I got some flak yesterday for posting a chart showing the number of police shootings of unarmed blacks and whites without taking into account crime rates. It's harder to do that than you'd think, since the Department of Justice no longer produces crime statistics by race, but we can get a rough idea.

First, we'll use the National Crime Victimization Survey. This is a telephone survey and isn't based on arrest rates, so it doesn't have problems of possible police bias in who they decide to arrest. Second, we'll use the 2008 numbers for violent crimes (Tables 40 and 46 here), since that's the last year we have data by race. Obviously this isn't ideal, but I don't imagine that violent crime rates by race have changed dramatically since then. We'll compare this to the number of police shootings collected by the Washington Post for 2015.

The result is on the right. Don't take it too seriously, but it probably provides a decent rough idea of the disparity in police shootings of unarmed civilians when you account for crime rates. Unarmed whites are shot about 15 times per million violent offenses. Unarmed blacks are shot about 28 times per million violent offenses.

POSTSCRIPT: Needless to say, I'm under no illusion that this will stop the flak. I'm sure plenty of people on both sides of the debate have plenty of adjustments they want to make to the raw data in order to make their own side look better.

Exciting news today, folks:

That's right: Donald Trump actually told the truth about something. It's front-page news this morning, along with six other Trump-related front-page articles at the Washington Post. The New York Times has three. Politico has twelve. Sigh.

In light of today's sweeping decision at the Hague denying China's claim to various islands and reefs in the South China Sea, this is an interesting tidbit from the Financial Times:

US President Barack Obama in March delivered a stark admonition to Xi Jinping over the South China Sea, warning the Chinese leader of serious consequences if China reclaimed land at Scarborough Shoal, one of the most dangerous flashpoints in Asia.

....Following the meeting in Washington, China withdrew its ships from the area....“The signalling from the US side was that this was serious,” said a former official. “There was an accumulation of pieces ... the conclusion was that the People’s Liberation Army was advocating [action]. It wasn’t necessarily indicators that Xi himself had made any decisions, but there was the feeling that it was on his desk and coming to him for a decision.”

....China has come under criticism for building man-made islands in recent years, but the US saw Scarborough as more strategically significant given its proximity to the coast of the Philippines, which has a mutual defence treaty with the US. Some officials worried that China could install radar and missiles on Scarborough. Along with facilities in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, that would help China create a strategic triangle, which would enable the policing of any air defence identification zone in the South China Sea.

At the moment, China reclaims land at various spots in the South China Sea, and everyone complains but nobody does anything about it. Likewise, we operate reconnaissance flights and perform Freedom of Navigation exercises, and China complains but doesn't do anything about it. Basically, both sides can do whatever they want because neither side wants to start a war over it. This pretty obviously favors China at the moment, since they have the resources for large-scale reclamation projects and just enough of a navy to protect them. We have a considerably bigger navy, but it's unlikely the American public would show much support for a shooting war with China to protect a rock out in the middle of nowhere. All China really has to do is wait a while for us to get bored, and then keep on building.

A Conservative Case for Black Lives Matter

Jonah Goldberg has some sensible things to say about both Black Lives Matter and the killing of five police officers in Dallas:

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castille, the man shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, had followed all of the rules — he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. — and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas.

....Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who did not lose his lazy certainty) spent the weekend attacking the Black Lives Matter movement as “racist.” He wants people to focus on the fact that most black murder victims die at the hands of other blacks. That’s true, and tragic, and fairly irrelevant.

Conservatives, of all people, should understand that misdeeds committed by agents of the state are categorically different from the same acts committed by normal citizens. A father who slaps his son for no good reason, however wrong that may be, is very different from a cop who slaps a citizen for no good reason.

I'm continually nonplussed by the apparent inability of so many people to believe two things at the same time. Thing 1: Most police officers are conscientious public servants who perform dangerous jobs admirably and honorably. They're my first call if I'm ever in trouble. Thing 2: They're also human beings just like the rest of us, and fall prey to the same racial stereotyping that most of us do—but with guns in their hands. It's hardly surprising that black activists are finally demanding better treatment from police in their communities. The only surprising thing is that it took so long.

Two things. Both true. And not so hard to believe at the same time.

It's Official: Bernie Endorses Hillary

At the moment, I don't have anything on tap to say about this that I haven't already said, but just for the record:

Democrats took a long-anticipated step toward unity Tuesday as Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, praising the party platform and its presumptive nominee here in the state that gave him his most powerful primary victory.

“This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that,” Sanders said to the cheers of hundreds of partisans crowded into a high school gymnasium here, Clinton nodding at his side.

The next step, obviously, is to see how enthusiastic Bernie is and whether he can bring along the vast majority of his former supporters. My guesses are "very" and "yes."

While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are finishing up their lovefest in New Hampshire, how about another chart comparing retirement in America to retirement in other rich countries? Don't lie: you know you want it.

Here's one that makes the US look a little worse than yesterday's charts. It shows income replacement rates in all OECD countries: that is, the amount of income that retirees get compared to how much they earned when they were working. This is a very tricky number to compute because there are lots of different ways you can do it, and the OECD pension report spends several pages just outlining the various assumptions you can use. That said, here are their estimates for low-income workers when you include only public pensions like Social Security:

And here's the same chart including all pension income, both public and private:

Once again, the United States relies more on private spending than most other countries. When you count only Social Security, the US looks pretty stingy, ranking seventh from the bottom for low-income workers. But when you include all sources of pension income, we look better than a majority of OECD counties—including famously generous ones like Belgium, France, and Germany.

Now, as I said, these numbers are tricky to compute, and in this case I'm fairly skeptical of them. The replacement rate for Social Security in the top chart looks way too low to me. Conversely, the replacement rate for all sources of pension income in the US looks too high. Neither number matches up to figures for low-income workers from places like the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security Administration. But that may simply be because the OECD made different assumptions in their calculations.

In any case, this gives you a decent idea of how we stack up using simple income replacement rates as your metric.

For the past year, an international tribunal in the Hague has been pondering China's claim to own the entire South China Sea. China has refused to participate in the trial because they were afraid they might lose. And lose they did:

An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including the construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

....“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler. “This is a remarkable victory for the Philippines.”

But then there's this:

While the decision is legally binding, there is no mechanism for enforcing it, and China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, reiterated on Tuesday that it would not abide by it.

So it's a moral victory, but not much else. Still, China cares about its international standing, no matter how much they bluster otherwise. This might be a first step toward getting them to enter into serious negotiations over ownership of the various rocks, reefs, and islands of the South China Sea—all of which are governed by different rules regarding maritime law and economic zones. Time will tell.

Oh, Britain!

With their accents,

Harry Potters,

and balls (both "foot" and "net").

 

Oh, Britain!

With their insane political choices,

badger culls,

and questionable condiments.

 

Oh, Britain!

Is from where

this funny thing comes.

Have a nice day.

Remember when Republicans held hearings in 1998 about Bill Clinton's Christmas card list? We are getting into that territory again. Driven into madness by James Comey's decision not to recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton over her private email server, Republicans promised last week to demand that the FBI investigate her for perjury instead. Today they made good on that promise. Let's listen in:

The letter from U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asserts that evidence collected by the FBI during its investigation involving Clinton's email practices "appears to directly contradict several aspects of her sworn testimony" and asks federal authorities to "investigate and determine whether to prosecute Secretary Clinton for violating statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress, or any other relevant statutes."

At a hearing last week, Chaffetz asked whether the FBI had specifically investigated Clinton's previous statements, which he considered to be false. Comey said to open a criminal investigation, he would need a referral from Congress. "You'll have one. You'll have one in the next few hours," said Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Of particular interest might be a statement Clinton made to the House Select Committee on Benghazi in October 2015 that "there was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received." Comey has said that investigators found three such emails with the notation "(C)"—meaning confidential—contained within the text.

Got that? Out of 30,000+ emails, the FBI found a grand total of three that were marked confidential. But note the following:

At most, then, we have the bare possibility that out of four years worth of emails, Clinton might—maybe—have failed to notice a proper classification mark on one of them. Why? Because it didn't include the proper header to warn readers that classified information was somewhere in the body of the email.

This is what Republicans want the FBI to spend time investigating. It makes the Christmas card hearings look positively reasonable.

Earlier today I wrote about retirement income in the United States, and that got me curious about how we compare to other countries. The obvious source for this is an international organization that does its best to make apples-to-apples comparisons, so I headed to the website of the OECD, the "rich countries club." (I don't really care how we compare to Chad. I want to know how we compare to peer countries like France and Japan.)

This in turn led me to "Pensions at a Glance," which turned out to be an enormous misnomer: the 2015 edition is 374 pages long. I haven't read the whole thing, of course, but I did find plenty of interesting stuff. I'm going to highlight one chart today, and maybe I'll do others throughout the week.

So how do we compare? The answer, unsurprisingly, is: It's complicated. There are lots of ways of comparing retirement income, and they produce different results. But there's a single broad measure that gives a rough idea of how generous each country is: the percentage of GDP spent on pension programs. In the United States, that's Social Security (public) plus 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. (private). Other countries give their programs different names, but they all employ a combination of public and private spending.

By itself, though, that's not enough. Countries with more elderly people are obviously going to spend more. So you want to adjust the GDP number by how many people are retired. The OECD report doesn't do this directly, but it does provide the old-age dependency ratio for each country, which is a good proxy. The higher the number, the more retired people a country has.

So all we have to do is divide the GDP number by the OADR number for each country. This provides a "retirement index" that indicates how generous each country's retirement is. Here it is for public pensions only:

And here it is for all pension income, both public and private:

As with many other things, the United States relies more heavily on private spending than most rich countries. If you compare Social Security to public pensions in other countries, we're about average. If you compare all pension income, our retirees are better off than nearly everywhere else.

Now, these are only average numbers. They don't tell us anything about how rich retirees compare to poor ones. Social Security, for example, tends to favor poorer retirees, while private pensions favor richer ones, and it's not easy to combine them to get a comprehensive distribution of retirement benefits. However, the OECD report has some other charts that come close to doing this, and I'll see if I can extract one for tomorrow. In the meantime, make what you will of this raw data.