Pete's Prep: Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

On school shootings

In the face of irrational insane evil, the rational and sane will try to find explanations. I suspect that's why we rush to our corners on the "gun issue" in the wake of mass shootings. It's easier to rant about guns than to examine the more complex and uncomfortable reasons for mass shootings.

Yesterday, I found this piece (thanks Charles CW Cooke!) from 2015. It's very long, but well worth the read.

I'd copy and paste the entire New Yorker article if I could. 

It highlights work done by a sociologist examining why people riot and how that might help explain mass shootings.

But [Stanford sociologist Mark] Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them. In the elegant theoretical model Granovetter proposed, riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyonearound him was grabbing cameras from the electronics store.


But what if the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic is to go back and use the Granovetterian model—to think of it as a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?


Between Columbine and Aaron Ybarra, the riot changed: it became more and more self-referential, more ritualized, more and more about identification with the school-shooting tradition. Eric Harris wanted to start a revolution. Aguilar and Ybarra wanted to join one. Harris saw himself as a hero. Aguilar and Ybarra were hero-worshippers.

You can see how the media plays a role in this phenomena, too. 

Generally, media doesn't cover suicides. Do you know why? Because it's believed that providing coverage will inspire more people to kill themselves in more spectacular ways.

We should apply a similar mindset to these shootings.


And, finally, I'll re-post this 2015 piece from Tom Nichols, that gives a different explanation for why American young white men are the ones largely committing these acts.

This is the battle cry of the narcissist, and we’ve heard it before. Western societies are producing more and more of these Lost Boys, the fail-to-launch young men who carry weighty social grudges. Some of them kill, but others lash out in other, more creative ways: whether it’s Edward Snowden deciding only he could save America from the scourge of surveillance, or Bowe Bergdahl walking away from his post to personally solve the war in Afghanistan, the combination of immaturity and grandiosity among these young males is jaw-dropping in its scale even when it is not expressed through the barrel of a gun.


This is not a novel observation, but it’s worth remembering the important role sex and masculine identity—or the lack of one—play in the life of dysfunctional young men. In many cases, these man-boys are confused about their sexuality and frustrated by their own social awkwardness, and seek to compensate for it. They turn into what German writer Hans Enzensberger called “the radicalized losers,” the unsuccessful males who channel their blunted male social impulses toward destruction.


What we don’t really want to think about, because it challenges our cherished political narratives, is why modern society creates such destructive outcasts. These killers, school shooters, terrorists, or traitors, all of these failed boys—more accurately, failed men—are all incubated in the same environment of social isolation and prolonged adolescence. (Roof, by the way, was almost a “school shooter:” the high-school dropout planned to attack a small college before settling on the AME church.)

How does this happen? Well, to steal a phrase from Sen. Elizabeth Warren: we built that. We, the adults, have made this generation of young men by allowing, over the course of some 40 years, the eventual construction of a hyper-sexualized, publicity-obsessed, winner-take-all twenty-first-century culture in which success means money, sex, and fame at any cost. Young males no longer live in a world where there’s a Jack for every Jill, or where social institutions like schools, the police, churches, or the military—all decimated by repeated social attack since the 1960s—provide some kind of equalizing effect among men, protecting and building up the weaker boys while disciplining and maturing the stronger ones.

The result is that today American youth, and especially the males, live in a kind of “Lord of the Flies” domain where the Wild Boys act without restraint and the weak kids fall off the ledge, without even a noble Ralph to mourn them. 

But, sure... let's perform another theatrical rendition of the gun control debate. 

Gov. Cooper defends pipeline fund in news conference

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was more animated than I've seen him in his news conference yesterday. He's mad that Republican legislators took the money he had secured from pipeline project developers, and directed it to schools in the eight counties affected by the pipelines.

From the News & Observer:

 Cooper announced in a press conference that he’ll let the bill become law without his signature. He also accused Republican lawmakers of jeopardizing the pipeline deal by redirecting the money. He warned that the energy companies might not agree to provide the money now that it’s different from what was agreed to in a memorandum of understanding between the governor and the companies.

“The legislators manufactured a power struggle about a pipeline that they said they wanted,” Cooper said at a press conference at the executive mansion. “They raided the money that was supposed to improve the economy and bring jobs and lessen the environmental impact for the very communities that are affected.”

Cooper says the developers agreed to a "voluntary contribution" of $57.8 million to pay for economic development, renewable energy projects, and environmental mitigation.

WBTV reports, however, environmental mitigation was funded already.

The two power companies behind a controversial pipeline that will run through ten counties in North Carolina agreed to pay $11 million in environmental mitigation costs as part of the permitting process through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, WBTV has learned.

The $11 million of mitigation funds is separate from a second fund that was made public hours after DEQ announced the pipeline permits had been approved.

Who came up with the idea for the fund, anyway? The Carolina Journal reports:

Gov. Roy Cooper insisted $57.8 million from energy companies building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was a voluntary contribution, but said at a news conference he doesn’t know whose idea it was originally to seek the money he planned to distribute.

And then offered this update earlier today:

The $57.8-million discretionary fund the Atlantic Coast Pipeline operators planned to pay to an escrow Gov. Roy Cooper would control was in fact negotiated between the pipeline’s operators and a series of private parties. It remains unclear whether Cooper’s involvement was legal.

In his weekly syndicated column (link to text here), Tom Campbell, host of the UNC-TV public-affairs program “NC SPIN,” said the agreement was worked out in July 2017 at the offices of the North Carolina Farm Bureau and, presumably, presented to Cooper later. Cooper’s attorney signed the agreement on the governor’s behalf, but it did not receive legislative approval.

The money was intended to pay for any environmental and other costs associated with building “spurs,” or hookups, connecting the main pipeline to communities along its path.

Campbell noted the unusual timing by Cooper’s administration, whose Department of Environmental Quality announced the pipeline’s approval minutes before Cooper released a memo outlining the $57.8-million fund. Even so, Campbell’s sources said, the agreement was indeed voluntary, and not connected to approval of the main pipeline.

Here is the video of Cooper from WRAL. And here is the video link to the response from Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger.

What Sen Warren's disingenuous indigenous story tells us about the media

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke to the National Congress of American Indians in Washington Wednesday. She, again, claimed Native American heritage while insisting that she “never used my family tree to get a break or… advance my career.”

CBS Boston wrote it this way:

That undocumented claim has been ridiculed over the years, mostly by conservatives who insist she used it to advance her career, but also by Native-American groups and liberals who see the uproar over her story as a political weakness.


In the 1980s she contributed recipes to a Native American cookbook, and listed herself as a minority in a legal directory.

But if there’s a document or eyewitness to support the notion that she exploited affirmative action policies, or was promoted by others because of her claim, they have never surfaced.

If you find it offensive that Elizabeth Warren ever mentioned an ethnic heritage that she can’t prove, that is your right.

If you simply find Warren’s politics offensive, that is your privilege.

But nearly six years after this issue surfaced, it’s past time to separate politics from fact.

And the fact is, the people calling Warren a liar don’t have a leg to stand on.

This is not journalism. This is a political press release.

Imagine if a Republican claimed to be of ethnic, racial, or cultural descent when she is, in fact, not.

The evidence is pretty clear that Warren is NOT Cherokee. Yet she continues to claim it.

The media is disinterested in her doing so.

Cornell law professor William Jaconbson's Legal Insurrection site has done a ton of work investigating Warren's claim:

When Warren was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, she also was listed in the Women’s Law Journal as a “Woman of Color in Legal Academia,” presumably based on her claim to be Native American (there would have been no other explanation for referring to her as a woman of color):

He created the Elizabeth Warren Wiki page, as well, which document every facet of the claim and how genealogical experts have traced her lineage and found no Native American ancestry.

Detailed genealogical investigation by a group of Cherokee genealogists showed that Warren had no Cherokee or other Native American ancestry.  The findings are set forth at the blog Thoughts From Polly’s Grandaughter which based the research on over one hundred primary sources,[33] and detailed the findings:

The  team and I have done an exhaustive search on the genealogy of Elizabeth Warren.  We have researched ALL of her ancestral lines, but have only posted those she  claimed were Indian here in the blog. None of her direct line ancestors are ever  shown to be anything other than white, dating back to long before the Trail of  Tears.

And David French at National Review has this takedown:

It’s a neat trick Warren’s accomplished. She’s likely leveraged her fictional Native American heritage into a plum spot at Harvard Law School. She leveraged her Harvard job to foist garbage scholarship on a gullible media. And now she has leveraged all of that into a plum Senate seat, from which a multimillionaire Ivy League professor has recast herself as progressive populist heroine.  

The way CBS Boston tells it, though, the people who are attacking Warren are simply doing so because they don't like her (progressive) politics.

Yet, as I've outlined here, the evidence is clear that she lied. And continues to lie. She has "appropriated" Native American heritage. But we're chastised for noticing.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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