This past weekend, a series of forest fires broke out in Portugal. Approximately 61 people — mainly civilians — are reported to have died while trying to flee the fires by car, or while sheltering in villages near the highway.
I pause for my usual statement: May God have mercy on the souls of the dead, bring healing to the injured and comfort to the bereaved.
In the early hours of June 14, 2017, a high-rise residential building in London caught fire. As of the most recent update (June 19th, 2017), at least 79 people are dead, or missing and presumed dead, in the ensuing towering inferno — with the number expected to rise further. I pause for my usual statement: May God have mercy on the souls of the dead, bring healing to the injured and comfort to the bereaved.
I was quite struck by the dramatic way in which this fire unfolded. By all accounts, what started as a small fire in a low floor of the building (some reports put it down to an electrical fire in a faulty refrigerator) spread rapidly and powerfully throughout the entire structure, putting the residents of all 120 apartments in mortal danger. This sequence of events floored me. Surely, in [Present Year], high-rise high-density structures are not supposed to go up like roman candles. But this apartment tower in London did just that. I mean, Londoners sure like their towers, and they sure like their great fires — but not like this.
This is a painful example of a point I have emphasized for years: While the soft-headed liberal left loves to venerate all things European as inherently superior to all things American, the hard truth is that very commonly Europe gets things dead wrong. By which I mean, Europe on many key measures often performs far worse than the U.S. It is good to remind ourselves of this from time to time.
To make this point crystal clear, let us put this high-rise fire in London side-by-side with a similar recent incident in New York.
Here is a picture of the London tower with the overnight fire at its peak intensity:
The academic achievement gap between black and white students in the United States comes up regularly in the press and in political debates. It is a deeply rooted and intractable thing, and I have long since given up on thinking that it is within our meager human powers to do anything substantial and efficacious about it. However, I also believe that it is important to have a firm grasp of the phenomenon, if only to understand what the noise is about and justify the only appropriate response: A summary dismissal of the latest wasteful education fad that will come along and be touted as The Remedy That Will Finally Work, Dammit.
This chart is the best way I can think of to put the black/white achievement gap in perspective, focusing on SAT scores.
To put some of this in words: SAT scores rise as family income rises, across all races. However, children of the richest black families ($200,000+ annual income) have SAT scores that are, on average, virtually equal to those of children of the poorest white families (sub-$20,000 annual income). Those same sub-$20k white children outscore, by 35 points, children of black families in the second-highest income bracket ($160k-$200k), and they outscore children of comparable poor black families (sub-$20k) by 180 points. For each income bracket, the black/white gap is around 150-180 points, or nearly one standard deviation.* In sum, the lowest white group pretty much picks up where the highest black group leaves off, and achievement diverges from there. Source: JBHE.
To put it in starker terms, the average child of a black family with demonstrably everything — a $200k+ annual income can buy you every possible educational advantage — pulls barely even with the average white child who has virtually nothing — a <$20k annual income doesn’t go very far even in West Virginia. There must be a whole lot of magic pixie dust in that poor white kid’s invisible knapsack to outweigh the after-school activities, European vacations and private SAT tutors that the rich suburban black kid can afford — but the white trailer park kid can only dream about!
Yesterday, I took notice of a workplace shooting incident in Orlando, in which a disgruntled former employee was said to have killed at least four former co-workers before killing himself. No wounded were reported. Based on my Leaded Law, I conjectured that the shooter would turn out to be a white male, despite the fact that no identification had been released at the time of writing.
Since that post, police have identified the late Orlando workplace shooter as John Robert Neumann, Jr., and journalists have published his photo, which is reproduced below.
White male. Looks like the Leaded Law holds true once again!
Reports this morning indicate that a disgruntled former employee at an awning manufacturer in Orlando went Postal and shot up his former place of work. As best I can read the reports, the 45 year old male shooter killed four victims before taking his own life, while seven other people at the business escaped unharmed — I assume here that the shooter did not even attempt to harm these individuals.
Based on the Leaded Law, which allows me to predict the demographic profile of the shooter on little more than killed-to-wounded statistics, I’m going to predict that this Orlando shooter was most likely white, with a slight chance that he is East Asian.
Recall the basic formula of the Leaded Law which applies to every mass-shooting incident:
Casualty Ratio (Killed:Wounded)Profile of Shooter
Lower than 1:3 Black Male
Greater than 1:3, lower than 2:1 “Irish” or Hispanic Male
Greater than 2:1 White Male
Here, it looks like a 4:0 killed to wounded ratio, putting us squarely in “white” territory. I’ll note here that for purposes of the Leaded Law a slight chance of East Asian ancestry is embedded in the concept of “white.” I’ll also take this opportunity to introduce a refinement to the basic formula: When the shooter ends his own life at the end of a spree shooting, you have a very strong plus factor pointing at white male.