professor at Harvard — after admitting that he didn't know the specific facts.

Nor did he know the specifics when he publicly announced that, if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon Martin. Are we to decide who is right and who is wrong on the basis of skin color? There was a long history of that in the days of the old Jim Crow South. Are we fighting against racism today or do we just want to put it under new management?

No one should imagine that any of this is helping the black community. The surge in murder rates across the country, in the wake of the anarchy unleashed after the Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore riots, has taken a wholly disproportionate number of black lives.

But, to the race hustlers, black lives don't really matter nearly as much as their chance to get publicity, power, money, votes or whatever else serves their own interests.

The mainstream media play a large, and largely irresponsible, role in the creation and maintenance of a poisonous racial atmosphere that has claimed the lives of policemen around the country.

That same poisoned atmosphere has claimed the lives of even more blacks, who have been victims of violence by thugs and criminals who have had fewer restrictions as the police have pulled back, or have been pulled back, under political pressure.

The media provide the publicity on which career race hustlers thrive. It is a symbiotic relationship, in which turmoil in the streets gives the media something exciting to attract viewers. In return, the media give those behind this turmoil millions of dollars' worth of free publicity to spread their poison.

 certainly news when there is turmoil in the streets. But that is very different from saying that giving one-sided presentations at length of the claims of those who promote this turmoil makes sense.

The media have also actively promoted the anti-police propaganda by the way they present the news.
This goes all the way back to the Rodney King riots of 1992. Television stations all across the country repeatedly played a selectively edited fraction of a videotape covering the encounter between the police and Rodney King, who had been stopped after a wild, high-speed chase.

The great majority of that video never saw the light of day on the TV networks that incessantly played the selectively edited fraction.

When the police were charged with excessive violence in overcoming Rodney King's resistance to arrest, the jury saw the whole video — and refused to convict the policemen. That is when people who had seen only what the media showed them rioted after the jury verdict.

Today, the media keep repeating the mantra that there was a "peaceful demonstration," even when it ends in violence. How many people have to die in "peaceful demonstrations" before the media admit that those who promote mob disruptions have to know what is likely to happen when you put mobs in the streets at night?

Mob rule is not democracy. It threatens democracy, as it threatens lives — black or white — and all lives should matter.

Even in this age of runaway emotions, there are still some people who want to know the facts. Nowhere are facts more important, or more lacking, than in what has been aptly called "The War on Cops," the title of a devastating new book by Heather Mac Donald.

Few, if any, of the most fashionable notions about the police, minorities and the criminal justice system can withstand an examination of hard facts. Yet those fashionable notions continue to dominate discussions in the media, in politics and in academia. But Ms. Mac Donald's book of documented facts demolishes many fashionable notions.

Consider one of the big talking points of politicians and others who claim that the harsher penalties for people selling crack cocaine than for people selling powder cocaine show racism, since crack cocaine is more likely to be used by blacks.

The cold fact, however, is that black political and community leaders, back in the 1980s, spearheaded the drive for more severe legal penalties against those who sold crack cocaine. Black Congressman Charlie Rangel of Harlem was just one of those black leaders who urged these more severe penalties. So did the New York Times, the promoter of many crusades on the left.

Fast forward to the present, when both black leaders and the New York Times are blaming white racism for the more severe penalties for selling crack cocaine. If you want to see what they were saying back in the 1980s, check pages 154-159 of "The War on Cops."

When the political winds change, politicians change. But that does not change the facts about what they said and did before.

As in her previous book, "Are Cops Racist?" Heather Mac Donald put hard facts front and center — and those facts devastate many a fashionable notion in the media, in politics and in academia.

One of the most popular arguments used in many different contexts is to show that blacks have been disproportionately represented among people stopped by police, arrested or imprisoned, as well as disproportionately represented among people turned down for mortgage loans or for other benefits.

Although many people regard these "disparate impact" statistics as evidence, or virtually proof, of racial discrimination, suppose that I should tell you that black basketball players are penalized by NBA referees out of all proportion to the 13 percent that blacks are in the American population.
 "Wait a minute!" you might respond. "Blacks are more than just 13 percent of the players in the NBA."

Black basketball players are several times more numerous than 13 percent of all NBA players. This is especially so among the star players, who are more likely to be on the floor, rather than sitting on the bench. And players on the floor most are the ones most likely to get penalized.

The difference between the percentage of blacks in the general population and the percentage of blacks in the particular activity being discussed is the key to the fraudulent use of "disparate impact" statistics in many other contexts.

Hillary Clinton, for example, decried a "disgrace of a criminal-justice system that incarcerates so many more African-Americans proportionately than whites."

The most reliable crime statistics are statistics on murders, 52 percent of which were committed by blacks over the period from 1976 to 2005. If blacks are convicted of far more than 13 percent of all murders, does that mean that racism in the courts must be the reason?

On the benefits side, there was instant condemnation of mortgage lenders when statistics showed blacks being turned down for prime mortgage loans in 2000 at twice the rate that whites were turned down.

Seldom, if ever, did the media report that whites were turned down at nearly twice the rate that Asian Americans were turned down — or that Asian Americans' average credit scores were higher than the average credit scores of whites, which were higher than the average credit scores of blacks.

Such facts would have spoiled the prevailing preconceptions. Many facts reported in "The War on Cops" spoil many notions that all too many people choose to believe. We need to stop this nonsense, before there is a race war that no one can win.


6.03.2016

Socialism for the Uninformed


By Thomas Sowell

Published May 31, 2016

Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and where there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous. But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or in other countries around the world that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist "exploitation," shouldn't it?

But people who attribute income inequality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a standard of living for working people as there is in many capitalist countries.

Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.

When Senator Sanders cries, "The system is rigged!" no one asks, "Just what specifically does that mean?" or "What facts do you have to back that up?"

In 2015, the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they could have rigged it better than that.

But the very idea of subjecting their pet notions to the test of hard facts will probably not even occur to those who are cheering for socialism and for other bright ideas of the political left.
How many of the people who are demanding an increase in the minimum wage have ever bothered to check what actually happens when higher minimum wages are imposed? More often they just assume what is assumed by like-minded peers — sometimes known as "everybody," with their assumptions being what "everybody knows."

Back in 1948, when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16-17-year-old black males was under 10 percent. But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30 percent for more than 20 consecutive years, from 1971 through 1994. In many of those years, the unemployment rate for black youngsters that age exceeded 40 percent and, for a couple of years, it exceeded 50 percent.

The damage is even greater than these statistics might suggest. Most low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs that young people move up out of, after acquiring work experience and a track record that makes them eligible for better jobs. But you can't move up the ladder if you don't get on the ladder.

The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today's dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think that the cost of their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on "the rich."

Here again, just a little check of the facts would reveal that higher tax rates on upper-income earners do not automatically translate into more tax revenue coming in to the government. Often high tax rates have led to less revenue than lower tax rates.

In a globalized economy, high tax rates may just lead investors to invest in other countries with lower tax rates. That means that jobs created by those investments will be overseas.

None of this is rocket science. But you do have to stop and think — and that is what too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach their students to do.

5.31.2016

Top 10 Drinks for Men

(Link)


I personally would have included the Manhattan for the "Jack & Coke"  But all good choices.

Oh and a bonus....


(Link)

5.11.2016

The Danger of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

From IMPRIMUS at Hillsdale College.

The article can be viewed HERE

Heather Mac Donald
Manhattan Institute


Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She earned a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. in English from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She writes for several newspapers and journals, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Criterion, and Public Interest, and is the author of three books, including Are Cops Racist? and The War on Cops: How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe (forthcoming June 2016).

  The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 27, 2016, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C., as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series. 


For almost two years, a protest movement known as “Black Lives Matter” has convulsed the nation. Triggered by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. This belief has triggered riots, “die-ins,” the murder and attempted murder of police officers, a campaign to eliminate traditional grand jury proceedings when police use lethal force, and a presidential task force on policing.

Even though the U.S. Justice Department has resoundingly disproven the lie that a pacific Michael Brown was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender, Brown is still venerated as a martyr. And now police officers are backing off of proactive policing in the face of the relentless venom directed at them on the street and in the media. As a result, violent crime is on the rise.

The need is urgent, therefore, to examine the Black Lives Matter movement’s central thesis—that police pose the greatest threat to young black men. I propose two counter hypotheses: first, that there is no government agency more dedicated to the idea that black lives matter than the police; and second, that we have been talking obsessively about alleged police racism over the last 20 years in order to avoid talking about a far larger problem—black-on-black crime.

Let’s be clear at the outset: police have an indefeasible obligation to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, and to act within the confines of the law. Too often, officers develop a hardened, obnoxious attitude. It is also true that being stopped when you are innocent of any wrongdoing is infuriating, humiliating, and sometimes terrifying. And needless to say, every unjustified police shooting of an unarmed civilian is a stomach-churning tragedy.

Given the history of racism in this country and the complicity of the police in that history, police shootings of black men are particularly and understandably fraught. That history informs how many people view the police. But however intolerable and inexcusable every act of police brutality is, and while we need to make sure that the police are properly trained in the Constitution and in courtesy, there is a larger reality behind the issue of policing, crime, and race that remains a taboo topic. The problem of black-on-black crime is an uncomfortable truth, but unless we acknowledge it, we won’t get very far in understanding patterns of policing.

Every year, approximately 6,000 blacks are murdered. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the national population. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. In Los Angeles, blacks between the ages of 20 and 24 die at a rate 20 to 30 times the national mean. Who is killing them? Not the police, and not white civilians, but other blacks. The astronomical black death-by-homicide rate is a function of the black crime rate. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Blacks of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.

The police could end all lethal uses of force tomorrow and it would have at most a trivial effect on the black death-by-homicide rate. The nation’s police killed 987 civilians in 2015, according to a database compiled by The Washington Post. Whites were 50 percent—or 493—of those victims, and blacks were 26 percent—or 258. Most of those victims of police shootings, white and black, were armed or otherwise threatening the officer with potentially lethal force.

The black violent crime rate would actually predict that more than 26 percent of police victims would be black. Officer use of force will occur where the police interact most often with violent criminals, armed suspects, and those resisting arrest, and that is in black neighborhoods. In America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, for example, blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants, 57 percent of all murder defendants, 45 percent of all assault defendants—but only 15 percent of the population.
Moreover, 40 percent of all cop killers have been black over the last decade. And a larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths are a result of police killings than black homicide deaths—but don’t expect to hear that from the media or from the political enablers of the Black Lives Matter movement. Twelve percent of all white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by police officers, compared to four percent of all black homicide victims. If we’re going to have a “Lives Matter” anti-police movement, it would be more appropriately named “White and Hispanic Lives Matter.”

Standard anti-cop ideology, whether emanating from the ACLU or the academy, holds that law enforcement actions are racist if they don’t mirror population data. New York City illustrates why that expectation is so misguided. Blacks make up 23 percent of New York City’s population, but they commit 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies, and 66 percent of all violent crime, according to victims and witnesses. Add Hispanic shootings and you account for 98 percent of all illegal gunfire in the city. Whites are 33 percent of the city’s population, but they commit fewer than two percent of all shootings, four percent of all robberies, and five percent of all violent crime. These disparities mean that virtually every time the police in New York are called out on a gun run—meaning that someone has just been shot—they are being summoned to minority neighborhoods looking for minority suspects.

Officers hope against hope that they will receive descriptions of white shooting suspects, but it almost never happens. This incidence of crime means that innocent black men have a much higher chance than innocent white men of being stopped by the police because they match the description of a suspect. This is not something the police choose. It is a reality forced on them by the facts of crime.
The geographic disparities are also huge. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, the per capita shooting rate is 81 times higher than in nearby Bay Ridge, Brooklyn—the first neighborhood predominantly black, the second neighborhood predominantly white and Asian. As a result, police presence and use of proactive tactics are much higher in Brownsville than in Bay Ridge. Every time there is a shooting, the police will flood the area looking to make stops in order to avert a retaliatory shooting. They are in Brownsville not because of racism, but because they want to provide protection to its many law-abiding residents who deserve safety.


Who are some of the victims of elevated urban crime? On March 11, 2015, as protesters were once again converging on the Ferguson police headquarters demanding the resignation of the entire department, a six-year-old boy named Marcus Johnson was killed a few miles away in a St. Louis park, the victim of a drive-by shooting. No one protested his killing. Al Sharpton did not demand a federal investigation. Few people outside of his immediate community know his name.

Ten children under the age of ten were killed in Baltimore last year. In Cleveland, three children five and younger were killed in September. A seven-year-old boy was killed in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend by a bullet intended for his father. In November, a nine-year-old in Chicago was lured into an alley and killed by his father’s gang enemies; the father refused to cooperate with the police. In August, a nine-year-old girl was doing her homework on her mother’s bed in Ferguson when a bullet fired into the house killed her. In Cincinnati in July, a four-year-old girl was shot in the head and a six-year-old girl was left paralyzed and partially blind from two separate drive-by shootings.

This mindless violence seems almost to be regarded as normal, given the lack of attention it receives from the same people who would be out in droves if any of these had been police shootings. As horrific as such stories are, crime rates were much higher 20 years ago. In New York City in 1990, for example, there were 2,245 homicides. In 2014 there were 333—a decrease of 85 percent. The drop in New York’s crime rate is the steepest in the nation, but crime has fallen at a historic rate nationwide as well—by about 40 percent—since the early 1990s. The greatest beneficiaries of these declining rates have been minorities. Over 10,000 minority males alive today in New York would be dead if the city’s homicide rate had remained at its early 1990s level.

What is behind this historic crime drop? A policing revolution that began in New York and spread nationally, and that is now being threatened. Starting in 1994, the top brass of the NYPD embraced the then-radical idea that the police can actually prevent crime, not just respond to it. They started gathering and analyzing crime data on a daily and then hourly basis. They looked for patterns, and strategized on tactics to try to quell crime outbreaks as they were emerging. Equally important, they held commanders accountable for crime in their jurisdictions. Department leaders started meeting weekly with precinct commanders to grill them on crime patterns on their watch. These weekly accountability sessions came to be known as Compstat. They were ruthless, high tension affairs. If a commander was not fully informed about every local crime outbreak and ready with a strategy to combat it, his career was in jeopardy.

Compstat created a sense of urgency about fighting crime that has never left the NYPD. For decades, the rap against the police was that they ignored crime in minority neighborhoods. Compstat keeps New York commanders focused like a laser beam on where people are being victimized most, and that is in minority communities. Compstat spread nationwide. Departments across the country now send officers to emerging crime hot spots to try to interrupt criminal behavior before it happens.
In terms of economic stimulus alone, no other government program has come close to the success of data-driven policing. In New York City, businesses that had shunned previously drug-infested areas now set up shop there, offering residents a choice in shopping and creating a demand for workers. Senior citizens felt safe to go to the store or to the post office to pick up their Social Security checks. Children could ride their bikes on city sidewalks without their mothers worrying that they would be shot. But the crime victories of the last two decades, and the moral support on which law and order depends, are now in jeopardy thanks to the falsehoods of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police operating in inner-city neighborhoods now find themselves routinely surrounded by cursing, jeering crowds when they make a pedestrian stop or try to arrest a suspect. Sometimes bottles and rocks are thrown. Bystanders stick cell phones in the officers’ faces, daring them to proceed with their duties. Officers are worried about becoming the next racist cop of the week and possibly losing their livelihood thanks to an incomplete cell phone video that inevitably fails to show the antecedents to their use of force. Officer use of force is never pretty, but the public is clueless about how hard it is to subdue a suspect who is determined to resist arrest.

As a result of the anti-cop campaign of the last two years and the resulting push-back in the streets, officers in urban areas are cutting back on precisely the kind of policing that led to the crime decline of the 1990s and 2000s. Arrests and summons are down, particularly for low-level offenses. Police officers continue to rush to 911 calls when there is already a victim. But when it comes to making discretionary stops—such as getting out of their cars and questioning people hanging out on drug corners at 1:00 a.m.—many cops worry that doing so could put their careers on the line. Police officers are, after all, human. When they are repeatedly called racist for stopping and questioning suspicious individuals in high-crime areas, they will perform less of those stops. That is not only understandable—in a sense, it is how things should work. Policing is political. If a powerful political block has denied the legitimacy of assertive policing, we will get less of it.

On the other hand, the people demanding that the police back off are by no means representative of the entire black community. Go to any police-neighborhood meeting in Harlem, the South Bronx, or South Central Los Angeles, and you will invariably hear variants of the following: “We want the dealers off the corner.” “You arrest them and they’re back the next day.” “There are kids hanging out on my stoop. Why can’t you arrest them for loitering?” “I smell weed in my hallway. Can’t you do something?” I met an elderly cancer amputee in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx who was terrified to go to her lobby mailbox because of the young men trespassing there and selling drugs. The only time she felt safe was when the police were there. “Please, Jesus,” she said to me, “send more police!” The irony is that the police cannot respond to these heartfelt requests for order without generating the racially disproportionate statistics that will be used against them in an ACLU or Justice Department lawsuit.

Unfortunately, when officers back off in high crime neighborhoods, crime shoots through the roof. Our country is in the midst of the first sustained violent crime spike in two decades. Murders rose nearly 17 percent in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, and it was in cities with large black populations where the violence increased the most. Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate last year was the highest in its history. Milwaukee had its deadliest year in a decade, with a 72 percent increase in homicides. Homicides in Cleveland increased 90 percent over the previous year. Murders rose 83 percent in Nashville, 54 percent in Washington, D.C., and 61 percent in Minneapolis. In Chicago, where pedestrian stops are down by 90 percent, shootings were up 80 percent through March 2016.

I first identified the increase in violent crime in May 2015 and dubbed it “the Ferguson effect.” My diagnosis set off a firestorm of controversy on the anti-cop Left and in criminology circles. Despite that furor, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the Ferguson effect in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School last October. Comey decried the “chill wind” that had been blowing through law enforcement over the previous year, and attributed the sharp rise in homicides and shootings to the campaign against cops. Several days later, President Obama had the temerity to rebuke Comey, accusing him (while leaving him unnamed) of “cherry-pick[ing] data” and using “anecdotal evidence to drive policy [and] feed political agendas.” The idea that President Obama knows more about crime and policing than his FBI director is of course ludicrous. But the President thought it necessary to take Comey down, because to recognize the connection between proactive policing and public safety undermines the entire premise of the anti-cop Left: that the police oppress minority communities rather than bring them surcease from disorder.

As crime rates continue to rise, the overwhelming majority of victims are, as usual, black—as are their assailants. But police officers are coming under attack as well. In August 2015, an officer in Birmingham, Alabama, was beaten unconscious by a convicted felon after a car stop. The suspect had grabbed the officer’s gun, as Michael Brown had tried to do in Ferguson, but the officer hesitated to use force against him for fear of being charged with racism. Such incidents will likely multiply as the media continues to amplify the Black Lives Matter activists’ poisonous slander against the nation’s police forces.

The number of police officers killed in shootings more than doubled during the first three months of 2016. In fact, officers are at much greater risk from blacks than unarmed blacks are from the police. Over the last decade, an officer’s chance of getting killed by a black has been 18.5 times higher than the chance of an unarmed black getting killed by a cop.

The favorite conceit of the Black Lives Matter movement is, of course, the racist white officer gunning down a black man. According to available studies, it is a canard. A March 2015 Justice Department report on the Philadelphia Police Department found that black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on “threat misperception,” i.e., the incorrect belief that a civilian is armed. A study by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway, formerly acting director of the National Institute of Justice, has found that black officers in the NYPD were 3.3 times more likely to fire their weapons at shooting scenes than other officers present. The April 2015 death of drug dealer Freddie Gray in Baltimore has been slotted into the Black Lives Matter master narrative, even though the three most consequential officers in Gray’s arrest and transport are black. There is no evidence that a white drug dealer in Gray’s circumstances, with a similar history of faking injuries, would have been treated any differently.

We have been here before. In the 1960s and early 1970s, black and white radicals directed hatred and occasional violence against the police. The difference today is that anti-cop ideology is embraced at the highest reaches of the establishment: by the President, by his Attorney General, by college presidents, by foundation heads, and by the press. The presidential candidates of one party are competing to see who can out-demagogue President Obama’s persistent race-based calumnies against the criminal justice system, while those of the other party have not emphasized the issue as they might have.

I don’t know what will end the current frenzy against the police. What I do know is that we are playing with fire, and if it keeps spreading, it will be hard to put out.



4.04.2016

Please ladies.....

Do not presume to make your own definition a reality.  Your opinion is exactly that.  Anything beyond the definition is opinion.  Exactly as mine.



gent·le·man
ˈjen(t)lmən/
noun
noun: gentleman; plural noun: gentlemen
  1. 1.
    a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man.

    "he behaved like a perfect gentleman"
    • a man of good social position, especially one of wealth and leisure.
    • (in the UK) a man of noble birth attached to a royal household.
      synonyms:man; More
      informalgent;
      archaiccavalier

      "a fine steed suitable for a gentleman such as yourself"
  2. 2.
    a polite or formal way of referring to a man.

    "opposite her an old gentleman sat reading"




    Webster:
    1. 1 a :  a man of noble or gentle birth b :  a man belonging to the landed gentry c (1) :  a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) :  a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior d (1) :  a man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain (2) :  a man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain
    2. 2 :  valet —often used in the phrase gentleman's gentleman
    3. 3 :  a man of any social class or condition —often used in a courteous reference <show this gentleman to a seat> or usually in the plural in address <ladies and gentlemen

3.24.2016

Black and White, Left and Right

By Thomas Sowell


Much is made of the fact that liberals and conservatives see racial issues differently, which they do. But these differences have too often been seen as simply those on the right being racist and those on the left not.

You can cherry-pick the evidence to reach that conclusion. But you can also cherry-pick the evidence to reach the opposite conclusion.

During the heyday of the Progressive movement in the early 20th century, people on the left were in the forefront of those promoting doctrines of innate, genetic inferiority of not only blacks but also of people from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as compared to people from Western Europe.

Liberals today tend to either glide over the undeniable racism of Progressive President Woodrow Wilson or else treat it as an anomaly of some sort. But racism on the left at that time was not an anomaly, either for President Wilson or for numerous other stalwarts of the Progressive movement.

An influential 1916 best-seller, "The Passing of the Great Race" — celebrating Nordic Europeans — was written by Madison Grant, a staunch activist for Progressive causes such as endangered species, municipal reform, conservation and the creation of national parks.

He was a member of an exclusive social club founded by Republican Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, and Grant and Franklin D. Roosevelt became friends in the 1920s, addressing one another in letters as "My dear Frank" and "My dear Madison." Grant's book was translated into German, and Adolf Hitler called it his Bible.

Progressives spearheaded the eugenics movement, dedicated to reducing the reproduction of supposedly "inferior" individuals and races. The eugenics movement spawned Planned Parenthood, among other groups. In academia, there were 376 courses devoted to eugenics in 1920.

Progressive intellectuals who crusaded against the admission of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, branding them as genetically inferior, included many prominent academic scholars — such as heads of such scholarly organizations as the American Economic Association and the American Sociological Association.

Southern segregationists who railed against blacks were often also Progressives who railed against Wall Street. Back in those days, blacks voted for Republicans as automatically as they vote for Democrats today.
Where the Democrats' President Woodrow Wilson introduced racial segregation into those government agencies in Washington where it did not exist at the time, Republican President Calvin Coolidge's wife invited the wives of black Congressmen to the White House. As late as 1957, civil rights legislation was sponsored in Congress by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.

Later, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was sponsored by Democrats, a higher percentage of Congressional Republicans voted for it than did Congressional Democrats. Revisionist histories tell a different story. But, as Casey Stengel used to say, "You could look it up" — in the Congressional Record, in this case.

Conservatives who took part in the civil rights marches, or who were otherwise for equal rights for blacks, have not made nearly as much noise about it as liberals do. The first time I saw a white professor, at a white university, with a black secretary, it was Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago in 1960 — four years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

She was still his secretary when he died in 2006. But, in all those years, I never once heard Professor Friedman mention, in public or in private, that he had a black secretary. By all accounts, she was an outstanding secretary, and that was what mattered.

The biggest difference between the left and right today, when it comes to racial issues, is that liberals tend to take the side of those blacks who are doing the wrong things — hoodlums the left depicts as martyrs, while the right defends those blacks more likely to be the victims of those hoodlums.

Rudolph Giuliani, when he was the Republican mayor of New York, probably saved more black lives than any other human being, by promoting aggressive policing against hoodlums, which brought the murder rate down to a fraction of what it was before.

A lot depends on whether you judge by ringing words or judge by actual consequences.