American Elephants


Leftists Don’t Understand “Cause & Effect” And That Makes a Huge Problem for the Rest of Us! by The Elephant's Child

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Progressives, Liberals, Lefties consistently have trouble understanding cause and effect. I’ve been noticing this for quite a while, particularly in relation to crime. That is where the famous “Butterfield Fallacy” comes in( well, maybe not famous, but it should be.) Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times, “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The Butterfield Fallacy consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. You put more bad guys behind bars, and the crime rate goes down. Lefties disapprove of sending people to prison because they believe it to be racially discriminatory. “In 2004 almost 10 percent of American black men were in prison” and it diverts tax money from what should be higher priorities. I’ve written about this a number of times, but I have a hard time recognizing how pervasive the inability to understand cause and effect is.

Today’s problems also include the “Ferguson Effect” which has resulted in policemen being more hesitant to arrest or deal with crime, especially in the black community — because of the blowback from the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson MI.

When the demand for a higher minimum wage began to circulate, we explained that a minimum wage was a starting wage for beginners, and low because they weren’t worth more, and there was no end to the numbers of people who wanted a starting-out job. We explained that most get a raise within the first 6 months. We mentioned automation. But the Lefties said “you can’t raise a family on the minimum wage.” Of course you can’t — the minimum wage is for beginners.

So Lefties are raising the minimum wage legally (government has no business telling businesses how much they must pay workers). Well effect follows cause and Wendy’s Restaurants are installing self-service kiosks in their approximately 6,000 restaurants across the country in the second half of the year. There are 258 Wendy’s in California where the minimum wage has gone up to $10 an hour. The former CEO of McDonalds warned that Robots cost less than paying a $15 minimum wage. Hillary jumped in on the controversy to demand an end to disabled workers’ exemption from minimum wage requirements — and got a stinging rebuke from economist Don Boudreaux.  Cause and effect.

Greenies usually use Denmark as a stunning example of the beneficial use of natural wind power. Well, Denmark is abandoning wind power. Danes’ cost of energy has been climbing and climbing, with 66% of the bill being “green taxes” and only 15% going to energy generation. Denmark’s energy prices were the highest in Europe, and politicians are abandoning wind power as too expensive. Greenies celebrate the natural source of energy, but the problem remains that wind does not blow at the correct speed to generate power even most of the time. They’ve tried to remedy that with taller turbines, more exotic minerals, better designs — doesn’t matter. The cause is the nature of wind, the effect is unaffordability.

In desperation our federal government has raised the numbers of eagles and other birds that the wind farms and solar arrays can chop up or fry each year, But that too is a cause and will have an effect — not yet recognized.  In the meantime, the world’s largest solar array at Ivanpah which has never produced the electricity they promised (cause) and is under enormous pressure to do something — did. It caught on fire.

Keep an eye on the inability of the Left to grasp this simple fact, you will find that it explains a lot.



Crime and Punishment and the Illusions of the Left by The Elephant's Child

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An official from the U.S. Department of Justice has said the agency will no longer call people “felons” or “convicts” after they are released from prison — because it is too hard for them emotionally.

This fits right in with the Obama administration plan to release large numbers of “non-violent”  felons to remedy “mass incarceration.” To a liberal, crime is never the fault of the perpetrator. It is the fault of society, the criminal’s parents, his lack of a good education, poverty, drugs, or lack of opportunity. Federal prisons are filled with “first-time, non-violent drug offenders” they claim, who were caught up by the criminal justice system and imprisoned, unfairly, for years. This conviction is behind the current drive for criminal justice reform.

Mass incarceration of such prisoners tears apart families, and most of these unfairly imprisoned and nearly innocent are African American, which means that the system is deeply racist. Trouble is that all of these popular buzz words are bunk. There is no mass incarceration. Each prisoner is there because he was arrested for committing a felony, was convicted by a judge and jury or pleaded guilty, may have appealed the sentence or chose not to to appellate courts and received all the rights of due process that are provided by the U.S.Constitution.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that almost all drug offenders in federal prison are serving sentences for drug trafficking, which does not mean selling small amounts of marijuana or heroin.

The Butterfield Fallacy is also at work here. Because crime has decreased, it is believed there is no need for so many people to be in prison. Wrong assumption. Crime is down in a simple cause and effect matter. Because so many criminals are in prison, there is less crime. The vast majority of prisoners are in state prisons, not federal prisons. Recidivism rates for chronic drug traffickers are over 75 percent, in other words three quarters of those released will be arrested again for committing serious crimes. And for every arrest, such criminals commit, on average, twelve other unsolved crimes.

Malcolm B. Benson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1995, and spent 19 years behind bars. He was released early for good behavior in January 2015. It took him only nine months to kill a 59 year-old Army veteran who was waiting at a bus stop on his way to work, when Benson shot him during a botched robbery. Recidivism is common.  According to Breitbart —

Over the past several years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has ordered the release of thousands of serious criminals from federal prison, and in 2014 reduced the guidelines for all drug traffickers, regardless of the type of drug, criminal history, history of violence, gang or cartel ties making over 46,000 convicted drug traffickers eligible for early release. It is estimated that the bills now pending in Congress could make another 12,000 eligible for early release.

Jason L. Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal. asked plaintively:

Why the fate of criminals should matter more than the fate of crime victims is a question that went largely unasked, let alone answered, during last week’s bipartisan celebration of President Obama’s decision to release dozens of individuals from prison and push for looser sentencing guidelines.

If the president is to be believed, it is not the prevalence of thugs that turns black ghettos into living nightmares for residents. Rather, the police, prosecutors and judges who pursue lawbreakers are the bigger cause for concern.

“A growing body of research shows that people of color are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained,” said Mr. Obama in his recent address to the NAACP. “What is that doing to our communities? What’s that doing to those children? Our nation is being robbed of men and women who could be workers and taxpayers, could be more actively involved in their children’s lives, could be role models, could be community leaders.”

This is apparently a big part of President Obama’s effort to establish a legacy. He is attempting to empty the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as well, and no new detainees have been held there. He just released the detainee responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, and the deaths of 17 servicemen. Congress has acted to make it illegal to bring detainees to the United States, but none seem to be tried by Military Commissions, as was the original intent, and most of those released have returned to the battle against Americans.

ADDENDUM:The White House “announced that they have commuted the sentences of 58 federal convicts, part of a broader push to revamp the criminal justice system and ease punishments for nonviolent drug offenders.”
Those whose prison terms were cut short include 18 who were sentenced to life terms.. Most will be released on September 2, though others will be released over the next 2 years.This group includes defendants who were convicted of selling cocaine, crack and methamphetamine, and makes a total of 306 whose sentences Obama has commuted.



The Butterfield Fallacy Raises Its Ugly Head in the White House. by The Elephant's Child

When President Obama recorded his Weekly Address for today, Saturday, he took up the matter of criminal justice, and showed clearly that he is a victim of the Butterfield Fallacy—which consists of misidentifying as a paradox that which is a simple cause and effect relationship. When you put more of the people who are committing crimes in prison, the crime rate goes down. It is not a complicated matter of “Oh look, the crime rate has dropped, why do we have so many people in prison?”

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It’s true that more young black men are convicted of crimes and sent to prison. That is because more crimes are committed by young black men. There are more murders in the black community and they are committed by young black men. There are lots of reasons: gangs, fatherless households, young single mothers, peer pressure, unemployment, police backing off because of what has been called “the Ferguson effect” when the police were blamed for young black men killed in self defense by policemen. When policemen are attacked and threatened for trying to maintain order in the community, they are more hesitant to stop people on suspicion, make arrests, or try to prevent trouble. Higher crime rates mean lack of opportunity— the unemployment rate for young blacks is the highest of any category.

Lack of discipline in the schools: when school is orderly and the demand for excellence is high, more learning takes place, more kids are able and encouraged to go to college or to good trade schools.  This is another area where the Left shifts the blame. Schools are harshly criticized for expelling obstreperous kids who disrupt classes, so schools lighten up on the discipline because they are criticized, and the schools become more out of control.

Most of the protests in the universities and in the black communities is due to agitation by #Black Lives Matter, Acorn, Organize for America and other groups trained by community organizers to disrupt and encourage protest. The Left is deeply worried that the black community that turned out so resoundingly to support the first black president will not turn out at the polls in such numbers this time. From what I can see, that’s why there is so much emphasis on race, at a time when, except for agitation and protests, race relations have been so much better.

Locking criminals up does make communities safer. Discipline for badly behaving kids, and expelling those who won’t mind the rules from school makes for more orderly schools. Of course we need more uniformity in sentencing laws. Selling hard drugs is a crime and sellers should be put in prison. Released felons should be helped to reenter society successfully. I hope there is a sincere desire to help, not just an effort to increase racial tension for the sake of the next election.

ADDENDUM: I removed the graphic on gun violence because it is incorrect. Sorry about that!



The Mysteries of the Butterfield Fallacy by The Elephant's Child

Have  you heard of the Butterfield Fallacy?  It is rooted in ideological prejudice, and well known to conservative commentators.  Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times  “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The Butterfield Fallacy consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. You put more bad guys behind bars, and crime goes down. The typical New York Times reporter disapproves of sending people to prison because among other reasons they think it is racially discriminatory. “In 2004 almost 10 percent of American black men ages 25 to 29 were in prison” and it diverts tax money from what should be higher priorities.  In 1997, “already California and Florida spend more to incarcerate people than to educate their college age populations.” Here, Reynolds Law comes into play:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

New York Times business reporter Reed Abelson wrote yesterday with bewilderment that insurance premiums are rising sharply as ObamaCare’s insurance regulations begin to take effect:

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

Yuval Levin wrote of Ableson’s surprise that health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers. Ableson was bewildered at the Butterfield Fallacy. as Levin wrote under the perfect title “Even Though.” Some people think this might have something to do with ObamaCare’s basically outlawing actual insurance and replacing it with an economically  incoherent substitute. The article also notes with surprise that businesses that now have to have their prices approved by regulators have adopted a  peculiar practice by which they first propose higher prices than they expect to end up with and then work down toward their costs. Levin adds “sources say that supply and demand may be related in ways that influence prices, but this remain unconfirmed.”

When health care bureaucrats reduce the price that will be paid to providers for their services, oddly enough, the cost of insurance will go up.

James Taranto noted another example from the Associated Press:

A bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million at a Tokyo auction Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year–even as environmentalists warn that stocks of the majestic, speedy fish are being depleted worldwide amid strong demand for sushi.

The reporter, Malcolm Foster, was too caught up in environmental sentimentalism to notice that this is basic supply and demand at work. When the supply of something is low, prices go up.  Imagine that.




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