Is the Criminal Justice system racist?

I have a piece here responding to something that Glenn Loury has written. I think that the whole piece is pretty enlightening.

Charges of racism flow freely in Professor Loury’s recent book and this essay. He makes it seem that we lock up blacks because whites are afraid of them or that we simply dislike them and want to keep them locked up and away from the rest of society. But Loury forgets an important fact: for violent and property crime there is always an individual victim who gets hurt — for black criminals that victim is overwhelmingly black. Nor does he recognize how extremely progressive criminal penalties are. He also neglects acknowledging that we can’t determine if the number of people in prison is “too high” without discussing the benefit from prison — without discussing how many crimes were deterred.

Many blacks have their lives disrupted by the criminal justice system, but the lives and property of many blacks are also protected by that same system. Looking at only the cost of imprisonment seems a very strange way to answer the question of whether we should change the current system.

Why Focus on the Race of the Criminals and Not Also the Race of the Victims?

Who are the victims of crime? Blacks overwhelmingly commit crime against other blacks. For example, in 2007, 90.2% of black murder victims were murdered by blacks. [1] To go even further, poor blacks commit crimes against poor blacks. [2] Is it less racist to care about the victims or the criminals? If we punish black criminals a lot, isn’t it possible that the reason we are doing it is because we care about the black victims? . . . .

UPDATE MAY 24, 2009: Here is something related that I found by Heather Mac Donald.

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This is just too rich, Obama administration blaming an irrational fear factor for driving down economy

From the Associated Press:

Washington (AP) Irrational exuberance has given way to an "excess of fear." White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers blames a fearful public for dragging the economy into the gutter.

The director of the president's National Economic Council says "fear begets fear" and that "is the paradox at the heart of the financial crisis."

See my earlier op-ed here.

Here is a transcript of a talk that Obama gave in mid-February where he used the word "crisis" 24 times. During Obama's first press conference he talked about the crisis 12 times, including unprecedented crisis. In his first radio address, Obama claimed: "We begin this year and this Administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action." On November 16th of last year Obama noted: "We’ve got an unprecedented crisis, or at least something that we have not seen since the Great Depression. " When Obama announced his economic team last November 24th, he said: "Well, I don’t want to look backwards. I think that — as I said, we’ve had an unprecedented crisis." The weird thing is that Summers was at the announcement of the economic team. During the Second Presidential debate, Obama said: "I think everybody knows now we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression." in the first presidential debate, Obama said: "we are going through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression." In the third debate: Obama said: "I think everybody understands at this point that we are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

Equally, bizarre, was Obama's attack on McCain last September when McCain said that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong."

John McCain appeared to have scored a huge own goal when he described the US economy as 'fundamentally sound' after the financial collapses of 'Meltdown Monday'.
The Republican presidential candidate attempted to shake off the worldwide gloom following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers with an upbeat assessment.
As share prices tumbled, he said the 'fundamentals of the economy are strong'.
His rival Barack Obama immediately seized on the remark, saying it showed Mr McCain was out of touch with the realities of American life. . . . .

This is something from the beginning of an AP piece:

The economy is fundamentally sound despite the temporary "mess" it's in, the White House said Sunday in the kind of upbeat assessment that Barack Obama had mocked as a presidential candidate.
Obama's Democratic allies pleaded for patience with an administration hitting the two-month mark this week, while Republicans said the White House's plans ignore small business and the immediate need to fix what ails the economy. After weeks projecting a dismal outlook on the economy, administration officials - led by the president himself in recent days - swung their rhetoric toward optimism in what became Wall Street's best stretch since November.
During the fall campaign, Obama relentlessly criticized his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, for declaring, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." Obama's team painted the veteran senator as out of touch and failing to grasp the challenges facing the country.
But on Sunday, that optimistic message came from economic adviser Christina Romer. When asked during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" if the fundamentals of the economy were sound, she replied: "Of course they are sound."
"The fundamentals are sound in the sense that the American workers are sound, we have a good capital stock, we have good technology," she said. "We know that - that temporarily we're in a mess, right? We've seen huge job loss, we've seen very large falls in GDP. So certainly in the short run we're in a - in a bad situation."
Just a week ago, White House Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag declared that "fundamentally, the economy is weak." Days later, Obama told reporters he was confident in the economy.
"If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this," Obama said, striking a tone that his top aides mimicked.
Despite the new enthusiasm at the White House and on Wall Street, there was little solid evidence to suggest an end was in sight to the severe recession that has already cost 4 million American jobs, driven down home values and sent foreclosures soaring. Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he was concerned about the safety of the estimated $1 trillion his country has invested in U.S. government debt.
Obama sought to downplay the worries.
"There's a reason why even in the midst of this economic crisis you've seen actual increases in investment flows here into the United States," Obama said Saturday in the Oval Office. "I think it's a recognition that the stability not only of our economic system, but also our political system, is extraordinary." . . . .

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters in hot water, corruption issues

This seems like a serious corruption issue. The New York Times has the story here.

Top federal regulators say they were taken aback when they learned that a California congresswoman who helped set up a meeting with bankers last year had family financial ties to a bank whose chief executive asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Waters’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 of its stock.

Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators was intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

“Here you had a tiny community bank that comes in and they are not proposing a broader policy — they were asking for help for themselves,” said Stephen Lineberry, a former Treasury aide who attended the meeting. “I don’t remember that ever happening before.”

Ms. Waters declined on Tuesday to comment on the meeting, or to say whether her husband still owned shares of OneUnited. Her staff released two letters that showed the meeting had been initially called to discuss industry concerns broadly.

Ms. Waters, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, did not disclose her ties to OneUnited to Treasury officials, who said they learned of them only later.

“It is upsetting to me,” said Jeb Mason, the deputy assistant secretary for business affairs at Treasury during the Bush administration, whose office helped set up the meeting. “This is something that was potentially politically explosive and embarrassing to the administration. They should have at least let us know.” . . . .



New Fox News Op-ed: What Not To Learn From Europe: More Gun Control

My newest piece starts this way:

Inevitably the massacres in Germany and Alabama over the last two days have produced more calls for gun control. Already the attack in Alabama is being used to call for a new assault weapons ban, even though there are no published academic studies by economists or criminologists showing that the previous ban reduced violent crime. . . . .

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More on the Alabama shooting

The few shots that he fired in public were from the open window of his speeding car, but even here privately owned guns potentially could have made a difference. ABC News reports:

McLendon fired several shots at the Bradley TrueValue Hardware store before heading out of town for Geneva, 12 miles away.

"We were just business as normal, and all of a sudden there were bullets flying and glass was everywhere," owner David Bradley told the Dothan Eagle newspaper. "We realized what it was and grabbed our guns, but then he was gone."

Thanks to David Del Buono for the link.

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"Average Citizens Can Own Gun, Say Americans"

Rasmussen Reports finds that the vast majority of Americans believe that there is a right to own guns.

Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee the right of an average citizen to own a gun?

Yes 75%

No 14%

Not sure 11%

Source: Rasmussen Reports
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,000 American adults, conducted on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28, 2009. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

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Pelosi and military aircraft

From Fox News:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly requested military aircraft to shuttle her and her colleagues and family around the country, according to a new report from a conservative watchdog group.

Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents from a Freedom of Information request, said the correspondence shows Pelosi has abused the system in place to accommodate congressional leaders and treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."

Pelosi's office disputed the claim, pointing to White House policy enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks allowing for the House speaker to travel to his or her congressional district via military aircraft whenever possible for security reasons. Her office said she typically uses the same kind of aircraft used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert.

But Judicial Watch said that Pelosi was notorious for making special demands for high-end aircraft, lodging last-minute cancellations and racking up additional expenses for the military. . . . .

In one e-mail, aide Kay King complained to the military that they had not made available any aircraft the House speaker wanted for Memorial Day recess.

"It is my understanding there are NO G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable ... The Speaker will want to know where the planes are," King wrote.

In another, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King wrote: "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset Speaker." . . . .

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Gun control tightens across Europe

From the AP:

_Finland announced plans Wednesday to impose stricter restrictions on firearms, including raising the minimum age for handgun ownership from 15 to 20. The proposal was prompted by two school massacres within a year in which lone gunmen opened fire on classmates and teachers.

_Germany, where a gunman killed at least 11 people Wednesday, raised the legal age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21 following a 2002 shooting in Erfurt that killed 16 people, including 12 teachers.

_Belgian lawmakers passed strict new gun control laws in 2006 in reaction to the racially motivated shooting deaths of a toddler and her black baby sitter in Antwerp.

_Swiss citizens are demanding a referendum aimed at confining army weapons to military compounds and banning private purchases of pump-action rifles and automatic weapons — following a spate of suicides and homicides.

_The Portuguese Parliament is currently discussing a government proposal to tighten gun laws, including denying bail to anyone suspected of a gun crime.

_Denmark's government said last week it will raise the penalty for illegal gun possession as part of a crackdown on gang violence that has killed three people and injured 25 in recent months.

_European Union lawmakers proposed tighter gun control across the bloc last year, including guidelines saying that only people over 18 not deemed a threat to public safety could buy and keep guns. EU members have until 2010 to adopt the measures. . . .


Yet another German School Shooting

Germany already has the two worst k to 12 school shootings on record, both occurring this decade. None of the news stories that I have seen mention this fact. International Herald Tribune has this report here:

FRANKFURT: An attacker clad all in black stormed into a high school in southwestern Germany on Wednesday morning and shot and killed at least 15 people, according to news reports citing the local police department.

Several more people were wounded in the attack at the Albertville technical high school in Winnenden, on the outskirts of Stuttgart.

Several hours after the attack, German news reports said, the attacker hijacked a car and died after a shoot-out with police in the town of Wendlingen, 25 miles, or 40 kilometers, away, where two passers-by were also killed. Two police officers were wounded in the shooting and the total number of fatalities could reach 16, including the attacker, the reports said, quoting the police.

The police said the attacker shot and killed nine people inside the school and two more outside as he fled. The school has around 580 students. . . .

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A bet too far

The Obama administration is basing its budget forecasts on the economy growing an eyebrow-raising 15.6 percent above inflation between 2008 and 2013 - a drop of 1.2 percent this year followed by an average of 4 percent growth over the following four years. That's very impressive growth for any period of time. Even small deviations in growth rates can mean hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars in the federal budget deficit.

The federal government faces a $1.75 trillion deficit this year, over 12 percent of GDP - more than twice as large a share of GDP as any deficit since World War II. Despite all its new spending programs, the Obama administration claims that it will be able to cut the deficit down to 3 percent by 2013, and that depends on fast economic growth and thus more government revenues.

If President Obama is correct that the economy will only shrink by 1.2 percent this year, despite all the rhetoric comparing our current plight to the Great Depression, this will be a relatively moderate recession. During the first four years of the Depression the economy shrank by 27.5 percent. For a more recent example, the economy shrank by 1.9 percent in 1982.

Harvard economics Professor Greg Mankiw thinks that Mr. Obama's growth forecasts are overly optimistic and that the federal deficit will be a lot larger than Mr. Obama thinks. He was chastised by Princeton's Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, who on his New York Times blog claims that Mankiw can only make the predictions that he does because of "more than a bit of deliberate obtuseness." He titled his post on Mankiw, "Roots of Evil."

Last Wednesday, Mankiw responded to Krugman's attacks by suggesting: "Well, Paul, if you are so confident in this forecast, would you like to place a wager on it and take advantage of my wickedness?" Krugman has still not responded. It seems even a Nobel Prize winner isn't willing to lay money on Mr. Obama's rosy projections. 


Mankiw makes the right call on all this and asks Krugman: "Wanna bet some of that Nobel money?"

Well, Paul, if you are so confident in this forecast, would you like to place a wager on it and take advantage of my wickedness?

Team Obama says that real GDP in 2013 will be 15.6 percent above real GDP in 2008. (That number comes from compounding their predicted growth rates for these five years.) So, Paul, are you willing to wager that the economy will meet or exceed this benchmark? I am not much of a gambler, but that is a bet I would be happy to take the other side of (even as I hope to lose, for the sake of the economy). . . .

Another useful discussion is available here.

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Banks rebel against new regulations

The New York Times reports:

Financial institutions that are getting government bailout funds have been told to put off evictions and modify mortgages for distressed homeowners. They must let shareholders vote on executive pay packages. They must slash dividends, cancel employee training and morale-building exercises, and withdraw job offers to foreign citizens.

As public outrage swells over the rapidly growing cost of bailing out financial institutions, the Obama administration and lawmakers are attaching more and more strings to rescue funds.

The conditions are necessary to prevent Wall Street executives from paying lavish bonuses and buying corporate jets, some experts say, but others say the conditions go beyond protecting taxpayers and border on social engineering. . . .

Many banks probably took money that they didn't need to take. They probably took it simply because it was available.

Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link.



Forced Unionization bill looks likely to pass

Politico reports that Harry Reid claims that he has enough votes to pass the forced unionization bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid weighed in on a divisive labor union bill introduced in both chambers of Congress today, saying he's confident he can round up votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

“We'll look and see if we can get enough votes to pass it,” Reid told reporters today. “I certainly think we can.”

Reid said he believed he already had the 60 votes needed to pass the bill — which would make it much easier for labor unions to organize — through its early procedural votes. Sponsors call the legislation the "Employee Free Choice Act," while opponents call it "card check" because it allows workers to simply sign a card if they endorse formation of a labor union instead of going through a traditional union election. . . .


Heller 2? New lawsuit filed in DC

The Second Amendment Foundation has filed a new lawsuit against DC.

The Second Amendment Foundation and three Washington, D.C. residents today filed a lawsuit challenging a regulation by District of Columbia city government that arbitrarily bans handguns based on a roster of "acceptable" handguns approved by the State of California.

The District is using this list despite a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer that protects handguns that ordinary people traditionally use for self-defense. This scheme could eventually bar the ownership of any new handguns.

Attorney Alan Gura, representing the plaintiffs in this case, noted that District bureaucrats "told Tracy Ambeau Hanson her gun was the wrong color." Americans are not limited to a government list of approved books, or approved religions, he said. A handgun protected by the Second Amendment doesn't need to appear on any government-approved list either.

"The Springfield XD-45 is approved for sale in Washington," Gura noted, "so long as it is black, green, or brown, but her bi-tone version is supposedly 'unsafe.'" . . . .

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Warren Buffet Transcript

A copy of the entire transcript of Buffet's three hour interview:

“If you’re in a war, and we really are in an economic war, there’s a obligation to the majority to behave in ways to not go around inflaming the minority. If on Dec. 8, or maybe it was Dec. 7, when Roosevelt convened Congress to vote on the war. He didn’t say, ‘I’m throwing in about ten of my pet projects,’ and you didn't have congress people putting on 8,000 earmarks onto the declaration of war in 1941.” . . .

“Job one is to win the economic war. Job two is to win the economic war and Job 3. And you can’t expect people to unite behind you if you’re trying to jam a whole bunch of things down their throats. So I would absolutely say, for the interim until we get this one solved, I would not be pushing a lot of things that, that you know are contentious.”

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Obama's Teleprompter Crutch

From the Washington Times:

Is President Obama able to conduct a news conference without a teleprompter? Is he is an automaton in answering questions? With all the jokes about Karl Rove as George Bush's brain or cracks during the 1980s about Ronald Reagan supposedly being an amiable dunce, could you imagine the reaction if either president had used a teleprompter to answer questions? The late night joke writers wouldn't have let it go until the president gave in to the merciless ridicule as he was painted as an idiot who couldn't tie his shoes without being fed instructions on how to do it.

As it was, Mr. Bush suffered a deluge of unfounded criticism over the "bulge" in his jacket during the first presidential debate in 2004. The bizarre claim was that somehow this bulge allowed Karl Rove or someone else to tell Mr. Bush what to say during the debate. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe raised the issue. Salon.com asked, "Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry?" The Washington Post noted, "Journalists had been passing around the link to the photo all week" and referred to the "widespread" speculation. . . .

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Plagiarism by Academics

While there are some notable examples of extensive plagiarism by academics, the journal Science has the results of how extensive it is and the excuses. One point of this article is that plagiarism has gone up as the cost of copying text with cutting and pasting on computers has gone down. I guess that this could be called the economics of plagiarism.

At least these guys seem to frequently be sincerely sorry unlike some others.

In a report in the current journal Science, his team lists excuses offered by "potential" plagiarists, authors of studies in which the text was, on average, 86.2% similar to previously-published work. Last year, the same team reported in Nature that a sample of the federal government's PubMed database of studies suggests about 1 in 200 papers is plagiarized.

"Over time, the responses just got crazier and crazier," says Tara Long, Garner's colleague at Texas Southwestern. "There's every excuse in the book, from 'my hard drive crashed' to 'the other guy did it.' "

The team used a computer program they wrote called "eTBLAST" (available online) to detect about 9,000 suspicious duplicates from PubMed. The team then sent out 163 questionnaires to potential plagiarists and authors of copied works on the list, and to editors of the journals that published the studies. They received 144 replies. . . . .

A survey in Naturelast June led by Sandra Titus of the federal Office of Research Integrity, which polices federally-funded research, found about 3% of researchers observed scientific misconduct each year, largely faked data but also plagiarism. High-profile cases, such as stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-Suk's faked data or the Bell Lab's prodigy Jan Hendrik Schön's discredited results, have rocked science labs in the last decade.

"Although our numbers can sound like a lot, you have to remember there are 18 million papers in PubMed and more than 95% of studies are painstakingly high-quality efforts," Garner says. "We just need the culture of science to have the same high standards everywhere."

Some potential plagiarists' responses to the questionnaire (from Science):

•" I was not aware of the fact I am required to take such permission."

•"There are probably only 'x' amount of word combinations that could lead to 'y' amount of statements. ... I have no idea why the pieces are similar, except that I am sure I do not have a good enough memory —and it is certainly not photographic — to have allowed me to have 'copied' his piece .... I did in fact review (the earlier article) for whatever journal it was published in."

•"I know my careless mistake resulted in a severe ethical issue. I am really disappointed with myself as a researcher."

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"TV Warnings About Victim Disarmament Zones"

I have a posting up at Big Hollywood, that some might find of interest.

The season finale of “Burn Notice,” entitled “Lesser Evil,” involves Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) trying to keep both himself and Madeline Weston, his mom (Sharon Gless), safe from some angry spies. Madeline and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) are surrounded by those bad spies and Madeline makes what to many may seem like an obvious suggestion.
Madeline Weston: Should I call the police?
Sam Axe: No, that would make it way too easy for them. Cops take us to the station — they know where we are and they know that we are unarmed.

The segment reminded me of an even even more politically incorrect show: “The Rifleman.” The episode entitled “The Anvil Chorus” aired on December 17, 1962, and is summarized this way: . . .

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Demands for hybrid vehicles goes down a lot

Now we are going to force customers to buy products that they don't really want? I would have put some different evidence in this story to compare the drop in hybrid to non-hybrid prices, but I assume that USA Today got the basic point right.

Consumers have lost their appetite for pricey hybrids, two industry experts say, leading to a drop in used hybrid values and an oversupply of new ones.

Used hybrid values are down 23.5% since their peak last summer, says Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book. Just since the beginning of 2009, they've fallen 4.5%, while used vehicle prices overall are going up as more buyers opt for used over new.

Last summer, when gas prices topped $4 a gallon, demand for hybrid cars skyrocketed. Used hybrids were selling for as much as a new hybrid's sticker price, Flores says, and new hybrids had waiting lists and sold for well above sticker.

Now, Flores says, a one-two punch of the recession and low gas prices are hurting used hybrid sales. "The premium between a hybrid and a non-hybrid is probably not justifiable in the minds of the consumer during this recessionary period, because you're not going to make your money back," he says.

Consumers have become much more price-sensitive, Flores says, and if they can't justify the extra cost upfront of a hybrid, they won't buy one. Many new hybrid cars cost about $3,000 more than their non-hybrid equivalent. . . .

The Boston Herald had this:

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson has a problem: There are way too many Toyota Prius hybrids sitting on his car lots across America.

They stretch "as far as the eye can see," Jackson remarked at The Wall Street’s Journal ECO: nomics conference. He estimated he had some 600,000 hybrid cars "that no one wants."

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based AutoNation is the nation’s largest car dealer, operating 302 new vehicle franchises in 15 states. In the final three months of 2008, its new vehicle unit sales dropped nearly 40 percent.

"I’m looking for a change in consumer behavior," Jackson said. . . . .

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Another gun free zone, another multiple victim shooting

Another horrible tragedy where permitted concealed handguns are banned. This incident occurred at a church in Illinois.

An Illinois pastor used the Bible he was reading from to shield himself from bullets being pumped at him from an unknown gunman who opened fire during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.

Senior Pastor Fred Winters was preaching during the 8:15 a.m. service when a man entered the church, walked down the aisle and started shooting, a parishioner told FOX News. Four others were also reportedly shot.

The .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol then jammed and the suspect started stabbing himself with a knife, Ralph Timmins of the Illinois State Police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. . . . .