Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Baltimore Riots, The Problems In The Black Inner Cities, & The Failure Of Progressive Ideals (Updated)

The following is Judge Andrew Napolitano, appearing on Fox News, opining that the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the ostensible justification for the recent riots there, has not been properly handled and that the riots might well have been avoided had the Baltimore City Police Department reacted with greater swiftness. That assumes of course that the investigation could have been concluded much quicker, and I do not know if that is accurate:

Regardless, Judge Napolitano is right about what should happen going forward. Freddie Gray is owed justice. There is also no question that Freddie Gray's wrongful death was the ostensible justification for the Baltimore riots. That said, the real issues plaguing a very substantial portion of the black community, particularly those in the inner cities, go far deeper than the issue of Freddie Gray's death or police misconduct.

Senator Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader, though repeating the utter canards that racism is at the root of the problems experienced by inner city blacks, in fact came close to hitting the mark from the floor of the Senate Monday:

"[T]he underlying problem [giving rise to the Baltimore riot is] that millions of Americans feel powerless in the face of a system that is rigged against them.”

Reid stressed that “it’s easy to feel powerless when you see the rich getting richer while opportunities to build a better life for yourself and your family are nonexistent in your own community.”

“It’s easy to feel devalued when schools in your community are failing. It’s easy to believe the system is rigged against you when you spend years watching what President Obama called today ‘a slow-rolling crisis’ of troubling police interactions with people of color,” he continued. “No American should ever feel powerless. No American should ever feel like their life is not valued. But that is what our system says to many of our fellow citizens.”

“No American should be denied the opportunity to better their lives through their own hard work. But that is the reality that too many face. In a nation that prides itself on being a land of opportunity, millions of our fellow citizens live every day with little hope of building a better future no matter how hard they try. We cannot condone the violence we see in Baltimore. But we must not ignore the despair and hopelessness that gives rise to this kind of violence.”

The reality is that Democrats own the inner cities as well as this nation's response to the plight of our black citizens since the start of the Great Society and the welfare state. They try to maintain the canard that the only things holding back blacks in the inner city today are rampant (conservative) racism, white police racism, and but a bit more application of government spending. The reality is that racism is absent from all but the fringes of society today, that inner city black youths have exponentially far more to fear from other black youths than from white police, and that the Great Society welfare state has not just failed a substantial portion of the black community, but actually worsened their situation over the past half century.

Several writers have addressed this issue today. The Editorial Board of the WSJ points out the obvious, that the progressive blue-city model is a failure. As to Baltimore city in particular, the authors note:

The latest figures from Maryland’s Department of Labor show state unemployment at 5.4%, against 8.4% for Baltimore. A 2011 city report on the neighborhood of Freddie Gray—the African-American whose death in police custody sparked the riots—reported an area that is 96.9% black with unemployment at 21%. When it comes to providing hope and jobs, we should have learned by now that no government program can substitute for a healthy private economy.

Then there are the public schools. Residents will put up with a great deal if they know their children have a chance at upward mobility through education. But when the schools no longer perform, the parents who can afford to move to the suburbs do so—and those left behind are stuck with failure. There are many measures of failure in Baltimore schools, but consider that on state tests 72% of eighth graders scored below proficient in math, 45% in reading and 64% in science.

At National Review, Michael Tanner notes that Maryland maintains one of the highest tax rates in our nation, as well as a very generous welfare system, a highly unionized work force, and an environment largely hostile to private business. Baltimore city itself suffers from declining population, high crime, very high unemployment, high out-of-wedlock births, and poor schools. As he concludes:

Once order is restored in Baltimore, there will be time to take stock. We can expect to hear the usual chorus about neglected neighborhoods and the need for government jobs programs or additional social spending. Instead, we should take to heart President Obama’s admonition that “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.”

Big government has failed Baltimore. If we learn nothing from what just happened — if we simply go back to throwing money at the same tired old programs — it will be just a matter of time until this happens all over again."

In yet another article, Michelle Malkin makes the same point, that the left is out of ideas to address the problems in the black inner city communities beyond spending ever more money on exactly the same type of programs that have utterly failed to this point. But probably the most articulate on these issues today is Kevin Williamson writing at National Review:

St. Louis has not had a Republican mayor since the 1940s, . . . the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Baltimore has seen two Republicans sit in the mayor’s office since the 1920s — and none since the 1960s. Like St. Louis, it is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Philadelphia has not elected a Republican mayor since 1948. The last Republican to be elected mayor of Detroit was congratulated on his victory by President Eisenhower. Atlanta, a city so corrupt that its public schools are organized as a criminal conspiracy against its children, last had a Republican mayor in the 19th century. . . . Atlanta is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department.

Black urban communities face institutional failure across the board every day. American cities are by and large Democratic-party monopolies, monopolies generally dominated by the so-called progressive wing of the party. The results have been catastrophic, and not only in poor black cities such as Baltimore and Detroit. Money can paper over some of the defects of progressivism in rich, white cities such as Portland and San Francisco, but those are pretty awful places to be non-white and non-rich, too: Blacks make up barely 9 percent of the population in San Francisco, but they represent 40 percent of those arrested for murder, and they are arrested for drug offenses at ten times their share of the population. Criminals make their own choices, sure, but you want to take a look at the racial disparity in educational outcomes and tell me that those low-income nine-year-olds in Wisconsin just need to buck up and bootstrap it?

There are people who should be made to answer for that: What has Martin O’Malley to say for himself? What can Ed Rendell say for himself other than that he secured a great deal of investment for the richest square mile in Philadelphia? What has Nancy Pelosi done about the radical racial divide in San Francisco?

. . . [The rioting] we have seen in places such as Ferguson and Baltimore is much more ordinarily criminal than political. But there is a legitimate concern here — from which no one seems to be willing to draw the obvious conclusion: There is someone to blame for what’s wrong in Baltimore.

Would any sentient adult American be shocked to learn that Baltimore has a corrupt and feckless police department enabled by a corrupt and feckless city government? I myself would not, and the local authorities’ dishonesty and stonewalling in the death of Freddie Gray is reminiscent of what we have seen in other cities. There’s a heap of evidence that the Baltimore police department is pretty bad. This did not come out of nowhere. While the progressives have been running the show in Baltimore, police commissioner Ed Norris was sent to prison on corruption charges (2004), two detectives were sentenced to 454 years in prison for dealing drugs (2005), an officer was dismissed after being videotaped verbally abusing a 14-year-old and then failing to file a report on his use of force against the same teenager (2011), an officer was been fired for sexually abusing a minor (2014), and the city paid a quarter-million-dollar settlement to a man police illegally arrested for the non-crime of recording them at work with his mobile phone. There’s a good deal more. Does that sound like a disciplined police organization to you?

Yes, Baltimore seems to have some police problems. But let us be clear about whose fecklessness and dishonesty we are talking about here: No Republican, and certainly no conservative, has left so much as a thumbprint on the public institutions of Baltimore in a generation. Baltimore’s police department is, like Detroit’s economy and Atlanta’s schools, the product of the progressive wing of the Democratic party enabled in no small part by black identity politics. This is entirely a left-wing project, and a Democratic-party project. When will the Left be held to account for the brutality in Baltimore — brutality for which it bears a measure of responsibility on both sides? There aren’t any Republicans out there cheering on the looters, and there aren’t any Republicans exercising real political power over the police or other municipal institutions in Baltimore. Community-organizer — a wretched term — Adam Jackson declared that in Baltimore “the Democrats and the Republicans have both failed.” Really? Which Republicans? Ulysses S. Grant? Unless I’m reading the charts wrong, the Baltimore city council is 100 percent Democratic.

The other Democratic monopolies aren’t looking too hot, either. We’re sending Atlanta educators to prison for running a criminal conspiracy to hide the fact that they failed, and failed woefully, to educate the children of that city. Isolated incident? Nope: Atlanta has another cheating scandal across town at the police academy. Who is being poorly served by the fact that Atlanta’s school system has been converted into crime syndicate? Mostly poor, mostly black families. Who is likely to suffer from any incompetents advanced through the Atlanta police department by its corrupt academy? Mostly poor, mostly black people. Who suffers most from the incompetence of Baltimore’s Democratic mayor? Mostly poor, mostly black families — should they feel better that she’s black? Who suffers most from the incompetence and corruption of Baltimore’s police department? Mostly poor, mostly black families. And it’s the same people who will suffer the most from the vandalism and pillaging going on in Baltimore, too. The evidence suggests very strongly that the left-wing, Democratic claques that run a great many American cities — particularly the poor and black cities — are not capable of running a school system or a police department. They are incompetent, they are corrupt, and they are breathtakingly arrogant. Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore — this is what Democrats do.

And the kids in the street screaming about “inequality”? Somebody should tell them that the locale in these United States with the least economic inequality is Utah, i.e. the state farthest away from the reach of the people who run Baltimore.

Keep voting for the same thing, keep getting the same thing.

What happened to Freddie Gray demands justice. What has happened with a substantial portion of the black community over the past half century started as a tragedy, Today, in a nation as rich as ours, it has now reached the point of obscenity. It is every bit as equally deserving of justice.

Update: This from Powerline:

The Washington Post reports that a prisoner who was in the police van with Freddie Gray says he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.” According to the Post, the prisoner’s statement is contained in an affidavit that’s part of an application by the police for search warrant seeking the seizure of the uniform worn by one of the officers involved in Gray’s arrest or transport.

I can’t tell for sure from the Post’s report whether the prisoner executed the affidavit or whether the affidavit is from a police officer who relates what the prisoner allegedly told him. It looks like the Post is saying it’s the latter.

It seems counter-intuitive to suppose that Gray inflicted serious bodily injury on himself. However, without knowing Gray’s state of mind at the time — e.g., was he high on drugs; was he trying to set up a claim of police brutality — it’s impossible to evaluate the plausibility of the perception that this is what happened.

In any event, if Gray’s fellow prisoner does indeed say he heard Gray banging against the walls and that Gray seemed to be trying intentionally to injure himself, this will cast doubt on claims that police mistreatment caused Gray to sustain injuries while he was in the van. Such evidence will also make it difficult to attribute Gray’s death to the police.

The Post says that “video shot by several bystanders to Gray’s arrest shows two officers on top of Gray, their knees in his back, and then dragging his seemingly limp body to the van as he cried out.” Thus, some of his injuries may be due to what happened during the arrest, while others may be due to what happened in the van.

There is also the police commissioner’s statement that officers violated policy by failing properly to restrain Gray via a seat belt while he was in the van. However, the police union is pushing back on this assertion.

The union president says that the policy mandating seat belts wasn’t emailed to officers until three days before Gray was arrested. Moreover, it was emailed as part of a package of five policy changes.

Officers should, of course, read about all policy changes. But human nature being what is, the union president’s statement that officers tend not to do so is plausible. It would be one thing if the officers who dealt with Gray had violated a longstanding, widely known policy on seat belts. It’s another if, as seems to be the case, the policy was brand new and had only just been communicated by email as part of package of policy changes.

In any event, the Post’s report suggests that the facts surrounding Gray’s unfortunate death may not be as straightforward as those who have rushed to condemn the police assert them to be. The best approach remains what it has been all along — wait for the facts before forming a judgment.

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