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Some Notable Opinion Pieces

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From yesterday's opinion pages, we have a couple of pieces that are as noteworthy for who wrote them as for what they say. USA Today has this editorial titled "As crime keeps dropping, it's no time for backsliding." They note the headscratching by experts whose pet theories about causes of crime are undercut by the numbers, the point made by Heather MacDonald earlier this week. Then they continue:

One convincing reason for the crime drop is that incarceration works. In 1990, according to the Justice Department, the U.S. prison population was 773,119. Today the total is about 1.6 million.

Getting repeat violent offenders off the streets and keeping them behind bars longer is sure to have had some significant impact. The most recent long-term study of recidivism by the Justice Department found that 67.5% of the prisoners released in 1994 committed another crime within three years. (The department is studying the class of 2005.) More jail cells and longer sentences reduce the population of released prisoners and push them into an older age group, when they are less likely to be involved in the most violent crimes.

Another credible explanation is that law enforcement officials at all levels of government have been effectively employing community policing, rapid response teams and new technologies.

Despite these positive trends, however, there are reasons for concern. States and localities are under extreme financial duress as the result of a sour economy combined with mandated spending tied to health care and overly generous retiree benefits.

Some are responding by cutting law enforcement and releasing prisoners early. That's shortsighted. There is no more important function of government than public safety. If officials do not take that responsibility seriously, crime will no doubt go back up, reversing one of the truly good news stories of the past two decades.

We at CJLF have not often agreed with USA Today's editorials on crime. In fact, we've written the counterpoint a few times. This time, they hit the bull's eye, and we are happy to give credit where it is due.

But wait, there's more. An op-ed in the Washington Post by a prominent black leader decries the bad example set by gunslinging black athletes and also takes the black leadership to task for not speaking out enough on lawbreaking:

I also feel a keen sense of guilt that black leaders have not raised our voices more dramatically. If the assailants in these incidents had been white, we would have been marching, but because this is same-race behavior, we shake our heads, say a few words and allow it to continue.

So who wrote that? Bill Cosby? Nope. Juan Williams? No, although it is quite consistent with his book Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It.
It was Al Sharpton. Yes, that Al Sharpton. Al Sharpton of Tawana Brawley infame. Al Sharpton whose lifetime total of race-baiting exceeds that of George Wallace.

Has he seen the light? I'm willing to believe in redemption, but only on sufficient evidence. I'm glad to see this, but I'd like to see more.

Update: Doug Berman has this post on the USA Today editorial at SL&P.

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