A Closer Look At Our Over-Criminalized And Badly Slanted Legal System

It's hard to think of any good that can possibly come out of the ongoing maniacal efforts to use the criminal law to overturn the results of our last election.  But here's the best I can offer:  At least we are getting a closer look than we usually get at our over-criminalized and steeply slanted legal system.  And maybe a few people are starting to pay attention.  We've let this monster get way out of control.  Can it be reined in?  Maybe a little.

If you are unfamiliar with this subject, you can get a lot of background by reading through my Archives under the tag "Phony Prosecutions."  There are about 60 posts there, covering everything from the extraordinary number of crimes (over 4000 just in the federal books!), to vague statutes, to shakedowns of legitimate businesses, to takedowns of political opponents, to prosecutorial coercion of witnesses, to misuse of civil asset forfeitures, and much more.  

The most recent post, just a couple of days ago noted that Michael Cohen had pled guilty to a violation of the campaign finance law because supposedly the payoff to Stormy Daniels constituted a campaign rather than a personal expense, and therefore Cohen's advancement of same constituted a campaign contribution in excess of the allowed limit of $2700.  However, under the same law, had the same payment instead been made with campaign funds contributed in accordance with the limits in a desperate attempt to avoid criminality, the payment could then just as easily have been prosecuted as misuse of campaign funds for a personal expense -- that's a crime too!  They've got you coming and going!  Everything is a crime! . . .

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Who Is Right About The "American Carnage"?

The trendy thing in the progressive press after the inauguration was to characterize President Trump's speech, and/or its description of the United States, as "dark."  (New York Times:  A "uniquely dark vision of the U.S."; Washington Post: "a dark inaugural address").

I myself did not have that overall reaction.  Clearly there was plenty of uplifting phrasemaking in the speech, at least as it described the future America under Mr. Trump's prospective leadership.  A few examples:  "We . . . seek to [have our] way of life . . . shine as an example for everyone to follow. . . .  [W]e must think big and dream even bigger. . . .  No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. . . .  We will make America proud again.  We will make America safe again.  And yes, together, we will make America great again."

But there was a new phrase in the speech that seems to have set off the progressives more than any other:  "American carnage."  That phrase is understood to have referred to the high number of killings currently going on in many major cities run under Democratic Party control for decades.  The Times in an editorial the day after the speech said that Trump "waxed apocalyptic in imagining the prevalence of crime in the nation’s cities."      

"Imagining"?

Then yesterday Official Manhattan Contrarian Worst Economics Writer Paul Krugman (who seems  these days to have strayed far from his economics base) took up the theme.  

The Trump vision of an urban America ravaged by “the crime and the gangs and the drugs” is a dystopian fantasy: Violent crime is, in fact, way down despite highly publicized recent murder increases in a few cities. Crime could, I suppose, fall further, but it could also rise. What we do know is that the Trump administration can’t pacify America’s urban war zones, because those zones don’t exist.

What the hell is this guy talking about?  An America ravaged by crime and drugs is a "fantasy"?  America's urban war zones "don't exist"?  Remember, these are the same people who have just spent four days attacking Trump for exaggerating the size of the crowds at his inauguration.  By contrast, it actually matters if there is a totally unacceptable rate of murders of black males occurring in many of America's major cities.  So, on this important subject, who is right?  

In my post just two days ago, I collected statistics on the murder rates in several of our nation's murder capitals -- all of them cities under solid Democratic Party control for generations.  These statistics are not difficult to find, and the links are in that post.  In a nation where the overall murder rate for the country is about 5 per 100,000, and where the largest city (New York) has an even lower rate of about 4 per 100,000, we find a murder rate of 60 per 100,000 in St. Louis, 44 in Detroit, 50 in Baltimore, 42 in New Orleans, and 30 in Chicago.  To put that in some perspective, if New York had a murder rate like that of St. Louis, instead of about 300 murders last year, it would have had about 4500!  And in Chicago, if it could lower its murder rate to be near that of New York, then instead of the nearly 800 murders it suffered last year, it would have been more like 100.  These are extremely dramatic numbers.  And about half or more of the victims are black men.  How is it possible to use any word other than "carnage" to describe this situation?  

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute collects some more statistics in a post yesterday for National Review.  She particularly has focused on the number of murders of black males as broken out in the FBI crime statistics:  

In 2015, the last year for which we have official national data, more than 6,000 black males, according to the FBI, were killed by criminals, themselves overwhelmingly black. That is 900 more black males killed in 2015 than in the year before, but the number of black victims was undoubtedly higher even than that, since an additional 2,000 homicide victims were reported to the FBI without a racial identity. Black males make up about half of the nation’s homicide victims, so they presumably make up a similar share of racially unclassified homicide victims.

And about how many of the 6000 or so black male homicide victims were unarmed men shot by the police?:

By contrast, the nation’s police fatally shot 16 “unarmed” black males and 20 “unarmed” white males in 2016, according to the Washington Post’s database of police killings. I have put “unarmed” in quotes because the [Washington] Post’s classification of “unarmed” victims rarely conveys the violence that the suspect directed at the shooting officer. But even when we take the “unarmed” classification at face value, those 16 fatal police shootings of unarmed black men represent no more than 0.2 percent of all black male lives lost to homicide in 2016. If police shootings of allegedly unarmed black males represent a national epidemic of bloodshed, then what should we call the gunning down of over 375 times that number of black men by criminals? “Carnage” seems like a pretty good descriptor. 

I'm sorry, but the carnage in many American cities is not a subject on which it is OK to pretend it doesn't exist because you oppose everything President Trump says and you want to protect the guys on "our team."  It's not OK because cities like New York and (to a lesser degree) Los Angeles have demonstrated that it is eminently possible to get a murder rate down to well less than 10 per 100,000 despite a population that includes large numbers of blacks and other minority groups.  (The murder rate in LA in 2016 was about 7 per 100,000.)  If New York and LA can do it, then the other cities like St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans and Chicago have no excuse any more.  Why their voters don't throw out the entrenched (Democratic Party) power structure, I have no idea.