Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

Daniel Henninger describes what Al Sharpton's approach to civil unrest has wrought.
‘No justice, no peace.”

In Baltimore now, they’ve got both.

When Al Sharpton popularized the chant, “No justice, no peace,” it was unmistakably clear that “no peace” was an implicit threat of civil unrest.

Not civil disobedience, as practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. Civil unrest.

Civil unrest can come in degrees. It might be a brief fight between protesters and the cops. It might be someone throwing rocks through store windows. Or it might be more than that.

Whenever groups gathered in large numbers to start the “no justice, no peace” demonstrations and listen to incitements against “the police,” we would hear mayors, politicians, college presidents and American presidents say they “understood the anger.” They all assumed that any civil unrest that resulted would be, as they so often say, “containable.” Meaning—acceptable.

Michael Godwin points out that the approach of Baltimore's mayor was the exact opposite of "Broken Windows" policing and the result was the predictable.
Here’s hoping Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t too busy playing political games and barnstorming the country to absorb the right lessons from the Baltimore riots. If he’s paying attention, he’ll learn a thing or two about policing and that the bloody price of failed leadership is paid by innocent families and businesses.

The disgraceful orders for cops to disappear or stand by and watch as rioters, looters and arsonists had their way should never be repeated anywhere again. Nor should any mayor talk, as Baltimore’s foolishly did, about giving “those who wished to destroy space to do that.”

Those painful lessons are especially relevant to New York now because de Blasio pal Al Sharpton and wackos on the City Council are pushing the mayor to roll back “Broken Windows” policing. Apart from a welcome but incomplete statement of support for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, de Blasio is asleep on the job.

Baltimore should be his wake-up call. It shows that handcuffing the cops ultimately leads to more violence and crime, not less, and ends up with the National Guard patrolling the streets like a war zone.

Yes, that could happen here, too.

Indeed, the anti-police agenda — the same agenda that carried de Blasio into City Hall — helped to create the atmosphere where criminals were free to roam across much of Baltimore for days. The rioters’ excuse, that they were protesting after a young black man died under unexplained circumstances in police custody, was just that — an excuse. Almost as infuriating was that officials let them get away with it.

The answer in Baltimore, and in all cities plagued by high crime, is not to retreat, even after a provocative incident. It is more and better policing.

That’s what New York taught America over two decades, and it’s now what New York’s mayor must relearn, lest Gotham be the next city to go up in flames.

Consider Baltimore’s longstanding crime problem. It is one of the most violent cities in the country and has the fifth-highest murder rate, according to the FBI.

With a population of about 622,000, Maryland’s largest city had 235 murders in 2013. New York, with 8.4 million people, had 333 murders.

If New York had Baltimore’s per-capita rate, it would have had 3,173 murders. That gives you a sense of how dangerous Baltimore was before the riots, and how little impact police there had on preventing crime. They lost the war long before this week’s mayhem.

Still, it would be foolish to claim that New Yorkers are by nature more peaceful and law-abiding. Smart, aggressive policing tamed New York, and the “peace dividend” that Bratton talks about was earned by the leadership of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg over 20 years and the brave men and women of the NYPD.
Those mayors and cops changed the culture of New York by recognizing that, just as nature abhors a vacuum, criminals and opportunists will take advantage when society drops its guard.

So the NYPD kept up its guard, making Gotham the safest big city in America.

Of course there were mistakes and tragedies that, in a perfect world, could have been avoided. But those are individual cases, and using a relative handful of incidents to smear all police is a dishonesty born of ideological zealotry. Besides, policing will not get better if pols and cops shrink from their duty to keep people safe from predator thugs.

David Harsanyi derides the proposal from the Labour Party's Ed Miliband that he would criminalize Islamophobia.
A reader might have wondered whether prosecuting thought crimes and putting them on a person’s permanent record was antithetical to liberalism. In response, for example, Richard Dawkins —now on the outs with many on the Left for holding consistently critical views of religion—asked why a person in Britain should be able criticize music, art, a book, but not religion? Well, in a few years the answer might be: you’re right, there are certain books you shouldn’t be criticizing, either.

Right now the problem is more specific. A Miliband type law would mean that a person would be able to disparage any ideological, theological, philosophical, or political position they wanted, in the most ferocious terms they wanted, whenever they liked, without ever having to worry about violent retribution from individuals or legal retribution from the state. But there would be a special dispensation for a single viewpoint that happens to chafe against the fading liberal values of a Western world.
He points out that we're seeing a similar approach to non-approved speech here in the U.S.
Increasingly, we see people demanding speech live up to their standards of virtuousness before being deserving of any protection. In the United States, a woman who offers the wrong answer to a theoretical question about gay marriage can be drummed out of business for her crimethink. A gay American who dares to meet with a candidate who opposes same-sex marriage can be bullied into groveling to save his business. One false thought and people can be destroyed. It happens all the time. ...

This week, two House Democrats urged the Obama administration to ban firebrand Geert Wilders from entering the country. “Mr. Wilders’s policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures,” they argued. This seems to me this is a position well within the bounds of genuine debate. Ironically, the lawmakers want to use the International Religious Freedom Act, a law that empowers the State Department to ban the entry of a foreign leader responsible for severe violations of religious freedom, to deny him entry.

We see it in the moral confusion of Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who suggesting that it was “hate speech” for the satirists at Charlie Hebdo to mock those who threatened to kill them. “Not only was one cartoonist gunned down,” he explained, “but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.”

No, having others dictate what our judgement should be is antithetical to free political speech—which deserves special consideration. This is true, whether it is dictated by the majority or by one self-proclaimed arbiter of common sense. I mean, what sort of positive social good does a Doonesbury strip offer? Newspapers buy it. People read it. But if Doonesbury triggered threats of violence from around the world, the social worth of it changes, because even a preachy comic strip is worth defending for the larger idea of free expression.

And when people are gunned down for satire, they may not have used the best judgment or their common sense. They may not be the Dixie Chicks or Robert Mapplethorpe or W.A.S.P., or any of the other false martyrs of free expression we’ve had over the decades. They risked something real.
But now, the threat of violence is leading cartoonists to say that they will no longer draw or print Mohammed cartoons. The heckler's veto has become the veto of violence and achieving results.
And both approaches are preferable to the widest and most insidious forms or censorship of all, the quiet word in the ear from a nervous editor, or the discreet self-censorship known only to the writer who has decided not to write this, or to the cartoonist who will no longer draw that.
We'll never know what speech went unsaid because of these sorts of threats and the subsequent illiberal policing of uncomfortable speech.

Robert Tracinski writes on the same theme.
If you try to shut down public debate, is this a way of ensuring that you win—or an admission that you have already lost?

The question seems relevant today, because the most remarkable characteristic of our current national debate is that one side wants desperately to stamp it out whenever it occurs.

Recently, for example, a gay New York businessman had the temerity to sponsor a “fireside chat” with Republican presidential candidate and arch-conservative Ted Cruz. He was, of course, required to repent the error, calling it “a terrible mistake” to actually talk to a politician who disagrees with him about gay marriage. We can assume that no gay businessman or activist will repeat that error any time soon, which is the whole point.

More recently, the actress Alice Eve got into trouble for stating the obvious fact that Bruce Jenner is not a woman. She, too, was forced to recant, concluding: “I felt confused and now I feel enlightened and like I know what education I need to move forward.”

What gives this a creepy totalitarian feel is the way she found it necessary, not only to change her views, but to express gratitude for her re-education.
The result of such ideological straitjackets for unapproved speech is a generation of flabby thinkers. Tracinski points to this Onion story that captures how ridiculous things have gotten.
College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea

Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. “Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here.” Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Reihan Salam has some thoughts about Obama's remarks the other day about how we need to address the problems of poor black communities so that situations like the riots in Baltimore won't occur.
Essentially, Obama is saying that the solutions to society’s problems are not only knowable but known, and that all we need is political mobilization to put these solutions in place. Conservatives tend to be skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions, as policy measures that might benefit some communities, families, or individuals might prove ill-suited to others. This is part of why conservatives are so drawn to markets, and to decentralized problem-solving more generally. If you believe that we already know the answers to society’s problems, well, we’re in excellent shape. All we need is political will, as Obama seems to believe. But if we don’t know the answers to society’s problems, and if we can’t know them, as society’s problems are an aggregation of the particular problems facing particular people in particular circumstances, we need a trial-and-error process that allows us to identify problems as they emerge, gives rise to new institutions that can address these problems, and then allows these institutions to adapt, change, or go out of business as the underlying problems take new forms.
It's an interesting ideological difference. Ramesh Ponnuru has a similar reaction to Obama's assertion that we know how to solve the problems of Baltimore if we just had the political will. Obama told us that he feels "pretty strongly about" such problems that lead to poverty and violence.
So we know how to solve the problems of urban America, but we -- "we," that is, in the sense of "you people who don't agree with my agenda" -- just don't care enough about children in need to do so.

The problem with these remarks isn't that they're partisan. It's that they're absurd.

-- Related: What Not to Do After Baltimore

They don't even fit with Obama's diagnosis of the problems at hand. Do we know how to make fathers present in their kids' lives, or how to make up for their absence? No. Are we sure how we should respond to the decline in manufacturing employment? Or how to stop people from getting involved in drugs? No and no.

Some people are confident that more funding for early education will yield benefits for poor kids. Others look at the same evidence and think that the few examples of success can't easily be replicated. Even if the first group is correct, there's no reason to think that early education will, even in tandem with other reforms, "solve" the problems of Baltimore. And federal efforts at job training don't have a sterling track record.

If I were president and thought I knew an obvious way to bring peace and prosperity to troubled cities -- and felt pretty strongly about it -- I'd maybe mention it before my seventh year in office. Drop it into a State of the Union address, for example. But it just isn't the case that we're a new federal program away from fixing the problems Obama identified. It isn't the case that conservatives are standing in the way of what everyone knows would work because we just don't share Obama's compassion.

To the extent Obama truly believes these premises, though, it surely goes a long way toward explaining why he has so often seemed frustrated during the course of his presidency.

Without Obama on the ticket, the Democratic generic ballot advantage among young people may be shrinking. They still prefer a Democratic candidate, but not by the overwhelming majorities that they voted for Obama. We'll see if Hillary will be able to win them over by playing the woman card or if she'll just seem too old to them.

Evidence now shows that closing bad schools, while very painful for the families and teachers involved, ends up improving the students' education.
The research reveals that displaced students typically receive a better education in their new school, relative to what they would have received in their closed school. Three years after closures, the public-school students had gained, on average, what equates to 49 extra days of learning in reading—gaining more than a year of achievement growth, as measured by state reading exams. In math, they gained an extra 34 days of learning, as measured by state math exams. In the charter sector, displaced students also made gains in math—46 additional days. These learning gains correspond to an improvement that moves students from the 20th to 22nd percentile in the achievement distribution.

Across both sectors, when students landed in higher-quality schools than the ones they left behind, the gains were even larger—60 days in both math and reading for public-school students, and 58 and 88 days, respectively, for charter students. In other words, students displaced into a higher-quality school make gains that boost their achievement from the 20th to 23rd percentile.

These results suggest that charter and district authorities should welcome school closures as a way to improve the education outcomes of needy children. Of course they must also be judicious, take into account the supply of higher-quality schools, and work with parents and community members to ease the transition. But done properly, shuttering bad schools might just be a saving grace for kids who only get one shot at a good education.
For those looking for solutions for urban unrest, perhaps we might start with the education system.

And throw in some more parental discipline like Toya Graham the woman seen on video pulling her 16-year old son away from the rioting and pulling his hoodie off his face.
According to news reports, Graham was home watching television coverage of the riot Monday night when she saw a young man in a black hoodie, throwing rocks at police officers. And although his face was covered, she recognized him. It was her 16 year-old son. She ran out the door and into the street, and she found the young man. And that’s where his troubles began.

The video shows Graham furiously grabbing her son’s sweater, yelling at him, and shoving him away from the crowd. It also shows her slapping him in the head and ripping off his hoodie and mask, as if to say: “I’m your mother! You’re not going to hide from me!” The same young man who — just a few minutes earlier — hadn’t been afraid to hurl rocks at police was frantically trying to get away from his mother.
She has become an instant celebrity as those who saw the video are applauding her efforts to keep her son from engaging in behavior that could get him hurt or in trouble.
She has even been held up as a model by Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Watts, who said he wished more of the city’s residents took their responsibility to control their children as seriously as this woman does.

Meanwhile, it is time to ask why Baltimore is such a mess. S. E. Cupp notes which party has been in control of the city for a half-century. We've had a long time to see whether their approach to urban woes would bear fruit.
For decades, the city’s political elite has thrown billions at development projects that were somehow meant to trickle out toward Baltimore’s impoverished areas, but that hasn’t happened. The once-acclaimed Inner Harbor project hasn’t had the impact it promised. “Instead of revitalizing the city’s fortunes,” Todd Krainin writes in Reason, “the rise of the waterfront has paralleled the decline of basic city functions.Violent crime remains high, public schools underperform, and the cityscape is blighted by the presence of tens of thousands of vacant buildings.”

Despite this failure and that of similar big-ticket projects in cities like Detroit, Baltimore is now pinning hopes on another billion-dollar development program, Harbor Point, committing $400 million in public subsidies to it.

Meantime, the mostly-black, mostly low-wage earning residents of Baltimore are still wondering when all this public money will magically lift them up. The city’s unemployment rate is 8.2%, versus the state and the nation’s 5.5%. The homeless population has grown substantially in recent years, and in particular among young people, the very group that seems to have instigated the looting and rioting on Monday. According to Baltimore County Public Schools data, the school system saw a 28% increase between 2012 and 2014 in homeless enrollment.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews identified another major contributing factor in Baltimore’s downfall and Monday’s violence: joblessness. And why have the jobs left Baltimore? In Matthews’ words:

“I wish the jobs hadn’t first gone south…because that’s where they went first. And they went to right-to-work states, you know where they went, where the unions didn’t have any power.”

That’s quite an indictment against Maryland big labor from the liberal host.

In addition, Maryland taxes are the 10th highest in the country, which might explain why it lost 40,000 residents to Virginia between 2007 and 2010, taking $2.17 billion with them, according to the Washington Times. A 2014 Gallup poll find that 47% of Maryland residents said they would move if they could, the third highest percentage in the country.
And this is the record that has led former governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley to the delusional conclusion that the country needs him to be its president.

Yes, indeed. We're even PC'ing basketball trash talk.