Thursday, January 17, 2013

Liberalism Versus Blacks

 Thomas Sowell

There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds?
San Francisco is a classic example of a city unexcelled in its liberalism. But the black population of San Francisco today is less than half of what it was back in 1970, even though the city's total population has grown.

Severe restrictions on building housing in San Francisco have driven rents and home prices so high that blacks and other people with low or moderate incomes have been driven out of the city. The same thing has happened in a number of other California communities dominated by liberals.

Liberals try to show their concern for the poor by raising the level of minimum wage laws. Yet they show no interest in hard evidence that minimum wage laws create disastrous levels of unemployment among young blacks in this country, as such laws created high unemployment rates among young people in general in European countries.

The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals' expansion of the welfare state. Most black children grew up in homes with two parents during all that time but most grow up with only one parent today.

Liberals have pushed affirmative action, supposedly for the benefit of blacks and other minorities. But two recent factual studies show that affirmative action in college admissions has led to black students with every qualification for success being artificially turned into failures by being mismatched with colleges for the sake of racial body count.

The two most recent books that show this with hard facts are "Mismatch" by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., and "Wounds That Will Not Heal" by Russell K. Nieli. My own book "Affirmative Action Around the World" shows the same thing with different evidence.

In all these cases, and many others, liberals take positions that make them look good and feel good -- and show very little interest in the actual consequences for others, even when liberal policies are leaving havoc in their wake.

The current liberal crusade for more so-called "gun control" laws is more of the same. Factual studies over the years, both in the United States and in other countries, repeatedly show that "gun control" laws do not in fact reduce crimes committed with guns.

Cities with some of the tightest gun control laws in the nation have murder rates far above the national average. In the middle of the 20th century, New York had far more restrictive gun control laws than London, but London had far less gun crime. Yet gun crimes in London skyrocketed after severe gun control laws were imposed over the next several decades.

Although gun control is not usually considered a racial issue, a wholly disproportionate number of Americans killed by guns are black. But here, as elsewhere, liberals' devotion to their ideology greatly exceeds their concern about what actually happens to flesh and blood human beings as a result of their ideology.

One of the most polarizing and counterproductive liberal crusades of the 20th century has been the decades-long busing crusade to send black children to predominantly white schools. The idea behind this goes back to the pronouncement by Chief Justice Earl Warren that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Yet within walking distance of the Supreme Court where this pronouncement was made was an all-black high school that had scored higher than two-thirds of the city's white high schools taking the same test -- way back in 1899! But who cares about facts, when you are on a liberal crusade that makes you feel morally superior?

To challenge government-imposed racial segregation and discrimination is one thing. But to claim that blacks get a better education if they sit next to whites in school is something very different. And it is something that goes counter to the facts.

Many liberal ideas about race sound plausible, and it is understandable that these ideas might have been attractive 50 years ago. What is not understandable is how so many liberals can blindly ignore 50 years of evidence to the contrary since then.



Local Tyranny

Yes, Washington is out of control. For liberty to prevail, it must be confronted, restrained, and redirected. But, so too, our local authorities and institutions can trample our liberties, our privacy, and our domestic tranquility.

Law students learn an aphorism about the development of law: Hard cases make bad law. An incident or two last year in my home state of Colorado illustrate the point: hard circumstances invite bad decisions and establish bad precedents.  Citizens can be almost powerless to respond.

First incident: a bank robbery in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, caused a gunpoint lockdown, hand cuffing, and mass detention of dozens of commuters yanked from 40 vehicles, based only on a phone tip that the robber might be at a particular intersection. There was no description of the robber or the vehicle, so police drew their weapons and detained the occupants of 40 vehicles stopped at the light. Police held the detainees for two hours.

In the last vehicle they searched, police found loaded guns and apprehended their man.

Second, in a horrific abduction-slaying, a middle school girl vanished on her way to school in a western suburb of Denver. The local news and news-watching public were consumed with her disappearance and unknown fate. The state and nation mourned when an arrest was made, confession obtained, and the victim’s body recovered.

What was less reported was that police had canvassed door to door and with zero basis, they pressured homeowners to submit to aggressive searches. A friend lives in the neighborhood and reports that police and FBI came to her home, demanded entry, were brusque and insistent about her refusal, returned another day, and unpleasantly warned her they would not be as pleasant when they came back yet again.  The case was closed before that happened. Other homeowners who allowed entry reported their homes disturbed, dressers, papers, appliances, and effects probed, rifled through, scattered, and left amiss.

Any decent person is pleased a bank robber was apprehended and anguished that a little girl perished. They would do anything they could to help satisfactory outcomes in either case. But any thoughtful citizen has to be troubled about the broad net local officials cast, and the inversion of traditional American principles of justice: probable cause, particularized suspicion, a reasonable basis to question—these were not the guiding lights of the operations.

The overreach in both cases (I assert it was such) is troubling and challenging for various reasons: it stemmed from powerful public need, in causes we all support. Yet, for those affected, it reversed the normal relationship between citizen and state: innocent motorists with no indication of guilt or involvement were detained, cuffed, guns aimed at them; homeowners were pressured and intimidated to accept entry and search. If they refused, they were left in doubt and threat about the next “visit;” if they agreed, their home was violated and upheaved, and not restored.

The bedrock idea that law enforcement operates within certain standards and limits, and that citizens are protected by certain powerful barriers on state action is fading. It’s being replaced by the thought that solving the case is more important than the safeguards and liberty of innocent people.

Most troubling to me is a lack of an effective venue or mechanism to hold the officials accountable—and to press for reformed policies and standards for decision-making It is my unscientific sense that a strong majority of citizens disapprove these tactics. When I posted my criticism on a social network the responses (not politically representative of all of society, I concede) were about 90% against, 10% in favor.

But, we hold or voice our opinions ineffectually, or with hesitation. First, everyone understands the urgency and benevolence of the motives of the responsible authorities in such exigent cases. Second, in a busy world with headlines and issues stretched all the way from existential global clashes and DC policy standoffs, to pressing work concerns, and delicate parent teacher conferences, there is limited time, knowledge, and drive to go after every important thing. Third, public officials and public bodies command the high ground. They enjoy concerted information, decision-making, and execution. Engaged citizens may as well be the only person who called to express concerns about a particular incident, so far as they know.

When the next crisis incident hits, authorities will make the decisions they feel pressure to make, to do their job. Whether it turns out well or badly, a lot of citizens may feel unease. But the ratchet will turn another notch.  And the security of our homes, persons, papers and effects will be a little less sacred by the day.



For Obama, deficits don't matter any more

If you believed that President Obama and his congressional allies had any interest in cutting government spending and reforming runaway entitlement programs, then last week should have dispelled your illusions.

During the presidential campaign, Obama tried to take credit for the meager spending cuts of 2011 -- which he had actually tried to prevent. But with his second term secured, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began to lay the groundwork for increased government spending in the name of stimulating the economy.

"[D]eficit reduction is not a goal -- a worthy goal unto itself," Carney told reporters last Wednesday. "This is all about making our economy stronger and making it more productive and allowing it to create even more jobs. I mean, that is the most important thing when it comes to economic policy as far as the President is concerned."

That's a far cry from Obama's promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. "It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected," Obama said in 2009. "I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."

The federal debt, of course, is over $16 trillion, while the deficit -- the amount of money spent each year that exceeds tax revenue -- will exceed $1 trillion for the fifth year in a row.

Democratic Party leaders have no interest in making those "difficult decisions" Obama referred to, even with the federal government on a collision course with the legal debt limit.

Although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, believes that government spending should be cut by the same amount that the debt ceiling is raised, congressional Democrats would rather do nothing -- even if that means weakening Congress relative to the president.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., encouraged Obama in a letter Friday "to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis -- without congressional approval, if necessary." Reid's letter outlined a position similar to that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has long argued that Obama should claim the authority to raise the debt limit under the 14th Amendment -- an unprecedented arrogation of power by the executive.

"Instead of using this opportunity to address Washington's spending problem or begin a dialogue with Republicans on entitlement reform, the leadership of the Democratic Party has chosen to advocate a clearly unconstitutional approach," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told The Washington Examiner in a statement. "To even suggest the president could raise the debt limit 'without congressional approval' is extreme and totally unnecessary."

It is necessary, though, if the Democrats intend to continue spending money while hiding the nation's financial situation from the American people. Reid hasn't allowed the Senate to pass a budget in over three years as Obama and his allies work to create a European-style welfare state.

Polls continue to show that Americans are deeply concerned about government overspending, but that's the opposite of the Democrats' and Obama's agenda. That explains why Senate Democrats would rather cede congressional power to Obama and let him exercise Congress's constitutional borrowing power than hold a recorded vote on their long-term budget plans.



Sandy wrecked our house, but bureaucrats are keeping it broken

Like many people whose houses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, my family and I have been living in a rented house since the storm. Unlike some whose houses were totalled, we could have repaired things and been home toasting our tootsies by our own fireplace by now. What happened?

Two things: zoning (as in "Twilight Zone") and FEMA.

Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We'd met with insurance adjusters, contractors and "remediation experts." We'd had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything—wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases—touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.

Yet it wasn't until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase "building permit" first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. "What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?"  Of course.

Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house "up to code," which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can't raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?

There were other surprises. A woman in our neighborhood has two adjoining properties, with a house and a cottage. She rents the house and lives in the cottage. For 29 years she has paid taxes on both. The cottage was severely damaged but she can't tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures, never mind that for 29 years two property-tax payments were gladly accepted.

Kafka would have liked FEMA, too. We've met plenty of its agents. Every one we've encountered has been polite and oozing with sympathy. Even the lady who reduced my wife to tears was nice. The issue was my wife's proof of income. We sent our tax return to FEMA, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted pay stubs. My wife works as a freelance writer and editor. She doesn't get a pay stub. Which apparently makes her a nonperson to this government agency.

It's not only us, of course. Thousands upon thousands have been displaced, but the bullying pedantry of the zoning establishment never wavers. While our house stands empty, the city authorities even showed a sense of humor by sending us a bill for property taxes. For a house they won't let us repair.

We've spent a few thousand dollars on a lawyer to appeal to Zoning, many thousands in rent, and hundreds getting a fresh appraisal of our house. The latest from our lawyer: Because of our new appraisal, we may be able to "apply for a zoning permit." "Apply," mind you.

I used to think that our house was, you know, our house. The bureaucrats have taught me otherwise. But then I also used to think that Franz Kafka wrote a species of dark fantasy. I know now that he was turning out nonfiction.




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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist.  It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day.  It was only to the Right of  Stalin's Communism.  The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a war criminal. Both British and American codebreakers had cracked the Japanese naval code so FDR knew what was coming at Pearl Harbor.  But for his own political reasons he warned no-one there.  So responsibility for the civilian and military deaths at Pearl Harbor lies with FDR as well as with the Japanese.  The huge firepower available at Pearl Harbor, both aboard ship and on land, could have largely neutered the attack.  Can you imagine 8 battleships and various lesser craft firing all their AA batteries as the Japanese came in?  The Japanese naval airforce would have been annihilated and the war would have been over before it began.


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