Monday, March 05, 2018

Cruising the Web

Dan McLaughlin spreads "some common sense on arming teachers." It's all about federalism and recognizing that what might be good for one school district is a horrible idea for another district.
The common sense answer is to recognize that — just as with so many cultural divides in this country — the right answer will vary by school and by teacher. Lots of teachers across the country are totally unfamiliar and uncomfortable with guns, lots of communities are full of parents who are repelled by the whole idea of using guns for self-defense, and in many places, teachers’ unions would demand all sorts of expensive concessions or would simply block any effort to allow, let alone mandate, arming teachers. The last thing we should be doing is trying to draft inexperienced, gun-phobic schoolteachers, many of them completely inexperienced in any kind of physical confrontation, in an effort to turn every kindergarten classroom in the nation into Rorke’s Drift.

But the gun haters need some common sense, too. There are lots of communities where guns are as familiar to parents and teachers as a fire extinguisher. A school that has teachers, coaches, or staff who are familiar and trustworthy with firearms (especially military and law-enforcement veterans) should be free to let them bring guns to school for defense of themselves and others, with whatever safety precautions are appropriate to the layout of the school building. An armed defense is no guarantee against a determined shooter, for many reasons — the shooter has tactical surprise and may have multiple weapons or body armor, the armed defender may be away from his or her classroom or other place of storage for the gun, and marksmanship in a firefight is hard even for experts — but at least it improves the odds of survival for more people, as it did in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting in November.
I can't imagine that any teacher at my school would want to be armed in school, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some North Carolina schools where some teachers would be perfectly comfortable with the idea. Like most things in this country, this isn't a one-size-fits-all policy idea. And as McLaughlin points out, with the evidence showing that our schools are safer now than they were in the 1990s, we have to figure out what are the trade-offs with spending on armed guards in every school.
[T]he question of whether to take expensive steps like hiring armed guards needs to be evaluated at the local level based on the tradeoff between that reality and the fact that more spending on school safety will, in the long run, come out of the budgets for schools to educate kids. Those are discussions that local schools should make based on local conditions, too (urban schools in some high-crime areas already have guards, metal detectors, and the like).

But all sides of the gun debate should be willing to step back from rhetorical point-scoring and apply some common sense at the local level.
In fact, a lot of these discussions shouldn't even be taking place on the federal level, but I guess the toothpaste is out of the tube on the idea of the federal government sticking its nose into what are essentially state and local concerns.

Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology, has a column in the NYT advocating lowering the voting age to 16 so that young people can help elect politicians who will pass gun control. He argues that 16-year-olds have all the "cold" cognitive "skills necessary to make informed decisions. The dumb things that teenagers do are not the same as the type of thinking that would go into voting.
By that age, adolescents can gather and process information, weigh pros and cons, reason logically with facts and take time before making a decision. Teenagers may sometimes make bad choices, but statistically speaking, they do not make them any more often than adults do.

Hot cognitive abilities are those we rely on to make good decisions when we are emotionally aroused, in groups or in a hurry. If you are making a decision when angry or exhausted, the most critical skill is self-regulation, which enables you to control your emotions, withstand pressure from others, resist temptation and check your impulses. Unlike cold cognitive abilities, self-regulation does not mature until about age 22, research has shown. (This is a good reason to raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21 or older, as some have proposed.)
There you go - the perfect evidence to support raising the age for buying a gun while lowering it for voting. Amazing how that works, isn't it?

He ends by arguing that this moment after the Parkland shooting is similar to the outrage that led to the 26th Amendment because young men could be drafted to go to war, but couldn't vote for those politicians sending them to war.

Charles C. W. Cooke ridicules this sort of opportunistic argument.
The attempt was successful in 1971 because most voters were not only aware of what was happening in Vietnam, but also remembered what had happened in Korea, and during the two World Wars: Namely, that millions of men had fought and died for their country, but been unable to vote in its elections....

That so many were required to fight but also denied the vote was, eventually, seen as an injustice.
As well it should have been. However, the comparison to victims of school shootings just doesn't compare.
As disgusting as they are, school shootings do not in any way rise to this level. The United States is presently more peaceful than it has been for half a century — and possibly more. Over the last three decades, violent crime has plummeted, as has violence committed with firearms. Moreover, school shootings in fact seem to be down, even as mass attacks of all sorts seem to be up a little in general. Whatever impression we might get from the media — and from the president — we are not currently living through a “crisis” or an “epidemic” of violence. Rather, we have a narrow and extremely complex problem with copycat shooting attacks. We should, of course, address this problem, not ignore it. But there is addressing a problem and then there is panicking about a problem, and amending the Constitution so that 16- and 17-year-olds can vote on this topic would sit more in the latter category than the former.

There is always a risk of over-attending to spectacular attacks, and we are beginning to do that here. By the time the clock strikes midnight, an average of 21 Americans will have been killed by drivers aged between 16 and 20. Tomorrow, on average, eleven teenagers will die because they were texting while driving. This year, around 70 people will be killed by lawnmowers. These incidents will not prompt calls for profound constitutional change on the front of the New York Times, and nor should they. Some perspective is called for.
If 11 teenagers die every day because they are texting while driving, shouldn't we make it illegal for teens to own phones? If teens are driving drunk and killing 21 people a day, perhaps they shouldn't be allowing them to drive. Doesn't the same logic apply? I realize that there is a big difference between a shooter who goes to a school desiring to kill students and a teen to kills someone by accident because of bad decision-making. But the result is the same.

I sponsor an extracurricular activity called Student Legislative Assembly for which the kids write bills and we debate them as if were the North Carolina legislature. Every year, we lead the entire 10th grade class in debating bills that the leaders of the activity have written. We debated lowering the voting age to 16 with the 10th graders who are 15-16 years old about 10 years ago. The response from the students at that time was uniformly negative. The general thinking was that, while they might feel ready to vote, they don't trust their peers. I just wrote a note to the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee suggesting that they write the bill for this year's assembly which is actually on Friday. So maybe I'll get to see if 10th grade opinion has changed over the past decade.

For the media so determined to effect change after the Parkland shooting, perhaps they need to take the beam out of their own eyes. They seem to willfully ignore the role that media attention has in sparking copycat crimes. Chris Deaton writes,
News consumers are accustomed to seeing such harrowing footage. Tufekci, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina who researches technology and society, maintains they shouldn’t be. Backed by a growing body of scholarship that mass killers inspire imitators, she wants the media to restrain themselves in how much visceral evidence they broadcast of a shooter’s deeds. “This doesn’t mean censoring the news or not reporting important events of obvious news value,” she wrote in the Times in 2015. “It means not providing the killers with the infamy they seek.”

Tufekci’s argument concerns a “contagion” effect. As researchers at Arizona State University wrote in 2015, “mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past.” They found that school shootings become more likely in the 13 days following a previous one. The fear is that media exposure helps fuel such “copycat” acts. While the ASU researchers’ conclusion didn’t go that far—it determined only that contagion exists—physicist Sherry Towers, who led the study, admitted, “it appears that yes, national media coverage does end up increasing the frequency of these tragedies.”

Advocates have used similar findings to lobby the press for years. One such campaign, “Don’t Name Them,” began in 2010 with the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. It is a joint effort with the FBI and the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, created by John-Michael and Ellen Keyes, parents of Emily Keyes, who was killed in a 2006 Colorado school shooting. “Our efforts are in acknowledging that notoriety is often one of the desired goals of some of these perpetrators,” John-Michael says. “And if we can reduce that, it’s just one small piece that makes them pause before they go.”

The campaign’s recommendations aim for the balance in coverage that Tufekci encourages: “Sociologists and criminologists should study the criminal—but let’s not glorify the shooter by giving him valuable airtime,” its website reads.
But in this day of 24-hours cable and the competition for ratings accompanied by social media, there won't be some mutual disarmament among newscasters to be the ones not to talk about the murderer. And when one does it, the others will follow. And guess what, for all their contempt for the Constitutional rights of gun-owners, they do seem to have the ultimate respect for the Constitutional rights of those in the media. So there isn't a role for government here. All we have is the hope that media corporations will exercise the same restraint and care for preventing future murders that they are cheering in all the corporations who are announcing they won't sell guns to those under 21. Deaton gives the example of how the sports media have basically agreed not to broadcast people who storm the courts or fields in the middle of games they're broadcasting.
It’s evident that multiple network staffers, from producers up to corporate brass, have made a good-faith, often successful, effort to deny airtime to people who invade the field of play during televised sporting events. The logic is self-evident: If the attention-seeking interlopers don’t get their 15 seconds of fame, there will be fewer such incidents.

So the media can and do exercise self-control in denying notoriety to people who crave it. But so far only in a realm where the stakes are low. Perhaps they can learn to do the same when the stakes are life and death.

Ah, if only Donald Trump could watch this instead of some blowhards on Fox & Friends. Didn't they teach economics at Wharton?

CATO's Scott Lincicome has a great Twitter thread about all the reasons Trump's proposal for raising tariffs on steel and aluminum is so very stupid.

Now that the Janus v. AFSCME case about the right of a non-union worker to not be forced to pay "agency fees" to a public-sector union has been argued, David Harsanyi takes on the arguments that union supporters and the liberal justices put forward that a decision against AFSCME in this case would damage unions.
Most outlets framed the entire case as a concerted partisan attack on unions and, by extension, the Democratic Party. As a matter of legality, the intentions of those involved shouldn’t matter much. But the reason disparate groups attack public-sector unions is that the institution’s survival often rests on coercing Americans and undermining the First Amendment. If stripping a political advocacy group of the power to force workers to join their efforts is a crippling event, then it’s an event worth celebrating.

As it is, workers in union-heavy industries are typically under incredible pressure to join–in my experience, few bigger bullies exist in everyday American life than the union boss. Yet general union membership continues to crater. Those who resist these efforts are often accused of being “free riders,” because they purportedly benefit from collective bargaining but refuse to pay in. This is an exceptionally peculiar argument coming from organizations for which the central mission, as far as I can tell, is to ensure that the least effective workers are protected at the expense of the most effective workers.

More than that, though, the entire case against Janus not only rests on coercion but on a debatable — if not, dubious — notion. John Doe must join a union, because he already benefits from collective bargaining negotiations, union advocates argue. Does he? Even if we concede that collective bargaining negotiations might raise the average salary of teachers, it may very well depress his salary. It is just as easy to argue that collective bargaining hurts the good teacher. Public-sector unions are not only arguing that workers must join a collective and subvert their individual rights, but that they must accept an ideological contention.
Harsanyi reminds us that, when public teachers strike, they're not the only ones affected. The families of students in West Virginia whose schools are closed are also affected.
Most of those average workers in West Virginia have no choice when it comes to their children’s educations.

Yet nearly every story about this situation focuses on the plight of poor teachers rather than powerless parents. On one hand, we hear that teachers unions are vital to the economy because teachers would make far less in the private sector. In the next breath, we hear them argue that teachers are substantially underpaid compared to what others earn in the private sector (and some in cases they are right). So there’s a simple way to find out how much public-sector employees are worth individually, and that’s breaking the union’s monopoly.

If Americans want to join organizations that undercut initiative and achievement to slide employees into safe, pre-determined slots regardless of their ability or work ethic, that’s their business. If they want to break the law and blackmail entire communities who have no choice to walk away, they should be fired. If they want to force coworkers to pay for their political activities, they should be stopped. And if they claim that most teachers want to willingly participate in union efforts, the only way to find out is by giving those public employees a choice.
How about the parent who has to rush around to find and pay for child care because the schools are closed? Don't they also deserve sympathy?

And why should the state compel dues from workers to fund a union that will support one party's candidates and will then negotiate with those candidates when they're in office to raise taxes to fund higher salaries for those workers?