Patterico's Pontifications

5/7/2003

DON’T YOU KNOW THAT THE

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:19 pm

DON’T YOU KNOW THAT THE BYRD IS THE WORD: Robert Byrd has denounced the President’s “flamboyant showmanship.”

You ever watch Robert Byrd give a speech?

GOING NUCLEAR: All readers should

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:15 pm

GOING NUCLEAR: All readers should be aware that Senate Republicans are considering the “nuclear” option of breaking judicial filibusters by simply declaring that a majority vote is sufficient. Believe it or not, this could probably work under Senate rules, and would be virtually impossible to challenge in court. Read about it here.

Of course, as you read about this bold plan, you should also be aware that the Senate Republicans don’t have the guts to carry it out.

MORE ON RACIAL PROFILING: I

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:47 pm

MORE ON RACIAL PROFILING: I can report from personal experience a perfect example of ridiculous “racial profiling” claims based on the always-dangerous combination of statistics and lack of common sense.

First, some necessary background: a federal statute criminalizes re-entry into the country by illegal aliens who were deported due to criminal convictions. It is an open secret that the U.S. Attorney’s Offices near the Mexican border do not enforce this statute as written, but rather have fairly restrictive policy guidelines that result in only a fraction of offenders being prosecuted. Without these guidelines, the precise contours of which are considered confidential by the Government, federal prosecutors in San Diego and Los Angeles could do nothing but illegal re-entry cases and still be short-staffed.

Nevertheless, when I clerked for a federal district judge in downtown Los Angeles, I noticed that every single Mexican illegal charged under this statute was filing discovery motions in a bid to show that the Government was selectively prosecuting Mexicans for this offense! Their evidence? Most of the prosecutions were of Mexicans! “Where are the illegal re-entry prosecutions for Canadian illegals, or British or French illegals?” shouted the federal public defenders.

Notice that rationality plays no role in this debate. Never mind that re-entering the country is much easier when the country directly borders the U.S. Never mind that illegal immigration from the one other country directly bordering the U.S. (Canada) is (due to economic reasons) statistically insignificant compared to illegal Mexican immigration in the U.S. as a whole. Even if that last point were not true, never mind that the Los Angeles area has millions of illegal Mexican immigrants and virtually no illegal Canadian immigrants. Los Angeles is near Mexico and far from Canada. All of these incredibly obvious points appeared completely lost on the defense lawyers.

Now imagine that the Assistant United States Attorneys could be prosecuted as felons for their racial profiling of Mexican illegals, based on the overwhelming statistical evidence showing their obvious bias against Mexicans. You should start to see the problem I’m talking about.

MINORITY CRIME REVISITED: A reader

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:07 pm

MINORITY CRIME REVISITED: A reader writes to question my assertion made in an earlier post that “minorities are disproportionately lawbreakers.” This reader says:

“Perhaps, but it’s hard (impossible?) to determine this, if lawbreaking by non-minorities is not being detected or officially recorded. My daughter, who was recently a teenager, used to observe that drug use was quite prevalent among white (and non-white) middle and upper class teenagers who attended private schools. They hardly ever are stopped or arrested. When I warned her once about curfew laws, she assured me that those laws are only for gang members and minorities. She and her friends were never stopped for curfew violations. On a similar note, drug use in the entertainment and recording industries is legendary. But how many famous actors or musicians (other than Robert Downey) ever get arrested for drug use? I also periodically see anecdotes about corporate executives and people in high finance who apparently use drugs with impunity. Do we really know that minorities use illegal drugs disproportionately more than non-minorities? We know that they are arrested and convicted more often. But the ‘popular wisdom’ is that they are the only ones being pursued for it. Do we know otherwise?”

I think this is a good point, but one that is much more relevant to certain crimes (narcotics and theft offenses, for example). I agree that rich white people taking cocaine or defrauding people are much less likely to be arrested than poor blacks doing cocaine on the street or shoplifting steaks from the grocery. I think this is an issue of resources/laziness: the latter category of offenses is out in the open. For example (unless you are Winona Ryder) little investigative work is necessary to pursue a shoplifting case; the same cannot be said for much corporate fraud.

However, the observation has less force when applied to violent street crime: robberies, serious assaults, rapes, and murders. For those types of crimes, there are studies that survey victims and their families regarding the race/ethnicity of the perpetrator. By focusing on reported crimes rather than arrests, the studies control for variables such as law enforcement’s possible focus on minority lawbreakers in effecting arrests.

For example, I believe such an approach forms part of the method used in the FBI report Crime in the United States for 2001 (the most recent report I could find). This report is not perfect. Its reportage of rapes admittedly excludes possibly the largest category of forcible rapes: prison rape. Also, its data do not translate perfectly to this discussion because the tables appear to lump Hispanics into the “white” racial category. Perhaps most annoying is the clunkiness of the .pdf interface. It is difficult to navigate your way around in it.

Due to the clunkiness, I will cite only one example: murder. This table shows that in 2001, of known murder offenders, 5521 (50.3 percent) were black and 5174 (47.2 percent) were “white” — a term that includes Hispanics. This data is consistent with similar studies I have been reading about for years.

This is not to pick on minorities. Rather, I mean only to offer some support for the claim I made in an earlier post. My overarching point remains that criminalizing “racial profiling” by law enforcement raises the distinct possibility of some very unfair prosecutions based on statistics that have a benign interpretation — but one that may not sell to a jury.

A CHILL WIND IS BLOWING

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:37 pm

A CHILL WIND IS BLOWING IN THIS NATION: More suppression of speech. Clarence Thomas is being called “unworthy” of giving a commencement speech at the University of Georgia Law School, by ever-so-worthy law professor . . . uh, well, I can’t remember his name. They probably give it somewhere in the story.

MORALIZING: Jonah Goldberg makes a

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:31 am

MORALIZING: Jonah Goldberg makes a wonderful point in his latest column, re liberals overjoyed at the downfall of Bill Bennett because they consider him a “moralizer”:

“Everyone moralizes. The suggestion that liberals aren’t moralizers is so preposterous it makes it hard for me to take any of them seriously when they wax indignant about ‘moralizers.’ Almost every day, they tell us what is moral or immoral to think and to say about race, taxes, abortion you name it. They explain it would be immoral for me to spend more of my own money on my own children when that money could be spent by government on other peoples’ children. In short, they think moralizing is fine. They just want to have a monopoly on the franchise.”

GOOD POINT: The Shark Blog

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:35 am

GOOD POINT: The Shark Blog notes that the recently captured Iraqi microbiologist Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash had been made a part of Saddam’s inner circle in 2001. The blog sensibly asks whether that fact is consistent with Saddam’s having lacked a biological weapons program. “Are we to believe that she was in charge of a strategic yogurt initiative?”


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