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Root Causes

Robert Woodson has this article in the WSJ on fighting poverty, the compassionate conservatism of Jack Kemp, and Paul Ryan's low-profile efforts.  Crime is inevitably part of the mix, although not in the simplistic "poverty is the root cause of crime" mantra so beloved by our friends on the left.

Kemp's public record reveals that in the late 1970s the then-congressman persuaded his colleagues who were part of an initiative called the Opportunity Society to conduct a unique field hearing in the troubled Kenilworth-Parkside public-housing development in Washington, D.C. Kenilworth was at the forefront of a movement of associations of public-housing residents that strove to take on management duties for their developments, which had become crime-ridden, drug-plagued and dilapidated during years of neglect and opportunism under bureaucratic public-housing authorities.

Once the Kenilworth residents were empowered to take charge of their neighborhood, they drove out the drug dealers, reduced teen pregnancy and welfare dependency, and launched self-help initiatives.
Poverty and crime have an interaction more complex than either causing the other, and a deficit of personal responsibility is a root cause of both.

Speaking of Reflecting Truth...

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My last entry built on an SL&P posting about fictionalized plea bargains that whitewash the defendant's behavior.That same blog now features an article titled, "Mass Incarceration Has Become the New Welfare." The thesis of the article, taking off from the work of black radical Ta-Nehisi Coates, is that America  --  ever the cruel, racist nest  --  has solved its welfare state problems by the morally indefensible expedient of building the "carcereal state" instead.

I shall refrain from addressing the premise of this view of things, or its implicit concession (or proclamation, I'm not sure which) that we would not, as the Left usually claims, save taxpayer money by de-incarceration. (Instead, we would simply move the expenditures to what the article views as a more benign expansion of welfare).  Instead, I want to highlight this paragraph (emphasis added):

But, in characteristic fashion, [Coates] goes beyond this, asking readers to think in new ways about disturbing phenomena that they may take for granted.  Bringing together Moynihan's concerns about black family structure with the cold fact of mass incarceration produces a striking conclusion: Mass incarceration actually causes crime.

Nowhere does the author cite facts to support this assertion, and it's not hard to see why.  Since 1991, as incarceration has skyrocketed (a fact no one disputes), crime has dropped by half.  On its face, the claim that "mass incarceration causes crime" is not merely wrong but preposterous  --  so much so that the idea that such a claim is made as part of a good-faith debate becomes impossible to believe.

When you want to have a good-faith debate, you at least try to tell the truth; you don't belligerently assert its inversion. 

About two weeks ago, I asked whether black lives matter to "Black Lives Matter."  My thesis was that robust incarceration and proactive policing have done more to actually protect black lives than all the BLM protests from here to the dark side of the moon.  It's the movement to cut back on prison and policing, not their use, that is putting black lives at risk.

Jason Riley of the WSJ picks up the theme in his column last night.

The great lie of the summer has been the Black Lives Matter movement.  It was founded on one falsehood--that a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot a black suspect who was trying to surrender--and it is perpetuated by another: that trigger-happy cops are filling our morgues with young black men.

The reality is that Michael Brown is dead because he robbed a convenience store, assaulted a uniformed officer and then made a move for the officer's gun. The reality is that a cop is six times more likely to be killed by someone black than the reverse. The reality is that the Michael Browns are a much bigger threat to black lives than are the police. "Every year, the casualty count of black-on-black crime is twice that of the death toll of 9/11," wrote former New York City police detective Edward Conlon in a Journal essay on Saturday. "I don't understand how a movement called 'Black Lives Matter' can ignore the leading cause of death among young black men in the U.S., which is homicide by their peers."

We often hear that crime is bred by America's callousness, its class system, and its denying opportunity to those it excludes.  Of course, these are not the only explanations.

Q:  Who said that our country must realize

...that crime is generated by a lack of values that has largely gone unaddressed in our nation as a whole and in the black community in particular. Soaring unwed birthrates, absentee fathers, an aversion to work, an unwillingness to embrace societal standards and time-honored discipline -- all these factors have contributed to the problems we must now confront.

A: Pick one:

1.  Donald Trump when he thought the microphone was off
2.  The head of the Tea Party
3.  The John Birch Society
4.  The Imperial Klud of the KKK 

"Pigs in a Blanket, Fry 'em Like Bacon"

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The title of this post is the chant used by the Black Lives Matter contingent at the Minnesota State Fair this last weekend.  "Pigs" of course refers to the police; "fry 'em" is slightly more obscure, although I doubt it means "give them a box of candy."

BLM used this chant hours after the report of the execution-style murder of a white Houston policeman, Darren Goforth, by a black man, Shannon Miles.  Miles' motive is not clear; he and Goforth had not had any prior experience with each other that is known about.

The BLM spokesman, Rashad Turner, explained that the chant is nonviolent because  --  ready now?  --  those are only words

Well, why not?  When prize-winning NYT journalist Linda Greenhouse can proclaim that the country has adopted a death penalty "moratorium" while it is executing a killer an average of every twelve days or so, why would anyone think that words are supposed to mean anything?

But perhaps more troubling than the rigged solipsism is the fact the the BLM movement  --  with all its potential for good  --  seems increasingly rooted in hate.

Hat tip to PowerLine.

The End of Seriousness

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I was initially going to introduce this post as off-topic, but on second thought, it is regrettably relevant to C&C's subject matter.  We deal here with crime and punishment.  These are serious topics, and discussing them presupposes a level of seriousness in the conversation.

There is now evidence that the level of seriousness needed for intelligent debate has vanished  --  or, more correctly, has been forfeited.  You will not be surprised to learn that the origin of this step back to ignorance is academia.

The University of Tennessee  --  hardly a fly-by-night operation  --  is now urging its students to pretend that they cannot tell the difference between boys and girls, and, if they must pretend they know it anyway, that their speech elide the distinction.

Here's the start of the story:

In the boldest endorsement of a growing national trend, the University of Tennessee is urging incoming students and teachers to junk references to "he," "she," and "them," in favor of gender-neutral "ze" and "xe."

The University has helpfully published a chart for those who have trouble getting their Minds Right.

The Lies at the Base of "Black Lives Matter"

The "Black Lives Matter" Movement took root a little more than a year ago in Ferguson, Mo.  A white policeman, Darren Wilson, shot a blameless and unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, as Brown had his hands up, trying to surrender (hence the Movement's first slogan, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot").  Thereafter, Wilson walked up to Brown, now prone, and, as noted in stories briefly recounted in this New Yorker article, shot him in the back.

Or so is the fable.  It's a pack of lies, and was from the day it started. The point of BLM was never to tell the truth, so when the truth came out  --  as it did in two grand jury investigations, including one by Eric Holder's Justice Department  --  it was dismissed. The point was always something different:  To intimidate the police and thus benefit criminals.

There's evidence that it's worked.  Police work has become more fraught.  Some cops say they're pulling back.  When the State's Attorney indicts the police and the city's mayor says rioters must be given "space to destroy," what were we expecting?  We should have been expecting, e.g., Baltimore, and a spike in murders coast-to-coast, which is what we got and are getting.

The wretched irony in this is, of course, that black lives do matter, and that blacks, who disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, depend more than better-off whites for the basic protection policing provides.  In part for that reason, I repeat the following entry on PowerLine, a bitterly humorous tribute to the insidious deceit and tragic carnage of "Black Lives Matter."
We often hear that lack of opportunity for legal employment is a "root cause" of crime.  That is likely less of a factor than many would have us believe, but it would be equally fallacious to believe it is not a factor at all.

We need to be concerned, then, that the ladder of opportunity always be there and that those who want to climb it be able to do so.  Unfortunately, people pretending to have the best interests of low-wage workers at heart are busily sawing off the bottom rungs.

Drug Dealers, Prey or Predator?

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Heather Mac Donald exposes the myth that drug enforcement creates criminals out of otherwise productive, peaceable young men who never had a chance.  In her article in The City Journal, she aptly sums up the reigning academic wisdom painting The System as a monstrosity and the drug dealer as the would-be Jean Val Jean: 

[Leftist author Alice] Goffman contends that it is the legal system itself that is creating crime and dysfunction in poor black communities. Young men get saddled with a host of allegedly petty warrants for having missed court dates, violated their parole and probation conditions, and ducked the administrative fees levied on their criminal cases. Fearful of being rounded up under these senseless procedural warrants, they adopt a lifestyle of subterfuge and evasion, constantly in flight from an increasingly efficient and technology-enhanced police force. "Once a man fears that he will be taken by the police, it is precisely a stable and public daily routine of work and family life . . . that allows the police to locate him," Goffman writes. "A man in legal jeopardy finds that his efforts to stay out of prison are aligned not with upstanding, respectable action but with being a shady and distrustful character."

But that's not the reality of it:

Goffman's own material demolishes this thesis. On the Run documents a world of predation and law-of-the-jungle mores, riven with violence and betrayal. Far from being the hapless victims of random "legal entanglements"--Goffman's euphemism for the foreseeable consequences of lawless behavior--her subjects create their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime. 

You need to read the whole piece in order to understand how utterly fictitious is the tale of Mr.-Nicey-driven-to-crime by a callous (and of course racist) system. Clue:  He wasn't Mr. Nicey to start with.

Way Beyond Unhinged

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Criminal justice, sentencing, and police behavior  --  especially behavior toward African Americans  -- have become contentious issues.  As one would expect, they have shown up in the race for each party's Presidential nomination.  They have opened a window on (1) what treatment is given speakers with opposing viewpoints, and (2) what, in some circles, is considered an "opposing viewpoint."

The appalling state of play was summed up in this headline from CNN:  "O'Malley Apologizes for Saying 'All Lives Matter" at Liberal Conference."  The first three paragraphs of this extremely depressing story are:

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley apologized on Saturday for saying "All lives matter" while discussing police violence against African-Americans with liberal demonstrators.

Several dozen demonstrators interrupted the former Maryland governor while he was speaking here at the Netroots Nation conference, a gathering of liberal activists, demanding that he address criminal justice and police brutality. When they shouted, "Black lives matter!" a rallying cry of protests that broke out after several black Americans were killed at the hands of police in recent months, O'Malley responded: "Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter."

The demonstrators, who were mostly black, responded by booing him and shouting him down. 

When the President of the United States hypes racial grievance at every turn, this is what you get.

What Happens When We Lose Our Nerve

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What happens is that we return to past failures.  An article in Quadrant begins:

Welcome to the 1970s! In New York, anyway, one of the decades Tom Wolfe denominated "purple" has made a stunning comeback. Consider crime. After a precipitous decline that began under the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani and continued under Michael Bloomberg, violent crime has soared in the city. From May 2014 to the end of May this year, shootings increased almost 10 per cent while murders jumped a stunning 19.5 per cent during the same period. Meanwhile, Central Park has once again become a haven for thieves and muggers. "Police are investigating another mugging in Central Park," begins a May 20 story in the New York Post, "the latest in a string of robberies that has residents on edge."

It continues:

The centrepiece of Bill de Blasio's mayoral campaign in 2013 was a promise to end one of the most effective weapons against violent crime: "stop and frisk", the practice by the police of stopping, questioning and, in some cases, frisking suspicious characters. De Blasio wanted to end the practice because the overwhelming majority of those stopped and frisked were Black. The reason for this was that the overwhelming majority of suspicious characters that the police encountered were Black, but that reality did not prevent de Blasio from pretending that the practice was inexcusably racist. Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly warned that "people would suffer" if the prophylactic practice was abandoned. No matter. It was too good an opportunity for a left-wing demagogue to ignore.

I don't subscribe to everything the author argues, but I very much subscribe to the underlying thesis:  If we turn away from standards, and the enforcement of standards, that made life safer and better, it will return to being more dangerous and worse.

The Destruction of Baltimore

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Actions have consequences.  So do failures to act.

When rioters smashed their way through Baltimore, supposedly as an exercise of First Amendment "protest," Mayor Rawlings-Blake chirped that they would be given "space to destroy."  They heard her loud and clear, and took advantage.  The police stood down.  

The cynical among us believe, however, that the "protesters" were less interested in the First Amendment than in just looting.  Not being dummies, among the most coveted items for them were the drug supplies of smashed-in pharmacies.

Now those drugs are fueling a turf war among traffickers, much increased drug abuse, and --  guess what  --  a murder spree unlike anything Baltimore has seen in decades.

If you think, however, that this will change the narrative that the whole problem is racism, cops, and thuggish prosecutors using mandatory minimum sentences, you haven't been keeping up with Al Sharpton and his enablers in Congress and academia.
No, they aren't.  

And this goes beyond the fact that the Police Commissioner, the Mayor, the Chairman of the City Council, and a goodly chunk of the police force are black.

Liberal African American columnist Colber I. King points the finger elsewhere:

Births to teen mothers; families headed by single women; violent crime; where police recorded gunshots; people age 25 and older without high school diplomas; the unemployed; people living below the poverty line; and welfare and food stamp recipients.

So is the answer more welfare programs, fifty years of which have brought Baltimore to its present state?

A Culture of Shirking

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I don't recall specific episodes at the moment, but I know I have seen instances where, when there was some horrendous accident in, say, Japan, Taiwan or somewhere else in the Far East, the person responsible and/or the head of the company makes a public apology. He admits wrongdoing and seeks (or sometimes begs) the forgiveness of those he has injured. The concept of responsibility, shame and remorse still has meaning.

I thought of that when I read the following excerpts from the reporting of attempts to interview the engineer of the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring about 200:

What was Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian doing and thinking when his speeding train careened off the rails in Philadelphia, killing eight people and sending over 200 more to the hospital?

He can't say.

That's what Bostian's lawyer told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday, saying his client "has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events" after losing consciousness in the crash Tuesday night.

"He remembers coming into the curve (and) attempting to reduce speed," the attorney, Robert Goggin, said.

The Real "Root Cause"

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We have heard a good deal about the "root cause" of the Baltimore riots, not to mention a great deal of other criminal behavior.  Thomas Sowell sets the record straight:

You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization -- including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain -- without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.

Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state -- and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves. 

One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994. Behavior matters and facts matter...

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