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"Incarceration nation" is the slogan of the hour.  In the pages of every liberal paper, you can't go more than a few days without some earnest editorial, or some quasi-editorial masquerading as a "news story," telling us that we have too many people in jail.  All this jailing is expensive, inhumane, and counterproductive.  For these reasons and more, we should curb the use of imprisonment.

Almost always, the people writing this stuff are careful to add something to the effect that, "Of course, there are  some really dangerous people who need to be incarcerated." The reassurance of sanity is pasted in to persuade us that our opponents want the much-heralded "balanced approach."

But one must wonder.  The emotive engine of the anti-incarceration movement is more deeply rooted than its ostensible arguments.  It's the belief that the United States is a Bad Country  --  driven by racism, inequality, privilege, greed and inhuman callousness.  If you don't believe me, go to any Ivy League school and look at what's posted on the bulletin boards as you walk down the hall.  Then look at some of the more "innovative" course offerings in the catalog.  

So is a mere curbing of imprisonment what they actually want?  Hey, look, every now and again, the mask slips.

Race Mongering Goes Stark Raving Mad

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What's the difference between an unrepentant cop killer and Martin Luther King?

Not that much, according to a lesson plan used by the Oakland schools and financed by  -- are you ready for this?  --  the U.S. Department of Education.

And this wasn't just any cop killer; it was Mumia Abu-Jamal, the darling of Anti-American Left, including would-be Assistant Attorney General Debo Adegbile

Now there was one important difference between the nation's foremost advocate of non-violent change and the gun-toting Mumia:

Mark Lewis Taylor, a professor of theology and culture at the Princeton Theological Seminary, identified [a major difference] between Abu-Jamal and King, saying the former radio journalist has worked more obviously than the assassinated civil rights leader within an "international framework of justice struggle."

That's it, ladies and gentlemen.  Cop-killer Mumia was better than King, because he lined up more aggressively with Soviet front organizations.

You have to read the article to believe it.

The Real Root Cause

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Those of us who believe that criminals should be held accountable have heard over and over that we ignore the "root causes" of crime.  These causes never turn out to be greed, selfishness, callousness, lack of empathy for victims or stuff like that. Instead they turn out to be racism, militarism, Puritanical neuroses or some subset of the general theory that America stinks.

For purposes of deciding the punishment in individual cases, I don't think it makes much difference what, as a general matter, the "root causes" of crime may be.  But for deciding the overall approach law should take to criminal behavior, figuring out, and correcting, "root causes" makes a world of difference. 

My friend Paul Mirengoff at Powerline puts his finger on the Number One root cause. It's not racism.  It's the mirror image of racism, to wit, race huckstering.  Race huckstering is designed less as a smear against CJLF and like-minded people (although that too) than as an all-purpose excuse, borne of guilt and carried by a culture of grievance, that, among other very bad things, makes it harder than it ever ought to be for blacks truly to have an equal shot. 

Paul's essay is here
As an example of how the country's reaction to murder descends further into cultural mush, one could hardly do better than this zinger from CBS News in Boston:

For the first time ever, this year psychologists will be stationed along the Boston Marathon route to talk with people who may feel emotionally overwhelmed.

That's it, people! Instead of expeditiously trying the bomber and giving him the execution he deserves, the thing to do is line the parade route with shrinks because, ya  know, people might be anxious:

Between now and race day, Dr. Chris Carter of Spaulding Rehab Hospital says it's likely we'll feel a range of emotions.

Carter believes people may be more reactive.

"They may be feeling a little more on edge. A little more tearful perhaps or a little more irritable and less patient," he said.

When justice is replaced by psychobabble, this is what you  get.

As noted in this post last month, parenting issues are of interest here because bad parenting is one of the actual "root causes" of crime.  Ruben Navarrette has this column on the parenting style that produced a brat so incredibly spoiled that she sued her parents for support and education even though she is an adult.

Sean Canning, a former police chief, admits that he was better at laying down the law with the officers under his command than with his own daughter.

"I'm a liberal, liberal parent," Sean told the New York Post. "I wish I could have grown up in my house."

You have to wonder if the chief has figured out that, with young people, being too lenient often does more harm than being too strict.

From media reports, it seems that the Cannings wanted to raise a child with a lot of self-esteem.

Mission accomplished. When you sue your own parents, you're no shrinking violet. The trouble is, what Rachel Canning has is what psychologists call "cheap" self-esteem. The real thing comes from striving, failing, persevering and eventually succeeding -- not from having your parents clear a path for you.

What is astonishing and disheartening to me is how many educated and intelligent people do not know the basic fact that permissive parenting is just as bad as authoritarian.  We have known that since Diana Baumrind's pioneering research in the 60s. 

This guy was a chief of police and he didn't know that.

The optimum balance, BTW, is what Baumrind called "authoritative" parenting, the kind we saw modeled on television from Father Knows Best to Andy Griffith to The Cosby Show.

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

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With that Biblical phrase, President Obama launched his latest, none-too-subtle effort to whip up white guilt and portray imprisoned black young men as mere vessels of adverse social forces  --  forces driven, at one level or another, by racism. Obama never comes out four-square to say that whites are responsible for the high incarceration rate of blacks, but he beats around the bush to the extent that nothing but the bush is left standing.

Is it racism?  John Hinderaker notes:

Chinese-Americans make more money, on the average, than white Americans, the "income gap" between Jews and Gentiles is wider than that between whites and blacks, and I believe Iranian-Americans have recently surpassed Jews as the highest income group of all. The issue here is not being a "minority." On the contrary, if one sincerely wanted to help young African-Americans, an obvious starting point would be to ask why other Americans "of color" have done so much better.

He continues:

There is no mystery here. African-American men are disproportionately imprisoned because they commit an extraordinary number of crimes. They are disproportionately raised in poverty because their fathers usually don't marry their mothers. Also, drugs. That is really all there is to it.

The whole essay  --  not that long at all  --  is worth the read.

The Perils of Permissiveness

Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats?  That rhetorical question is the title of an article by Jens Hansegard in the WSJ. The problem in Sweden, though, is merely an exaggerated version of a problem pervading western societies.  It is of interest here because bad parenting is one of the primary real "root causes" of crime.

Some Really Bad News

The relationship between cultural decay and crime is more intricate than I have either the knowledge or the space to describe, but I've been around long enough to know this:  A robust criminal justice system with the self-confidence and character needed to impose consequences on criminal behavior and make them stick is not going to survive for long in a culture like this.  

When the culture starts broadly to accept one behavior as just as good as the next, and to view "tolerance" not as a valuing the basic dignity and equality of our fellow creatures, but simply as license for narcissism, entitlement and vulgarity masquerading as "provocative ideas," we are headed for big, big trouble.

Root Causes

I apologize in advance for the woefully tiresome eight zillionth post on root causes, but I thought I'd try my hand at designating the actual root causes, as opposed to the usual menu served up by academia and the defense bar, to wit:  America's capitalist inequities, Klan-driven attitudes, male dominance, militarism, wahooism, frontier brutality, know-nothingism, and Disrespect for Our Betters in Europe, that being all of them.

I was in the prosecution business for a long time, and I can tell you without having taken a single sociology course what the root causes are:  Greed, lack of empathy for the feelings and rights of others, extremely bad impulse control, and the view that rules are for suckers.

I will swear to all of that in court.

For those seeking a somewhat more in-depth discussion of the matter, however, let me recommend today's Powerline entry, in which the brilliant Paul Mirengoff discusses the outlook of the equally brilliant Michael Barone.

The Culture of Victimization Runs Wild

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It's standard practice for criminal defendants to portray themselves as victims  --  of racism, poor schooling, parental abuse and economic status, to name four you see all the time.  

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy has a dumbfounding story this morning of the latest turn in the defense bar's painting the client as the victim.  It concerns parental "abuse" and economic "status," alright, but with a twist.

The client is a 16 year-old who plowed into a group of pedestrians and another car, killing four people.  For this behavior, his sentence was probation  --  not a day of confinement, not in prison, not anywhere.  Probation and, of course, "treatment."

Why such a lenient sentence?  As the story recounts:

To the families of the victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken teenage driver who caused a crash that left four people dead.

To the defense, the youth is himself a victim -- of "affluenza," according to one psychologist -- the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy....

Lawyers for Couch, 16, had argued that the teen's parents should share part of the blame for the crash because they never set limits for the boy and gave him everything he wanted. According to CNN affiliate WFAA, a psychologist called by the defense described Couch as a product of "affluenza." He reportedly testified that the teen's family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch's life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents.

So let's get this straight.  If you're poor and your parents treat you badly, you're a victim and you have an excuse.  On the other hand, if you're rich and your parents treat you well, you're also a victim and you too have an excuse.  Do we all have that down?

The Root Causes, and So On....

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We are often lectured about the "root causes" of crime.  They turn out to be numerous, but have one thing in common:  It's never the fault of the guy who did it.  It was someone or something else's fault:  Fell in with the wrong crowd, was off the meds,  neglectful parents, racism, poverty, bad schools, the One Percent, brain lesions, too many Twinkies, not enough Twinkies, lead paint, "urban survival syndrome," you name it.

And some of those may, from time to time, have had something to do with it.  But the main proximate cause of crime is right in front of our eyes: The criminal's blanked-out attitude toward his fellow creatures  --  a simple, if sometimes breathtaking and violent, indifference to the fact that other people have feelings just like he does.

This was seldom on better display than in the aftermath of an armed robbery in Ohio. The robber apparently was on his second escapade of the month (he was out on bond for the first).  This time a store customer shot him.

His parents' reaction was something less than contrition.  Perhaps this particular young man would have done better with less attention and more neglect from his doting parents, who seem to have little knowledge about their son's activities and even less interest in finding out.

It's also a lesson about how thoroughly we're in the grasp of the culture of victimization. It's a mistake to think that such a culture will permanently content itself to serve as the prop for criminal defense.  Its next step  --  and it's a logical step --  is affirmatively to strike out against The Privileged and the Callous, roughly meaning everyone who leads a normal life and tries to be responsible for himself.  Or even just someone who wants to make a trip to the Dollar Store.

The Follow-Up You Won't Hear About

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A few days ago, Ms. Cyrstal Mangum, a one-time "exotic dancer," was convicted of second degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend.

Now that's not much of a story.  There are thousands of murders every year.  But we have visited with Ms. Mangum before.  Her story, recounted here, reminds us again of the astonishing rot, mendacity and, to be honest, hate that runs rampant in academia.

For anyone wondering why the Left was rooting, for once, for prosecutors to win out (in the George Zimmerman trial) even though the state obviously failed to meet its burden, and anyone wondering why the Knockout Game gets pushed to the back of the papers, wonder no more.  It all started years ago.

A New Game for the Fun-Loving

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In cases like Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, we heard a good deal about the inability of younger people to discern the difference between right and wrong.

Watch this CBS tape and judge for yourselves whether anyone over the age of ten could possibly have any doubt whether the thuggish, cowardly attacks it depicts are right or wrong.

Then wait for Al Sharpton and the Trayvon Martin crowd to lecture us about the problem of white racism.  There is white racism in some (fast shrinking) quarters, for sure.  And there is also rampant, mindless, for-fun violence disproportionately among black teenage boys and young men.

That is not a popular or politically correct thing to say.  It is, however, true.  We can ignore it out of fear of being branded racists, or we can push past the intimidation and understand that it is victims, and not just victimizers, who deserve justice.  We can also quit pretending that people don't understand what they're doing simply because they're adolescents. 

P.S.  While we're waiting for Al Sharpton, we can also wait for Eric Holder to move effectively to condemn the new "game" (as he was eager to condemn incarceration in his August ABA speech).  I have a feeling we'll be waiting a long time.

Whinerism Scores a Touchdown

What is called "bullying" is much in the news these days.  This seems to be part of the "sensitivity movement," in which any action, or even just speech, that "offends" someone, or makes for an impossible-to-define (and thus never very precisely defined) "unwelcoming environment," is subject to sanctions.

There have been cases in which bullying in school, or on the Internet by, say, a teenager's classmates, has even resulted in criminal charges.  There is one case going on now in which the bullying is alleged to have caused a 13 year-old girl's suicide.

I'm no fan of rancid and cruel behavior, not by teenagers and not by anyone.  I have put up more than my share of posts about the decline of standards of behavior and the ominous things it augers for the country.  

But teaching our kids how to think of themselves as victims instead of how to be resilient and handle the rough spots in their lives is, in my view, just as much a prescription for cultural decay as bullying.  Kids, and adults for that matter, need to learn to cope, fend for themselves and overcome, not how to whine.  What happens when this lesson goes unlearned is illustrated in a story that broke over the weekend.

Where's Al Sharpton When We Need Him?

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Rev. Al Sharpton was plently active whipping up a racial frenzy about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Readers will remember that Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a "white Hispanic" (as the NYT called him).  The police initially did not arrest Zimmerman, apparently on the theory that he acted in self defense  -- or, at the minimum, that there was insufficient evidence that he did not so act. This provoked a storm of protest, resulting in the replacement of the original prosecutor, and by Zimmerman's indictment and trial.  He was acquitted, almost certainly because the jury believed just what the police did from the outset  -- that it could not be established that Zimmerman acted other than in self defense.

The acquittal sparked yet more protest.  I have never been able to pin down precisely why this was so, but it seems to have been to make the "point" that black people are perpetually in danger of getting gunned down by whites, and, in this racist society, nothing will be done about it.

My own view of it is that race has no place whatever in the criminal justice system, much less in prosecution decisions about individual cases.  Killers are no more or less culpable because of their race, and victims are no more or less dead. Race simply has no moral significance, and thus should have none legally either.  But I appear to be on the losing end of that argument, courtesy of activists like Rev. Al.

Query, then, why has he not chimed in on the story below?

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