Recently in Social Factors Category

I'm offended that you're offended

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White teenagers singing along to A$AP Ferg's rap song whose lyrics include the n-word is offensive to Barry Bonds?  A pregnant white actress who captions her Instagram post with a lyric from Sir-Mix-Alot's "Baby's Got Back" is offensive to the black community?  I don't get it.  Yes, I agree that A$AP Ferb's "Dump Dump" song is totally and completely offensive in and of itself.  However, a black artist (who most likely profited from these white people) can write and record a song with these offensive lyrics, but a white person can not sing along to it or refer to it? Sure, there are plenty of things going on in the world today to get offended about.  But, white people directly repeating a black artist's song lyrics is not one of them.  
Black lives did not matter when Wendell Callahan, a violent man and a drug dealer, was released early from federal prison and slit the throats of three African Americans, two little girls and their mother.  But the slogan "Black Lives Matter" dominates much criminal law news.  Whether they actually matter, except when useful to the Left, is a different question.

Still, some people are paying attention. This story tells us how:

A former Marine became the target of an alleged assault in a McDonald's Friday night, as a crowd of youths cornered him and demanded he answer the question, "do you believe black lives matter?" Before knocking him unconscious and robbing him.

Christopher Marquez, a veteran of Iraq and recipient of the Bronze Star for valor, said he was dining at a McDonald's in northwest D.C. when a group of black teenagers came up to him and allegedly began harassing him about the black lives matter movement. Marquez ignored them which prompted calls and shouts that he was a racist.

Marquez left the establishment after eating, but allegedly sustained a sudden blow to the back of his head outside the McDonald's, which knocked him unconscious. When he woke up, his pants were ripped and wallet gone, which contained $400 in cash, three credit cards, his VA medical card, school identification, metro card and driver's license

This is where we are headed.  It is also, if truth be told, where the ideology behind BLM intends for us to be headed.

BuzzFeed tells us that Pres. Obama will have, among his guests at the State of the Union address, a convicted securities swindler and former international fugitive, Ms. Sue Ellen Allen.  Ms. Allen will not be introduced as a person wrongly convicted.  Instead, she will be introduced, it appears, to illustrate the "compassionate side" of the President's criminal justice reform package.  It seems that, after her release from seven years of incarceration, Ms. Allen frequently returns to prison to help less fortunate inmates get an education and prepare to re-integrate after release.

Efforts like this are all to the good  --  but not if the real purpose of showcasing Ms. Allen is to divert attention from less heralded heroes of our criminal justice system. Those would include, for example, crime victims who have overcome the injury and loss inflicted on them by dishonest or violent people; thousands of police whose proactive work has helped so dramatically drive down national crime victimization (now about half what it was 25 years ago); and prosecutors who bring justice to the wrongdoer and, in so doing, the beginnings of an understanding that makes rehabilitation for him possible.

The Republican response to Obama's address will be delivered by Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina.  After the break, I suggest some guests Gov. Haley might have with her to illustrate these central themes in criminal justice  --  themes Mr. Obama seems prepared to walk past.
To start the new year, here are a few notesAffluenza.png on affluenza, parenting, and root causes of crime.

The cartoon on the left is by Benjamin Schwartz of the New Yorker.  Click on it for a larger view.

Debra Saunders has this column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

While the defense attempted in this case is widely regarded as ludicrous, with its emphasis on affluence as a mitigating circumstance in a criminal case, the underlying problem of indulgent, permissive parenting is a much more serious and pervasive one.  It is not limited to the wealthy. 

Two weeks ago, Leonard Sax, a practicing physician, had this op-ed in the WSJ on the pandemic disrespectfulness of children today and the role of parents and popular culture in causing that problem.  His article is titled "Parenting in the Age of Awfulness."
Here's a follow-up on my Boxing Day post.  That big city murder increase dismissed as a mere 11% in a single year in the Brennan Center's preliminary figures turns out to be 14.6% in the final figures, according to this press release.  That is nearly one in seven.  And what could cause this?

The preliminary report examined five cities with particularly high murder rates -- Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and St. Louis -- and found these cities also had significantly lower incomes, higher poverty rates, higher unemployment, and falling populations than the national average.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see."  These are also cities where the police are under severe attack.

Spinning the Murder Surge

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Heather MacDonald has this op-ed in the WSJ exposing the Brennan Center's attempts to paper over the rise in murders and the "Ferguson effect."  An 11% rise in homicides in a single year is a horrifying spike, but MacDonald notes how the Brennan Center soft-pedals it, and several media outlets join in a subjective classification of the rise as "slight" etc. without giving their readers the benefit of the actual number.

The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.

   The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the "root causes" theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven't dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.
The fact that spin from an ideologically driven organization like the Brennan Center has gotten as much credence as it has in the press is a symptom of a major problem in American society.  There is a gross imbalance in the number and funding of nonprofit organizations interested in crime issues.  The Manhattan Institute (where MacDonald works) and CJLF are outnumbered and outspent by the Brennan Center, the Marshall Project, the Urban Institute, the Pew organizations, the Death Penalty Information Center, and on and on.  [Hint:  If an organization is named for one of the two most pro-criminal Supreme Court Justices in American history, it is not a neutral source of information.]  The capacity of these organizations to pump out reports that seem to support the leftist agenda but do not hold up to examination exceeds the capacity of organizations of contrary viewpoints to make and publicize the examinations.

In addition, both the press and academia are populated by people whose spectrum of viewpoints is shifted at least one sigma left of the American median, if not two.  Assertions that fit with the general set of assumptions of the left simply do not get as much scrutiny as those that run contrary to those assumptions.

This combination of factors produces a dangerous situation where spin goes insufficiently challenged.  If such spin leads to wrong policies in matters of life and death, the potential consequences are grave indeed.

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.

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