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A Well Heeled Race Hustler

The New York Times, of all things, has a long and revealing article about the financial shenanigans of the Reverend Al Sharpton.  Why this article appears only in the New York/Region section of the NYT is a mystery, since Rev. Sharpton is a national figure to say the least (I have written about him and his escapades many times before, e.g., here, here and here).

The short of it is that Big Al (well, not so big anymore; he's slimmed down remarkably from the days of the Tawana Brawley hoax) seems to have accumulated a lot of dough, even while not being too keen on paying taxes or other debts.

By the way, I thought this paragraph particularly interesting:

Behind the scenes, he has consulted with the mayor and the president on matters of race and civil rights and even the occasional high-level appointment. He was among a small group at the White House when Mr. Obama announced his nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to become the next attorney general.

My goodness.  I wonder whether Rev. Al knows something about Ms. Lynch that the rest of us should be interested in finding out about.

UPDATE:  A respected journalist has objected to my snarky phrase, "...of all things..."  He points out that the NYT has done articles that exposed then-Gov. Spitzer, and Congressman Charlie Rangel's tax and apartment issues.  While it is certainly true that the NYT is a (if not the) leading journalistic organ for the Left, it has indeed done some excellent investigative work not flattering to Democrats.  I don't know that I'd call my characterization of the Times a cheap shot, but it wasn't the most expensive one either. I regret any offense it might have given to the numerous call-it-as-you-see-it reporters at the Times.

Estrangement from Common Sense

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Peggy Noonan has this column in the WSJ, comparing her great-aunt's acceptance of needed health measures upon her immigration from Ireland a century ago and the irresponsible quarantine-breaking of some people returning from Ebola-infected areas today.  The broader point comes near the end:

It must be noted that all this--the quarantine argument, the travel ban--is another expression of the deep, tearing distance between America's professional and political elites, who operate as if they are estranged from common sense, and normal people, who are becoming more estranged from the elites, their oblivious and politicized masters.

That distance has been growing all my adult life, but the Ebola argument has brought it into sharper relief. The elites should start twigging onto it. They are no longer immediately respected, their guidance is not reflexively taken. They seem more immersed in political thinking--what is the ideologically enlightened position to take, where's the boss on it?--than in protecting public health.

Or thinking commonsensically, like your great-aunt.

Which is too bad because great-aunts built America.
Those that Ms. Noonan calls "normal people" I call "persons of sense."  The other side is not just "elites."  It started that way, but the dearth of sense among educators,  media moguls, and the celebrities that too many people look up to have caused a spread of Common Sense Deficit Disorder throughout our society. 

This is one of the greatest dangers to our society today.  It looms in the background of the actual root causes of crime -- permissive parenting, standardless schools, and acceptance of excuses for wrongdoing.

School Discipline and Criminal Law

Gary Fields and John Emshwiller have this article in the WSJ on the overuse of police arrest and the juvenile justice system to deal with misbehavior that should be addressed with school discipline.

This article makes some very valid points, but it is disappointing in its failure to fully explore why the use of traditional school discipline has declined, and at one point it goes completely off the rails:

In recent decades, a new philosophy in law enforcement had been applied to schools. It was "deal with the small stuff so they won't go to the big stuff, and also it sent a strong message of deterrence," said James Alan Fox, the Lipman Professor of criminology at Boston's Northeastern University.

The zero-tolerance approach started as part of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, Mr. Fox said, but it expanded to other weapons, then to drug contraband and "finally into ordinary violations of school rules, disrespect, skipping. It eventually became an across the board response to discipline."
Fox is seriously trying to equate "broken windows policing" with "zero tolerance" nonsense?  The two are nearly diametric opposites.

But the primary emphasis here should be understanding why traditional school discipline has declined and fixing it.  School administrators just don't want to punish misbehaving kids like they used to.  When they do punish, their instrument of choice is suspension, exactly the wrong thing to do with a kid who doesn't want to be in school anyway.  Suspension has gotten so absurd that some schools suspend kindergarteners.  What are these people thinking?

Comparing American Cops with Islamic Terrorists

The title of this entry is taken from Heather Mac Donald's article in the City Journal. Her subtitle is, "With His UN Speech, Obama Sinks to a Shameful New Low."

The article begins:

President Obama has announced to the world that America's police officers are as disruptive to civil society as Middle Eastern beheaders and Russian-backed rebels. Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, he agreed with "America's critics" who point out that America, too, has "failed to live up to [its] ideals; that America has plenty of problems within [its] own borders." He went on to explain the particulars:

In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri--where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

All the more important, then, for Obama to set the record straight. The idea that the Ferguson riots were the result of a predatory police force tantamount to sectarian murderers in the Middle East is a poisonous calumny. The threat to America's blacks comes almost exclusively from other blacks, not from the police. Every year, thousands of African Americans are gunned down by other African Americans, with no attention from the media and local government officials. 

The anti-white bigotry, and specifically the anti-white cop bigotry, of this Administration is appalling, and the responsibility for it rests less with Eric Holder (although there too) than with his boss.

The Power of Whinerism

The subject of this post is not specifically about criminal law, but its undertow is very much about the direction in which criminal law is headed.

The subject is Whinerism.  Whinerism is liberal braying about whatever group the Left elects to portray as "victims."  Criminals, and particularly drug pushers, are a Big Thing on the Whinerism agenda just now, see, e.g., the Smarter Sentencing Act and Eric Holder's clemency initiative.  But football Sunday brings to mind another item high on Whinerism's list:  Changing the name of the Washington Redskins.

The Number One "Root Cause"

In my last post, I noted  --  pivoting from Prof. David Cole's article  --  that (1) the illegitimacy rate among African Americans has skyrocketed from the 1950's to today. This happened at the same time that (2) African Americans have become a significantly greater share of the population of criminals sent to prison, as Prof. Cole laments, and (3) racial discrimination is significantly if not massively less than it was in the Fifties.

What I did not realize at the time I posted was the huge degree to which black out-of-wedlock births have increased.  As this graph provided by the Heritage Foundation shows, in the mid-Fifties, approximately 19% of black children were born outside marriage, or roughly one in five.  Today, the number is a bit over 72%, or almost three-quarters.  (The graph is the ninth one listed; you have to scroll about two-thirds of the way down the page to see it).

The rate of white illegitimacy has also considerably increased from what it was 60 years ago.  Today, almost three in ten non-Hispanic white children are born out of wedlock  --  a rate that is ominous to say the least, but does not not even approach the black rate.

With racial barriers so much lower and black illegitimacy so much higher than it was when Eisenhower was President, I am further convinced that it's not white discrimination but the catastrophic failure of black fatherhood that should be looked to as the principal cause of the increasing percentage of blacks in the prison population.  If that is mistaken, I will be happy to be corrected by commenters.

A Failure of Curiosity

One of the most valuable qualities in scholarship is curiosity.  The start of discovering the truth about X is to wonder how X got to be the way it is.  It was thus troubling and, well, curious to see the following passage in Prof. David Cole's piece in the New Yorker celebrating Eric Holder's tenure as Attorney General:

[N]o aspect of American life has appeared more resistant to racial progress than the criminal-justice system. In the nineteen-fifties, when segregation was legal, African-Americans made up about thirty per cent of the prison population; today, they make up thirty-seven per cent, and that population has increased exponentially.

Prof. Cole is without doubt correct that the last 60 years have seen massive progress in treating African Americans with basic dignity, and affording them much more equitable economic opportunities.  That should, but apparently in Prof. Cole's mind does not, raise the following question:  Why, given such enormous progress, are African Americans a greater share of the prison population  --  which is to say, a greater share of the criminal population  -- now than they were when discrimination was rampant?  Put another way, the question is why, when bigotry has been in retreat for six decades, has criminality in relative terms spiked among blacks? 

The beginning of the answer, I would suggest, is that the "root cause" of criminal behavior (as liberals are fond of saying) does not lie in racial prejudice.  It lies in the attitudes spawned by a culture  -- increasingly and now markedly African American culture  --  that tolerates the biology of fatherhood while ignoring its social and moral responsibilities.

The title of this post is the headline of a story by Geoffrey Mohan in the Los Angeles Times.  He reports on "a 10-year study that [was designed to] compare how children would fare under prolonged therapy and tutoring aimed at improving social and cognitive skills, and whether their adult fates would differ from similar children who did not participate."
When law enforcement becomes about anything other than behavior, we're in trouble.  Thus, when people get picked out for prosecution because they're black, it's reprehensible and subversive.  It's also indecent.  Ditto for when they are picked out for prosecution because they're white, as almost certainly happened to George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.  There, it got to the point that one leading and (ordinarily) pro-defendant academic was openly hoping for Zimmerman's conviction even though it was clear early on that the State would not be able to meet its affirmative burden, under Florida law, of disproving self-defense.

The same thing may be happening now to Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson, who has the misfortune to be white.  Does anyone think the banshee cries for his indictment would be anything like what they are if he were black? He may deserve indictment, mind you, and a good deal more than that.  But he doesn't deserve it any more or less because of his race.

A recent editorial in the liberal Washington Post decries the results of politically correct law enforcement in our mother country.  It seems that British authorities are turning a blind eye toward an epidemic of child rape because  -- ready now?  --  the people doing it are Pakistani immigrants, and the police wouldn't want to face charges that they are anti-Muslim.

Well I guess not.  But I have not yet heard why protecting Muslim little girls from being sold and traded into prostitution is anti-Muslim.  More important, in a sane world, the possibility of such accusations would count for nothing.  What would count for police and prosecutors is doing your job without caring about the latest version of Whinerism.

The Life of Cosby

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Edward Kosner has this book review in the WSJ, reviewing Cosby by Mark Whittaker.

From the start Mr. Cosby never played the race card--in fact, he kept it so far up his sleeve that it was invisible. He did perform at benefits for civil-rights causes and walk in the cortège after the assassination of Martin Luther King. But he made few public pronouncements, and his TV shows and movies strenuously avoided racial issues. NBC executives anticipated white protests when "I Spy" went on the network, but there was hardly any blowback.

Criticism, instead, came later from some blacks who felt the Huxtable ménage was a fairy-tale about black family life that diverted attention from the obdurate problems of African-Americans. Mr. Cosby further inflamed them when he began to lecture black mothers, and especially fathers. "I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange [prison] suit," he exclaimed at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of school desegregation. "How come you don't know he had a pistol? And where is his father and why don't you know where he is?"

Without fanfare, Mr. Cosby had worked for years to increase the number of blacks recruited behind the scenes in TV and the movies. And he was a top benefactor of historically black colleges, including a $20 million donation to Spelman College. None of it mollified his black critics.
Such is the price for speaking Politically Incorrect and inconvenient truths.

For more on Cosby's views on crime -- and on the failure of leadership -- see Juan Williams, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It.

What Ferguson Is "About"

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

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.

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