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The print and electronic media were falling all over themselves to tell the story of the Ferguson, MO shooting last summer:  The narrative, though not put in exactly these words, was simple:  A Klansman-wannabe whose day job was as a policeman shot an unarmed black teenager out of a particularly malignant form of "white privilege."  It was the latter day version of a Jim Crow  --  a quasi-slavery system of white oppression that had never really gone away, although it had (usually) been more cleverly disguised.

The story was made particularly horrible by what became its catchphrase:  "Hands up, don't shoot!"  Brown was portrayed as the compliant, non-threatening and promising black kid (complete in many pictures used at the time in cap-and-gown) gunned down for no reason but racial supremacy by a cop who had been brought up in a culture that told him there was no consequence for taking black lives.

The Ferguson story was leveraged big time to create commissions, both in Missouri and in the White House, to "study" ongoing racist attitudes  --  or, as the more cynical among us might think, to undermine confidence in and respect for law and the means sometimes needed to enforce it.  More broadly, it was used as the newest, biggest Guilt Cudgel in the culture war.

A good deal of time now having passed, and the shaming mission having been well-launched, Eric Holder's DOJ can now afford to tell the truth, as related in today's WSJ story, "US Won't Charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson."

"Root Causes," the Insane Asylum Version

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Complacency about crime typically expresses itself in the same phrases, year after year.  Perhaps the most shopworn is the phrase, "root causes,"as in, "You Neanderthals should quit being so heartless and try to understand the root causes of crime." It inevitably turns out that the "root causes" have nothing to do with greed, selfishness or lack of morals.  Instead, they're always about something for which the hoodlum du jour is not responsible, such as poor education, bad parenting or unemployment.

The "root causes" theory of thuggish behavior just hit the jackpot.  The inimitable Ms. Marie Harf of the State Department had this to say about the world's most notorious and mind-bending criminals, ISIS terrorists:

MARIE HARF, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: I think there are a few stages here, right now we are trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq & Syria, that is where they really flourish.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Are we killing enough of them?

MARIE HARF: We're killing a lot of them. And we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians and Jordanians, they're in this fight with us. We can not win this war by killing them. We can not kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs...

It would be wrong, even perverse, to blame the criminal defense bar for this stultifying nonsense.  That said, however, what struck me right off when I read it was its eerie similarity to the allocution I heard again and again from defense counsel:  "Your Honor, we can't do any good by imprisoning my client.  We cannot incarcerate our way out of drug abuse.  We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these gangs, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs..."

Moral of story:  Once personal responsibility for your behavior goes out the window, there's no telling where it will stop.

Race, Race Huckstering, and Crime

Jason Riley, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, tells the grim and unpopular truth:

The shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year touched off a national discussion about everything except the aberrant behavior of so many young black men that results in such frequent encounters with police....

Homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men in the U.S., and around 90 percent of the perpetrators are also black. Yet for months we've had protesters nationwide pretending that our morgues are full of young black men because cops are shooting them. Around 98 percent of black shooting deaths do not involve police. In fact, a cop is six times more likely to be shot by someone black than the opposite. The protestors are pushing a false anti-cop narrative, and everyone from the president on down has played along.

Any candid debate on race and criminal justice in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. Blacks constitute about 13 percent of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 they committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses--including robbery, aggravated assault, and property crimes--is typically two to three times their representation in the population. So long as blacks are committing such an outsized amount of crime, young black men will be viewed suspiciously and tensions between police and crime-ridden communities will persist. The U.S. criminal justice system, currently headed by a black attorney general who reports to a black president, is a reflection of this reality, not its cause. If we want to change negative perceptions of young black men, we must change the behavior that is driving those perceptions. But pointing this out has become almost taboo.

Riley's entire essay is worth your time.

Correlation, Causation, and Education

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How many times have we heard "correlation does not prove causation"?  Too many to count.  How many times have we heard that elementary truth recited and then ignored, as people proceed to argue for policy changes based on correlation alone.  Almost as many.

Charlie Wells has this article in the WSJ on financial education of kids and their financial behavior as adults.  It has nothing to do with crime, but it sounds a cautionary note about the argument we hear all the time.  "Studies show that educational program X is correlated with positive outcome Y.  Therefore we must spend more on X to produce Y, and that is more important and more cost effective than the solution only you ignorant rednecks believe in, Z."  It does not follow.

Race Huckstering at Its Finest

I won't even try to characterize the depth of contempt for America and the extent of the guilt-mongering going on in this article from the Economic Policy Institute.  The title is, "Where Do We Go from Here:  Mass Incarceration and the Struggle for Civil Rights." So far as I can make out, its thesis is that no one, and in particular no African American, is responsible for his criminal behavior, and that it's only Jim Crow Amerika, now and forever, that causes people to be imprisoned:  Prison, you see, is merely the midwife of racist oppression.

If readers think that's an exaggeration, I invite them to read the piece and describe how else it might fairly be characterized.

My reason for posting something like this is to alert those who have a better opinion of the country and of the criminal justice system about what, exactly, we are up against. 
A:  He didn't.  It wasn't an oversight.  His absence was a deliberated decision.  Byron York in the Washington Examiner explains why, and I'll get to that, but I want to say just a word first about how the White House has handled this.

Essentially, there has been no explanation.  The press secretary said it was a mistake, and has kind-of-sort-of suggested that arranging security quickly would have been a problem.  But to say it was a mistake is not to explain why it happened, and the notion that security could not have been arranged is preposterous (which the traveling press corps knows, accounting for the fact that it isn't really being pushed).

So why did Obama stay put while the heads of state and prime ministers from 40 other countries took part?  As York writes:

The administration no-shows were not a failure of optics, or a diplomatic misstep, but were instead the logical result of the president's years-long effort to downgrade the threat of terrorism and move on to other things.

"The analogy we use around [the White House] sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama told the New Yorker magazine in a January 2014 interview. The president was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but was also suggesting in a broader sense that a number of post-9/11 offshoot terrorist organizations aren't worth the sort of war-footing mobilization that took place in the George W. Bush years.


Fast forward to January 2015. The attackers at Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris would undoubtedly qualify as JV-level terrorists under Obama's new classification. But their work was enough to shock Europe and motivate more than a million people to gather behind dozens of heads of state at the unity rally Sunday. 

Looking Inside the Bubble from the Outside

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I've noted more than once (for example, here, here and here) that there exists in some precincts of the literati and academia such an unhinged anti-American attitude that it's hard for normal people to grasp.  Every now and again the public gets a glimpse (as when some Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown law students loudly announced they felt too infuriated by America's awfulness in the Ferguson and Staten Island cases to take their scheduled exams), but generally it remains out of public view.

One of the reasons I follow ideologically diverse legal blogs is that I like to see just how into the Twilight Zone this anti-American, anti-police attitude extends.  Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy does us the favor of giving an illustration today by noting this new piece at The Nation by Willie Osterweil.  As Doug says, it "serves as a review of sorts of a book by historian Naomi Murakawa titled The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison in America."  Here is the first excerpt from the article, as quoted by Doug:

In her first book, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison in America, historian Naomi Murakawa demonstrates how the American prison state emerged not out of race-baiting states'-rights advocates nor tough-on-crime drug warriors but rather from federal legislation written by liberals working to guarantee racial equality under the law.  The prison industry, and its associated police forces, spy agencies and kangaroo courts, is perhaps the most horrific piece of a fundamentally racist and unequal American civil society.  More people are under correctional supervision in the United States than were in the Gulag archipelago at the height of the Great Terror; there are more black men in prison, jail or parole than were enslaved in 1850. How did this happen?

And that is where I get off the ship.  America, the "prison state" (when 0.7% of the population is incarcerated, virtually all because of their own greedy or violent choices; 99.3% of the population is not).  "Race-baiting" conservatives (when essentially all of the race-baiting and its allied race-based bullying is done by Mr. Osterweil's buddies).  "Spy agencies and kangaroo courts" (when spying has next to nothing to do with criminal convictions, and the courts provide process to the point that it's overtaken substance).  "The most horrific piece of a fundamentally racist...society" (It's not just that Amerika stinks, it's that it's horrific).

I don't know if liberals/libertarians take this stuff seriously, but I thank Doug for putting it up on his blog to remind us once more of just what a bunch of unhinged so-called thinkers we have to deal with.  That it even gets noticed by people at, say, the top of the Justice Department is astonishing.  And ominous.

Wars Have Casualties

On August 9 this last summer, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, a 6'4" 292 pound unarmed 18 year-old who had just forcibly robbed a convenience store of some trivial items.

From that day to this, there has been a media and cultural war on the police. They are, we are variously told, racist, thuggish, unaccountable and over-militarized. You will have missed it only if you've been living in a cave.  C&C has covered it extensively.

Wars have casualties.  Today we heard about some in the Washington Examiner.  Its story is headlined, "Police deaths soar 24% in 2014 with ambush attacks leading cause."  It starts:

Law enforcement fatalities in the United States rose 24 percent in 2014 to 126 and ambush-style attacks were the No. 1 cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth straight year, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The NLEOMF report said 126 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year, compared to 102 in 2013. The number of officers killed by firearms in 2014 -- 50 -- is up 56 percent from the 32 killed last year.

Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, and the recent shooting deaths of New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have attracted national attention and contributed to tension between police and the city's elected leaders.

The total of 15 ambush assaults matched 2012 for the highest total since 1995.

The hate war against the police is not directly responsible for most, or perhaps any, of this.  At the same time, those insisting that hate has no consequences are lying to themselves and to us.

Rape Hoaxes Galore

The assassinations of two New York policemen have gained fully warranted attention in recent days, and have knocked out of the headlines the University of Virginia/Rolling Stone rape hoax.  

Today I want to re-visit that story, both for its own lessons, and because it's related to the hate campaign against the police  --  that is, against a group consisting largely of white males.  The rape hoaxes and the "Police Are Nazis" crusade have the same general goal, that being to whip up disabling guilt among Those Who Enjoy Privilege (whites, men, the One Percent, fraternity members, people in uniform, etc.  -- anyone who's not among the Politically Correct will do well enough).

The reasons for whipping up guilt among the non-politically correct are multifaceted, but there's one in particular that stands out for purposes of this blog:  To sap the moral confidence needed to enforce criminal law.  Once we become convinced that policemen (e.g., Darren Wilson) are hooligans, and white frat men (e.g., "Jackie's" alleged attackers) simply walk past the punishments that would apply to others, we come to doubt both the fairness of the system and, thus, our own moral standing to enforce its rules.  Their enforcement then becomes irresolute.

Q:  Who will most directly benefit when that happens?

A:  Criminals.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point.  Don't be fooled.

The rape hoaxes (not including the infamous Duke case) are here

Edmund Burke, Barack Obama and Cop Killing

The title of this entry is taken from a thoughtful and disturbing essay by Paul Mirengoff.   It quotes Yuval Levin on the origin of the great divide in American politics, a divide on vivid and bitter display in the reaction to this weekend's police murders.  

It starts with Levin's description of the essence of how Burke viewed the fragility of civilization:

We cannot be simply argued out of our vices, but we can be deterred from indulging in them by the trust and love that develops among neighbors, by deeply established habits of order and peace, and by pride in our community or country. And part of the statesman's difficult charge is keeping this balance together, acting rationally on this understanding of the limits of reason. 

But pride in community and country is under attack. As Paul writes:

[President] Obama and [Attorney General] Holder look for occasions to pontificate in ways that undermine mutual trust and trust in institutions that maintain order. They seized, for example, on the unfortunate but justified killing of a thug who attacked a police officer in Missouri as the pretext for claims that law enforcement in this country is systematically unjust to African-Americans.

Shortly after this, they seized on what appears to have been an unjustified, but non-racially motivated, killing in Staten Island as the basis for pressing their divisive theme. And the mayor of New York chimed in by announcing that he warns his bi-racial son, in effect, that the police may be out to get him because of his color.

My experience as a prosecutor taught me that two things broadly separate criminal thinking from the thinking of law-abiding people:  Empathy and self-restraint.  These qualities are grounded in confidence in society's right and power to make rules and enforce them fairly.  It is Obama's and Holder's dishonest undermining of that confidence, more than anything else, that is the most corrosive component of our present "national conversation." 

What's Different About Today's Police Bashing?

Howard Safir, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department from 1996-2000, gives the answer in his short Time magazine essay:

When Ismaaiyl Abdulah Brinsley brutally executed Officers Ramos and Liu he did so in an atmosphere of permissiveness and anti-police rhetoric unlike any that I have seen in 45 years in law enforcement. The rhetoric this time is not from the usual suspects, but from the Mayor of New York City, the Attorney General of the United States, and even the President. It emboldens criminals and sends a message that every encounter a black person has with a police officer is one to be feared. Nothing could be further from the truth. We will never know what was in the mind of Brinsley when he shot officers Ramos and Liu. However we do know that he has seen nothing but police bashing from some of the highest officials in the land.

I disagree with Mr. Safir in only one respect.  We do know what was in Brinsley's mind.  He told us shortly before the murders when he wrote on his Instagram page, "I'm putting wings on pigs today...They Take 1 Of Ours ... Let's Take 2 of Theirs."

Race Relations Tank

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An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll published four days ago showed that, as our "national conversation" about race gets pumped by Eric Holder, Al Sharpton and like-minded opinion leaders, Americans view race relations as having hit their lowest point since the last century.

The reason for this seems evident to me.  The "national conversation" is not designed to promote understanding, cooperation or "healing"  --  the usual goals we get lectured about.  It's designed to promote anger, resentment and grievance. The poll suggests it's succeeding.

It was taken, of course, before the yesterday's avowedly racist police assassinations. 

Immediate Reaction to the Police Assassination

A couple of things we are certain to hear a few thousand times in the next couple of days:

1.  "These killings were a senseless act."  What nonsense.  It made plenty of sense to Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who did it.  He had it in for the cops, in part, as his Instagram entry all but proclaims, because of the intentionally whipped-up hatred against them, and acted on his hatred.  Nothing senseless about it.

2.  "We should come together in the face of this tragedy."  This will be said over and over by the people who used the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths to inflame racial antagonism and grievance as much as they could.

It's only fair, however, to note one thing we will not hear:  We won't hear Ivy League law students complaining that their distress makes it impossible for them to take their exams.
This happens.

The Washington Post story contains these paragraphs:

Several hours before the shooting, a man believed to be the gunman wrote, "I'm putting wings on pigs today" on his Instagram page, the Post reported. The images showed a silver handgun with a wooden handle and a pair of camouflage pants and blue tennis shoes that appear to match those worn by the suspect as he was circulated by the media that show him being transported to the hospital. The photos use hashtags for Michael Brown and Eric Garner and appear to indicate that the shootings were an act of revenge.

"They Take 1 Of Ours ... Let's Take 2 of Theirs," the post said, before adding, "This May Be My Final Post."

The people who have been waging a non-stop hate campaign against the police will of course disclaim any responsibility.  And it appears to be true that the assassin was unbalanced.  But we all know there are unbalanced people out there, and that hate can set them off.

I see just now in his news conference that Mayor De Blasio is doing his best to fake mourning, but not quite making it.

In a free country, peaceful protesters get to say what they want, see Snyder v. Phelps.*  While I think people who wallow in belligerent grievance are all wrong, in both doctrine and temperament, they have the right to speak what is in their minds and hearts.  Indeed, sometimes, I'm grateful they do, so that the rest of us can hear it without a filter.

This is one of those times.  Listen for yourself.

*  N.B.  This does not apply on college campuses.

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