Sunday, July 22, 2012

What's Walter Williams' position on capital punishment?

Walter's recent article about how much he hates Robin Hood got me thinking. Has he ever expressed a position on capital punishment? He has to be against it, doesn't he? If he's not, wouldn't he be a huge hypocrite?

Here's my reasoning. According to Walter's personal philosophy, actions have absolute moral values assigned to them. He believes that 'stealing' is always wrong in every possible circumstance - which he claims as the moral basis for his anti-tax stance.

So the next logical question becomes: what absolute moral value can be assigned to the act of killing a human being? According to Walter's belief system, killing a human being is either completely moral or completely immoral. Since he's previously claimed to be concerned by the number of blacks killing other blacks, we can only logically conclude that he's against it. After all, if killing another person was always a moral act, why would Walter be concerned about an epidemic of it happening?

Which means he's opposed to all murder, under any circumstance. One might think that if someone committed an especially heinous act, a jury of their peers convicted them, and then a judge sentenced them to death, reasonable people might be willing to consider the morality of government-sanctioned murder as a response. Walter doesn't believe this, of course - as we recall from that tax article, no matter how many people agree that money should be used to build roads, compelling someone to pay that money is immoral theft.

The only possible conclusion we can come to is that Walter believes that all killing is immoral at all times. So, in addition to taxes, here are some more items we can add to the list of things that Walter is vehemently opposed to: capital punishment, the United States army, police officers carrying guns.

I look forward to Walter soon coming out in favor of utter pacifism as a key facet of his libertarian faith.

Unless, of course, Walter was lying about his moral framework, and he just wants to make sure that no one gets to play with his toys but him.

But that couldn't be true, could it?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Walter Williams hates Robin Hood with an almost unimaginable fury.

A few weeks ago Walter Williams decided it was time to lay out the central defining principle of his personal philosophy. What do we learn from this? That Walter Williams really needs to spend time thinking through his beliefs. Although the man's already closer to 100 than 1 - if this is as far as he's gotten with a lifetime of thought, I'm not optimistic that he can be turned around in what time he's got left. So what are the things that Walter believes in? Thought experiments! Poorly-conceived ones, at that!

"Suppose I saw an elderly woman painfully huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. She's hungry and in need of shelter and medical attention. To help the woman, I walk up to you using intimidation and threats and demand that you give me $200. Having taken your money, I then purchase food, shelter and medical assistance for the woman. Would I be guilty of a crime? A moral person would answer in the affirmative. I've committed theft by taking the property of one person to give to another."

Okay Walter, first thing - morality and law are two separate things. So don't go making them interchangeable by saying a 'moral person' would answer that a crime had been committed. Whether or not a 'crime' has occurred is a matter for a legal analysis, not a moral one. So let's just cut your conclusion entirely, since you've tried to trick us into accepting what you imagine is a 'moral' framework, when you're actually talking about a legal one.

Let's say, for example, that you took the money from me - that's me, personally, not some hypothetical person like the one you were dealing with - to help out the starving old lady. Would you have committed a crime? Maybe - but would you have acted immorally? I can't really say that you have. After all, the old lady obviously needs the money more than I do - I'm not the one freezing to death. In this hypothetical situation the most I could ask was that you, Walter Williams, also put up an equal 200 dollars to help the old lady out, so that at least we were dealing with a fair situation, and I could be sure that you really wanted to help the woman, and weren't asking for the money simply because you had a problem with me.

That's a concept we call 'shared sacrifice', Walter - you and I both put up money so that an old lady doesn't die. What could possibly be immoral about that?

Let's find out what Walter thinks is immoral about that!

"Most Americans would agree that it would be theft regardless of what I did with the money."

Theft, perhaps - although I don't know if I'd agree with 'most'. Maybe in the strictest '50% +1' definition, but even then.... there are more people in danger of becoming an old lady on a grate than in danger of becoming you, Walter.. And again, while it might be theft, it's certainly not morally wrong? God no. And hell, you haven't even considered who the money might be taken from. What if you were taking the money from Jamie Dimon, who makes an absurd amount of money by stealing from people? Then it wouldn't even be a little wrong. Sorry for interrupting, you were saying?

"Would it still be theft if I were able to get three people to agree that I should take your money? What if I got 100 people to agree -- 100,000 or 200 million people? What if instead of personally taking your money to assist the woman, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take your money? In other words, does an act that's clearly immoral and illegal when done privately become moral when it is done legally and collectively?"

There you go again, Walter, trying to use 'immoral' and 'illegal' interchangeably. Since I've never agreed to your central idea that being pressured to help a dying woman is 'immoral', why would I think that forcing millions of people to help other millions of starving people was immoral? Illegality is a question of what a government says it is - immorality transcends such simple classification. Hell - I'm a little shocked by your example, since being compelled to help the downtrodden is basically the definition of new testament biblical morality.

Of course, it's possible that you didn't know that, Walter - are you not a Christian? I honestly don't know, but I feel like that's something which would have come up by now...

"Put another way, does legality establish morality? Before you answer, keep in mind that slavery was legal; apartheid was legal; the Nazi's Nuremberg Laws were legal; and the Stalinist and Maoist purges were legal. Legality alone cannot be the guide for moral people. The moral question is whether it's right to take what belongs to one person to give to another to whom it does not belong."

No, legality doesn't establish morality. Which is why taking that money to help that old lady - while illegal - was never immoral in the first place. The weird part is that by bringing up Nuremberg laws it almost seems like Walter's close to understanding that helping an old lady is good, and worth some sacrifice to accomplish, but then he spins back and decides that the baseline of what he calls 'morality' is "What's mine is mine, and nobody can touch it but me!"

The moral philosopher that Water is basing his theories on, by the way, is 'Any random 3-year-old'.

"Don't get me wrong. I personally believe that assisting one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets is praiseworthy and laudable. Doing the same by reaching into another's pockets is despicable, dishonest and worthy of condemnation."

I don't think you do believe helping people is praiseworthy, though. I think you that on the rare occasions in which you deign to offer your largesse, you do it because you enjoy the feeling of superiority you get from looking down on someone less fortunate than you. If you ever see anyone else giving to charity/a poor person, I don't think you feel anything at all.

"Some people call governmental handouts charity, but charity and legalized theft are entirely two different things. But as far as charity is concerned, James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." To my knowledge, the Constitution has not been amended to include charity as a legislative duty of Congress."

No one calls government handouts 'Charity' unless they're trying to insult the people who receive those handouts. Hell, no one calls government support 'handouts' unless they're trying to insult the people who receive the support. Honestly, Walter, there are so many layers of contempt for the lower classes here that it's hard to cut through them and find your point.

Also, I thought we were discussing morality here? Why are you talking about James Madison? In addition to hating charity, here are some things that Madison approved of: slavery, deportation of free blacks, screwing over natives, and invading Canada. He's not exactly a paragon of moral authority - even among the founding fathers.

"Our current economic crisis, as well as that of Europe, is a direct result of immoral conduct. Roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of our federal budget can be described as Congress' taking the property of one American and giving it to another."

You've now expanded the word 'immoral' to the point where it becomes meaningless. You consider social security (keeping old people from dying frozen in a ditch - which we already established was moral) and medicaid (keeping children from dying from the measles) as 'immoral' because everyone in America pools their money to make sure those results are achieved. That's not what immorality is, Walter. It never has been, and it never will be.

"In the face of our looming financial calamity, what are we debating about? It's not about the reduction or elimination of the immoral conduct that's delivered us to where we are. It's about how we pay for it -- namely, taxing the rich, not realizing that even if Congress imposed a 100 percent tax on earnings higher than $250,000 per year, it would keep the government running for only 141 days."

There's something about those numbers that seems like a lie - maybe it's just that Walter is using statistics to prove a point, and he's almost always lying when he does that... Maybe he's not taking corporate taxes into account? Or estate taxes? That could be it...

"Ayn Rand, in her novel "Atlas Shrugged," reminded us that "when you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.""

Which is why, Walter, we can never allow people to reach a point where the means of survival is for everyone to hoard all their money in a giant safe while the majority of Americans die of starvation and the flu.

Oh, wait, what she thought was 'evil' was taking a small portion of her money to ensure a clean water supply and sturdy bridges? Huh... why did anyone ever take this woman seriously? And how can anyone look at people who devote their lives to her gospel with anything approaching a straight face?

And for the record, Walter - you taking my money to help an old lady wouldn't be immoral. Me taking your money for any reason at all? Completely morally neutral. Because you sure as hell didn't earn it in a moral way, so you don't deserve to have it any more than I do. I don't expect you to understand this concept Walter - after all, Robin Hood would no doubt make your top-5 list of fiction's greatest villains.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Walter Williams is still pissed at Trayvon Martin for being inconsiderate enough to get shot to death.

Walter begins this article with some statistics about the number of black people suffering violent crimes in America. Surprising no one, it turns out that they're more likely to be victimized than any other race of people - and their victimizers are more likely to be of the same race than another. Of course, people are always more likely to be victimized by people of their own race, since that's who people generally tend to associate with. If you live in a community that's 90 percent white, there's a 90 percent chance that any criminal you meet is going to be white. The same is true in black communities. Yes, the crime numbers are shockingly high in black communities, but so are the poverty numbers - which tend to have a direct causal link to the crime numbers, and which Walter steadfastly refuses to mention. I wonder why?

Things don't get really dumb, though, until the second paragraph. In it he starts with the number that about 7000 black people are murdered every year, then compares that to the number of black people killed in wars since Korea (18,515) and claims to be shocked by the disparity in numbers. Of course, far more white people have been murdered in America than killed in foreign wars since Korea as well, but admitting that would reveal Walter's point to be a trick of math created by the fact that there haven't actually been that many America war casualties since Korea. When you do a large amount of your war-fighting by dropping bombs on countries that don't have planes, the casualty counts tend to get pretty lopsided. Still, Walter wants to draw a conclusion from the numbers-

"It's a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities."

Or, it would be a tragic commentary, were it true. Like most things Walter says, however, it isn't. Yes, the raw numbers bear out the concept - 7000 blacks dead in America/year against 120 blacks dead in Afghanistan or Iraq/year, but raw numbers hide the fact that there are considerably more black Americans in America than there are in Afghanistan or Iraq. In any given year there are roughly 40 million black people living in America. According to Walter's numbers, that means each one of those people has a roughly 0.017% chance of being murdered. By comparison, any random black person in the military has roughly 0.025% chance of being killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Is it shocking that you're only a little better off being a regular American black person than one in the military? Absolutely - shocking enough that you'd think Walter could avoid lying in order to make his argument.

Then, naturally, Walter wastes a decent point by lying some more, while unfairly inferring intention:

"A much larger issue is how might we interpret the deafening silence about the day-to-day murder in black communities compared with the national uproar over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Such a response by politicians, civil rights organizations and the mainstream news media could easily be interpreted as "blacks killing other blacks is of little concern, but it's unacceptable for a white to kill a black person."

Walter claims a 'deafening silence' about Black on Black crime. But simply look at any Black advocacy group, and you'll find that they talk about the problem of Black on Black crime literally all the time. There are marches, speeches, fundraisers, and a number of major groups taking positive action on the subject. Yet Walter wants to believe that because people are upset about the Martin shooting that this means there's no concern for Black on Black violence, but he offers no evidence to back his theory up. All Walter has is the anecdotal observation that Black people seem pretty angry about the Martin shooting - and when Walter sees angry Black people, he knows that it can only ever be a racial thing.

Somehow it has yet to occur to Walter that the Martin shooting was a cause celebre not simply because of the races of the people involved, but because an armed man hunted down and shot an unarmed teen and was then neither arrested nor charged by the police. Injustice sells papers, which you'd think Walter - a newspaper columnist - would know. Although how could he have missed this one? This article of Walter's was published at the end of May - did he not notice that coverage of the Martin case fell off a cliff after Zimmerman was charged in April? Once the perceived injustice (man being released without charges after questionable shooting) had taken steps towards being resolved, the media moved on.

It seems that in Walter's desperation to find a racial issue to get angry about, he's hooked his wagon to something a little more complex than he'd imagined. It seems that the Martin coverage had less to do with people pushing the myth of a rash of white on black crime, and more with people wanting to see justice done. So Walter got this one wrong. Not exactly a shock, but let's move on-

To Walter's revelation of the real problem: Black on white crime!

"Not only is there silence about black-on-black crime; there's silence and concealment about black racist attacks on whites -- for example, the recent attacks on two Virginian-Pilot newspaper reporters set upon and beaten by a mob of young blacks. The story wasn't even covered by their own newspaper. In March, a black mob assaulted, knocked unconscious, disrobed and robbed a white tourist in downtown Baltimore. Black mobs have roamed the streets of Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles and other cities, making unprovoked attacks on whites and running off with their belongings."

Here Walter makes his case that the media doesn't care about blacks doing bad things to white people. Except for the fact that by virtue of the fact that Walter is here talking about them, they must have been covered in the media. The Virginian-Pilot story has been extensively covered - even turning up on O'Reilly's show - and the fact that it's an assault where no one was seriously injured suggests that it probably doesn't have legs as a national news story. The Baltimore tourist attack was extensively covered for weeks - I live in Canada, and I heard about it. As for Walter's generalization about groups of muggers mugging people, I can't believe that I have to explain to a grown man that people looking to rob other people tend to try and rob those who have more money than they do. Or is Walter so afraid of entering the economic arena that he won't even admit that black criminals tend to be far worse off financially than their white victims?

Then Walt caps the whole thing off with a favorite talking point of Thomas Sowell's - the 'epidemic' of Black on Asian violence, and the media's complete failure in covering it. Again - I'm not sure that Walter hangs out with a lot of Asian teens, and if the media's not covering it, how is he hearing about all these kids being called 'Dragon ball'?

"But that kind of bullying, unlike the bullying of homosexuals, goes unreported and unpunished."

God, Walt, how many times do I have to remind you of this? You're AGAINST anti-bullying measures. You can't say that bullying against gays shouldn't be thought of as a problem and then turn around and complain that bullying against Asians isn't thought of as a bigger problem. Is even a basic amount of consistency impossible for you to deliver?

The truly stunning part of all this is how incredibly disingenuous this entire article is. Walter claims to be pointing out the media's hypocrisy about not covering black on black violence, but the irony is that no one is more against addressing Black on Black violence than Walter himself. He likes to use the fact that blacks are shooting each other as a cudgel to defeat charges of anti-black racism, as if he can simply say 'hey, when you stop killing each other, then you can complain about institutional racism, but unless you stop acting like animals, you won't get treated like people' and that will be the end of it. The possible linkages between institutional racism and black on black violence either completely escape Walter, or are being purposefully overlooked by him so that he can paint an entire race of people as alien and constitutionally unsuited for self-determination.

Whenever people take actually steps to address black on black crime - decriminalization that would take money and violence out of the equation and turn drugs into a public health issue, real gun control laws that would actually address the obscenely large number of handguns that are easily available in America - Walter and people like him get up in arms and rally against progressive steps. The Supreme Court forced Washington DC to allow hanguns on its streets - why didn't Walter write an indignant article about that? Why, it's almost as if he'd like the epidemic of black on black crime to keep right on chugging along. After all, if black people weren't killing each other, and instead worked together to secure their rights and a better future for their children, how would people like Walter marginalize and dismiss them?

The article ends with a baffling/horrifying quote that Walter finds apropos:

"Racial demagoguery from the president on down is not in our nation's best interests, plus it's dangerous. As my colleague Thomas Sowell recently put it, "if there is anything worse than a one-sided race war, it is a two-sided race war, especially when one of the races outnumbers the other several times over.""

Am I reading this wrong, or is Walter saying that if Black people don't stop complaining about racism, the Whites of America will show them what real racism looks like? Because that's what it seems like Sowell is threatening.

Why would Walter ever republish this quote? Is he trying to send out a secret message so that we'll rescue him from the right-wing white people holding him hostage? This almost reads like a cry for help or a pleading mea culpa for his sins. After all, how could Walter be blamed for all of his racist nonsense when all he's trying to do is make sure that Black people stay in their place so that White people don't start taking steps to solve the 'Negro Problem'. He's just trying to help you, Black people, why can't you see that?!

But no. It's the other people who are stoking racial resentment and threatening racial violence. Not Walter and his crowd. Never.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Walter Williams: Still racist!

While that may seem like a fairly judgmental title, it's really just an attempt to accurately translate Walter's own title, "Media Dishonesty and Race Hustlers". How does that count as a 'translation'? Here's a fun exercise - try to imagine someone who isn't a racist non-ironically using the term 'race hustler'. Can you do it? Thought not. So, let's see what this racist has to say for himself!

"When NBC's "Today" show played the audio of George Zimmerman's call to a Sanford, Fla., police dispatcher about Trayvon Martin, the editors made him appear to be a racist who says: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." What Zimmerman actually said was: "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around, looking about." The 911 officer responded by asking, "OK, and this guy -- is he black, white or Hispanic?" Zimmerman replied, "He looks black." NBC says it's investigating the doctoring of the audio, but there's nothing to investigate; its objective was to inflame passions."

Absolutely, Walter, you're completely right. NBC shouldn't have edited the tape to remove the context, it was an utterly dishonest and scumbaggy move. Just like you shouldn't have used the term 'doctored' to prejudice your audience against their actions, also manipulative and scumbaggy. And Zimmerman shouldn't have said 'fucking coons' soon after the exchange that was played on TV. Can we all just agree that mistakes were made? Wait, of course we can't, because compromise is anathema to you, isn't it?

"In his Associated Press article titled "Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case," Matt Sedensky pointed out that the photos carried by the major media were several years old and showed Zimmerman looking fat and mean and Martin looking like a sweet young kid."

There you go again, assigning malicious motives without any basis for your assumptions. And again, just as your dislike of black people isn't a reasonable cause for assuming they're all trying to steal your Lexus, your dislike of 'the media' isn't evidence that they're trying to pull a fast one on people. Isn't it possible that they were using the only photo of Zimmerman they had available?

Have you seen a current photo of Zimmerman? In that mugshot he looks fat and mean, but also kind of schlubby, maybe even the kind of out-of-shape lout that a 17-year-old kid might have been able to successfully threaten the life of. That's not what he looked like on the night of the attack. Now that we've all seen the police station security camera footage, we know that the current, gun-firing Zimmerman is lean and muscular, with a shaved head. The kind of guy who puts on a leather jacket but leaves it unzipped, so as to better show off his tight T-shirt. The old Zimmerman looks mean. The new one looks scary. If the media was truly trying to bias people against the shooter, wouldn't they have gone through hell and high water to get a current photo?

"Jesse Jackson told the Los Angeles Times that "blacks are under attack" and that "targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business," adding that Martin is "a martyr." President Barack Obama chimed in by saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.""

Walter presents this without comment, so I'd like to congratulate him. For once, he didn't make the world dumber by adding his two cents! In fact, I'm going to go one step further and applaud him for so openly indicting the private prison system! Kudos, Walt!"

Walt then lists a few cases of black-on-white violence that he feels were underreported in the media. I'm not going to list them all here, since every conservative news outlet has already done that work for me a thousand times over. The tactic being used is to shock people with the idea that black people occasionally kill white people, and then indict the media for not running with those stories day and night for weeks on end the way they (eventually) did in the Martin case. Two things, Walter: A) Since you were able to name-drop those crimes pretty quickly, I'd suggest they probably were covered adequately in the media. 2) None of the cases you mention has the kind of narrative that can be spun out over weeks of broadcasts - in every one, the stories follow the tradional crime reporting structure - Horrible crime - search for perps - perps are caught - move on to next horrible crime. The reason the Martin case continues to captivate people worldwide is the unusual narrative structure - Horrible crime - police let criminal go - outcry over injustice - authorities humiliated into taking action. Do you have such a poor understanding of storytelling that you can't understand that this is a more interesting tale?

Of course, there's one other possible reason - the 'man bites dog' scenario. To explain, Walter and people like him (specifically the KKK) have so effectively put forth the idea that the natural state of black people is to be marauders constantly on the prowl for white victims to sate their brutal, unnatural lusts that it's no longer 'news' when a crime fitting those parameters actually happens. After all, Walter, if you spend years telling America that black people are monsters, and then a black person does something monstrous, do you really expect America to be surprised?

"None of those black-on-white atrocities made anywhere near the news that the Trayvon Martin case made, and it's deliberate. Editors for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune admitted to deliberately censoring information about black crime for political reasons, in an effort to "guard against subjecting an entire group of people to suspicion.""

I'm not saying you're a liar, Walter, but wow, is this the kind of statement you should really be sourcing. Also, I've got to say, those editors are doing a terrible job of keeping an entire race from having suspicion heaped upon them. I mean, isn't that basically all you do?

"One doesn't have to be a liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican to see the danger posed by America's race hustlers, who are stacking up piles of combustible racial kindling and ready for a racial arsonist to set it ablaze."

Hey, you've made a mistake there - let me fix it for you. "-America's race hustlers, who are racially stacking up racial piles of racially combustible racial kindling and are racially getting racially ready for a racial arsonist to racially set it rablaze." Isn't that better, and more representative of your theories?

"Recruiters for white hate groups-"

Hold on there... I thought white racism was a thing of the past! Didn't you write a whole article about how it's basically impossible to be a racist any more? Anyhoo, now that you've invalidated most of your opinions, I'll let you continue.

"Recruiters for white hate groups must love President Obama's demagoguery in saying that a son of his would look like Trayvon but not saying that Melissa Coon's 13-year-old son, who was set on fire, could have looked like a son of his. After all, the president is just as much white as he is black."

Okay, now you've just crossed the line into flat-out dishonesty. Why am I saying 'crossed the line'? You live on the other side of that line. Be truthful for one second in your life, Walter - do you really think the president is as white as he is black? Anyone who isn't baldly misrepresenting the current state of race relations in America for their own purposes will freely admit that isn't how it works. Why don't you check in with one of those white supremacist groups (whose opinions you agree with an uncomfortable amount of the time) on the subject. Ask them what percentage a person has to be black before they stop qualifying as white in America. Ten bucks says the answer is 'any'. And then they'll hurl some racial epithets your way, because they don't care that you agree with them about most everything - they'll be judging you by the colour of your skin, as opposed to the content of your character.

"Even if the president and his liberal allies in the media and assorted civil rights hustlers don't care much about blacks murdering whites, what about blacks murdering blacks? During a mid-March weekend in Chicago, 49 people were shot, 10 fatally, including a 6-year-old black girl, making for more than 100 murders this year. Philadelphia isn't far behind, with murder clipping along at one a day since the beginning of 2012. Have we heard Obama make a statement about this carnage or that most homicide victims are black and that their murderers are black? No, and we won't, because black-on-black crime, like black-on-white crime, does not fit the liberal narrative of the continuing problem of white racism."

So Walter comes to his closing argument - because blacks are murdering blacks, racism isn't a thing any more! I won't spend too much time on this one, since we covered this exact territory just two weeks ago, and I don't want to come across like a broken record - not that doing so bothers Walter.

So I'll just remind Walter that, disgustingly, the news is a business. Novelty sells. Is it both disgusting and an absolutely disgrace that so many Americans shoot each other every year? Yes. Is it surprising? No. Not even close. I don't know how to solve the problem, and I'm pretty sure Walter's (and America's!) solution of 'lock up as many black men as possible' has been a demonstrable failure.

One thing I'm sure won't help all the black people being killed every year in America? Attempting to use their deaths as proof that white racism isn't a problem any more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walter Williams has some choice words for his critics!

"Public misunderstanding, ignorance and possibly contempt for liberty play into the hands of people who want to control our lives."

That's right folks, never let it be said that Walter Williams is a man unafraid of demonizing his opposition. Oh, so you disagree with his opinions? That's probably just because you hate liberty, which is just what the evil authoritarians want! It's impossible for someone to have an honest disagreement with him about the role of government in people's lives - they're uninformed, a synonym for uninformed, or possibly evil.

Never let it be said that Walter Williams is a man unafraid of redundancy.

The theme of this week's missive from Walter is 'settling scores'. It seems that some of the people who read his thoughts a few weeks back were able to poke enough holes in his logic to get under Walter's skin, necessitating a whole new article designed to answer those critics. The subject?

"I argued that the anti-tobacco movement became the template and inspiration for other forms of government intrusion, such as bans on restaurants serving foie gras, McDonald's giving Happy Meals with toys, and confiscating a child's home-prepared lunch because it didn't meet Department of Agriculture guidelines. A few responses read like this: "Smoking is different because that actually affects other people. We should be living by the notion that you should be able to do whatever you want as long as you don't hurt other people. Smoking hurts other people."

That seems reasonable enough, doesn't it? Not according to Walter!

"If we banned or restricted all activities that affect, harm or have the possibility of harming other people, it wouldn't be a very nice life. Let's look at what can affect or harm other people. Non-obese people are harmed by obesity, as they have to pay more for health care, through either higher taxes or higher insurance premiums. That harm could be reduced by a national version of a measure introduced in the Mississippi Legislature in 2008 by state Rep. W.T. Mayhall that in part read, "An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the state Department of Health." The measure would have revoked licenses of food establishments that violated the provisions of the act. Fortunately, the measure never passed, but there's always a next time."

This is the danger of being conspiracy-obsessed. You become so desperate to prove those obsessions that you'll grab onto any random bit of fact that backs up your improbable beliefs. Walter can't actually find any evidence of ludicrous laws impinging on people's freedoms, so he flails around until he finds a crazy law, proposed by a nobody, that was taken seriously by no one. Anyone else would look at that law and think 'hey, that's funny. Politics are dumb, sometimes, huh?' but to the conspiracy-obsessed, it becomes just another piece of the mosaic depicting all the ways the big scary government is trying to take away his freedom! The fact that the proposed law was laughed out of the state house is a meaningless footnote - after all, next time we might not be so lucky! Which is, of course, why we need heroic freedom fighters like Walter Williams, the only man brave enough to protect your right to weigh over five hundred pounds.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2010, nearly 33,000 people were killed in auto crashes. That's a lot of harm that could be reduced by lowering the speed limit to 5 or 10 miles an hour. You say, "Williams, that's ridiculous!" What you really mean to say but don't have the courage to is that to save all of those lives by making the speed limit 5 or 10 miles per hour is not worth the inconvenience. Needless to say -- or almost so -- there are many activities we engage in that either cause harm to others or have the potential for doing so, but we don't ban all of these activities."

I'm done saying that you're ridiculous, Walter. I used to say it a lot, but by now I've realized that ridiculous is your natural state, so calling your that - even at your behest - would be like constantly referring to you as 'alive' or 'male'. Accurate, but self-evident, and therefore redundant. So, from now on, let's take 'everything you say is laugh-out-loud stupid' as read, shall we?

Now, for your actual point - Walter is so bad at arguing his positions that his only recourse is to always go straight to the most extreme possible position when describing opposition to his point. Of course anyone would think an 8KPH speed limit would be crazy, so natural we have to eliminate all government regulation, right? In Williams' manichean world, there exists only complete freedom or absolute tyranny. Thank god the rest of us don't actually have to live in this fantasy land. We're capable of seeing the degrees in between, and deciding just which tradeoffs and compromises are important to us.

Also, it's weird that Walter missed a good talking point here - since studies have shown that highways without speed limits are safer than those with them, the argument can be made that those limits are being kept in place by governments solely so that they can fine (or... tax!) innocent leadfeet! I don't know if it really would have fit into this article, but its seems like his kind of talking point. Although, come to think of it, consistency has never really been the man's strong point anyhow...

"One of the least-understood functions of private property rights is that of determining who may harm whom in what ways. In a free society, it is presumed that the air in a person's house, restaurant, hotel, car or place of business is his property. That means that if you own a restaurant and don't want your air polluted by tobacco smoke, it is your right."

Look at the one he tried to sneak by us just then! This is another favorite tactic of his - assert something absurd, then immediately build an argument on it as if the absurdity was a matter already settled. Here's the thing, Walter - I don't concede that you own the air in your house. Air is common property, owned by every one of us. While you may own the airspace inside your own home, and choose to not allow me to throw paper airplanes through it, you don't own that air, and you can't legally prevent me from breathing it. The question of cigarette smoke in a restaurant isn't 'I, the restaurant owner, get to decide whether or not I fill the air with poison', it's 'I, as the owner of a business designed to serve the public, don't get to decide whether I want to poison the people whose patronage allows me to continue running a small business - because it's poison.' Air needs to be clean, because all of our health is dependant on that. While it's fine for people to smoke in their own homes, where there's minimal transfer of smoke to people outside, or to smoke outdoors, where the worst parts of the fumes dissipate quickly, in an enclosed environment with relatively little circulation, public health becomes an issue. I know that Walter thinks any call to public health is a secret plot by the Illuminati (see below), so I don't expect him to be able to wrap his head around this point. This is the limitation of Walter's concept of 'freedom' - it's entirely selfish. The only freedom he really wants is the freedom to never think about anyone else, unless they have something he wants.

The crazy part about this is that Walter is old enough to remember leaded gasoline. I only know of the terrible toll it took on people based on the theme song from Seasame Street (or at least my mishearing thereof), but Walter must have experienced the lung-clogging, asthma-triggering hell that was the smoggy downtown core of most major American cities. Does he really want to go back to those days solely because people should be 'free to put whatever they want in their cars'? I'm not suggesting that Walter actually holds this opinion - but the leaded gas situation is the closest analog to secondhand smoke (although obviously more serious), so it's certainly a fair comparison.

"The emerging tragedy is our increased willingness to use the coercive powers of government, in the name of health or some other ruse, to forcibly impose our preferences upon others. In the whole scheme of things, the tobacco issue itself is trivial. Far more important is its template for massive government disrespect for private property."

God damn it, Walter. Don't you realize how you sound when you write these things? Public health is a 'ruse'? See, in Wlater's mind it's impossible that anyone actually does anything to help other people - he can't even muster up an acknowledgment of the existence of good intentions before reminding people what was used to pave the road to hell. According to Walter there's no such thing as empathy - all claim of human concern is simply pretext.

What a sad and lonely place the inside of your head must be. Hey, at least you've got that sweet Lexus to comfort you, right? Must be a sweet ride, huh? Or it will be, up until Obama's Traffic Tsar makes it illegal to drive faster than walking speed!

"John Adams said, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.""

I can understand Walter's desire to tie his beliefs to something a founding father said (well, wrote, anyhow) - tenuous as that connection may be - but let's not forget that John Adams is the man who signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law. He was a great man, but like most great men, he had a lot of bad days. It's always dangerous to attribute equal respect to everything that a brilliant man said.

Conversely, it's pretty safe to attribute equal derision to everything that Walter Williams says.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Walter Williams doesn't understand rhetorical questions, apparently.

Or, more specifically, he doesn't seem to understand that some issues are so complicated that they can't be boiled down to an easy yes or no. Take, for example, his recent article on the subject of racial profiling - a hot-button subject of late, due to the Martin shooting. Speaking of, here's Walter's take on the subject!

"Right now, there isn't enough known about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a black, by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old part-Hispanic, during his neighborhood watch tour in an Orlando, Fla., suburb. If evidence emerges that Zimmerman's actions were not justified, he should be prosecuted and punished; however, there's a larger issue that few people understand or have the courage to acknowledge, namely that black and young has become synonymous with crime and, hence, suspicion. To make that connection does not make one a racist. Let's look at it."

Yes, Walter, let's. Note how Walter opens with a completely disingenuous call to 'let the facts come out before judging'. How do we know it's completely disingenuous? The rest of the article is about how it's completely fine to assume that all young black men are criminals. By that logic (Walter's logic), Zimmerman had every right to assume the kid had criminal intent, and that good-faith assumption is apparently all that's required to get away with murder in many U.S. states. I exaggerate, of course - but only about the laws in question, not Walter's opinion of young black men.

He has an awfully high opinion of himself though, doesn't he? Look at the way he frames his article as if he's the lone bold figure speaking truth to power - as if there isn't an entire television network, hundreds of radio hosts, and literally thousands of print and online columnists all rushing to defend racial profiling. Yes, Walter, in the conflict between a self-deputized law enforcement groupie and the unarmed teenager he shot, you're far from the only person to line up behind the guy who brought the gun to the not-a-fight.

Then the article continues by offering a few examples of people who are either in favour of racial profiling, or troubled by their own history of using it.

"Twelve years ago, a black Washington, D.C., commissioner warned cabbies, most of whom were black, against picking up dangerous-looking passengers. She described "dangerous-looking" as a "young black guy ... with shirttail hanging down longer than his coat, baggy pants, unlaced tennis shoes." She also warned cabbies to stay away from low-income black neighborhoods. Did that make the D.C. commissioner a racist?"

Not entirely - she wasn't describing racial profiling, but rather behavioural profiling, telling cabbies to avoid people who wore the traditional clothes of criminality in that area. The only reason she was talking about black people was because Washington DC is a majority-black city, which means that by extension the poorest and most criminal sections are going to be black. I'm sure if she was a Laredo, TX commissioner she'd have warned about gang-affiliated Latino youths. Perhaps you can attribute a little racism to her statement, but honestly, who can blame cabbies for whatever prejudices they hold? They do the most dangerous job in America - let's cut the guys some slack, huh?

"The Rev. Jesse Jackson once remarked, "There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- (and) then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." Does that make the reverend a racist?"

Yes, it does. And he knows it - that's why it was a painful thing for him to think. This is a man who's spent his whole life trying to better the condition of black people in America, and even he's not free from the effects of the stereotyping that his peer group suffers. Everyone has racist thoughts from time to time, Walter - look at you, like ten percent of your articles about your own racist beliefs. But that kind of incidental racism isn't the only defining characteristic that we use to judge people. While Jesse was thinking that, he was a racist, which he acknowledges, and laments. What does it say about you that you're unable to admit your own racism when you believe all the time the things that only cross the Reverend's mind when his brain is awash with fear-based endorphins?

"The former Charleston, S.C., black chief of police, Reuben Greenberg, said the problem facing black America is not racial profiling. He said, "The greatest problem in the black community is the tolerance for high levels of criminality." Former Los Angeles black police Chief Bernard Parks, defending racial profiling, said: "It's not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail. It's the fault of the minority males for committing the crime. In my mind, it is not a great revelation that if officers are looking for criminal activity, they're going to look at the kind of people who are listed on crime reports." Are former police Chiefs Greenberg and Parks racist?"

Oh my god, yes. They're really, really racist. I'm not going to get into the long tirade here about how police use harassment of black youth to marginalize an entire race of people, essentially keeping Jim Crow going by using minor charges to deprive black males of their civil rights, let's suffice to say that the majority of those arrests the cops are talking about are drug-related, and many of them being simple possession. Hey, Walter, is it racism that the per capita drug use among black and white youth is essentially the same, but black men are five times more likely to get charged for drug possession than their white counterparts? Or is it racist that people holding the kinds of drugs preferred in black communities can be charged with 'intent to distribute' for carrying one-tenth the amount of white-identified drugs it would take to warrant the same charge? Spoiler Alert: The answer to both those questions is 'yes'.

"According to the Uniform Crime Report for 2009, among people 18 or younger, blacks were charged with 58 percent of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, 67 percent of robberies, 42 percent of aggravated assaults and 43 percent of auto thefts. As for murder, more than 90 percent of the time, their victims were black. These statistics, showing a strong interconnection among race, youth and crime, are a far better explanation for racial profiling and suspicion than simple racism."

Was anyone arguing this point? Walter is now using evidence that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. When a black person is murdered in a black neighbourhood the cops look for a black suspect. This doesn't even count as racial profiling, let alone racism. All people tend to commit crimes within their own social group - that's just a basic fact, and has nothing to do with Walter's overall point (that his racist beliefs are true, so stop making him feel bad about himself). Notice that Walter goes out of his way to leave out 'poverty' from the intersection of elements that lead to crime. In Walter's head the statistics seem to prove that young black men are inherently criminal. I'm sure he imagines that even if they all had ample money and employment opportunities they'd still be out prowling the streets in their hoodies, looking for purses to snatch.

"Black Americans have spoken out against racial profiling by police. They've been insulted by store personnel who might give them extra scrutiny. There's the insult of the sound of a car door being locked when a black approaches. It's insulting to have taxi drivers pass up a black person and pick up white people down the street. In a similar vein, I'm sure that a law-abiding Muslim is insulted when given extra scrutiny at airports or listening to Fox News reporter Juan Williams, who was fired by National Public Radio in 2010 for publicly saying that he gets nervous when he sees people on a plane with clothing that identifies them as Muslim. Blacks and Muslims who face the insults of being profiled might direct their anger toward those who've made blacks and crime synonymous and terrorism and Muslims synonymous."

What? Seriously, let's pause for a second and just consider what Walter Williams just actually said. Allow me to precis it if you were too distracted by vomiting when getting near the end. "You don't have a right to complain about being discriminated against because someone who shares your skin colour did a bad thing once." How could someone write this in this day and age? How could someone else agree to print it? How did Walter's word processor allow him to type it? At some point shouldn't Clippy have popped up with a helpful "Hey, it looks like you're writing a racist screed! Do you want me to wipe your hard drive and then buy you a bus ticket to 1954 Alabama?"

More to the point, that last sentence proves that Walter is completely cut-off from anyone outside of his tiny little circle of right-wing extremists. He can't imagine that any black people, Muslims, or liberals exist beyond the straw-man constructions that exist inside his head. Can he really believe that those people are (even passively) accepting of terrorism and street crime? Does he really think that by standing up to the FBI's attempts to frame random brown people for acts of terrorism the Muslim community is acting in favour of terrorists? Can Walter really be this hateful and out of touch?

"For most blacks to own up to the high crime rate among blacks is a source of considerable discomfort. Beyond that, it creates suspicions and resentment, which are destructive of good race relations, and it's devastating to the black community, which is its primary victim."

This is the end of Walter's article, and it serves as a microcosm of the whole thing - in that it makes absolutely no sense. What is he basing this 'discomfort' statement on? When you're talking about 'most' blacks it seems like you'd want to have some basis for your huge sweeping generalizations. Then there's the second statement, which is just maddeningly unclear. What creates 'suspicions and resentment' - the crime rate? Owning up to it? The rest of the sentence suggests that you're talking about the crime rate, but that almost seems to horrible to contemplate - by saying that it's 'destructive of good race relations' it almost seems like you're implying that black people don't deserve to be taken seriously by any other race until they get their act together in re: their pervasive criminality. I don't know why I'm pretending to be shocked that this is your conclusion - after all, how could a Walter Williams article all about how racial profiling isn't actually racism end other than with the statement that it's hunky-dory to marginalize an entire race of people based on the actions of the worst of them?

Oh, and Walter, for the record, Blacks and Muslims actually have "direct(ed) their anger toward those who've made blacks and crime synonymous and terrorism and Muslims synonymous."

They're directing it exactly where you instructed them to: at you, and all your cohorts in the right-wing media.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Walter Williams has done it again!

You know, Walter, for someone who's been doing this for over thirty years, you'd think you'd be better at it by now. Of course, it's possible that decades of writing for an audience that already agrees with you and desperately wants to believe that what you say is true has taught you that it's safe to simply make assumptions and broadly generalize on the slightest whim, secure that you'll never be questioned on your logic, reasoning, or conclusions.

So let's do that, okay?

Walter's latest article is all about challenging the idea that the disadvantaged should be voting Democratic. This is a fairly popular assumption in American politics - that Democrats are for the disadvantaged, and Republicans are for the powerful - and while the truth is way more complex than that, I'll give him the generalization and move on to the facts he's going to use to change America's mind about this.

According to an American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau, the top 10 poorest cities with populations more than 250,000 are Detroit, with 33 percent of its residents below the poverty line; Buffalo, N.Y., 30 percent; Cincinnati, 28 percent; Cleveland, 27 percent; Miami, 27 percent; St. Louis, 27 percent; El Paso, Texas, 26 percent; Milwaukee, 26 percent; Philadelphia, 25 percent; and Newark, N.J., 24 percent.  The most common characteristic of these cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations.

Not sure why he had to list all ten - unless he was having trouble meeting his word count this week - but let's move on to his completely spurious reasoning. Setting aside the ridiculous presumption that a Democratic mayor is necessarily 'liberal' (You know, like that kind old lefty Richard Daley!), I've got to pose a question - why did he restrict the list to cities with populations over 250,000? Doesn't it seem that if there were a connection to be made between Democratic leadership and poverty in cities, all of the the shockingly poor cities in America would have Democratic mayors? Then I went to check those stats, and it turns out that if you take out the population condition, the poorest areas in America (by median annual household income) are located in places like the Dakotas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia - and all of them have reliably Republican leadership.

Why, it's almost as if Walter is taking the fact that large cities tend to have Democratic mayors and trying to use it to gloss over the fact that a panoply of poverty exists across the rural south, which is largely Republican managed and has been since LBJ flipped the polarity switch on the American political parties' relationship with black people.

What exactly are you trying to say here, Walter?

You say, "What's the point, Williams?"

That's right, I just did, essentially. Although I feel like, at this point, we're on a first name basis.

Let's be clear about it. I'm not stating a causal relationship between poverty and Democratic and/or black political control over a city. 

I'm confused - if you're not saying that, why did you spend the first two and a half paragraphs saying that?

What I am saying is that if one is strategizing on how to help poor people, he wants to leave off his list of objectives Democratic and black political control of cities. 

Walter makes an excellent point here - what this country needs is the kind of white and Republican leadership that has kept Mississippi the least poverty-stricken state in the nation. Wait, did I say least? I meant most. Whoops. God, if I don't check my facts a little better, I'll wind up as uninformed as Walter Williams!

After all this nonsense, the article takes a whiplash turn. Check it:

Crime is one of the results of the liberal agenda.

That's a pretty bold statement to make, there, Walter.

Blacks are 13 percent of the population but are more than 50 percent of murder victims. About 95 percent of black homicide victims had a black person as their murderer. Blacks are not only the major victims of murder but also suffer high victimization rates of all categories of serious violent crime. Most often, another black is the perpetrator.

I'm confused - did the liberal agenda create black people, who Walter blames for all the crime in America? I hate to play the 'liberal agenda' card, but you do know that poor people are more likely to be murdered than middle and upper-class ones, right? Just because the news only reports on the deaths of people that 'matter' and you only notice the poor ones when you're looking up statistics doesn't give you licence to ignore contributing factors other than race.

During the 1960s, academic liberals and hustling politicians told us that to deal with crime, we had to deal with its "root causes," poverty and discrimination. My colleague Thomas Sowell has pointed out that in 1960, the total number of murders in the United States was lower than in 1950, 1940 and 1930, even though our population had grown and two new states had been added.

That's all well and good, but what does it have to do with anything?

The liberal agenda, coupled with courts granting criminals new rights, later caused the murder rate to double, and the rates of other violent crimes also began to skyrocket.

You know, Walter, if you're going to keep blaming this 'liberal agenda', at some point you're going to have to define it. Do you seriously believe that the murder rate doubled because the courts gave criminals new rights? Or does some part of you understand that other things were going on in the sixties beyond the Miranda ruling? Also, let's not forget that the courts didn't give criminals any new rights there. They simply made it policy that accused criminals had to be told what their rights were. Which, admittedly, made things much harder for the police, since they could no longer frame whoever they wanted for murders, and had to resort to more complex methods for solving crimes, such as massively de-funding the public defenders' office so that poor people can still be easily framed for murders.

Then the article goes deeper down the crime rabbit hole, explaining that crime is the biggest problem in Black communities, where children can't play in front yards, taxis won't pick people up, and in what he seems to think is the greatest indictment of crime-ridden inner cities:

there's the insult associated with not being able to receive pizza or other deliveries on the same terms as people in other neighborhoods.

Next, Walter explains that he doesn't know what things cost!

In the face of high crime, wealthier people can afford to purchase alarms, buy guard dogs, hire guards and, if things get too bad, move to a gated community. These options are not available to poor people. The only protection they have is an orderly society.

First off, anyone can buy a guard dog. They are not expensive. Yes, the purebred ones who are able to patrol your estate on a strict schedule without supervision cost you a pretty penny, but those aren't much use in the inner city, where pretty much any mutt can be trained to bark loudly and attack intruders. More importantly, how on earth do you justify listing 'hiring guards' as a less severe reaction than 'moving to a gated community'? Gated communities are a fairly common destination for those whose egos are too fragile to deal with encountering the disadvantaged, but 'hiring guards'? Who does that? Are you friends with a lot of Russian oiligarchs, Walter?

Oh, and Walter, what's your solution to the crime problem? Earlier (in an unexcerpted section), you talk about how much black people need to be protected by politicians who are 'tough on crime' (cough-republican-cough), but what would that protection entail? Are you going to jail all black men, rather than just most of them? Because putting more people in jail than Stalin did seems to be working great so far.

Democratic and black politicians are beholden to and serve the interests of the powerful vested interest groups, such as labor unions, teachers unions and assorted liberals, not the ordinary people who voted them into office. Otherwise, they wouldn't begin to allow the rampant crime and nearly systematic destruction of learning opportunities for generations of black children by governmental schools.

To precis Walter's argument - politicians are more interested in power itself than using the people who gave it to them.

To precis that argument further - duh.

None of this is to say that blacks should vote Republican. It is to say that political power doesn't necessarily translate into economic power and well-being for the ordinary citizen.

At least be honest, Walter. No, this isn't a call for black people to vote Republican, it's a transparent attempt to lay every one of black America's problems at the feet of Democrats in the hopes of A: absolving your white, sometimes powerful readers of any guilty they might have over the rampant poverty in black communities (mission accomplished), and B: depressing black Democratic voter turnout in the next election (as if - black people mostly don't read your poorly-constructed tripe).

Better luck next time.