Driving a Stake in the Heart of Bloodthirsty IRS Agents, Americans Living Abroad Renounce U.S. Citizenship in Record NumbersPosted: February 9, 2016
Uncle Sam’s Global Tax Police Crawl Over International Borders to Extract Tribute from U.S. Citizens.
The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.
“Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live.”
It’s a trend that’s been increasing in recent years. Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect.
“For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.”
Eighteen times as many Americans renounced their citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 compared with 2008. Last year was the third record-breaking year in a row.
“The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.”
Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.
The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.
It requires individuals to report certain foreign assets and banks to disclose all foreign accounts held by Americans. That comes on top of another rule that requires Americans to disclose foreign bank holdings above $10,000. Read the rest of this entry »
Grab your popcorn and enjoy the show.
Shawn Macomb writes: So now that the Democratic party is well and truly feeling the Bern, how should those of us who identify not as democratic socialists nor oligarchs nor oligarch-enablers feel about those lighter-shade-of-Mao “Bernie 2016″ yard signs reddening up the landscape?
“The Sandernistas on the march will be more fun to watch than a crossover season of Girls and The Walking Dead—if, that is, one could still stomach watching Lena Dunham now that she’s thrown in her lot with that pantsuited Goldman Sachs subsidiary who portrays Hillary Clinton on various debate stages and social media accounts.”
The perhaps counterintuitive answer is . . . thrilled. Ecstatic, even. The Sandernistas on the march will be more fun to watch than a crossover season of Girls and The Walking Dead—if, that is, one could still stomach watching Lena Dunham now that she’s thrown in her lot with that pantsuited Goldman Sachs subsidiary who portrays Hillary Clinton on various debate stages and social media accounts.
Skeptical? Allow me to relate a single line from Outsider in the House, Sanders’s memoir of his 1996 congressional campaign: “I’m not sure how many of them actually heard my fourteen-second speech about the dangers of Newt Gingrich, given when I stepped out of my tiger costume.”
Sanders is describing his collaboration with the Bread and Puppet Domestic Resurrection Circus, “a political company whose accomplished theatrical productions are,” the then-congressman assured us, “truly radical”—radical enough to induce a sitting congressman to hold up the hind quarters of a tiger costume, anyway. “It’s better than being a horse’s ass,” Sanders writes, though whether he speaks from experience is not immediately clear.
“Alas, the charge of ‘insufficient Leninism’ is not the campaign-killer it once was. The Sandernistas don’t care about realpolitik lectures from ex-congressmen or the bitter ravings of the man whose 2000 campaign on the Green party ticket robbed the nation of four-to-eight glorious years of prime-time PowerPoint presentations from President Gore.”
Sure, the tiger-costume anecdote is a bit rich coming from the same guy who a few pages before slagged freshman Republicans who slept in their offices to save taxpayer cash back in ’95 as “total nuts” making “some kind of weird political statement.” But Sanders’s tale takes an even more absurdist turn as he recounts his address to the all-volunteer Mississquoi Valley Emergency Rescue Service later that same day. “Person after person,” Sanders notes, “talked about the trauma of seeing people die and the joy of saving people’s lives.” The contrast “from radical theatrics to community-based service,” he allows, “was striking.” Indeed. But “the differences strike me as more superficial than deep,” Sanders inexplicably feels compelled to add, as “both the rescue workers and the drama troupe are focused on . . . giving of themselves to build community.”
Even if he isn’t plotting to replace America’s first-responders with a puppeteer corps, Bernie Sanders is clearly delusional enough to be president. But is he delusional in the appropriate way?
Many of his erstwhile ideological allies are not so sure. Former congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, for example, snarked to National Journal, “I don’t understand what [Sanders] running for president would do other than frankly show that his viewpoint is not the majority viewpoint.” In a scathing Salon piece, writer Charles Davis averred that while, yes, Sanders “tosses rhetorical Molotovs at America’s 21st-century robber barons like few other national politicians,” he’s also “rather non-threatening, his politics reformist, not revolutionary—more old-school liberal than Leninist.” Read the rest of this entry »
Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne report: The intelligence community has deemed some of Hillary Clinton’s emails “too damaging” to national security to release under any circumstances, according to a U.S. government official close to the ongoing review. A second source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, backed up the finding.
The determination was first reported by Fox News, hours before the State Department formally announced Friday that seven email chains, found in 22 documents, will be withheld “in full” because they, in fact, contain “Top Secret” information.
The State Department, when first contacted by Fox News about withholding such emails Friday morning, did not dispute the reporting – but did not comment in detail. After a version of this report was first published, the Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press that the seven email chains would be withheld. The department has since confirmed those details publicly.
The decision to withhold the documents in full, and not provide even a partial release with redactions, further undercuts claims by the State Department and the Clinton campaign that none of the intelligence in the emails was classified when it hit Clinton’s personal server.
Fox News is told the emails include intelligence from “special access programs,” or SAP, which is considered beyond “Top Secret.” A Jan. 14 letter, first reported by Fox News, from intelligence community Inspector General Charles McCullough III notified senior intelligence and foreign relations committee leaders that “several dozen emails containing classified information” were determined to be “at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, AND TOP SECRET/SAP levels.”
The State Department is trying to finish its review and public release of thousands of Clinton emails, as the Democratic presidential primary contests get underway in early February. Read the rest of this entry »
“I don’t think it is about Donald Trump at all. I don’t even think it is about the debate. … This is about a threat made against someone in the media. Corey Lewandowski made a threat, basically saying that, ‘Hey, Megyn Kelly, you don’t want to see what happens to you again, what happened after that debate.’ I mean, that — this is no longer a campaign. It’s a Sopranos in khakis. I mean, this is nuts. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, Megyn, you got a nice gig going. It would be a real shame if something were to happen to you.’ And this is grotesque to me. And it’s not about Fox News. It is about ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN. What if their anchor was faced with a threat because they didn’t kiss the ring of a petulant king? This is a big problem, because once you start bowing because you don’t please them because you’re scared, then you lose. You’re no longer a journalist. And if you don’t think this is a big deal that she was threatened, if you don’t think this was a big deal, you do not belong in this profession. Go do infomercials selling Flowbees, because that’s where you belong.”
Noting a marked shift in China’s behaviour around the islands since last December, a Japanese foreign ministry official said: “The situation in the East China Sea is getting worse.”
Tension over the group of five uninhabited islands and three barren rocks mounted in September 2012, when the Japanese government — which has administered the islands since 1895 — bought them from a private owner.
Japanese officials fear Beijing is using the shift in international attention towards the South China Sea — where China has been constructing artificial islands — to mount a new push in the waters further north.
Tokyo has formally protested the Chinese actions, which it calls a “forceful, coercive attempt to change the status quo”, but has so far avoided any escalation with countermeasures of its own.
In late December, China sailed an armed vessel into territorial waters around the disputed islands for the first time.
Sailing with three other Chinese vessels, a former naval frigate converted for coastguard use but carrying four quick-firing 37mm cannon, entered the 24 nautical mile “contiguous zone” around the islands for the first time on December 22, and the 12 nautical mile territorial waters on December 26. Read the rest of this entry »
On the essays shelf:
My grandmother had a big illustrated copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, which I had practically memorized by the time I was 6 years old. The illustrations were goofy and elaborate, and I somehow “got the joke” that so
much of it was a joke, a satire on the do-good-ish bromides of self-serious Puritans who worry about their neighbor’s morality. Obviously I wouldn’t have put it that way at age 6, but I understood that the book in my hands, the huge book, was not serious at all.
Clearly, many others did not get the joke. Benjamin Franklin, throughout his life, was a master at parody and satire, as well as such a master that he is still fooling people! He was his very own The Onion! He presented ridiculous arguments and opinions in a way where people nodded their heads in agreement, and then afterwards wondered uneasily if they were being made fun of. Their uneasiness was warranted. Yes, Benjamin Franklin was making fun of them.
Franklin played such a huge role not only in creating bonding-mechanisms between the colonies – with newspapers, his printing service, the Almanac – but in science and community service (he started the first fire-brigade in Philadelphia on the British model. He opened the first public lending library in the colonies), as well as his writing. He was an Elder Statesman of the relatively young men who made up the Revolution. There were so many of “those guys” who played a hand in the Revolution, but perhaps Benjamin Franklin played the most crucial role in his time as a diplomatic presence in France, where he became so beloved a figure that the French fell in love with him, commemorated him in songs and portraits, putting his mug on plates and cups and platters and buttons – so that in a time when nobody knew really what anybody looked like, Benjamin Franklin was instantly recognizable the world over. Read the rest of this entry »
Mitchell Blatt continues:
The Guojiang Subtitle Group, which is made up of about six dozen volunteers across China, subtitles American debates and uploads them to Chinese video sharing sites like Sina. But if the hope is that Chinese viewers would be more supportive of democracy after watching them, we are in for a disappointment. In fact, some Chinese viewers come away thinking democracy is a joke. “There isn’t that much discussion of policy issues. Many remarks are just sensational,” the New York Times quoted a former business consultant as saying. Other viewers compared it to watching a reality show or a sitcom.
To be fair, the Chinese aren’t alone in laughing at The Donald and other ridiculous characters in politics. A debate moderator accused Trump of running “a comic book version of presidential campaign, and FOX News host Bill O’Reilly opened a segment of his show by imagining what the GOP primary contenders would be like if they were stars of a reality television show. Joking about politics is an international pass time.
Even in China, with its limited scope of political discourse, social media users mock local government officials and joke about corruption. One popular joke holds that in America, rich people get involved in politics, while in China people involved in politics get rich.
Still, from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had during the four years I’ve been living in China, it seems as if the Chinese public views the flaws in democracy as the rule rather than the exception. Americans have our complaints—and rightfully so—about politicians, but at the end of the day, most of us believe in Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Politicians might say stupid things to appeal to the public, but isn’t that better than the public having no say at all? By contrast, Chinese people often look at countries with unstable or failing democratic systems and use those systems as examples of why democracy itself is flawed. Thailand (with its many coups), Libya, and Iraq are frequently cited examples in China in the past few years.
But the Chinese save their worst criticism and their favorite cautionary tales about the foibles of democracy for Taiwan…(read more)
In the document, which was known as the Second Treaty of Paris because the Treaty of Paris was also the name of the agreement that had ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, Britain officially agreed to recognize the independence of its 13 former colonies as the new United States of America.
In addition, the treaty settled the boundaries between the United States and what remained of British North America. U.S. fishermen won the right to fish in the Grand Banks, off the Newfoundland coast, and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Both sides agreed to ensure payment to creditors in the other nation of debts incurred during the war and to release all prisoners of war. The United States promised to return land confiscated during the war to its British owners, to stop any further confiscation of British property and to honor the property left by the British army on U.S. shores, including Negroes or slaves. Both countries assumed perpetual rights to access the Mississippi River.
Despite the agreement, many of these issues remained points of contention between the two nations in the post-war years. The British did not abandon their western forts as promised and attempts by British merchants to collect outstanding debts from Americans were unsuccessful as American merchants were unable to collect from their customers, many of whom were struggling farmers.
In Massachusetts, where by 1786 the courts were clogged with foreclosure proceedings, farmers rose in a violent protest known as Shay’s Rebellion, which tested the ability of the new United States to maintain law and order within its borders and instigated serious reconsideration of the Articles of Confederation.
‘We Caved’: How Barack Obama’s Idealistic Rhetoric Collided With the Cold Realities of War and Dictatorship in the Middle EastPosted: January 9, 2016
The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.
Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.
“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”
— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term
For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.
“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”
— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term
Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.
“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”
— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there
Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”
Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »
The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee, 528 pages, Simon & Schuster, Nonfiction.
Nicolas Gattig reports: In 1922, a Japanese immigrant to the United States named Takao Ozawa applied for citizenship with the U.S. Supreme Court. Having lived in America for almost 30 years, Ozawa was fluent in English and an active Christian, assuring the court that his skin was “white in color” and that he wished to “return the kindness which our Uncle Sam has extended me.” Still, his appeal was denied — naturalization at the time was exclusive to Caucasians.
“Asian-Americans have experienced both the promise of America as well as the racism of America. As we debate what kind of America we want to be in the 21st century — with concerns about immigration policy, racial equality and our ties to the rest of the world — Asian Americans and their long history in the U.S. can inform on these issues.”
— Author Erika Lee
A recurring theme in Erika Lee’s new book “The Making of Asian America: A History” is the humiliations of immigrant life — the “collective burden” of people who have to keep proving they are worthy. With a keen eye for telling quotes, Lee shows the human dimensions of Asian immigration to the U.S., which now spans 23 different groups and makes up 6 percent of the total population. Incidentally, she tells of a nation expanding its identity, of the inclusion of people once vilified.
From the start, Japanese sojourners feature prominently in this history, as the second largest group of Asian immigrants —the bulk being Chinese — during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hailing mostly from Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, they were mainly young men dodging military service or farmers fleeing the taxation of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) government.
The immigrant dream was soon interrupted. The “gentlemen’s agreement” between the U.S. and Japan was signed in 1908, barring all Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. This spurred illegal immigration via Mexico, and in a quirky aside Lee quotes a letter by a stateside contact named Nakagawa, who advised border-crossers laconically: “Some people go to Nogales. But sometimes they are killed by the natives. So you had better not go that way.”
The book reminds us how hedging the “Yellow Peril” was a part of U.S. immigration policy, culminating in 1924, when “immigration from Asia was banned completely, with the establishment of an ‘Asiatic Barred Zone.’”
“There is widespread condemnation. But there is also a lot of amnesia about WWII incarceration, a lot of misinformation and misremembering. So the lesson still needs to be learned by many, and with great urgency.”
Fitting this theme, two whole chapters here are devoted to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Army, the “military necessity” allowed for the U.S. government to round up all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, without due process or proof of wrongdoing. In fact, the measure was unwarranted: reports by the FBI and other offices showed that second-generation Japanese Americans were “pathetically eager” to show their loyalty to the U.S.
“Since the 1980s, American media have been praising the ‘rise of Asian America,’ pointing to Chinese and Indian Americans who enjoy better schooling and salaries than many whites. Still, it is misleading to speak of a ‘model minority.’ A wildly disparate community, Asian Americans also grapple with lower income and high crime rates.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans spent the war in camps, many losing their homes and livelihood. About 5,500 internees renounced their U.S. citizenship — becoming “Native American Aliens” — and some of them were deported to Japan. Read the rest of this entry »
Owen Boss writes: The release next week of “13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” — which tells the true story of the security contractors who responded to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya — may force Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to wade back into a debate she hoped would be behind her, political watchdogs said.
“This takes an issue that is not good for her out of her control and pushes it out into popular culture, which is much worse for her than having it discussed on cable news.”
— Cornell University law professor William Jacobson
“Anything that keeps the Benghazi issue alive is a negative for Hillary Clinton. Period,” said Cornell University law professor William Jacobson. “Whether it’s a movie, or an event, or a hearing — anything that keeps this alive is not good for her. That’s not what she wants to be talking about.”
The big-budget action-drama, directed by Michael Bay, is focused on the American contractors who valiantly battled the terrorists who overran the compound on Sept. 11, 2012, and killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. State Department communications expert Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, a Winchester native.
“Anything that keeps the Benghazi issue alive is a negative for Hillary Clinton. Period. Whether it’s a movie, or an event, or a hearing — anything that keeps this alive is not good for her. That’s not what she wants to be talking about.”
— Cornell University law professor William Jacobson
Clinton, who was U.S. secretary of state at the time of the attack, has been roundly criticized for not doing enough to secure the consulate, and was forced to defend herself against the allegations during a grueling, daylong appearance before the Republican-led Select Committee on Benghazi in October.
The movie, starring Newton native John Krasinski and Toby Stephens, will be released by Paramount Pictures on Jan. 15, less than a month before the Iowa caucus, an inopportune time for Clinton’s campaign, Jacobson said. Read the rest of this entry »
NARRATIVE, INTERRUPTED: U.S. Becoming Safer Compared to Europe in Both Fatalities and Frequency of Mass Public ShootingsPosted: January 8, 2016
US Now Ranks 11th in Fatalities and 12th in Frequency.
“But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.”
– President Obama, announcing his new executive orders on guns, January 7, 2016
This claim is simply not true. Between January 2009 and December 2015, there are 11 European countries with a higher frequency of these mass public shootings than the US, and 10 European countries with a higher rate of deaths from these attacks.
Indeed, over that same period of time, the European Union (EU) suffered 303 deaths from mass public shootings, while the US had 199. In terms of injuries from these attacks the gap was even much greater, with EU countries facing 680 versus just 197 for the US. However, given the EU’s larger population, the per million people fatality rate for the US and the EU as a whole are virtually identical (0.62 for the US and 0.60 for the EU). By contrast, the injury rate in the EU is much higher (0.61 for the US and 1.34 for the EU).
This past year was a particularly bad one for Europe, with 8 Mass Public Shootings versus only 4 for the United States. Indeed, these 8 Mass Public Shootings for Europe in 2015 count for one-third of all their attacks over the entire seven year period of time…(read more)
Even if one puts it in terms of frequency, the president’s statement is still false, with the US ranking 12th compared to European countries.
Click on tables to enlarge them.
You Know Less Than You Think About Guns
Brian Doherty writes: “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America,” President Barack Obama proclaimed after the October mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. “So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work—or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns—is not borne out by the evidence.”
In this single brief statement, Obama tidily listed the major questions bedeviling social science research about guns—while also embodying the biggest problem with the way we process and apply that research. The president’s ironclad confidence in the conclusiveness of the science, and therefore the desirability of “common-sense gun safety laws,” is echoed widely with every new mass shooting, from academia to the popular press to that guy you knew from high school on Facebook.
In April 2015, the Harvard gun-violence researcher David Hemenway took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to declare in a headline: “There’s scientific consensus on guns—and the NRA won’t like it.” Hemenway insisted that researchers have definitively established “that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be…that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime…and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates.” He concludes: “There is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide.”
But the science is a lot less certain than that. What we really know about the costs and benefits of private gun ownership and the efficacy of gun laws is far more fragile than what Hemenway and the president would have us believe.
More guns do not necessarily mean more homicides. More gun laws do not necessarily mean less gun crime. Finding good science is hard enough; finding good social science on a topic so fraught with politics is nigh impossible. The facts then become even more muddled as the conclusions of those less-than-ironclad academic studies cycle through the press and social media in a massive game of telephone. Despite the confident assertions of the gun controllers and decades of research, we still know astonishingly little about how guns actually function in society and almost nothing at all about whether gun control policies actually work as promised.
Do More Guns Mean More Homicides?
“More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on August 26, 2015, just after the grisly on-air murder of two television journalists in Virginia. It’s a startling fact, and true.
But do the number of guns in circulation correlate with the number of gun deaths? Start by looking at the category of gun death that propels all gun policy discussion: homicides. (Gun suicides, discussed further below, are a separate matter whose frequent conflation with gun crime introduces much confusion into the debate.)
In 1994 Americans owned around 192 million guns, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice. Today, that figure is somewhere between 245 and 328 million, though as Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss in their thorough 2014 book The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press) wisely concluded, “the bottom line is that no one knows how many firearms are in private hands in the United States.” Still, we have reason to believe gun prevalence likely surpassed the one-gun-per-adult mark early in President Barack Obama’s first term, according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report that relied on sales and import data.
Yet during that same period, per-capita gun murders have been cut almost in half.
One could argue that the relevant number is not the number of guns, but the number of people with access to guns. That figure is also ambiguous. A Gallup poll in 2014 found 42 percent of households claiming to own a gun, which Gallup reports is “similar to the average reported to Gallup over the past decade.” But those looking for a smaller number, to downplay the significance of guns in American life, can rely on the door-to-door General Social Survey, which reported in 2014 that only 31 percent of households have guns, down 11 percentage points from 1993’s 42 percent. There is no singular theory to explain that discrepancy or to be sure which one is closer to correct—though some doubt, especially as gun ownership continues to be so politically contentious, that people always reliably report the weapons they own to a stranger literally at their door.
The gun murder rate in 1993 was 7.0 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (Those reports rely on death certificate reporting, and they tend to show higher numbers than the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, though both trend the same.) In 2000 the gun murder rate per 100,000 was 3.8. By 2013, the rate was even lower, at 3.5, though there was a slight upswing in the mid-00s.
This simple point—that America is awash with more guns than ever before, yet we are killing each other with guns at a far lower rate than when we had far fewer guns—undermines the narrative that there is a straightforward, causal relationship between increased gun prevalence and gun homicide. Even if you fall back on the conclusion that it’s just a small number of owners stockpiling more and more guns, it’s hard to escape noticing that even these hoarders seem to be harming fewer and fewer people with their weapons, casting doubt on the proposition that gun ownership is a political crisis demanding action.
In the face of these trend lines—way more guns, way fewer gun murders—how can politicians such as Obama and Hillary Clinton so successfully capitalize on the panic that follows each high profile shooting? Partly because Americans haven’t caught on to the crime drop. A 2013 Pew Research Poll found 56 percent of respondents thought that gun crime had gone up over the past 20 years, and only 12 percent were aware it had declined.
Do Gun Laws Stop Gun Crimes?
The same week Kristof’s column came out, National Journal attracted major media attention with a showy piece of research and analysis headlined “The States With The Most Gun Laws See The Fewest Gun-Related Deaths.” The subhead lamented: “But there’s still little appetite to talk about more restrictions.”
Critics quickly noted that the Journal‘s Libby Isenstein had included suicides among “gun-related deaths” and suicide-irrelevant policies such as stand-your-ground laws among its tally of “gun laws.” That meant that high-suicide, low-homicide states such as Wyoming, Alaska, and Idaho were taken to task for their liberal carry-permit policies. Worse, several of the states with what the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence considers terribly lax gun laws were dropped from Isenstein’s data set because their murder rates were too low!
Another of National Journal‘s mistakes is a common one in gun science: The paper didn’t look at gun statistics in the context of overall violent crime, a much more relevant measure to the policy debate. After all, if less gun crime doesn’t mean less crime overall—if criminals simply substitute other weapons or means when guns are less available—the benefit of the relevant gun laws is thrown into doubt. When Thomas Firey of the Cato Institute ran regressions of Isenstein’s study with slightly different specifications and considering all violent crime, each of her effects either disappeared or reversed.
Rick Moran writes: The new year has gotten off to quite a start. Shia Iran and the Sunni Arab states have broken relations and are beginning to sound a lot like belligerents ready to go to war. The Chinese stock market tanked by nearly 7% while the Dow bled 300 points to open the year. And with the Iowa caucuses 30 days away, we will soon be faced with the probable choice of electing a screeching liberal harridan or a screaming celebrity tycoon.
But beyond that, there are at least 10 reasons why the global outlook for 2016 is so bad, we will end up envying the ostrich. The Eurasia Group has issued its annual list of the political and geopolitical trends that threaten stability, and if only a couple of these trends end up materializing, we’re going to wish we never woke up on New Year’s Day.
1. The Hollow Alliance
The trans-Atlantic partnership has been the world’s most important alliance for nearly 70 years, but it’s now weaker, and less relevant, than at any point in decades. It no longer plays a decisive role in addressing any of Europe’s top priorities.
2. Closed Europe
In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe — and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the new Europe was founded.
3. The China Footprint
The recognition in 2016 that China is both the most important and most uncertain driver of a series of global outcomes will increasingly unnerve other international players who aren’t ready for it, don’t understand or agree with Chinese priorities, and won’t know how to respond to it.
4. ISIS and “Friends”
For 2016, this problem will prove unfixable, and Isil (and other terrorist organisations) will take advantage of that. The most vulnerable states will remain those with explicit reasons for Isil to target them (France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States)…(read more)
Source: PJ Media
A fifth person affiliated with a bookstore that sells books critical of China’s government went missing last week, raising concerns over Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Fiona Law reports: Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of the co-owner of a bookstore specializing in works critical of the Chinese government, that has prompted local lawmakers to voice fears that mainland Chinese law-enforcement agencies crossed the border to detain him.
Hong Kong and foreign media have reported that the wife of Lee Bo, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, told police on Friday that Mr. Lee had gone missing and that four people who worked for the bookstore or a publisher affiliated with it have gone missing in recent months, including one who disappeared in Thailand.
“It is terrifying,” said Albert Ho, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “So the mainland police can publicly arrest people in Hong Kong?”
On Sunday, a group of lawmakers and activists marched to the central Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, demanding answers about the missing people. Read the rest of this entry »