Correction on its Way

I just got a tweet from Jochen Wegner, online editor of Die Zeit, informing me that the correction to story number one was mentioned in the comments to that article (I couldn't find it but that doesn't mean it's not there), and that he will be looking into correction number two.

So it looks like Reporters Without Borders will be getting some money. 


Most Victims of Police Shootings in the USA are Armed with Deadly Weapons

The Washington Post is keeping a tally of people shot by the police in the USA this year. Their count is 558 so far. That sounds like a lot, and perhaps it is, even for a nation of 318 million people. But it should be kept in mind that the overwhelming majority of these cases involve people armed with deadly weapons, or things (like pellet guns) which could be mistaken for deadly weapons. Here is a random sample of some of the most recent cases:

Timothy Johnson, a 41-year-old man armed with a knife, was shot on July 28, 2015, in Manila, Ark. Manila police were responding to a report of a disturbance. Johnson approached an officer and refused to drop his knife.

Samuel Forgy, a 23-year-old white man armed with a knife, was shocked with a stun gun and shot on July 27, 2015, in an apartment building in Boulder, Colo. Forgy refused to drop his knife when Boulder City police officers responded to a report of a stabbing.

Timothy Milliken, a 56-year-old man armed with a knife, was shot on July 27, 2015, in a house in Irmo, S.C. Lexington County sheriff's deputies were called to a residence and found Milliken stabbing a family member with a knife.

An unidentified person, a man armed with a gun, was shot on July 27, 2015, in Houma, La. Officers from the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office and the Houma Police Department were pursuing the man in his vehicle when he climbed out with the gun.

Khari Westly , a 33-year-old black man armed with a gun, was shot on July 26, 2015, in Shreveport, La. Shreveport police were called to investigate a report that Westly was holding two women hostage. When officers found him, he shot at police.

Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old white man driving a vehicle, was shot on July 26, 2015, in Seneca, S.C. Hammond attempted to evade a traffic stop and allegedly drove his car toward a Seneca police officer.

Roger Braswell, a 50-year-old white man armed with a gun, was shot on July 25, 2015, in Decatur, Ga. Decatur County sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a suicidial man. When they arrived at Braswell's home, he met them at the back door, firing his gun.

An unidentified person, a 60-year-old white man, was shot on July 25, 2015, in New Orleans, La. The man struck four homes and a number of cars with his pickup truck before he allegedly climbed out and pointed the gun at New Orleans police officers. Witnesses dispute whether he was armed.

Earl Jackson, a 59-year-old black man armed with a gun, was shot on July 25, 2015, in Micanopy, Fla. When a Florida Highway patrolman stopped to investigate Jackson's disabled vehicle, he opened fire on the officer.

Bryan Keith Day, a 36-year-old man with a toy weapon, was shot on July 25, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nev. Day shot a Las Vegas Metropolitan police officer in the face with a pellet gun as the officer responded to a report of a robbery.

Lee Aaron Gerston, a 30-year-old man armed with a knife, was shocked with a stun gun and shot on July 24, 2015, in Pinnacle, N.C. Gerston robbed a tanning salon and stabbed another man. He was shot after Stokes County police used a stun gun on him and he refused to drop his knife.

An unidentified person, a man armed with a gun, was shot on July 24, 2015, in Studio City, Calif. Los Angeles Police responded to reports of a man firing a gun in Studio City. The man refused to drop his weapon when police ordered him to do so.

Derek Wolfsteller, an unarmed 31-year-old man, was shocked with a stun gun and shot on July 23, 2015, in a restaurant in Plymouth, Minn. A Plymouth police officer responding to a disturbance call at a fast-food restaurant shot Wolfsteller during a struggle. A week before the incident, Wolfsteller's grandparents had called Plymouth police for help dealing with a mental health crisis what Wolfsteller was experiencing.

Dontae L. Martin, a 34-year-old black man armed with a gun, was shot on July 23, 2015, in Dayton, Ohio. Martin pointed a gun at Montgomery County deputies who approached his crashed vehicle.


'Die Zeit' Correction Watch: 1 Error Secretly Corrected, 1 Still There

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UPDATE (31 July 2105): Both errors have been corrected as of now. 

Let me preface this post by saying that I quite like Die Zeit, the august German weekly newspaper. I have subscribed to Die Zeit for years, and have derived much pleasure and enlightenment from it, especially the Feuilleton. Sometimes I disagree with its editorial line, but who doesn't?

So it's in a spirit of amity and constructive criticism that I point out what I consider to be errors and ethical lapses in its reporting. Such as yesterday, when I tweeted Jochen Bittner and Sabine Rückert to complain about errors in articles about the United States criminal justice system, after there was no response to tweets I sent to the authors of the articles themselves.*

And now I can report a partial victory for accuracy!

Error Number One Secretly Corrected

After I pointed out a mistake in the story published yesterday on the website of Die Zeit, someone silently corrected that error. Instead of stating that 'most' persons killed by the police this year in the USA were not white, the article has been changed to: "663 people were [killed by police] this year ... compared to their percentage of the population, there were disproportionately many blacks and hispanics."

That is accurate. Of course the article fails to mention that the vast majority of those killed were armed, but we can debate whether that is necessary context. I think it is, others many not. And the author of the piece does note later that the prevalence of weapons in the USA is an important factor.

Of course, the article was silently corrected. I can find no indication on the website that this assertion has been changed -- not in a note at the bottom of the text (standard policy in the USA), or in the comments (there are 17 pages of them, so any notice here would be easily overlooked). Nor did the journalist in question or any of the editors I emailed respond to my request, except to secretly correct the mistake.

This does not conform to the standards used by the vast majority of U.S. newspapers, or to the Code of Ethics of the American Society of Professional Journalists:

– Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.

– Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.

But of course, Hamburg is not in the USA. However, Die Zeit has its own code of ethics which says basically the same thing (g) and adds (my translation): "It is unacceptable to silently correct mistakes in the content of an online article." (emphasis added)

It certainly looks like that's what happened here, doesn't it?

Error Number Two Still Out There

The second error I pointed to was the assertion in an August 2014 article called (my translation of the title) Saying Goodbye to the Dream of a Post-Racial Society (g) in which author Sebastian Moll asserted that 30% of the American population is black, and that 60% of the people in American prisons and jails are black. As I pointed out back on July 17th, both statics are way off. I tweeted Mr. Moll requesting he correct the piece, and received, as you might expect, no response. 

13 days later, this error stands uncorrected (g). I am going to start a 'Die Zeit Correction Watch'. Each day I'll check to see if this mistake has been corrected, and each day it hasn't, I will tweet Die Zeit editors and the story's author to politely remind them that there is a mistake on their website.

I'll start tomorrow. Just to make it interesting: For every day the article goes uncorrected after today, I will donate 1 Euro to the organization Reporters Without Borders, which advocates for the rights of journalists worldwide.

Wait, no, that sets the wrong incentive. Right now, I plan to donate 30 Euros to RWB. For every day this article goes uncorrected, I will reduce that amount by one euro. So if they correct it tomorrow, RWB gets 30 euros. After 15 days, 15 euros. After 30 days, if the mistake is still there, RWB gets bupkus. Zilch. Nada. Gaaar Nichts.

To make things fair, I will even count a silent correction as a correction, even though that violates Die Zeit's own policy.

Let the countdown begin!

Continue reading "'Die Zeit' Correction Watch: 1 Error Secretly Corrected, 1 Still There" »


Uncontrolled Immigration Endangers the Welfare State

People ask nervously: Why am I interested in European immigration policy? Because it has the potential to fundamentally shape European society for decades. As I just pointed out, the evidence shows that immigration is one of the most important factors, probably the most important factor, behind the collapse of the British Labour Party -- the one that, "left to their own devices, the respondents would have talked about all night."

If European left parties, like Labour, allow themselves to become closely linked with the unpopular policy of uncontrolled mass immigration (as opposed to controlled immigration of skilled workers needed by industry coupled with asylum for genuine refugees), they may well destroy themselves for decades. After that, European countries will be ruled by a stable majority coalition of the center-right (35%) and anti-immigrant (15%) parties. We are already seeing this happen: the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats party doubled its support in the 2014 election.

If this happens, result will be a long-term shift to the right which may well herald the end of the European social welfare state as we know it. That is why a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist like Bernie Sanders unapologetically says immigration needs to be kept in check. Bernie Sanders is no fool. Long-term coalitions of the center and farther right will also, of course, also worsen the situation of immigrants. Anyone who can't see this danger staring us in the face is whistling past the graveyard. I think and write about this issue a lot because it seems to me the most important domestic policy issue we face, and I think many people don't yet realize that fact.


'Die Zeit' Prints Another Misleading Stat

An article just out in Die Zeit has yet another gigantic error. In a piece on police training in the USA by Frauke Steffens, she says: "663 people have been killed by police in the USA this year, the British Guardian found, and the majority were not white." ("663 Todesopfer waren es bereits in diesem Jahr, fand der britische Guardian auf diese Weise heraus – und die meisten davon waren nicht weiß.").

In fact, the very article Steffens cited to and linked to says otherwise. 318 shooting victims were white, 174 black, and so on. It says so right here, right in the very same article she cited. Now theoretically you could count up the number of all other victims and it would be somewhat higher than number of whites. But it seems to me the most reliable way of counting these statistics would be to leave out the 55 killings in the other/unknown category, since we do not know what race they are. That leaves us with the following total:

318 white

290 all other races

Which means even taken on its own terms, the statement is incorrect. But in any event, the average reader, confronted with the statement in the article, would not correctly conclude that whites were the category with by far the highest number of police shootings. It might also be relevant for readers to know that over 80% of those shooting victims were armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the confrontation.

I have tweeted to Ms. Steffens to correct the error, but in my experience, the response will be silence, and the error will stand.

The glaring error I pointed out in another Die Zeit article still stands


Socialists Against Open Borders

Bernie Sanders is the U.S. Senator from Vermont, and a self-declared 'democratic socialist'. Until very recently, that label was about as successful in US politics as 'unrepentant pederast'. But now Sanders is running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton. Although he has almost no chance of winning it, he is attracting huge crowds and plenty of attention, and is clearly forcing Clinton to the left. Sanders is easily the most left-wing serious candidate for a Presidential nomination in at least 15, if not 50 years. He would certainly be my choice for President.

And he's strongly against open borders:

Ezra Klein

You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing ...

Bernie Sanders

Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein

Really?

Bernie Sanders

Of course. That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. ...

...

Ezra Klein

It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn't it?

Bernie Sanders

It would make everybody in America poorer —you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you're a white high school graduate, it's 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

I think from a moral responsibility we've got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don't do that by making people in this country even poorer.

Ezra Klein

Then what are the responsibilities that we have? Someone who is poor by US standards is quite well off by, say, Malaysian standards, so if the calculation goes so easily to the benefit of the person in the US, how do we think about that responsibility?

We have a nation-state structure. I agree on that. But philosophically, the question is how do you weight it? How do you think about what the foreign aid budget should be? How do you think about poverty abroad?

Bernie Sanders

I do weigh it. As a United States senator in Vermont, my first obligation is to make certain kids in my state and kids all over this country have the ability to go to college, which is why I am supporting tuition-free public colleges and universities. I believe we should create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. I believe we should raise the minimum wage to at least 15 bucks an hour so people in this county are not living in poverty. I think we end the disgrace of some 20 percent of our kids living in poverty in America. Now, how do you do that?

What you do is understand there's been a huge redistribution of wealth in the last 30 years from the middle class to the top tenth of 1 percent. The other thing that you understand globally is a horrendous imbalance in terms of wealth in the world. As I mentioned earlier, the top 1 percent will own more than the bottom 99 percent in a year or so. That's absurd. That takes you to programs like the IMF and so forth and so on.

But I think what we need to be doing as a global economy is making sure that people in poor countries have decent-paying jobs, have education, have health care, have nutrition for their people. That is a moral responsibility, but you don't do that, as some would suggest, by lowering the standard of American workers, which has already gone down very significantly.


German Hypocrisy on Gene Technology

In a Germany publication called Laboratory Journal (Laborjournal), Ralph Bock, Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Biology in Golm pens a long polemic against German hypocrisy on the subject of genetic engineering. I don't have the time to translate it just now, although that might be interesting, but I thought I would at least pass it along for my German-Powered™ readers.

Basically, Bock argues that setting aside whether products made with modern genetic engineering are safe (like most scientists, he thinks they are), Germans' aversion to them is hypocritical. Politicians try to curry favor with green voters by banning certain kinds of gene technology in Germany, but that doesn't stop massive imports of products made with gene technology into Germany:

A life without genetic technology on our dinner place, in our medicine cabinets, in our wallets, and in our closets is already well-nigh impossible in Germany, whether we want it or not. Our limitless consumption of meat, our dependence on imported plant raw materials, price competition in the food sector and the absolute necessity of genetic engineering in medicine and pharmaceuticals have ensured this. Nostalgic people among us may deplore this, but that shouldn't lead us into a bizarre culture of (self)deception which can only be upheld by ever-more-absurd camouflage tactics or ever-more-dubious political sleight-of-hand -- aspects of German culture which foreigners quite rightly find puzzling.


Immigration Is the Labour Party's Millstone

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The most fundamental distinction lawyers and philosophers learn is between 'ought' and 'is', or the similar fact/value distinction. If you go into court and argue that your client should not be sent to prison because the laws are unfair and really ought to be improved, you will lose, and your client will go to prison. As the old saying goes, this ain't a court of justice, this is a court of law.

Should the native inhabitants of European nation-states embrace large numbers of immigrants who don't look like them and don't share their language, religion, and/or culture? You can have a lively and interesting debate about this question, with plausible arguments on both sides. But even if you argue yes, emphatically, they ought do to so, that does not mean it is the case that they actually do.

If you ignore the fact that most native Britons, Germans, Swedes, Danes, etc. do not want large numbers of people from very different cultures being allowed to permanently settle in their countries, you risk a backlash that will make the situation worse. We are seeing this right now with the rise of right-wing nativist parties all over Europe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

The British Labour party is also finding this out. As we all know, it recently got its head handed to it on a platter in a humiliating national defeat. Much of the blame of course rests with Scotland, where Labour supporters ditched the party to vote SNP. Some more of the blame goes to an unconvincing campaign. But in their desperate attempt to understand why one of Britain's two mass political parties is disintegrating, Labour analysts are hitting upon one theme over and over: immigration.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Labour oversaw a massive increase in immigration into Great Britain. Former Labour speechwriter Andrew Neather has claimed that one of the reasons for this policy change was that Labour wanted to create a new 'multicultural' Britain.

Whether you agree with this policy is one thing. Quite another is whether closely associating itself with large increases in immigration damaged Labour. The evidence is pouring in on that point.

Shortly after their shellacking, Labour convened focus groups of former Labour voters to find out why they abandoned the party. In an article tellingly entitled "Labour's lost voters may never return again (sic), study finds", the Guardian -- summarized the results. The voters identified a weak candidate and tax policy as some of their concerns, but the party:

...was also seen as anti-business, in the pocket of the unions and not tough enough on immigration. “Immigration is the topic that, left to their own devices, the respondents would have talked about all night. Their central arguments, across all groups and repeated frequently, were along the lines that our country is full, our country is broke and public services are creaking and cannot stand extra strain.”

Recently, seven Labour MPs who lost their seats in the last election decided to canvass their constituents to find out why. You may notice a certain pattern:

The campaign, the authors claim, addressed only “the needy and greedy”, leaving the rest ignored. The party had nothing to say on welfare, business creation or immigration, “sounding as if it was on the side of those that don’t work”.

Labour, they say, was “frightened to enter the difficult conversations on immigration, leaving those discussions to go on without the Labour party”.

The seven also suggest Labour needs not just to regain economic credibility but to rethink its approach to immigration, advocating a shift from free to fair movement of labour within the EU.

They write: “We need to answer concerns about immigration and identity, especially for people attracted by Ukip’s resistance to change.

...

We had been told by senior figures in the party that Ukip was a boon to Labour, splitting the right of the country, but not for marginal seats like ours. In these white working class communities, particularly on the coast, Ukip tore our vote apart.

“This loss of the white working class vote is a crisis for our party, not just because we lost, but because it raises an existential question about who we represent.”

Should Europeans be more accommodating toward immigrants? Perhaps they should. Are they going to be more accommodating to immigrants in the near future? No. In fact there is every reason to think they will continue on a well-established path of being increasingly less accommodating to immigrants. They will increasingly vote for nativist parties and insist on stricter controls.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.