Quotulatiousness

April 17, 2014

Nevada standoff and the rule of law

Filed under: Environment, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:25

I haven’t been following the situation in Nevada between the armed forces of the Bureau of Land Management and the armed citizenry in support of rancher Cliven Bundy, but while my sympathies normally go toward the individual rather than the state, this case doesn’t appear to be clear-cut (and Bundy is clearly in violation of the law to some degree). Kevin Williamson seems to be in the same general state of mind:

Deserts always feel like my natural habitat, and I am very fond of them. That being said, I have, for my sins, spent a fair amount of time in Clark County, Nev., and it is not the loveliest stretch of desert in these United States, or even in the top twelve. Protecting the pristine beauty of the sun-baked and dust-caked outskirts of Las Vegas and its charismatic fauna from grazing cattle — which the Bureau of Land Management seems to regard as an Old Testament plague — seems to me to be something less than a critical national priority. At the same time, the federal government’s fundamental responsibility, which is defending the physical security of the country, is handled with remarkable nonchalance: Millions upon millions upon millions of people have crossed our borders illegally and continue to reside within them. Cliven Bundy’s cattle are treated as trespassers, and federal agents have been dispatched to rectify that trespass; at the same time, millions of illegal aliens present within our borders are treated as an inevitability that must be accommodated. In practice, our national borders are a joke, but the borders of that arid haven upon which ambles the merry Mojave desert tortoise are sacrosanct.

[...]

The relevant facts are these: 1) Very powerful political interests in Washington insist upon the scrupulous enforcement of environmental laws, and if that diminishes the interests of private property owners, so much the better, in their view. 2) Very powerful political interests in Washington do not wish to see the scrupulous enforcement of immigration laws, and if that undercuts the bottom end of the labor market or boosts Democrats’ long-term chances in Texas, so much the better, in their view.

This isn’t the rule of law. This is the rule of narrow, parochial, self-interested political factions masquerading as the rule of law.

If we are to have the rule of law, then, by all means, let’s have the rule of law: Shut down those federal subsidies and IRS penalties in states that did not create their own exchanges under the Affordable Care Act — the law plainly does not empower the federal government to treat federal exchanges identically to state exchanges. And let’s enforce the ACA’s deadlines with the same scrupulosity with which the IRS enforces its deadlines. Let’s see Lois Lerner and a few hundred IRS employees thrown in the hole for their misappropriation of federal resources, lying to Congress, etc. — and let’s at least look into prosecuting some elected Democrats for suborning those actions. And if you want to get to the real problem with illegal immigration, let’s frog-march a few CEOs, restaurateurs, and small-time contractors off to prison for violating our immigration laws — and they can carry a GM product-safety manager and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration executive under each arm. Let’s talk about enumerated powers.

H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.

April 15, 2014

Militarization of the police, pervasive surveillance, incarceration rates, and other police state trappings

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:24

An email from Rupert included a link to this infographic illustrating the “progress” of the United States toward a police state:

Click image to see full infographic

Click image to see full infographic

It’s easy to poke fun at people who worry about the ever-growing state involvement in everyday life … well, it used to be fun until the NSA’s incredible list of surveillance programs became known. Now, paranoia is the rational state for anyone concerned with their privacy and freedom of speech. We had Godwin’s Law, which provided a useful rule of thumb for when internet arguments had passed the point of no return. This is a rare example of an argument that meets the condition of Godwin’s Law (in the infographic), yet still remains relevant.

April 7, 2014

The post-legalization hellhole that is Denver

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:54

Well, we can’t say they didn’t warn us that if Denver allowed the sale of legal marijuana, it would descend into a lawless vortex of violence:

“There will be many harmful consequences,” Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver warned in a September 2012 statement. “Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana, and pot for sale everywhere.”

One California sheriff went on Denver television to warn that, as a result of marijuana in his county, “thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, ‘Give me your marijuana, give me your money.’”

Three months into its legalization experiment, Denver isn’t seeing a widespread rise in crime. Violent and property crimes actually decreased slightly, and some cities are taking a second look at allowing marijuana sales.

“We had folks, kind of doomsayers, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have riots in the streets the day they open,’” Denver City Council President Mary Beth Susman, a supporter of legal marijuana, says. “But it was so quiet.”

[...]

Prior to legalization, opponents warned property crime would rise. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey argued robbers would prey on marijuana businesses and their customers, because they’re more likely to carry cash (and, of course, the drug).

So far, city data shows no increase in property crime. Compared to the first two months of 2013, property crime in January and February actually dropped by 12.1 percent. Reports of robberies and stolen property dropped by 6.2 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Burglaries and criminal mischief to property rose by only 0.5 percent.

Denver residents don’t seem especially concerned with the issue, either. Susman recalls a recent community meeting she held with senior citizens: when she asked if the crowd wanted her to talk about marijuana, people told her they were tired of hearing about the issue.

“Based on my general understanding in my district, it is becoming ho-hum,” Susman says.


A sign is displayed outside the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Legalization of recreational marijuana sales in the state went into effect at 8am this morning. (Photo by Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

April 1, 2014

Losing a debate? Demand that your opponents be locked up!

Filed under: Environment, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:57

Not, I’m afraid, an April Fool’s Day story:

Finally, someone has come up with a way to settle the debate over climate change: Put the people on the wrong side of the argument in cages.

A writer for the website Gawker recently penned a self-described “rant” on the pressing need to arrest, charge and imprison people who “deny” global warming. In fairness, Adam Weinstein doesn’t want mass arrests (besides, in a country where only 44% of Americans say there is “solid evidence” of global warming and it’s mostly due to human activity, you can’t round up every dissenter). Fact-checking scientists are spared. So is “the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right. … You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150′s gassy exhaust.”

But Weinstein’s magnanimity ends there. Someone must pay. Weinstein suggests the government simply try the troublemakers and spokespeople. You know, the usual suspects. People like Limbaugh himself as well as ringleaders of political organizations and businesses that refuse to toe the line. “Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.”

Weinstein says that this “is an argument that’s just being discussed seriously in some circles.” He credits Rochester Institute of Technology philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello for getting the ball rolling. Last month, Torcello argued that America should follow Italy’s lead. In 2009, six seismologists were convicted of poorly communicating the risks of a major earthquake. When one struck, the scientists were sentenced to six years in jail for downplaying the risks. Torcello and Weinstein want a similar approach for climate change.

This is a great standard for free speech in America. Let’s just agree that the First Amendment reads, “Nothing in this clause shall be considered binding if it contradicts legal practices in the Abruzzo region of Italy.”

The truth is this isn’t as new an outlook as Weinstein suggests. For instance, in 2009, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman insisted that “deniers” in Congress who opposed the Waxman-Markey climate change bill were committing “treason” while explaining their opposition on the House floor. (That same year, Krugman’s fellow Timesman Thomas Friedman wrote that China’s authoritarian system was preferable to ours, in part, because it lets “enlightened” leaders deal with climate change.)

March 28, 2014

China’s “fake news” problem

Filed under: Business, China, Law, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:36

The WSJ‘s China Real Time section discusses a recent announcement that the government will be cracking down on “fake news”:

According to the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, such a phenomenon “seriously damages the image of news workers, corrodes the credibility and authoritative nature of the news media, is strongly opposed by all sectors of society, and bitterly detested by the people.” Nine government departments will be involved in the crackdown on such activity, the newspaper said.

By extortion, the government was referring to the practice in which people presenting themselves as journalists — real or not — threaten to report negative information on sources unless they pay them. While it didn’t explicitly spell out what it meant by “fake news,” the government has in recent years been cracking down on the dissemination of rumors or thinly sourced reports that it says contribute to social instability.

[...]

Late last year, in one particularly high-profile case, a Chinese newspaper journalist confessed to accepting hundreds of thousands of yuan in exchange for producing stories defaming a large construction-equipment maker. (Chinese reporters routinely accept hongbao, or small packets of money, when attending press events.) Meanwhile, deal-cutting among IPO candidates faced with media extortionists — in which many companies pay for advertisement space to avoid negative coverage — is common, according Caixin Magazine.

March 25, 2014

Understatement of the day: “dumb things happen when you’ve been drinking”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

It’s hard to guess just which parts of his little violent criminal spree might be downgraded to mere “dumb things”:

Cpl. Jonathan Laporte shot up his own home and two of his neighbours’ cars before arming himself with a shotgun and handgun and blasting his way through the showroom of a high-end car dealership on Feb. 9, 2011.

The rampage came less than an hour after he was charged and released by police for physically assaulting three men at a Hunt Club Road hotel.

The 25-year-old soldier had met a man at the Days Inn after replying to an online ad for consensual, “no strings attached” gay sex. But the encounter turned violent after Laporte became heavily intoxicated and grabbed his partner by the neck and started squeezing after warning the man not to tell anyone about their hook-up.

The man eventually escaped wearing nothing more than his underwear and a T-shirt, but returned to the room to recover his wallet and cellphone. Once inside, Laporte closed the door and resumed the attack, punching the man repeatedly in the face as he screamed for help.

March 12, 2014

The “affirmative consent” meme meets the “purity test” form

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:15

As we’re regularly informed by media outlets and websites, we are in the middle of a rape epidemic, with skyrocketing rates of rape (especially on the campus). Wendy McElroy discusses the new White House initiative for “affirmative consent” and the actual statistics on sexual crimes:

It is called “affirmative consent.” It is a new front in the growing regulatory oversight of the most intimate aspect of personal life: making love or having sex. If the White House Council on Women and Girls gets its way, then the doctrine of affirmative consent will regulate sex on a campus near you. It may already be happening.

Affirmative consent is sometimes called “enthusiastic consent” or “yes means yes.” It is intended to replace the current standard of “no means no.” By that standard, the noninitiating sexual partner — almost always assumed to be the woman — needs to decline sex in some manner for the act to be legally viewed as rape. She can verbally decline, try to leave, or push the man away; her “no” can be expressed in many ways.

[...]

The legal standard of affirmative consent is said to solve these perceived problems. The person initiating sex must receive explicit consent before and throughout the sex act in order to escape the specter of rape. In practical terms, this means the man must receive explicit consent from the woman prior to and during a sex act, or he becomes vulnerable to being criminally charged.

When I read this, I instantly imagined a re-worked “sexual purity test” questionnaire for the new affirmative consent requirement. If it hasn’t already been done, I’m sure it’ll be posted somewhere within the week.

On the rather more dubious claim that rape is increasing, the stats don’t back that up at all:

There is a proximate cause for the growing campaign to assert affirmative consent on campuses and in legislatures. On January 22, 2014, the White House Council on Women and Girls issued a paper entitled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” (PDF). It stated, “1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college.” That’s a stunning statistic. Or, it would be, if it were true. It is not. And the New York Times headline, “Obama Seeks to Raise Awareness of Rape on Campus,” printed on the same day as the council’s report was released, can’t turn falsehood into truth. Nevertheless, the task force established in the wake of the report will almost certainly validate its findings and act on them.

The truth: the rate of rape has fallen sharply since 1979.

In March 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice reported,

    From 1995 to 2005, the total rate of sexual violence committed against U.S. female residents age 12 or older declined 64% from a peak of 5.0 per 1,000 females in 1995 to 1.8 per 1,000 females in 2005 (figure 1, appendix table 1). It then remained unchanged from 2005 to 2010. Sexual violence against females includes completed, attempted, or threatened rape or sexual assault. In 2010, females nationwide experienced about 270,000 rape or sexual assault victimizations compared to about 556,000 in 1995. [PDF.]

The White House Council’s report is also biased in its presumption that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by men against women. The council states that “1 in 71” men is raped in his lifetime, as opposed to “1 in 5” women during her college years. But this figure appears to conflict with the landmark 2007 “Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates” conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) within the Department of Justice (DOJ). The BJS report indicated that around 60,500 prisoners were sexually abused in one year alone. Since the prison population is overwhelmingly male, it is reasonable to assume most of the victims were male as well. (Indeed, of the ten prison facilities found to have the highest incidence of “nonconsensual sexual acts,” eight had only male prisoners [PDF].)

March 5, 2014

President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative

Filed under: Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Jonah Goldberg thinks that Obama’s proposed “My Brother’s Keeper” should pass constitutional muster despite grumbling from the usual suspects:

The statistics are gloomy and familiar: One out of 15 black men is behind bars; one out of three can expect to be incarcerated at some point in his life.

The simplistic talk about how this is all the result of white racism misses the scope and nature of the problem. The vast majority of interracial violent crime is black on white. But most violent crime is actually intra-racial (i.e., black on black or white on white). Still, blacks are far more likely to die from homicide; half of murder victims are black, which may partly explain why black men in prison have a higher life expectancy than black men out of prison. And this leaves out all of the challenges — educational, economic, etc. — facing black men that don’t show up in crime statistics.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, also thinks the program is unconstitutional because there is no “compelling” government interest here: “It may be that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos are at-risk, but many are not, and many whites, Asians and others are. This is just another kind of ‘profiling.’”

Yes and no. Obviously there are at-risk youth of all races, but the problems facing young black men are so disproportionate, the difference of degree becomes a difference in kind. Yet, I also think Clegg is obviously right that this is another kind of profiling.

There’s an intriguing double standard that tangles up the Right and the Left. We’re told it is outrageous for government to assume that a young black male (in some contexts) is more likely to commit a crime; we’re also told that government should target young black men for help because they are more likely to commit crimes. Most liberals hate law-enforcement profiling but support — for want of a better term — social-justice profiling. For conservatives, it’s vice versa (though Clegg opposes both kinds of profiling, it’s worth noting). Yet the empirical arguments for positive and negative profiling are the same: The plight of young black men is different.

February 21, 2014

Online bounty hunting

Filed under: Business, Gaming, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:10

BBC News on a bounty being offered to track down and prosecute those involved in the DDoS attack on the game Wurm:

A bounty of 10,000 euros (£8,200) is being offered to catch the people who took the online multiplayer game Wurm offline.

The game’s servers were victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack this week and the game remains offline.

A DDoS attack forces a website offline by overloading the site’s servers with more data than it can process.

The bounty is being offered for any “tips leading to a conviction”.

Wurm is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that is played on personal computers.

The game takes place in virtual realms and everything in it is created by the players who are taking part. They can compete against each other or combine forces to defend a realm.

The attack happened just after an update to the game.

Writing on Wurm‘s website, one of its creators said it would be back online as soon as possible.

“We were the target of a DDoS attack and our hosting provider had to pull us off the grid for now.

“We will be back as soon as possible, but things are out of our hands since their other customers are affected.

“We can offer 10,000 euros for any tips or evidence leading to a conviction of the person responsible for this attack,” he wrote.

H/T to Hunter for the link.

February 16, 2014

The crime that launched a thousand (bad) editorials

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:20

In the New York Post, Larry Getlen retells the tale of Kitty Genovese’s murder and the myths that grew up around it:

The murder of Kitty Genovese shifted from crime to legend a few weeks later, when The New York Times erroneously reported that 38 of her neighbors had seen the attack and watched it unfold without calling for help.

The Times piece was followed by a story in Life magazine, and the narrative spread throughout the world, running in newspapers from Russia and Japan to the Middle East.

New York became internationally infamous as a city filled with thoughtless people who didn’t care about one another; where people could watch their neighbors get stabbed on the street without lifting a finger to help, leaving them to die ­instead in a pool of their own blood.

The people of Kew Gardens — before that, a relatively crime-free neighborhood where few bothered locking their doors — were referred to in the press as monsters.

But as journalist Kevin Cook details in his new book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (W.W. Nor­ton), some of the real thoughtlessness came from a police commissioner who lazily passed a falsehood to a journalist, and a media that fell so deeply in love with a story that it couldn’t be bothered to determine whether it was true.

February 13, 2014

Disproportional punishment

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:16

In the Washington Post, Jacob Sullum illustrates the weird disproportionality of the sentences handed out to child porn offenders versus the sentences received by actual child abusers:

The legal treatment of people caught with child pornography is so harsh that they can end up serving longer sentences than people who actually abuse children. In a 2009 analysis, federal public defender Troy Stabenow shows that a defendant with no prior criminal record and no history of abusing children would qualify for a sentence of 15 to 20 years based on a small collection of child pornography and one photo swap, while a 50-year-old man who encountered a 13-year-old girl online and lured her into a sexual relationship would get no more than four years.

Under federal law, receiving child pornography, which could mean downloading a single image, triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years — the same as the penalty for distributing it. Merely looking at a picture can qualify someone for the same charge, assuming he does so deliberately and is aware that Web browsers automatically make copies of visited sites. In practice, since the Internet nowadays is almost always the source of child pornography, this means that viewing and possession can be treated the same as trafficking.

The maximum penalty for receiving or distributing child porn is 20 years, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiff enhancements based on factors that are extremely common in these cases, such as using a computer, possessing more than 600 images (with each video clip counted as 75 images), and exchanging photos for something of value, including other photos. Federal agents reportedly found 200 child porn videos on Loskarn’s hard drive when they arrested him on December 11.

Ninety percent of federal child-porn prosecutions involve “non-production offenses” like Loskarn’s: downloading or passing along images of sexual abuse, as opposed to perpetrating or recording it. As a result of congressional edicts, the average sentence in such cases rose from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). The penalties have become so severe, the commission noted, that judges frequently find ways to dodge them, resulting in wildly inconsistent sentences for people guilty of essentially the same conduct.

January 22, 2014

Private prisons – crony capitalist palaces of injustice

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The United States has seen a vast increase in the number of drug offenders (the majority of them non-violent) and a corresponding increase in the private prison industry. As Wendy McElroy explains, these are not free-market solutions to a government problem: they’re monuments to crony capitalism:

The United States leads the world, by a large margin, in the production of at least one thing: prisoners. We have 25 percent of the world’s inmates, but just 5 percent of the world’s population.

Where do they come from? Well, since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, the number of American inmates has risen from approximately 300,000 to a currently estimated 2.3 million. This statistic points to the role of drug-related victimless “crime” in creating prisoners.

There are other sources. The “private prison complex” is a creation of crony capitalism through which privileged corporations are paid well for the “care” of inmates and for leasing out prison labor to other businesses.

Ten percent of American prisons are now “privately” operated, for-profit businesses. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of for-profit prisons rose 1600 percent, far outpacing the growth of public ones or the population at large. The likelihood of being arrested is already higher in America than anywhere else in the world. That likelihood will rise if the financial incentives to imprison more people continue or increase.

[...]

“Private” prisons are run by corporations to which government outsources the care of inmates. The corporation receives X tax dollars for each prisoner, quite apart from the actual cost of care. This builds in an incentive to skimp on services such as food and medical care. And, indeed, most prison contracts include a “low-crime tax” or “lock-up quota.” This system means taxpayers compensate the corporation for empty cells if the number of prisoners falls below a set quota. A recent report, “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,” found the average “occupancy guarantee” to be 90 percent; in four states, it is between 95 percent and 100 percent. Thus the “private” prison is guaranteed a tax-funded profit.

[...]

The “private” prison industry is private in the same sense that crony capitalism is capitalist. Namely, not at all. It is the antithesis of a truly private industry that competes in the free market, does not accept tax funds, and cannot compel labor. By contrast, the “private” prisons enjoy a monopoly over a service that is created by laws and sentencing policies. They receive tax money and preferential treatment. They exploit captive labor through circumstances similar to plantation slavery.

January 9, 2014

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, “a revolution in law-making, creating an unprecedented form of blank-cheque state power”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:30

Josie Appleton on the amazingly restrictive bill wending its way through the UK parliamentary process:

The bill includes Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs), which can be issued against anybody whose conduct — or threatened conduct — is capable — on the balance of probabilities — of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person.

Few things in the public space are incapable of at least annoying someone. Some people can be annoyed by busking, ball games, skateboarding, street preaching, protests, and all the rest of it. As the former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald QC judged: ‘It is difficult to imagine a broader concept than causing “nuisance” or “annoyance”. The phrase is apt to catch a vast range of everyday behaviours to an extent that may have serious implications for the rule of law.’

[...]

However, the problems don’t stop with clause 1. Other clauses in the bill include Public Space Protection Orders (clause 55), which allow local authorities to ban any activity which has a ‘negative effect on the quality of life’ of the area. This ban can be applied to particular groups or individuals, and can also impose conditions with which such groups must comply. This is drafted so broadly it could target anything from sleeping rough, collecting for charity, public drinking, begging, feeding pigeons, or smoking in parks. Indeed, the lead civil servant agrees that the law could be used against groups ‘if there is a localised issue’, such as a ‘group of Goths’ or ‘twentysomethings listening to music in a park’.

At base, this bill represents a revolution in law-making, creating an unprecedented form of blank-cheque state power. The aim is explicit: rather than create specific powers, it seeks to remove limitations to local authorities’ actions. The civil servant says: ‘We don’t want to put too many constraints in the legislation.’ Well, there is no danger of that.

The bill completes the transformation of the role of the British local authority, from a limited body concerned with public provision to a summary law-maker and public-order power.

January 6, 2014

Police killed in line of duty – the good news and the not-so-good news

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

The good news is that in the United States, the number of police officers killed in the performance of their duties dropped to a level last seen in 1959. The bad news is that the number of people killed by the police didn’t drop:

The go-to phrase deployed by police officers, district attorneys and other law enforcement-related entities to justify the use of excessive force or firing dozens of bullets into a single suspect is “the officer(s) feared for his/her safety.” There is no doubt being a police officer can be dangerous. But is it as dangerous as this oft-deployed justification makes it appear?

    The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.

    According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.

    Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms. The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.

This statistical evidence suggests being a cop is safer than its been since the days of Sheriff Andy Griffith. Back in 2007, the FBI put the number of justifiable homicides committed by officers in the line of duty at 391. That count only includes homicides that occurred during the commission of a felony. This total doesn’t include justifiable homicides committed by police officers against people not committing felonies and also doesn’t include homicides found to be not justifiable. But still, this severe undercount far outpaces the number of cops killed by civilians.

We should expect the number to always skew in favor of the police. After all, they are fighting crime and will run into dangerous criminals who may respond violently. But to continually claim that officers “fear for their safety” is to ignore the statistical evidence that says being a cop is the safest it’s been in years — and in more than a century when it comes to firearms-related deaths.

January 5, 2014

Infamous Edinburgh bodysnatchers’ final five victims?

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:36

If you’ve ever visited Edinburgh, you’ll probably have heard about the sinister pairing of Burke and Hare, the bodysnatchers who murdered 16 people and sold the bodies to medical students for dissection. In 2012, five skeletons were uncovered during a townhouse renovation in the Haymarket district, and it’s speculated that the four adults and a child were previously unknown victims:

Archaeologists have only now determined that the five date back to the early 19th century following studies by Historic Scotland and consultants Guard Archaeology.

Altogether around 60 bones were found, including four adult jawbones and others believed to be from a child.

The bodies are thought to be those of criminals or dwellers of the poor houses. Those that were not claimed were frequently used for either dissection, to be anatomical skeletons, or both.

Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people in Edinburgh in 1828 and sold the bodies as dissection material, but it is thought unlikely that the pair were responsible for the five found in Grove Street as the notoriety of their crimes means that all their victims are believed to have been accounted for.

John Lawson, from the Edinburgh City Council Archaeology Service, was the first to examine the remains on site.

He said: “At the end of the Enlightenment period there was significant demand for cad­avers and which indeed outstripped supply, and that led to a thriving illegal trade, with Burke and Hare clearly the most infamous of those who supplied bodies to medical schools.

“We can’t rule out that those found on Grove Street were sold by the resurrectionists, as they were called, although it might be a stretch to say it was Burke and Hare themselves, given their crimes are well-documented.”

He said that most would be used for dissection, with the skeletons of others used to teach anatomy to students.

But Lawson said it was still unclear why they would have been buried in the garden.

This is a good example of the division of work in the newsroom: the headline says the bodies are linked to Burke and Hare, while the article itself quotes an expert saying it’s “a stretch” to say that. Headlines are usually written by editors, rather than the journalists who put the stories together.

Older Posts »
« « Excerpt from Glenn Reynolds’ new book| Polarized America, not » »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: