American Elephants


Themes Loved by the Media, And the Consequences: by The Elephant's Child

If you inquire at Google about unarmed black men being shot by police, you will find that most newspapers in America seem to believe that it is an urgent crisis, young unarmed black men are being shot regularly by white policemen, and racism is sharply on the rise in the country. This piece from the Washington Post, dated August 8, 2015, is dramatic and typical, and remarkably biased.

Let’s examine a few facts. From a study from the American Enterprise Institute: (Do read the whole thing)

If you look beyond recent headlines about race in America, here is a surprising truth: Most black men in America are doing just fine. Most black men are not poor, most black men will not be incarcerated, most black men are gainfully employed, and most black men will marry.

Black men are CEOs of major corporations, Justices on the Supreme Court, Doctors, famous Movie Stars, Lawyers, Professors, Presidents, Inventors, and stars of every major sports team, they are Generals, authors, artists, and I’m pretty sure that most black women are doing just fine as well.

The Washington Post article linked above lists 17 ‘unarmed’ black men shot by police officers in 2015. Yet there were 990 people shot by police in 2015, in most cases armed and threatening. You have to read the numbers carefully, before coming to conclusions.

Here’s Heather MacDonald on the #Black Lives Matter movement, and what they miss about those police shootings, and the Washington Post data on fatal police shootings of civilians. Another article from MacDonald points out that there was a rise in violent crime beginning in the second half of 2014, up 76% in Milwaukee, 60% in St Louis, and 56% in Baltimore, and in most of America’s largest cities. Because of publicity about Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities, police officers were backing off from proactive policing in reaction to the hostility they were encountering in urban areas.

Officers had told me about being surrounded by angry, jeering crowds who cursed and threw water bottles and rocks at them when they tried to make an arrest. Suspects and bystanders stuck cell phones in officers’ faces and refused to comply with lawful orders. Officers were continuing to answer 911 calls with alacrity, but in that large area of discretionary policing—getting out of a squad car at 1 a.m., for example, to question someone who appears to have a gun or may be casing a target—many officers were deciding to simply drive on by rather than risk a volatile, potentially career-ending confrontation that they were under no obligation to instigate.

MacDonald called that “the Ferguson Effect,” and noted that applications to police academies were way down. Young men were not convinced that risking their lives daily to protect the American people was worth it if they were also going to face daily assaults and abuse from the people they were trying to protect.

In National Review, David French recalls the time when it was dangerous to walk outside at night, and black leaders called for a crackdown on crime. And  he notes the dramatic change in New York City when Rudy Giuliani instituted a program of “broken windows policing” and the cops began to see their jobs as preventing crime rather than just solving crimes. The crime wave broke.

And he turns to an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, which sees mass incarceration as consistent with America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow. Coates rejects messages that call for personal responsibility, pays no attention to black voices who cry for safety and justice in their own communities and focuses entirely on white supremacy, plunder and oppression.

To add to the problems of policing, we need to consider the “Butterfield Fallacy.” It is rooted in ideological prejudice. Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The ‘fallacy’ consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. When you put more bad guys in prison, crime goes down. This illusion is back in full effect today.

Those on the Left disapprove of sending people to prison because they think it is racially discriminatory. Yet more crimes are committed by black men.

In the upcoming election, Democrats are worried that black Americans who came out so strongly to vote for the first black president, may well not turn out so enthusiastically for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It may be merely a coincidence that #Black Lives Matter and the activists who turned out to stir up violence and protest in Ferguson and Baltimore were turned out along with Occupy activists to rouse up racial protests on American campuses where many young people will be voting for the first time.  And wherever there is an opportunity to rouse up racial animus, #Black Lives Matter is right there. If it is a coincidence, it’s an interesting one.

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America Doesn’t Have an Incarceration Problem, It Has a Crime Problem by The Elephant's Child

“In New York City the number of annual murders peaked at 2,245 —a rate  of six per day—in 1990, the first year the Democrat David Dinkins was mayor. After Republican Rudolph Giuliani took office in 1994, there were 1,177 murders in 1995 and 770 in 1997. By 2013, however, New Yorkers had only faint memories of walking the streets in constant fear.” That ‘s from William Voegeli’s essay in Commentary magazine from July 1, 2015.  “Democrats.” he said, “are gearing up to reverse decades of successful policing.

Voegeli reviews the history of our views on crime and punishment, as the political football it usually is. Hillary Clinton made crime the subject of her first major policy address of her 2016 presidential campaign. She called for creating new approaches that would “end the era of mass incarceration” as well as “working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions.”

Heather MacDonald is having none of that. She says America doesn’t have an incarceration problem—it has a crime problem.

President Obama made a press saturated visit to a federal penitentiary in Oklahoma in 2015. “The cell blocks that Obama toured had been evacuated in anticipation of his arrival, but after talking to six carefully prescreened inmates, he drew some conclusions about the path to prison. “These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made,” the president told the waiting reporters.

The New York Times suggested that there is a fine line between a president and a prisoner. Anyone who had smoked marijuana and tried cocaine could end up in federal prison. Heather MacDonald disagreed.

This conceit was preposterous. It takes a lot more than marijuana or cocaine use to end up in federal prison. But the truth didn’t matter. Obama’s prison tour came in the midst of the biggest delegitimation of law enforcement in recent memory. Activists, politicians, and the media have spent the last year broadcasting a daily message that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks and insanely draconian. The immediate trigger for that movement, known as Black Lives Matter, has been a series of highly publicized deaths of black males at the hands of the police. But the movement also builds on a long-standing discourse from the academic Left about “mass incarceration,” policing, and race.

September 2015, “Black Lives Matter goes to the White House”

The Obama White House rolled out the red carpet this week for leaders of the racist revolutionary Black Lives Matter movement, providing yet more confirmation that the Obama administration supports its members’ increasingly violent activism.

Black Lives Matter is animated not only by anti-white racism but by a hatred of normal American values, including law and order. Its members denounce the U.S. for imagined institutional racism and discrimination against African-Americans. Members idolize convicted, unrepentant cop-killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal, both of whom are black, and have declared “war” on law enforcement. Its members openly call for police officers to be assassinated.

Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders. These were not sentences for selling marijuana, but for dealing in hard and dangerous substances—crack, coke and PCP. The recidivism rate for offenders who commit such crimes exceeds 75 percent within five years, and that’s just the ones who are caught. Drug crimes usually go unreported because customers and dealers don’t report them. This ignores the heroin epidemic that is growing across the nation.

The President claims that the most important thing we can do is reduced the demand for drugs. He has asked for an additional $1 billion for treatment, and drug crimes must be treated as a public health problem, not a criminal problem.

One expert, Columbia University neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart explicitly made the case that “drug addiction is a health problem that requires treatment” is exactly the wrong way to look at the use of drugs in the United States.

“Politicians today, whether Republican or Democrat, are comfortable with saying that we don’t want to send people to jail for drugs; we will offer them treatment.” Hart said in Austin. But “the vast majority of people don’t need treatment. We need better public education, and more realistic education. And we’re not getting that.”

Why does he say most people don’t need treatment? Because—contrary to widespread perceptions—the vast majority of drug users aren’t addicts. “When I say drug abuse and drug addiction, I’m thinking of people whose psycho-social functioning is disrupted,” he said later in the talk. But for more than three-quarters of drug users (and we’re not just talking about marijuana here, either), that description doesn’t apply.

This overturns the conventional wisdom on drug addiction, but Hart thinks that’s a good thing. We’ve all been fed a diet of panic-inducing misinformation about what drugs actually do to our brains, he says.

I think #Black Lives Matter, the incarceration “problem, ” the commutation of sentences for drug dealers is all just a case of community organizing to get black Americans to the polls to vote to win an election. Too many “coincidences” and red flags go up.




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