Monday, January 12, 2009

NYT muddle on black crime

The New York Times has been furiously penning policy briefs to the Obama administration. A recent editorial on black crime compresses within a few hundred words decades of failed thinking on public safety. If the president-elect follows its hoary prescriptions, he will be guaranteed to waste taxpayer money without having the slightest effect on crime.

A new study of homicide among young black males prompted this latest editorial. James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt of Northeastern University found that the number of homicides committed by black males under the age of 18 rose 43 percent between 2002 and 2007, while the number of gun homicides by this same group rose 47 percent. Homicides by white youth during that period decreased slightly. But more significant were the different homicide rates that the report calculated, which no news story dared to divulge. Whereas the report's graph for white homicides over the last 30 years plots the rate in increments of 10, the black rate is demarcated at intervals of 100. The highest homicide rate for whites over the last three decades was 32 homicides committed per 100,000 males between the ages of 18 and 24 (reached in 1991), whereas the highest homicide rate for blacks was approximately 320 homicides per 100,000 males between the ages of 18 and 24 (reached in 1993).

Even this apparent ten-to-one disparity between black and white homicide rates doesn't tell the full story. Fox and Swatt include Hispanic homicides in the white rate, though they do not disclose that they are doing so (both the inclusion and the silence about it follow FBI practice). Hispanic crime rates are between three and four times that of whites-meaning that if one excluded the Hispanic homicides from the white rate, the black-white differential would be even larger than ten to one.

The Times responds to the report with the key strategies of liberal apologetics. Strategy Number One: strip moral agency from favored victim groups. Bad things happen to favored victim groups because of forces outside their control; good things also happen to favored victim groups because of outside forces-above all, wise government programs. Any expectation that members of a favored victim group can take responsibility for their lives must be expunged. Strategy Number Two: Never let the following controversial and dangerous word enter a discussion of the underclass-"marriage."

The editorial initially conceals the Northeastern study's findings. The report, it writes, suggests that "violent crime among young people may be rising"; then, as if in a stray afterthought, the editorial adds that the "study also shows that the murder rate for black teenagers has climbed noticeably since 2000 while the rate for young whites has scarcely changed on the whole and, in some places, has actually declined." That finding-the rising juvenile black homicide rate-is the study's actual import, of course. But the Times would rather contradict itself than lead with the politically incorrect truth.

Such evasions are trivial, however, compared with the misleading information that the Times pumps out about the causes of, and effective responses to, crime. "If the country has learned anything about street gangs, it is that police dragnets-hauling large numbers of nonviolent young people off to jail, along with the troublemakers-tend to make the problem worse, not better," the editorial observes. But "dragnets" to haul "large numbers of nonviolent young people off to jail" aren't official policy anywhere. The warning is a red herring, introduced merely to create a contrast between mean-spirited and shortsighted police action and the wonderful social-services programs that the Times is about to recommend.

Having conveyed the impression of widespread heavy-handed police tactics, the Times then issues its preferred anticrime policies: "Public policy should discourage young people from joining gangs in the first place by keeping them in school, getting them jobs and giving them community-based counseling and social service programs." Note the transferred moral agency. "Policy" should "keep" young people in school. How, exactly, is "policy" to do that? Young people keep themselves in school by not dropping out or by not engaging in the behaviors that, in rare cases, get them expelled. The only way that "policy" might have a greater effect on whether the students stay in school would be to declare that nothing is grounds for expulsion. But even such a prospective amnesty for violence wouldn't "keep" students in school who decide to drop out.

The Times's next antigang prescription-"getting them jobs"-is in theory more within the capacity of "policy." Government can "get" intending or actual gangbangers jobs, but they don't necessarily take or keep them. Few teenagers from any background possess the self-discipline and reliability that employers seek; teens growing up in chaotic home environments are even less likely to have developed a work ethic (which isn't to say that many inner-city teens aren't courteous and enthusiastic workers). It would be a great thing, of course, if a booming economy offered a job to every teenager who sought one. But the biggest barrier to the employment of crime-prone inner-city youth isn't lack of real or even make-work jobs; rather, it's their own willingness to show up every day on time and accept authority.

As for the editorial's final prescription: there is not a single violence-plagued city that has not been administering "community-based counseling and social service programs" for decades, to virtually no effect. Failed foundation- and government-subsidized youth programs litter the philanthropic landscape; no "social service program" has emerged from that decades-long experimentation as the antidote to social breakdown.

The Times's explanation for crime is as fanciful as its proposed solutions. It sees gang violence as driven in significant measure by the economy: "The economic crisis has clearly created the conditions for more crime and more gangs-among hopeless, jobless young men in the inner cities." The claim that crime results from a bad economy has limited empirical backing in general, but it is particularly ludicrous applied to juvenile violence. It is not the collapse of consumer lending that induces a 16-year-old to shoot a rival who "disses" his girlfriend; it is a failure of self-control and a distorted understanding of self-worth. The pathologies of gang culture have persisted throughout economic booms and recessions. The black youth homicide rate rose 79 percent in San Francisco, 87 percent in Phoenix, and 139 percent in Houston from 2000 and 2001 to 2006 and 2007, while those cities were experiencing the economic surge of the early 2000s. The gangbangers in inner cities may be "hopeless" and "jobless," as the Times puts it, but the reason is the same lack of moral capital that produces their violence in the first place.

In the Times's view, prison is something that just happens to black males in our society. "Once these young men become entangled in the criminal justice system," the Times writes, "they are typically marginalized and shut out of the job market for life." Never mind that you actually have to commit a crime before the criminal justice system "entangles" you. And while it is unquestionably harder for someone with a criminal record to find a job, an ex-felon's work habits play as important a role as his criminal past in determining whether he permanently enters the workforce after serving time.

Liberal policymakers and pundits have spilled buckets of ink over the years promoting social-service programs as the solution to crime, yet-like the Times's recent editorial-those opinion-setters cannot squeeze out one word about the most effective anticrime (and antipoverty) strategy: marriage. The marriage imperative civilizes boys. By contrast, in a world where it is unusual for a man to marry the mother of his children, boys fail to learn the most basic lesson of personal responsibility: you are responsible for your children. Freed of the social expectation that they will have to provide a stable home for their offspring, boys have little incentive to restrain their impulses and develop bourgeois habits. In 2005, the national black illegitimacy rate was 70 percent, and it approached 90 percent in many inner cities (compared with a white illegitimacy rate of 25 percent, and as low as 6 percent in some urban areas, like the District of Columbia). The disappearance of marriage from the black community is a social cataclysm.

Some highly structured, values-based youth programs, like the Boy Scouts, can provide boys a surrogate for the paternal authority that they lack at home; society is right to support these lifelines. But they cannot possibly bring crime down significantly among blacks in the absence of a cultural shift toward marriage. True, no one knows yet how to revive marriage in the black community. But given the imperative of doing so, you would think that somewhere in the flood of recommendations for more useless government social programs, a little space could be reserved for promoting the idea of a marriage movement.

Policing is nearly as taboo a solution to crime as marriage. The Times editorial makes a desultory reference to "more financing for local police," but argues-against all evidence-that "programs aimed at providing jobs and social services are far more important." Even that wan half-endorsement must have cost the Times considerable anguish. The paper's real attitude toward the police was hilariously on display in an article on the New York Police Department published less than a week after its editorial. Titled POLICE POLISH IMAGE, BUT CONCERNS PERSIST: IN POST 9/11 NEW YORK, PROTEST IS MUTED AS CRIME RATE STAYS LOW, the article drew on the second of the two story lines that make up the entire repertoire of the Times's thinking about the police. This second story line-"Why isn't there more protest against racist police tactics?"-gets trotted out when circumstances militate against the preferred narrative: "Hooray! Protest mounts over racist police tactics!"

Ideally, president-elect Obama would tear up the liberal playbook on crime that is so expertly summarized in the Times's pronouncements. Obama's political affiliations make that course unlikely. But if he pushed back against the Times's economic determinism and stressed that people from any economic background have the capacity and duty to reject a life of violence, if he called on fathers to take responsibility for their children (as he has done in the past), he would start in motion a set of changes that could bring greater peace to black communities.


The Great Myth: A Biblical Case Against homosexual 'Marriage'

A December issue of Newsweek featured a cover story entitled "Our Mutual Joy" that purported to offer a "religious case" for gay "marriage." Author Lisa Miller claimed, "Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side." Really?

It is interesting that apologists for the homosexual lifestyle typically say, on the one hand, that religious conservatives don't really understand Scripture; if they did, they would see that there is no prohibition against homosexual love or marriage. On the other hand, they tell us the Bible is not to be trusted as a modern-day commentary when it speaks on moral issues-particularly sexuality. As Miller put it, "the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scriptures give us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be married."

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham was even more direct in his commentary on Miller's article, saying that "to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt-it is unserious and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition."

In light of these statements, it is obvious that homosexuals do not want to be held to the biblical standards of faith and practice, yet have no trouble embracing some form of religiosity in order to feel sanctified in the eyes of God. As the apostle Paul put it in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

In her attempt to justify what is scripturally unjustifiable, Miller, either consciously or unconsciously, has made a number of grievous errors:


First, marriage is not a triviality, but a holy ordinance ordained by God in the Garden of Eden. He declares to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," which is His model for the union of male and female. Although some patriarchs strayed from this model following the Fall, it was not without consequences. David, for example, lost the son that was born as a result of his affair with Bathsheba.

Jesus is described by Miller as being "indifferent to earthly attachments," but He reiterates God's ordinance in Mathew 19:3-5 when questioned by the Pharisees on the matter of divorce: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they twain [two] shall be one flesh?' Wherefore, they are no more twain [two], but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

Miller further claims that the "fact" that Jesus was single indicates that the Bible has no model for a "how-to" script on marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Jesus was married-to His church (the community of believers), and His life is an allegory of traditional Hebrew marriage rituals.

In the Hebrew ritual, the father or his emissary would pick out the bride for his son. Next, a price was established for the bride to be paid by the groom. When the bride accepted the proposal, they were legally betrothed, but the marriage was not yet consummated. Gifts were exchanged between the bride and groom and the groom departed to prepare a place for his bride-often in his father's house. The groom may have left for an extended period, but eventually he returned to claim his bride, take her to the place he prepared, and consummate the marriage.

Similarly, God the Father selects the bride (believers) for His Son ("All that the Father gives me shall come to me and I will in no wise cast out"-John 6:37). Jesus pays for His bride by His sacrificial death on the cross. Believers who accept Christ are sanctified, but not yet in His presence.

Upon a believer's commitment to trust in Christ, he or she is given the Holy Spirit, who provides each believer a gift of the Spirit. Jesus leaves His bride (the church) to go to His Father's house, but prior to His departure, says, "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). In the end times, Jesus will return to the earth to gather His church and consummate his relationship with believers, who will then remain in His presence forever.

Accordingly, marriage is reflective of Christ's relationship with His church and as such, is not a matter of "indifference" to Him, as Miller suggested, but rather has meaning beyond any other earthly institution-it is holy. In a Spirit-guided Christian marriage, the bride and groom mirror in many ways the relationship Christ has with His church. As noted in Ephesians 5:21-25: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her."

Therefore, whatever two persons of the same sex wish to call their mutual relationship-partnering, co-habiting, or sharing a household-one thing is certain: It is not a marriage in the biblical sense nor in common sense.


Another fallacy of the gay rights movement is comparing America's experience with slavery with the battle for gay rights. Miller accuses opponents of same-sex "marriage" of using Scripture "as the foundation for their objections," in similar fashion as 19th-century supporters of slavery. Jon Meacham states this case most succinctly: "The analogy with race is apt, for Christians in particular long cited scriptural authority to justify and perpetuate slavery with the same certitude that some now use to point to certain passages in the Bible to condemn homosexuality and to deny the sacrament of marriage to homosexuals. This argument from scripture is difficult to take seriously."

The difference is that Scripture does not support slavery and recognizes it as evil, although it was a reality of the times. Persons who looked to the Bible for support on this issue were guilty of the same proof texting as Miller and Meacham. Paul states the biblical view quite clearly in 1 Timothy 1:8-10: "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."

Those who identify homosexuality as an issue of civil rights and equate it with racial discrimination are both insulting and irrational. Issues of race, ethnicity, national origin, or gender are all real and provable human characteristics. Homosexuality is a behavior that is learned and changeable, unlike the other characteristics, which are innate and immutable. There is not a person on earth that can prove he or she is a homosexual-it is a declaration that can change as evidenced by innumerable persons who have abandoned the lifestyle.

The most common factors in those who have entered the homosexual lifestyle are childhood sexual abuse, a poor relationship with the same-sex parent, or seduction. These classic causes were noted in the story of Lisa Miller (not the author) who left her lesbian relationship with Janet Jenkins convinced that the relationship was sinful. She later repented and reaffirmed her Christian faith. It was also revealed that "her mother sexually and physically abused her as a child and later, forbade her to date, telling her `men were evil.'" It is easy to see how she could fall into the homosexual lifestyle.

Miller is not alone in this circumstance. Many gay celebrities have admitted they were victims of childhood sexual abuse including Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Julie Cypher, Melissa Etheridge, swimming star Greg Louganis, and Chastity Bono, who disclosed how she was seduced as a child into the "gay" lifestyle by one of Cher Bono's lesbian friends. Additionally, many of the young boys seduced by priests were drawn into the homosexual lifestyle by the experience.

Gay-rights activists and their apologists have waged an effective brass knuckles campaign to portray homosexuality as inborn and unchangeable and therefore deserving of acceptance, affirmation, and codification into law. Nevertheless, declaring something to be true doesn't make it so, nor does it make it right.


Contrary to the opinion of Newsweek's Miller, Scripture is clear and distinct about the subject of homosexuality no matter how hard gay activists would like to wish it away. Beyond the Old Testament condemnation of homosexual practice as an abomination (which Miller refers to as "throwaway" lines), Paul writes in Romans 1:25-27: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

In view of the above, it is interesting to note that Miller claims, "Nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women." Evidently, neither Miller nor her source, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, has ever read Romans.

Miller uses certain peculiar passages in Leviticus, which have no modern application, to suggest that statements condemning homosexuality need not be heeded: "[Leviticus is] a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat-or a lamb or a turtle dove. . . . Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices. . . . Why would we regard homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice . . . on the best price to pay for a slave?"

It is important to understand that there are three types of laws in the Old Testament: moral laws, ceremonial laws, and codified civil laws. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonial laws were abolished, since Jesus Christ Himself negated the need for the sacrificial system (see Hebrews 9:1-15). The moral laws remain timeless and permanent.

God imposed the codified civil laws on the Israelite nation during its formative years in order that the people not be corrupted by the practices of the pagans. The punishment these laws invoked were not intended to be permanent, as can be clearly seen in Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Although the Pharisees wanted to stone her to death in accordance with the Mosaic Law, Jesus challenged her accusers to show that they themselves were without sin. Jesus then forgave the woman and sent her on her way with the admonition, "Go and sin no more." Clearly, her adultery was sinful but not a justification to stone her to death.

As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus' example and be witnesses-not executioners-for the redemption of sinners through entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.


Court will hear reverse discrimination case

The Supreme Court on Friday stepped into a reverse discrimination lawsuit over a city's decision to scrap a promotion exam for firefighters because too few minorities scored high enough to move up in rank.

Nineteen white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter sued New Haven, Conn., in 2004. They said they would have been promoted if the city hadn't thrown out the results of two tests for lieutenant and captain because minorities generally did poorly on the exams.

New Haven officials claimed the exams were unfair to minority firefighters and the city faced potential discrimination lawsuits if it went ahead with the promotions. Scores on the exams indicated that no blacks would be promoted. Fourteen of the top 15 candidates for lieutenant and captain were white, based on scores.

A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit and a three-judge panel of the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. But then six judges on the appeals court issued an unusual opinion asking the Supreme Court to take the case.


On "Disproportion"

When conflicts erupt, public opinion tends to divide between absolutists who have decided once and for all who is right and who is wrong, and more cautious people who judge a particular act as appropriate or not according to circumstances, prepared, if necessary, to withhold judgment pending further information. The confrontation in Gaza, as bloody and awful as it is, nevertheless contains a gleam of hope. For the first time in the conflict in the Middle East, the fanatical absolutists seem to be in the minority. The discussion among Israelis (Is this the right time for war? How far should we go? How long?) proceeds as expected in a democracy. What is surprising is that the Palestinians and their supporters are t! aking part in a similar public debate, to the point that, even after Israel's launching of punitive operations, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, found the courage to attribute initial responsibility for the suffering of Gaza's civilians to Hamas, which had broken its truce with Israel.

Unfortunately, the reaction of global public opinion--the media, diplomats, and moral and political authorities--seems to lag behind the thinking of those who are directly concerned. We cannot avoid the word that is on everyone's lips and bolsters another kind of absolutism--the word that magisterially condemns Israeli acts as "disproportionate." Captions on pictures of Gaza under attack express a universal and immediate consensus: Israel acts disproportionately. News reports and commentaries add other terms as opportunities present themselves: "massacre," "total war." At least the word "genocide" has been avoided so far. Will the memory of the so-called "Jenin genocide," so often evoked before being discredited as a fiction, continue to restrain the worst of these verbal excesses? In any case, the absolute and a priori condemnation of the Jewish outrage defines the dominant line of thought in most parts of the world.

"Disproportionate," of course, refers to what is out of proportion--either because no proportion has ever existed, or because an existing proportion has been broken or violated. It is the second meaning that is intended by those who castigate the Israelis for their reprisals, which are judged to be excessive, incongruous, and inappropriate, a violation of limits and norms. The implication is that there is a normal state of the Israel-Hamas conflict, some equilibrium that the Israeli military's aggressiveness has disturbed--as if the conflict were not, like every serious conflict, disproportionate from the outset.

What is this correct proportion that Israel is supposed to respect in order to deserve the favor of world opinion? Should the Israeli army refrain from employing its technical supremacy and limit itself to the weapons that Hamas uses--that is to say, crude rockets and stones? Should it feel free to adopt the strategy of suicide bombers and the deliberate targeting of civilians? Or, better still, would it be appropriate for Israel to wait patiently until Hamas, with the help of Iran and Syria, is able to "balance" Israel's firepower? Or might it be necessary to level the playing field regarding not only means but also aims? Hamas, unlike the Palestinian Authority, refuses to recognize the Jewish state's right to exist and dreams of the annihilation of its citizens; should Israel match this radicalism?

Every conflict, whether dormant or boiling, is by its nature "disproportionate." If the adversaries agreed on the use of means and on each other's claims, they would not be adversaries. Conflict necessarily implies disagreement, and thus the effort of each camp to exploit its advantages as well as the other's weaknesses. The Israeli army is doing just that when it "profits" from its technical superiority. And Hamas does no differently when it uses Gaza's population as a human shield, unhindered by the moral scruples or diplomatic imperatives that constrain its adversary.

To work for peace in the Middle East, we must escape the temptations of absolutism, which entice not only fanatical hard-liners but also angelic souls who imagine that some sacred "proportion" would bring a providential balance to murderous conflicts. In the Middle East, the conflict concerns not only the enforcement of rules of the game, but their establishment. One has every right to discuss freely the appropriateness of a given military or diplomatic initiative, but not to imagine that the problem is soluble in advance by the ostensible right-thinking of world opinion. To wish to survive is not disproportionate.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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