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What Ferguson Is "About"

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Just now I read an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, "Ferguson Isn't About Black Rage Against Cops; It's White Rage Against Progress."  The gist of the column, written by an associate professor in the African American studies and history department at Emory University, is that what's sparking the controversy isn't the shooting itself, nor the looting and violence thereafter, nor even any national concern about where we are, after all these years, with black crime and white police.

Nope, it's about how Ferguson "shows us" that white people still want to subjugate blacks a la' slavery (or as close as whites can get to slavery).  They want to do this by such vicious means as efforts "to dilute African American voting strength [through, e.g., voter ID laws] or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment."

The article is, in its way, just the most recent in a long line of furious, Sharptonesque attacks on whites, not dissimilar to the one I noted before arguing that what Ferguson is "about" is that whites had better cough up reparations.  But there's a more fundamental point about the vocabulary in which this entire discussion is being conducted.

Ferguson is the name of a town in Missouri.  It isn't "about" anything until we know what happened.  If you're reading something purporting to tell you what Ferguson is "about," or "the lessons of Ferguson," or "how to avoid the next Ferguson," put it down.  It's just using the word "Ferguson" to appropriate your attention to an agenda that's been around for years.

Those actually interested in knowing what Ferguson is "about" are still waiting. Waiting is annoying, for sure, but old-fashioned qualities like patience, maturity, authentic curiosity and fair play demand it.  If Ferguson turns out to be about a cop who shot a muscular, huge, enraged 18 year-old charging at him from a few seconds away, then it's "about" one thing.  If it shows a cop who shoot a huge, muscular 18 year-old who wanted nothing but to peacefully surrender and posed no realistic threat, then it's "about" something else.  In neither event is it necessarily about an issue with national resonance, although it might be, depending  --  again  --  on those pesky specifics.

For the moment, we are left to regret that, even as we're still in the dark about the most important facts,  the now standard-issue charge "KKK" gets hissed at those, white or black, who want to see that legitimate voters are the ones voting, and take at least a stab at paring back the government's sinkhole debt. If liberals are ever again able to make their arguments without this kind of opportunistic, race-baiting calumny, please, someone, jab me in the ribs.

The Political Uses of Ferguson

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It was to be expected that the Usual Suspects would show up in Ferguson to push the Usual Causes, and would do so without finding out, or having any great interest in finding out, what actually happened.

Was this an NFL-sized gangbanger who had just committed a strong-arm robbery rushing a cop?  Was it a quick-trigger cop who got the drop on a teenager whose main "crime" was walking in the middle of the street?  Was it something else?

We don't know yet, but this fact makes no difference when the main point is to Fire Away.  Thus I bring you this Grievance-on-Steroids piece in the Atlantic.  I never thought I would say this, but it's enough to make Al Sharpton blush.
Joseph Epstein has this article in the WSJ, titled What's Missing in Ferguson, Mo., subtitled More than ever, the absence of black leadership, and the contrast with the civil-rights era, is painfully clear.  An excerpt follows the break.
Claire Groden has this article in the WSJ:

Two summers ago a home invasion by gang members on the city's South Side went wrong when one of the robbers shot another one in the back of the head, according to Chicago police. Sixteen-year-old Douglas Bufford was killed, and 19-year-old Jermalle Brown was charged with first-degree murder. His trial begins on Aug. 15, and it may attract more attention than usual in a city plagued by violent crime, just as his arrest did. Why? Because at the time of the shooting, Douglas Bufford and Jermalle Brown were also on the Illinois state payroll, earning $8.50 an hour to hand out antiviolence pamphlets.

Such are the bitter ironies of Gov. Pat Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a now-defunct $54.5 million program whose failures are under new scrutiny as the Illinois governor, a Democrat, campaigns for re-election in November. Mr. Quinn launched the anticrime plan four years ago to "take on the root causes of violence in neighborhoods all across the city of Chicago." That didn't happen. Over the first two years of the initiative, the Chicago murder rate rose 20%, and the murder rate within city limits today is triple the national average. A state audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, or NRI, suggests that as much as 40% of the program's funding was simply wasted.
We should be extremely skeptical of anyone claiming "to take on root causes" of crime.  The primary root cause is cultural decay, government's ability to change that is limited, and few of the people using the term "root causes" have any intention of addressing it.  Mostly they seem to be interested in diverting the government program that has actually worked in reducing crime -- strong law enforcement.

Chicago and Black Criminality

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Jason Riley has this article with the above headline in the WSJ:

"In the roughly 84 hours from 3:10 p.m. Thursday until 3:30 a.m. Monday, gunfire struck 82 people, 14 of them fatally," reports the Chicago Tribune. "Both tallies include two boys shot by police: a 14-year-old who allegedly pointed a long-barreled .44-caliber revolver at officers, and a 16-year-old who--after first eluding cops who had responded to a report of shots fired--allegedly refused officers' instructions to drop a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun as he crawled out from beneath a car. That's right, a 14-year-old wielding a .44-caliber revolver and a 16-year-old with a semi-automatic handgun."

So here we go again. Another spate of shootings that feature, almost exclusively, young black and brown men. Another liberal clarion call for more gun control. And another collective dodge of the real problem, which is ghetto culture.

Gary Becker, RIP

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Gary Becker died over the weekend.  Ilya Somin has this post at Volokh Conspiracy and points us to this summary of Becker's work.  From the latter:

Gary S. Becker received the 1992 Nobel Prize in economics for "having extended the domain of economic theory to aspects of human behavior which had previously been dealt with--if at all--by other social science disciplines such as sociology, demography and criminology."
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Not even crime escaped Becker's keen analytical mind. In the late 1960s he wrote a trail-blazing article whose working assumption is that the decision to commit crime is a function of the costs and benefits of crime. From this assumption he concluded that the way to reduce crime is to raise the probability of punishment or to make the punishment more severe. His insights into crime, like his insights on discrimination and human capital, helped spawn a new branch of economics.

The latter point seems so obvious now, yet the people running around proclaiming themselves "smart on crime" today apparently don't get it.  The genuinely smart people do.

A Glimpse of the Progressive Future

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Illinois government enjoys less confidence from its citizens than any other state. Why this is so remains a puzzle, since it's something of a progressive Utopia.  It abolished the death penalty three years ago; is actively considering legalizing pot; its leading city has among the most rigorous gun control laws in the country; and that city's mayor told gay marriage opponents that they and their views can get out of town. Indeed, Chicago is so forward-looking that accused criminals don't even have to wait for the jury to hand down an acquittal from overly zealous charges; for the right price, they can book one in advance.

What with all the respect for the "fairness and compassion" this stuff must be building, you'd think the country would be able to see, in Chicago, a vision of our progressive future.  And you'd be right. Here it is. 
"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

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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.

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