Monthly Archives: February 2008

Pew Report: 1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars in 2008

A Pew report found that 1 in every 100 U.S. adults is now behind bars. The breakdown along racial and ethnic lines is even more disturbing. In the 18 and over age demographic for males, Pew found that 1 in 106 white males are behind bars compared to 1 in 36 for Hispanic males, and 1 in 15 for black males. The most incarcerated group of all is black males from the ages of 20 to 34 with 1 in 9 in this group behind bars.

Pew also found a large gender gap in incarcerations; 1 in 54 all males (18 and over) are behind bars compared to 1 in 265 of all women ages 35 to 69 (“all women 18 and over” must have been too small of a group to measure). The least incarcerated group of all is white women ages 35 to 39 with only 1 in 355.

One would think that based on an adult population of 230 million that with 1 in 100 in jail or prison that our country must be full of murderers, rapists, and thieves. How do we manage to leave our homes without being raped, robbed, or murdered?

Maybe the reason we have so many Americans behind bars has to do with something else: too many “crimes” which do not violate the rights of a non-consenting other. Maybe it is our laws that are the problem.

Gene Healy of the Cato Institute made the following observation in an article he wrote in 2005 called “Criminalization out of Control.”

Because Congress criminalizes unreflectively, the federal criminal code has become vast and incomprehensible. A research team led by professor John Baker of Louisiana State Law School recently estimated that there are more than 4,000 separate federal criminal offenses. That number, inexact as it is, vastly understates the breadth of the criminal law, because the federal criminal code, in turn, incorporates by reference tens of thousands of regulatory violations never voted on by Congress. [Emphasis mine]

And this burgeoning culture of criminalization reverberates down the law enforcement ladder as local police increasingly use handcuffs and jail to deal with situations that clearly don’t warrant it. In September, at a Washington, D.C., bus stop, a Metro transit officer forced a pregnant woman to the ground and handcuffed her for talking too loudly on her cell phone. In April, in St. Petersburg, Fla., police were called into an elementary school to handcuff an unruly 5-year-old girl.

One of our most destructive overcriminalization binges occurred during the “Just Say No” era, when Congress embraced mandatory minimum sentencing as a way to deal with the use of illicit drugs. Making prison the solution to drug abuse has had staggering social costs.

This Pew study bears this out as the study states:

In short, experts say, expanding prisons will accomplish less and cost more than it has in the past.

[…]

[W]ith one in 100 adults looking out at this country from behind an expensive wall of bars, the potential of new approaches cannot be ignored.

There is, however, some good news that perhaps some of these new approaches are not being ignored. The report also found that states are learning that incarceration is not always the best answer. Some states are taking another look at their mandatory minimum sentencing statutes and have begun to prioritize the limited space based on violent offenses vs. nonviolent offenses. More states are also giving “drug courts” and treatment programs for nonviolent drug offenders another look as an alternative to incarceration. This could be a big step in the right direction given that drug offenses account for 53.5% of the national prison population.

Still, there is much work to be done in reforming our broken criminal justice system due in large part to the war on (some) drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing.

Hat Tip: Cato Daily Dispatch for February 29, 2008

What Ron Paul Could Have Learned From Barry Goldwater And William F. Buckley

In what may well be one of the last published articles he wrote, William F. Buckley Jr. recalls the problems that arose when the John Birchers got too close to Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign:

The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.” It was, he said in the summer of 1961, “50-70 percent” Communist-controlled.

(…)

The society became a national cause célèbre—so much so, that a few of those anxious to universalize a draft-Goldwater movement aiming at a nomination for President in 1964 thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.

So, in 1962, a meeting took place between Goldwater, Buckley, and Russell Kirk at which a crucial decision was made:

Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.

Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the “findings” of the Society’s leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. “You know how to do that,” said Jay Hall.

I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.

“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”

“I like that,” Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”

“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Goldwater didn’t win in 1964, but his candidacy created the political apparatus of a conservative movement that elected Ronald Reagan President sixteen years later.

Ron Paul could’ve done this. He could’ve explicitly disavowed Stormfront and denounced them as racists. He could have disowned Alex Jones and the 9/11 Truthers and scorned them as the kooks that they are. He could have outed the author of his newsletters by name instead of prevaricating.

But he didn’t. Apparently, the idea wasn’t even considered. And, because of that, his candidacy is going to be dismissed by history as part of the kook fringe rather than the beginning of a movement for freedom.

H/T: Hit & Run

Wake Up When The Alarm Clock Goes Off…

…or you just might find yourself supporting the American Socialist Party:

For years the masses have told you that if you snooze you lose. You never believed them. You held your head high and slept in whenever you wanted to, always without fear of loss. Well, dear friends, the times have changed. The ingenious sages at ThinkGeek Labs(TM) have finally created the Ultimate weapon against snoozing – the Sn?zNL?z(TM). People who enjoy sleeping in are cowering in fear all across the globe – it’s finally true, when you snooze, you lose!

ThinkGeek, it sounds great! But how does it really work?
Glad you asked….it’s quite simple actually. The Sn?zNL?z uses the very complex psychological phenomemon known as ‘HATRED’. Basically it’s human nature to wish harm upon your enemies. Similarly, it’s human nature not to give your enemies gobs of cash so that they can grow big and dominate the world with their totally wrong, stupid and invalid point of view. ThinkGeek realized that. That’s why everytime you hit the snooze button, the Sn?zNL?z will donate a specified amount of your real money to a non-profit you hate. The problem of sleeping in is solved.

And it’s easy to setup and use too! Just plug your Sn?zNL?z in and either connect it to your network via the RJ45 jack on the back, or via WiFi (WPA supported) if available. Then simply configure via the embedded web browser configuration utility. From here it’s a snap. Simply select your online banking institution from the list of supported banks (currently over 1600 are supported). Supply your login information and then select your favorite HATED charity or non-profit from the included lists (over 6200 currently supported). Then plug in your donation amount per snooze incident ($10 or more), set the time, and alarm, and voila, instant time profit!

I’ll admit, I’m usually guilty of the snooze button mentality. I compensate by setting the alarm earlier than necessary, so that I know I have extra snooze time in the morning. Some people, on the other hand, will hit snooze until they’re late for work (or whatever else they’re supposed to do in the morning). I’m sure this would be quite a good incentive to stop that behavior!

Memo To Ohio: It’s Not NAFTA’s Fault

In today’s New York Times, Daniel Leonhardt examines the logic behind the Democratic candidates’ NAFTA-bashing as they campaign in Ohio:

The first problem with what the candidates have been saying is that Ohio’s troubles haven’t really been caused by trade agreements. When Nafta took effect on Jan. 1, 1994, Ohio had 990,000 manufacturing jobs. Two years later, it had 1.03 million. The number remained above one million for the rest of the 1990s, before plummeting in this decade to just 775,000 today.

It’s hard to look at this history and conclude Nafta is the villain. In fact, Nafta did little to reduce tariffs on Mexican manufacturers, notes Matthew Slaughter, a Dartmouth economist. Those tariffs were already low before the agreement was signed.

A more important cause of Ohio’s jobs exodus is the rise of China, India and the old Soviet bloc, which has brought hundreds of millions of workers into the global economy. New technology and better transportation have then made it easier for jobs to be done in those places and elsewhere. To put it in concrete terms, your credit card’s customer service center isn’t in Ireland because of a new trade deal.

All this global competition has brought some big benefits, too. Consider that cars, furniture, clothing, computers and televisions — which are all subject to global competition — have become more affordable, relative to everything else. Medical care, movie tickets and college tuition — all protected from such competition — have become more expensive.

In other words, more open trade is a net plus for all of us, including the people of Ohio.

There’s no doubt that Ohio has experienced economic dislocation, most recently thanks to the closing of several automobile plants, including a massive Ford plant near Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport, but that’s not because of free trade, it’s because Ford, GM, and Chrylser aren’t making cars that people want to buy.

Blaming free trade is both misplaced and unwise. Repealing NAFTA would be a huge mistake that would harm the economies of the three largest nations in North America. Of course, with Barack Obama’s campaign secretly telling Canada that his anti-NAFTA rhetoric is nothing to worry about, it’s fairly clear that what we’re hearing right now is really nothing more than demagoguery.

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