Less guns, more crime

The English are scratching their heads… don’t the criminals know that guns are illegal?

Labour has been accused of losing control of gun crime as new figures show a sharp rise in armed robberies. Guns were used in 4,120 robberies last year – a 10% jump – including a 9% rise to 1,439 in the number of street robberies where guns were used.

There was also a rapid and unexplained increase in the number of times householders were confronted in their own homes by armed criminals. Residential firearms robberies show a 46% leap, a record 645 cases in England and Wales – up 204 on the previous year and four times the level recorded in 2000-01.

Gee, do you think assuring the criminals that their potential victims are unarmed might not be a great idea? Really?

The Home Office is trying to cover up by saying that “Firearm offences have fallen significantly, by 14% in the year up to September 2006, which amounts to 1,642 fewer incidents”, but of course, they don’t define a firearm office, which most likely includes the “crime” of merely owning a unregistered firearm.

So, fewer law-abiding people were caught with illicit firearms, but the criminals are making more use of them. Yeah, that balances out nicely.

It’s all over but the killing

Michael Yon admits that the Iraqi war is being lost:

[It’s] getting pretty kinetic here. During my first 5 days we lost 6 KIA Americans and 1 terp, so that was 7, plus quite a few others who were really messed up. Serious business, but ISF making serious progress in Mosul. This place is dicey, though. I need to downgrade my initial assessment. The ISF is much better, but this “deal is not sealed” as it were. At this point I would say we are probably actually losing the war, but I really think this can be turned around. Petraeus is just the man who can do it. He’s brilliant and is ready to slam those militias. We need to kill Sadr. We will lose a lot of people taking on the militias, but we should either take them on or pack up and go home. I vote for killing them.

I greatly admire Michael Yon as well as the soldiers on whom he is reporting. But no amount of individual heroics, no amount of brilliant tactics, can possibly compensate for a fundamental strategic blunder of astounding proportions.

The USA won the second Iraqi war when it took out Saddam Hussein and eliminated the possibility of WMDs. This was likely an illegal action under the US Constitution, but it was a popular one and speedy success will almost always be excused. Get in, get it done, and go. That should have been the strategy, but the neocons, who are largely unfamiliar with military history, were intoxicated with their initial success.

It is the third Iraqi war that has now been lost. The “battle for hearts and minds” cannot be won by a military force, nor is the ability to kill large quantities of people meaningful when dealing with deep-set philosophical differences. Russia has killed approximately half the Chechen population without establishing a lasting peace there, and even if the Iraqi factions are not as intransigent as the historically stubborn Chechens, they are more than stubborn enough to resist the amount of lethal force that the American people are willing to direct against them.

The president’s war has failed, the nation has been invaded by 10-12 million aliens and there are no shortage of problems on the horizon. It is long past time to admit failure, admit that the Middle East is not going to be forced into peaceful quasi-democracy and bring the troops home.

You cannot empty a swimming pool by repeatedly smashing a rock against the surface of the water. Increasing the size of the rock by 16 percent may convince the superficial observer you are doing something productive, but it is an irrelevant action nevertheless.

That mythical war on Christianity

Burma ‘orders Christians to be wiped out

The military regime in Burma is intent on wiping out Christianity in the country, according to claims in a secret document believed to have been leaked from a government ministry. Entitled “Programme to destroy the Christian religion in Burma”, the incendiary memo contains point by point instructions on how to drive Christians out of the state.

The text, which opens with the line “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised”, calls for anyone caught evangelising to be imprisoned. It advises: “The Christian religion is very gentle – identify and utilise its weakness.”

Its discovery follows widespread reports of religious persecution, with churches burnt to the ground, Christians forced to convert to the state religion, Buddhism, and their children barred from school.

Notice that it is those notoriously peaceful Buddhists who are persecuting others. This may come as a surprise to parochial, historically ignorant individuals such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, but to those of us whose educations actually included subjects outside of the traditional West, the violent traditions of Buddhism are no surprise.

In fact, rampaging Buddhist monks entered the fictional menagerie long before the first foam-flecked evangelical made his first of many frightening appearances in bad science fiction stories. In “The Tale of Genji”, the 11th century Japanese classic by Murasaki Shikibu, raids by monks storming down from their mountain monasteries occur nearly as often as the Shining Prince cries or seduces a Heian court beauty.

Dilbert in the prison showers

Scott Adams dips his toe into the swamp of moral superiority claims:

Have you ever wondered what percentage of prison inmates are atheists? It must be a lot, given that non-believers have no moral center and spend most of their days robbing, and killing, and sodomizing farm animals. That’s what you do when you have no morality.

According to Adherents.com, 16% of the world’s 6.25 billion people are non-religious. That includes atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists. That’s just over 1 billion godless (and Budahless) infidels.

According to this, there are 8.75 million people in jail in the entire world. And that includes people who haven’t been convicted. Hmm. That seems too low by about, um, a billion infidels that should be behind bars….

In other words, only 8 million of the 1 BILLION non-believers who damned well SHOULD be in prison are actually there. There is only one conclusion that I can draw from this rigorous scientific analysis: Atheists are lazy.

Skipping over the obvious answer to this tongue-in-cheek version of a common defense of atheism – moral inertia causes non-believers to behave similarly to believers for a generation or three – there are a few ways we can test this assertion of superior atheist behavior by traditional moral standards.

1. There should be a lower percentage of atheists in jail than in the population.
2. Those imprisoned who participate in prison ministries should have a higher rate of recidivism.
3. Crime rates should decline as religious belief declines.

I’ve already dealt with the first topic, as the English survey showed that atheists/agnostics were overrepresented in English prisons by 105.8 percent. In other words, atheist Englishmen were more than twice as likely to be convicted criminals as the average Englishman. Amusingly enough, this is roughly the same ratio that Adams himself suggests, as he cites 16 percent of the population being non-religious compared to 33 percent of his hypothetical jail population being non-religious. As a defense of atheism, it’s certainly an original one, if perhaps sub-optimal.

Second, a 1990 study on the effectiveness of prison ministries concluded the following: The group’s study involved 190 prisoners who between 1975 and 1979 had taken part in Christian discipleship training, and a similar number who had not, matched by age, race, gender and other factors. Both groups had been released from prison eight to 14 years prior to the study.

It found that the religion-trained ones had an 11 percentage point lower recidivism rate than the control group. Forty percent of the religion-schooled group committed new offenses, while 51 percent of the others did so. The religiously trained group also had a longer crime-free period following release, and when they did commit new crimes, the crimes were less severe compared to past offenses. The control group had increased crime-severity.

Strike two.

As for the third factor, consider France, which was found to be the most atheist country in Europe, with 33 percent of those polled declaring that they did not believe in any sort of spirit, God, or life force. France also has the fastest rising crime rate in Europe, 16 percent compared to the EU average of 4 percent, (International Review of Crime Statistics) and also led the EU with the greatest increase in violent crime (50% from 1997 to 2001 compared to an EU average of 22 percent.)

Personally, I suspect this increasing crime rate in France is far more likely to be the result of a surfeit of young Muslims in the inner cities, but that’s a matter for another day. The point is that not only is there no evidence to suggest that atheists are better behaved than the average individual, but there is a plethora of evidence suggesting that they are demonstrably more likely to behave badly by both traditional moral and legal measures.

If we accept the concepts, for which there is some evidence, that a) atheists are smarter and better-educated, and b) smarter and better-educated people are less likely to be in prison, then atheism must be a truly negative force indeed if it is powerful enough to overcome a pair of powerful positive correlations as evidenced by the disproportionate number of atheists in prison.