Recently in Social Factors Category
The gravamen of the original judgment was -- remember -- that medical conditions were constitutionally unacceptable because of overcrowding.
There are several ways to relieve overcrowding. One is to release criminals to take up where they left off (which is what most of them do, given the >50% recidivism rate). That would seem less than optimal, unless one is of the view that more crime more quickly is a good idea.
A second would be to build more prisons. This would cost a lot of money. Since California borrows to a fare-thee-well for things the governing party there views as important, such as transfer payments to its don't-work-for-a-living constituencies, borrowing would seem to be an option. But we are told (very selectively, that is) that borrowing, at least for new prisons, is a no-no. In any event, it's unlikely to happen, and even if it does, the opening of those prisons is years off.
A third option -- the one the court blocks -- is sending inmates to other, less crowded facilities. Why any sensible person would view this as a bad idea is mystifying. The answer to overcrowding is to get less crowded, no?
So what's going on?
The world knows a lot about us, and in ways removed from specific military actions. Their elites come here, and increasingly their middle class. They know our unemployment problem--it's not a secret. They take the train from New York to Washington and see the abandoned factories. They know about our budget problems, they know who holds our bonds. They read about the kids who are bored so they killed the visiting Australian baseball player, and the kids so bored they killed a World War II veteran. They read about the state legislator who became a hero because she tried to make sure babies can be aborted at nine months--they see the fawning interviews. They go home with the story of the guy who spent his time watching violent videos and then, amazingly, acted out his visions of violence at the Washington Navy Yard. They notice our mass killings are no more than two-day stories.
We used to think that a convicted criminal owed a debt to society. Well you can forget that! Society, you see, owes the debt to him. Get your mind right, people! And the debt, in particular, is to shell out God knows how much so he can be a woman!!!
The guy/girl gets convicted of espionage, is lucky not to have been convicted of aiding the enemy, tells us he's not really responsible because he had, ya know, sex problems (without any very detailed explanation of why sex problems would make a person want to become the intelligence arm for al Qaeda), and now wants to transmogrify taxpayers into his field hands, to labor on the plantation of his misfit psyche.
The whole thing is parody. Or more worrisome, as Kent noted recently, maybe it isn't.
In the murder of Australian exchange student Christopher Lane in Oklahoma, in contrast, there is solid reason to believe that gang culture is a strong influence contributing to this senseless killing. Carmel Melouney has this article for the Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia. James Johnson believes that his son was the intended next target:
The Herald Sun also has this article on the social media posts of the alleged killers.
"They threatened to kill my son because they are in a gang, the Crips, and were trying to get my son in it and I wouldn't let him do it.
"I told him he couldn't run with those boys. He's a little terrified."
Mr Johnson said the Crips, a predominantly African American street gang that began in Los Angeles in 1969 and had been in Duncan for the past few years.
Culture rot, the worst aspect of which is the glorification of gangs and crime, is a major contributing factor in too many young people's disastrous choices to take the wrong path and end up in prison or dead. It does not get nearly enough attention.
Update, 9/22: The WSJ has this editorial, making a similar point.
To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.
You need both, because some of what is good about our world is irreplaceable and has to be guarded, while some of what is bad is unacceptable and has to be changed. We should never forget that the people who oppose our various endeavors and argue for another way are well intentioned too, even when they're wrong, and that they're not always wrong.
But we can also never forget what moves us to gratitude, and so what we stand for and defend: the extraordinary cultural inheritance we have; the amazing country built for us by others and defended by our best and bravest; America's unmatched potential for lifting the poor and the weak; the legacy of freedom--of ordered liberty--built up over centuries of hard work.
We value these things not because they are triumphant and invincible but because they are precious and vulnerable, because they weren't fated to happen, and they're not certain to survive. They need us--and our gratitude for them should move us to defend them and to build on them.