A solution to gun violence

December 6th, 2017 No comments

With a single exception, I’ve been disconcerted by the recent series of hyperbolic, inaccurate, politicized and shockingly rude columns written in emotional responses to horrific mass murders. No doubt others in our community share this reaction as well.

Rather than rebut those less-than-intellectually-rigorous polemics in this column, I’ll address what isn’t being discussed, i.e., solutions to reduce gun violence that have proven efficacy.

In early 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive multipoint project designed to reduce gun violence at the local level via a targeted combination of federal, state and local law enforcement action www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/226686.pdf.

The program was based on the Boston Ceasefire Project and Richmond’s Project Exile, utilizing a data driven approach to reduce root causation of gun violence.

“At the core of the strategy was the increased federal prosecution of illegal gun use and illegal gun possession by prohibited persons,” reads an excerpt from the executive summary. “Increased federal prosecution was intended to incapacitate chronic violent offenders as well as to communicate a credible deterrent threat to potential gun offenders.

“However, it was also recognized that exclusive reliance on increased federal prosecution was of limited utility given the reality that most gun crime is prosecuted in state and local courts. Further, there was recognition of the large variability across communities in the U.S. in terms of the level and nature of gun crime, and therefore the program would need flexibility to adapt to local context.

“To address these issues, PSN was framed on five key components: 1) partnerships; 2) strategic planning and research integration; 3) training; 4) outreach; and 5) accountability. The intent was that these components would maximize the investment of federal resources through a focus on the contexts driving gun crime in particular jurisdictions. Research would assist in focusing resources and local and state partners would bring understanding of local conditions as well as resources to the interventions. The goal was to significantly reduce gun crime.”

Was Project Safe Neighborhoods successful? According to the study report, these initial results were achieved:

“The next stage in the analysis compared PSN target cities with non-target cities by the level of federal prosecution (as a specific type of dosage). The findings revealed that PSN target cities in high federal prosecution districts experienced a 13.1 percent decline in violent crime. In stark contrast, non-target cities in low federal prosecution districts experienced an increase of 7.8 percent in violent crime.”

Unfortunately, despite promising outcomes and implementation of crime data analytics in a few major metropolitan police agencies, the methodology hasn’t been consistently applied as a national priority.

Recently, as part of a major DOJ initiative to address a spike in urban violence since 2014, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a “reinvigoration” of Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Note that the focus of PSN is the proven effectiveness of prosecuting prohibited persons who illegally possess or utilize firearms in the commission of crimes.

In stark contrast, what hasn’t worked are attempts to regulate types of firearms, magazines and ammunition owned by law-abiding citizens. Despite assertions by gun control advocates, there’s been no proven correlation between the statistics of lawful firearm ownership and gun homicides.

I recommend readers review the referenced Project Safe Neighborhoods report with an open mind and come together as a community to “do something” in support of a proven methodology to reduce gun violence.

Published in The Signal 7/4/17


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Government ‘health care’ and the US Constitution

July 13th, 2017 No comments

Our republic is again embroiled in a contentious debate over the federal government’s role in “health care.” I use “scare quotes” here because the issue currently under debate is fundamentally about funding of medical services and who pays for them.

My fellow columnists have written thoughtful and concerning columns that have addressed their challenges with PPACA (Obamacare), health insurance carriers and prospective legislative solutions to address the defects in our health-care delivery and financing system.

This column will offer a perspective that’s been largely overlooked in our community discussion, namely: What is the federal government’s authority to regulate health-care services and its financing for more than 320 million U.S. citizen residents in their respective states and territories?

Bear with me a moment as I review the federal government’s defined role in our constitutional republic.

The federal government is one of enumerated powers, i.e., they are specific and defined in our Constitution when addressing the role of the legislature in Article 1, Section 8 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei). In it, the structure of the national government, courts, authorization to levy taxes/tariffs, enter into treaties, raise armies, etc., are clearly delineated. The executive and judicial branches are similarly defined in Article II (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleii) and III (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiii), respectively .

Equally clear, our federal government has been operating beyond constitutionally defined parameters for more than 100 years, and I won’t digress into that history here.

However, this isn’t a rationale for continuation or expansion of unconstitutionality. Instead, it’s an argument for realigning our federal government back to its original role as architected by our Founding Fathers with a concomitant restoration of state powers under control of The People.

Founder and future President James Madison expounded upon the organization of the relationship of the proposed federal government in relation to the States in Federalist 45 this way:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.

“The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.

“As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States” (https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers#TheFederalistPapers-45).

Here’s why it’s important: once we allow the federal government to operate beyond its enumerated powers, there’s no limiting principle. As recent history demonstrates, what follows is an incremental subtraction of liberty from The People with the siren call of expediency, citing the urgency of the time, often using martial language such as “War on [insert populist cause du jour].”

Our Constitution cannot be dismissed as an obsolete anachronism of a bygone age by those who have diligently studied it and fully comprehend its enduring principles. It is the foundation of the rule of law in our republic and was formulated by men of exceptional ability and vision.

Many scholars consider the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers as the pinnacle of Enlightenment thinking, with the latter being the finest treatise on the role of government extant. The principles and system of government enshrined in our Constitution are timeless.

What, then, is to be done? Others have observed that we are far down this unconstitutional road and perhaps the best “solution” to “health care” is to emulate social democracies in Europe and the Anglosphere with single-payer and other methodologies of socializing medical care costs and its financing with the attendant appeals to popularity, emotion, etc.

Is it wise to “compromise” the principles of limited government and cede liberty to politicians and a legion of technocrats in the unelected administrative state?

We’ll examine the practicality of that premise in another column and I close with this quote:

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” ― William Pitt the Younger

Published in The Signal 7/4/17


Categories: Economics, General, Geopolitics Tags:

March for science, not politicization of science

April 20th, 2017 No comments

I found Maria Gutzeit’s April 18 column “Marching because facts matter” rational and readable.

Regarding the “March for Science,” I’d expand her definition by noting that science is a process that should inform policy but is not a policy itself. Policies are formulated by participating individuals and organizations and they should be based on facts and reason rather than impulse and emotions.

Then the respective polities in our republic evaluate and vote on these policies as communicated and ultimately legislated by our representatives.

Realizing that humans are involved, rational, reasonable and well-intentioned people may disagree on what the most efficacious and cost-effective approaches are to solving problems that are informed by the scientific process. Disparities on policy solutions are therefore not a pro-science/anti-science binary.

As an engineer, Maria no doubt does not find this expansion revelatory. I thought it important to illuminate, as some are wont to politicize science itself.

Published in The Signal 4/20/17


The Case Against Liberal Compassion

February 26th, 2017 No comments

This assessment also provides an answer to the question of why liberals always want a bigger welfare state. It’s because the politics of kindness is about validating oneself rather than helping others, which means the proper response to suffering is always, “We need to do more,” and never, “We need to do what we’re already doing better and smarter.” That is, liberals react to an objective reality in a distinctively perverse way. The reality is, first, that there are many instances of poverty, insecurity, and suffering in our country and, second, that public expenditures to alleviate poverty, insecurity, and suffering amount to $3 trillion, or some $10,000 per American, much of it spent on the many millions of Americans who are nowhere near being impoverished, insecure, or suffering. If the point of liberalism were to alleviate suffering, as opposed to preening about one’s abhorrence of suffering and proud support for government programs designed to reduce it, liberals would get up every morning determined to reduce the proportion of that $3 trillion outlay that ought to be helping the poor but is instead being squandered in some way, including by being showered on people who aren’t poor. But since the real point of liberalism is to alleviate the suffering of those distressed by others’ suffering, the hard work of making our $3 trillion welfare state machine work optimally is much less attractive—less gratifying—than demanding that we expand it, and condemning those who are skeptical about that expansion for their greed and cruelty.

Those of us accused of being greedy and cruel, for standing athwart the advance of liberalism and expansion of the welfare state, do have things to say, then, in response to the empathy crusaders. Compassion really is important. Clifford Orwin, a political scientist who has examined the subject painstakingly, believes our strong, spontaneous proclivity to be distressed by others’ suffering confirms the ancient Greek philosophers’ belief that nature intended for human beings to be friends. But compassion is neither all-important nor supremely important in morals and, especially, politics. It is nice, all things being equal, to have government officials who feel our pain rather than ones who, like imperious monarchs, cannot comprehend or do not deign to notice it. Much more than our rulers’ compassion, however, we deserve their respect—for us; our rights; our capacity and responsibility to feel and heal our own pains without their ministrations; and for America’s carefully constructed and heroically sustained experiment in constitutional self-government, which errs on the side of caution and republicanism by denying even the most compassionate official a monarch’s plenary powers. Kindness may well cover all of Barack Obama’s political beliefs, and those of many other self-satisfied, pathologically altruistic liberals. It doesn’t begin to cover all the beliefs that have sustained America’s republic, however. Nor does it amount to a safe substitute for those moral virtues and political principles necessary to sustain it further.

– William Voegeli, Senior Editor, Claremont Review of Books


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Learning to evaluate ‘fake news’

February 24th, 2017 No comments

We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to,” Former President Barack Obama said at an innovation conference in Pittsburgh last October.

“There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world,” Obama added during the White House Frontiers Conference on Oct. 13.

It’s a curious proposal that the press, and by extension free speech, be curated in the USA with its constitutionally recognized right not to be infringed by government.

Such “curating function” would require an entity to ‘select, organize, and present (information, etc.) typically using professional or expert knowledge,’” according to the OED. And that raises the question: who is to perform such filtering and validation? By what criteria will information be evaluated?

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” wrote Roman poet Juvenal.

Translating the Latin literally, that’s “Who will guard the guards themselves?” or “Who will watch the watchman?”

As an American citizen, I find this concept suspect, calling to mind a quote from noted American journalist and skeptic H. L. Mencken:

“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

So is “fake news” a new phenomenon that’s uniquely threatening in our current society? A review of journalism history includes the “yellow” variety, i.e., news that isn’t based on research, facts and reliable public sources, instead offering sensationalism to sell newspapers and drive up media ratings/clicks.

Should we, therefore, trust media organizations to be unbiased sources of information? A Pew Research Center poll conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 10, 2016, before Election Day, found that the majority (59 percent) prefer news media to present facts without interpretation.

Consider what Jim Rutenberg, media reporter for the New York Times, wrote in an opinion piece last year:

“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

“Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career.

“If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.

“That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.”

Mr. Rutenberg then proceeds to argue that one candidate in the election is unique and journalists therefore have a duty to do more than report facts, contrary to the preferences of most news consumers.

Is it any wonder that just 28 percent of American adults believe journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being in a 2013 Pew poll?

How, then, does one evaluate news for veracity? Do it yourself! Draw from a range of disparate sources to avoid confirmation bias.

Take advantage of forums, such as those sponsored by The Signal, to gather information directly. Attend in person or via web video Santa Clarita City Council sessions.

Engage with those whose opinions vary from your own to consider fresh perspectives. Do your own research online or at your local library.

That’s what it takes to evaluate “news” objectively. Otherwise, you accept that others, who may not share your values, will “interpret” news according to theirs.

 Published in The Signal 2/24/17


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Monsters due on Maple Street

February 12th, 2017 1 comment

“Maple Street, USA, late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children and the bell of an ice cream vendor.

“At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 p.m. on Maple Street. This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street — in the last calm and reflective moment — before the monsters came.”

That’s the opening narrative to a memorable episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” television series. The story centers on neighbors in an idyllic suburban setting who see and hear an unidentified object flash overhead and subsequently experience inexplicable events that disrupt their peaceful coexistence.

Power and outside communication are lost, automobiles won’t start and then inexplicably do so while unoccupied, lights flicker, etc., causing disruption to the certainty all expected in their daily lives.

A boy details a wild story about mysterious forces that plant a seed in increasingly fearful minds that begin to entertain outlandish thoughts. In turn, each resident is accused of suspicious collaboration with an unseen enemy.

Hysteria and accusations fly, there’s a murder by the most conspiracy-obsessed man lashing out in fear, resulting in mayhem, each set against the other.


To the relief of many, a long and grueling presidential election season is over. In the Santa Clarita Valley and across a diverse and populous America, most would consider it a contentious one with “deplorable” polemics and emotion expressed by candidates, surrogates, media and potential voters alike.

All were focused on candidates’ character, personalities and antics rather than specific issues in the circus-like atmosphere the media whipped up to drive the viewer ratings competition.

The finalists were widely considered unfit for office, each with a record of highly unfavorable ratings.

Added to this dynamic was an ongoing FBI investigation into mishandling of classified data on unauthorized servers, compromised political party and campaign servers/accounts that revealed the unsavory machinations of machine politics and clandestine media collaboration.

On Nov. 8, American citizens made their decision and voted. While the election is still being analyzed, already it’s being considered a change election due to an outcome that surprised the political class in the Beltway, professional pollsters and other “experts,” accompanied by an often comical reaction by a media that had shed any pretense of impartiality.

Historically, the USA has experienced raucous elections starting with the inception of political parties in the contest of 1800, featuring but not limited to character assassination, calumnies and yellow journalism.

Duels with fatalities were fought over political differences, and the Civil War began because an election result favored an abolitionist.

Was this year’s election unprecedented in its negativity or unique in colorful candidates? From the perspective of history: decidedly not.

Whether you’re personally elated, devastated or cautiously sanguine about the election results, understand that we have surely experienced change and overcome adversity in our nation’s history. Our constitutional republic is robust and has completed a peaceful transfer of power over a 200-plus-year history. No one person or party has dissolved our union.

Does America face significant challenges domestically and abroad? Assuredly we do. Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.

Too many have been left behind or are struggling to adapt to the disruption that automation and global trade present. Our K-12 education system is a calcified monopoly that’s failing to teach our children critical thinking, and higher education is a dysfunctional morass of overwrought social activism, spiraling tuition and a failure to adapt to a changing career marketplace.

Health care is in disarray due to misguided partisan legislation. Outside our borders, once-reliable allies question our leadership, a multipolar world is chaotic, and vanquished foes again challenge world order.

As we focus on these challenges at the local, state, national and international levels, let’s not forget the reasons our union was formed.

Whatever our differences, we are still neighbors and Americans. Be considerate of your fellow citizens as we share our wonderful SCV community.


Closing narration: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men.

For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.”

Published in The Signal 11/28/16 https://signalscv.com/2016/11/28/ron-bischof-monsters-due-maple-street/

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The root cause is misuse of state power

December 9th, 2014 No comments

2014 12 08 8188f77d large

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May 20th, 2014 No comments


Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

February 2nd, 2013 No comments
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Stunning Saturn Image

December 28th, 2012 No comments

From NASA’s Cassini spacecraft 10/17/12.


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