Daily Archives: April 21, 2015

And while we’re debunking myths

WaPo: There’s never been a safer time to be a kid in America

…. As of 2008, the homicide rate for kids under the age of 14 stood at a near-record low 1.5 cases per 100,000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And the homicide rate for teens ages 14 to 17 plummeted from 12 homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to just 5.1 in 2008, another near-record low.

Long story short: for a kid between the ages of 5 and 14 today, the chances of premature death by any means are roughly 1 in 10,000, or 0.01 percent.

But parents typically aren’t thinking about disease or general morality when they fret over unattended kids — we’re worried about all the terrible things that could theoretically happen to a child out on his own. Chief among them is the threat of abduction, or of the child simply disappearing without a trace.

The FBI has several decades of data on missing persons now, and those numbers show that the number of missing person reports involving minors has been at record low levels in recent years. Overall, the number of these reports have fallen by 40 percent since 1997. This is more impressive when you consider that the overall U.S. population has risen by 30 percent over that same time period, meaning that the actual rate of missing person reports for children has fallen faster than 40 percent.

But even these numbers include an awful lot of scenarios that you wouldn’t typically worry about when letting your kid walk to the park. For instance, among all missing persons cases (adults and children) in 2014, roughly 96 percent were runaways — kids or adults deliberately trying to escape a situation at home. In fact, only 0.1 percent of missing persons cases were what we’d think of as a “stereotypical kidnapping” — where a complete stranger tries to abduct somebody and carry them off by force. These figures comport with a more detailed analysis of child-only abductions carried out by the Justice Department in 2002.

Another thing parents worry about when it comes to their kids — traffic. If they’re left to wander on their own outside, won’t they run out in front of a car or get hit by an irresponsible driver? In short: almost certainly not.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that between 1993 and 2013, the number of child pedestrians struck and killed by cars fell by more than two-thirds, from more than 800 deaths to fewer than 250. The number of traffic-related pedestrian injuries in this age group fell by a similar percentage over the same period. Again these are raw numbers, and as the population has grown over that period, the actual rate has fallen even faster.

So where does that leave us in the debate over “free-range” children? Kids are dying less. They’re being killed less. They’re getting hit by cars less. And they’re going missing less frequently, too. The likelihood of any of these scenarios is both historically low and infinitesimally small.

But couldn’t it be the case that kids are less prone to terrible tragedies these days because concerned parents are keeping them locked up at home, and calling the cops whenever they see someone else’s kid walking alone down the street? Probably not.

“It’s hard to say that much of the decline [in mortality and abduction rates] comes from stricter parenting,” said Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University who’s written about child safety statistics.

When it comes to child mortality, “crime and accidents were never that big of a deal to begin with,” he said. And there are a lot of factors driving those trends downward — better safety standards for cars and better pedestrian infrastructure, for instance. Declining rates of violent crime overall also likely play a role.

Asked about the Meitiv’s case, Caplan said, “it’s crazy, people are being persecuted for doing things that are extremely statistically safe just because other people disagree.”

Bottom line: If it was safe enough for you to play unsupervised outside when you were a kid, it’s even safer for your own children to do so today.

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Sexual assault at Harvard

Columbia Mattress Girl

Columbia Mattress Girl

The administration of that once-elite school has passed out a survey to calculate the percentage of students subjected to sexual assault. As this reporter notes, the survey has nothing to do with any sort of mathematical or scientific process, but everything to do with politics.

“Since you have been a student at Harvard University has a student or someone employed by or otherwise associated with Harvard . . . continued to ask you to go out, get dinner, have drinks or have sex even though you said no?” If so, you may be a victim of sexual misconduct or sexual assault or sexual harassment.

All degree-seeking students received a link and have until May 3 to complete it. But before they do, they have to read — you guessed it — a trigger warning.

“Some of the language used in this survey is explicit and some people may find it uncomfortable, but it is important that we ask the questions in this way so that you are clear what we mean. If responding to this survey is distressful, information on how to get help if you need it appears at the top of each page and at the end of the survey. Personal benefit from participating in this survey is unlikely.”

The “one in four” and “one in five” statistics about women being sexually assaulted on campuses that are trotted out so regularly are simply the results of survey administrators failing to distinguish exactly what is sexual assault, notes Shep Melnick. A professor of political science at Boston College, Melnick says “these surveys can be used really helpfully to get a handle on the extent of the problem or further muddy it on the basis of faulty information.”

“If they were really serious,” notes Melnick, “they would say, ‘Here is the definition of rape, here is forceful sexual assault, here’s a form of misconduct, here’s harassment.’ ” Instead, the Harvard survey simply lists a bunch of bad things and then asks — yes or no — whether any of these has happened to you.

And the survey offers this important note: “Sexual assault and sexual misconduct refer to a range of behaviors that are nonconsensual or unwanted. These behaviors could include remarks about physical appearance or persistent sexual advances.

“These could also include threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior such as nonconsensual or unwanted touching, sexual penetration, oral sex, anal sex or attempts to engage in these behaviors.”

So which is which? What is sexual assault? What is sexual misconduct? What is harassment? And is there any category for simply obnoxious behavior?

… And, oddly, nowhere in the whole document does the word “rape” appear. Perhaps that’s because rape is a word that respondents might be a little more careful about using.

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This seems to sum it up nicely – too bad Connecticut Democrats can’t read, or think

Hartford drops in on Greenwich

Hartford drops in on Greenwich

Phil Gramm points out that Obama’s huge increase in taxes and regulations has stifled the economy, and concludes, 

With better economic policies America was like the fabled farmer with the goose that laid golden eggs. He kept the pond clean and full, he erected a nice coop, threw out corn for the goose and every day the goose laid a golden egg. Mr. Obama has drained the pond, burned down the coop and let the dogs loose to chase the goose around the barnyard. Now that the goose has stopped laying golden eggs, the administration’s apologists—arguing that we are now in “secular stagnation”—add insult to injury by suggesting that something is wrong with the goose.

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Convenient to transportation

8 Stag Lane

8 Stag Lane

8 Stag Lane, right on the Merritt, reports a contract. It was asking just $1.295 million, which was presumably negotiated down a bit, and it looks like a nice house, so I can understand this sale – more house than $1.2 will get you elsewhere and, though people don’t believe this, the Merritt noise is easily adjusted to.

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Wisconsin SWAT teams target political opponents

Che pays his intellectual followers with their just deserts

Che pays his intellectual followers with their just deserts

The (Democrat) Attorney General and a (Democrat) judge sent SWAT teams to raid the homes and businesses of supporters of the (Republican) Governor, and used a Wisconsin law to comply the victims and their lawyers to remain silent. Here are some(lengthy) excerpts from an article on the case.

They were law-abiding. They didn’t buy or sell drugs. They weren’t violent. They weren’t a danger to anyone. Yet there were cops — surrounding their house on the outside, swarming the house on the inside. They even taunted the family as if they were mere “perps.” As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings. Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.

This was the on-the-ground reality of the so-called John Doe investigations, expansive and secret criminal proceedings that directly targeted Wisconsin residents because of their relationship to Scott Walker, their support for Act 10, and their advocacy of conservative reform.

It all began innocently enough. In 2009, officials from the office of the Milwaukee County executive contacted the office of the Milwaukee district attorney, headed by John Chisholm, to investigate the disappearance of $11,242.24 from the Milwaukee chapter of the Order of the Purple Heart. The matter was routine, with witnesses willing and able to testify against the principal suspect, a man named Kevin Kavanaugh. What followed, however, was anything but routine. Chisholm failed to act promptly on the report, and when he did act, he refused to conduct a conventional criminal investigation but instead petitioned, in May 2010, to open a “John Doe” investigation, a proceeding under Wisconsin law that permits Wisconsin officials to conduct extensive investigations while keeping the target’s identity secret (hence the designation “John Doe”).

John Doe investigations alter typical criminal procedure in two important ways: First, they remove grand juries from the investigative process, replacing the ordinary citizens of a grand jury with a supervising judge. Second, they can include strict secrecy requirements not just on the prosecution but also on the targets of the investigation. In practice, this means that, while the prosecution cannot make public comments about the investigation, it can take public actions indicating criminal suspicion (such as raiding businesses and homes in full view of the community) while preventing the targets of the raids from defending against or even discussing the prosecution’s claims.

Why would Chisholm seek such broad powers to investigate a year-old embezzlement claim with a known suspect? Because the Milwaukee County executive, Scott Walker [the same person who had reported the embezzlement to the DA for investigation – ED] , had by that time become the leading Republican candidate for governor. District Attorney Chisholm was a Democrat, a very partisan Democrat. Almost immediately after opening the John Doe investigation, Chisholm used his expansive powers to embarrass Walker, raiding his county-executive offices within a week. As Mr. O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth explained in court filings, the investigation then dramatically expanded: Over the next few months, [Chisholm’s] investigation of all-things-Walker expanded to include everything from alleged campaign-finance violations to sexual misconduct to alleged public contracting bid-rigging to alleged misuse of county time and property. Between May 5, 2010, and May 3, 2012, the Milwaukee Defendants filed at least eighteen petitions to formally “[e]nlarge” the scope of the John Doe investigation, and each was granted. . . . That amounts to a new formal inquiry every five and a half weeks, on average, for two years.

This expansion coincided with one of the more remarkable state-level political controversies in modern American history – the protest (and passage) of Act 10, followed by the attempted recall of a number of Wisconsin legislators and, ultimately, Governor Walker. Political observers will no doubt remember the events in Madison — the state capitol overrun by chanting protesters, Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state to prevent votes on the legislation, and tens of millions of dollars of outside money flowing into the state as Wisconsin became, fundamentally, a proxy fight pitting the union-led Left against the Tea Party–led economic Right.

At the same time that the public protests were raging, so were private — but important — protests in the Chisholm home and workplace. As a former prosecutor told journalist Stuart Taylor, Chisholm’s wife was a teachers’-union shop steward who was distraught over Act 10’s union reforms. He said Chisholm “felt it was his personal duty” to stop them. Meanwhile, according to this whistleblower, the district attorney’s offices were festooned with the “blue fist” poster of the labor-union movement, indicating that Chisholm’s employees were very much invested in the political fight. In the end, the John Doe proceeding failed in its ultimate aims.

But with another election looming — this time Walker’s campaign for reelection — Chisholm wasn’t finished. He launched yet another John Doe investigation, “supervised” by Judge Barbara Kluka. Kluka proved to be capable of superhuman efficiency — approving “every petition, subpoena, and search warrant in the case” in a total of one day’s work. If the first series of John Doe investigations was “everything Walker,” the second series was “everything conservative,” as Chisholm had launched an investigation of not only Walker (again) but the Wisconsin Club for Growth and dozens of other conservative organizations, this time fishing for evidence of allegedly illegal “coordination” between conservative groups and the Walker campaign. In the second John Doe, Chisholm had no real evidence of wrongdoing.

Yes, conservative groups were active in issue advocacy, but issue advocacy was protected by the First Amendment and did not violate relevant campaign laws. Nonetheless, Chisholm persuaded prosecutors in four other counties to launch their own John Does, with Judge Kluka overseeing all of them. Empowered by a rubber-stamp judge, partisan investigators ran amok. They subpoenaed and obtained (without the conservative targets’ knowledge) massive amounts of electronic data, including virtually all the targets’ personal e-mails and other electronic messages from outside e-mail vendors and communications companies. The investigations exploded into the open with a coordinated series of raids on October 3, 2013.

These were home invasions, including those described above. Chisholm’s office refused to comment on the raid tactics (or any other aspect of the John Doe investigations), but witness accounts regarding the two John Doe investigations are remarkably similar: early-morning intrusions, police rushing through the house, and stern commands to remain silent and tell no one about what had occurred.

At the same time, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative organizations received broad subpoenas requiring them to turn over virtually all business records, including “donor information, correspondence with their associates, and all financial information.” The subpoenas also contained dire warnings about disclosure of their existence, threatening contempt of court if the targets spoke publicly. For select conservative families across five counties, this was the terrifying moment — the moment they felt at the mercy of a truly malevolent state.

The very existence of First Amendment–protected expression was deemed to be evidence of illegality. The prosecution simply assumed that the conservatives were incapable of operating within the bounds of the law. Even worse, many of the investigators’ legal theories, even if proven by the evidence, would not have supported criminal prosecutions. In other words, they were investigating “crimes” that weren’t crimes at all.

With the investigations now bursting out into the open, some conservatives began to fight back. O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth moved to quash the John Doe subpoenas aimed at them. In a surprise move, Judge Kluka, who had presided over the Doe investigations for more than a year, recused herself from the case. (A political journal, the Wisconsin Reporter, attempted to speak to Judge Kluka about her recusal, but she refused to offer comment.) The new judge in the case, Gregory Peterson, promptly sided with O’Keefe and blocked multiple subpoenas, holding (in a sealed opinion obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which has done invaluable work covering the John Doe investigations) that they “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws.”

In international law, the Western world has become familiar with a concept called “lawfare,” a process whereby rogue regimes or organizations abuse legal doctrines and processes to accomplish through sheer harassment and attrition what can’t be accomplished through legitimate diplomatic means.The John Doe investigations are a form of domestic lawfare, and our constitutional system is ill equipped to handle it. Federal courts rarely intervene in state judicial proceedings, state officials rarely lose their array of official immunities for the consequences of their misconduct, and violations of First Amendment freedoms rarely result in meaningful monetary damages for the victims.

Conservatives have looked at Wisconsin as a success story, where Walker took everything the Left threw at him and emerged victorious in three general elections. He broke the power of the teachers’ unions and absorbed millions upon millions of dollars of negative ads. Yet in a deeper way, Wisconsin is anything but a success. There were casualties left on the battlefield — innocent citizens victimized by a lawless government mob, public officials who brought the full power of their office down onto the innocent. Governors come and go. Statutes are passed and repealed. Laws and elections are important, to be sure, but the rule of law is more important still. And in Wisconsin, the rule of law hangs in the balance — along with the liberty of citizens.

David French is an attorney, a writer, and a veteran of the Iraq War.

As usual, the left is celebrating this abuse of state power, because it targets its enemies. If history is a guide, these people will end up against a wall and suffer the fate of all useful idiots, but they neither study nor recognize history, and won’t, until they meet their executioners.

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At this price, why bother taking photos?

24 Stone Brook Lane, Cos Cob

24 Stone Brook Lane, Cos Cob

24 Stone Brook (nee Hooker) Lane, $1.385, came on w/o photos (although I found one) or much else detail and has already gone to market.

There’s no inventory in this range.

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Mid Country contract

104 Husted Lane

104 Husted Lane

104 Husted Lane, asking $1.8 million but probably going for less. Owner paid $1.805 back in 2002, but let it go to hell, and it’s just land value now.Too bad; the house was attractive enough back then to spur a bidding war:$1.729 ask, $1.805 winning bid, but there’s nothing much left here to salvage now. The oner did collect rent over much of her ownership, but even those diminished as the property deteriorated, from $5,500 to $4,000.

Anyway, nice land, though impacted by wetlands.

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New listing I want to see today

145 Parsonage Road

145 Parsonage Road

145 Parsonage Road (it’s Ellen Mosher’s listing, not one of ours, but you buyers certainly want our firm to represent you) $5.495 million. I might try to negotiate that price a bit, but it looks like a great home, and it’s on the best side (west) of Parsonage. Easy access to town, yet still has a big yard and privacy.

UPDATE: Dang it, I was wool gathering, as I discovered when I pulled up to the house just now. It’s the same great house I loved in April, 2012. Not much has been changed since these owners bought it, but they did add a generator. If you want to see what I wrote about it then, just click the link in this paragraph,

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No comment necessary

A reader sends along this photograph:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.13.36 AM

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Open houses

Not much on (there’s a good one on Parsonage, that I’ll write about soon), but I was struck by the photo from one contemporary house that I won’t name because it’s a new listing. The photo’s are all carefully done, and clearly the photographer was after a certain effect. What, then, is this one about? The library is too small? The owner is such an avid reader that she’s surrounded her reading chair with books? I don’t get it.

Huh?

Huh?

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