Monthly Archive: January 2022

Breyer to Retire, Part lll

President Biden has made it clear that he will restrict his pool of Supreme Court candidates to black women only, thus excluding almost 95% of the population from the get-go.  How this yields the most qualified possible nominee has yet to be explained; perhaps commenters can give me a clue.  I’m assuming here, of course, that Supreme Court qualifications are things like fidelity to the Constitution, legal scholarship, broad experience, fair mindedness and self discipline.  What a candidate looks like is decidedly not a qualification for the Court, or probably much of anything beyond making your way in Hollywood.

But enough of what I think.  What do the American people think?  ABC News polled the question.

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What Happened to Black Lives Matter?

Investigative reporter Andrew Kerr’s piece in yesterday’s Washington Examiner exposes the corruption behind the curtain of Black Lives Matter (BLM), the nation’s most influential social justice organization.  BLM was founded in 2013 by black activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, in response to the acquittal of Hispanic neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman after the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in self defense.  The movement gained national exposure after the August 9, 2014 shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.   BLM immediately launched protests which turned into several weeks of riots, with businesses looted and set on fire. The St. Louis Chief Financial Officer estimated a total cost at $20 million.  Months later a grand jury and the Obama Justice Department concluded that the shooting was in self defense.  By the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the group had amassed several million in contributions and had a worldwide network of chapters and affiliates.  Within five days of Floyd’s death BLM coordinated protests occurred, almost simultaneously, in 2,000 cities in 60 countries.  Many of the protests, especially in over 200 U.S. cities, devolved into riots with government buildings and businesses burned, police officers, bystanders and reporters attacked, and widespread looting and violence.  In the end the “mostly peaceful” protests took 25 lives and cost at least $1 billion in damage.   So how did BLM get the money to finance these protests and where did it go?

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Flawed study boasts 30% reduction in recidivism: San Francisco’s Make-it-Right program

The “Make-it-Right” (MIR) program is a restorative justice conferencing and diversion program that was implemented in San Francisco for high-risk teenagers facing medium-severity felony offenses (e.g., burglary, assault, motor vehicle theft). The National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) recently published a working paper that boasts a 30% reduction in four-year recidivism rates for youths in the program when compared with a control group. The researchers claim that the study is especially strong due to being a randomized controlled trial (RCT), i.e., the strongest type of individual research study. However, upon closer review of the study, there is reason to be skeptical of the results.

To summarize, it looks like the randomization method was severely compromised, rendering the “key strength” of the design effectively invalid. Now, this does happen in research sometimes, and there are ways to try to deal with it. However, I am disappointed that the authors did not acknowledge this problem, nor did they take any steps to mitigate it. Below, I provide a review of the study, explain how the randomization went wrong, how this affects the results, and some steps that the authors should have taken (but didn’t).

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Homicides continued to rise during 2021

As many people have reported, there was a drastic increase in violent crime (particularly driven by homicide increases) from 2019 to 2020. Not surprisingly, people are interested to know whether this pattern continued into 2021, and if so, to what extent.

A recent report published by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) attempts to shed light on this by collating information on crimes occurring in 2021 from a subset of 27 United States cities. Trends for individual crime types presented in the report do coincide with other estimates in terms of the overall pattern witnessed in 2021. However, the sample size of 27 cities is very small, meaning that their estimates (especially for homicide) are smaller in magnitude and likely do not reflect the full extent of the problem.

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Breyer to Retire, Part ll

Mike has noted the news being reported this morning that Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the Court’s current Term.  It’s true, as Mike observes, that this will give our aging President the chance to solidify the liberal wing on the Court with someone 30 or 40 years younger than Breyer.  But there are two other features about today’s news worth noting.

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Breyer to Retire

Pete Williams of NBC News reports that Associate Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the current  term.  Justice Breyer, 83, has been pressured by progressives to retire after Joe Biden won the presidency last year.   Liberal U.C. Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky urged Breyer to step down and put “the good of the institution” ahead of his personal interests.  The progressive group Demand Justice actually hired a billboard truck to drive around Washington last year with a “Breyer Retire.  It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court Justice,” sign.  Recognizing that optics are the priority among liberals Biden has already pledged to do this.  Williams speculates that federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and CA Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger are likely candidates.   Breyer’s replacement will not change the conservative/liberal balance on the court, but a young appointee, like Kruger at 45 or Jackson at 51, could serve for decades and be part of a future liberal majority.

Stores Adjust to “No Shoplifting Prosecutions” Policy of Progressive DA’s

As “progressive prosecutors” have taken over in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore and many other one-party cities, merchants have had to adjust to the reality that their shelves can be and have been cleaned out by shoplifters and nothing is going to  be done about it.  The facts that retail theft is still a crime defined by the legislative branch, and in the aggregate causes very substantial economic losses, just don’t register (or don’t count).  There is also the fact that it’s driving businesses out of already “under-served” (and almost always minority) neighborhoods, but that too doesn’t count.  When the businesses take flight, they leave behind now-unemployed workers and a typically disadvantaged customer base with a skimpy and shrinking  selection of alternatives.

Then of course there’s the fact that the indulgence of rampant stealing is the calling card of  —  how shall I say this?  —  devolving standards of decency that mark the decline of a corrupted society.  But I wouldn’t want to be so old-fashioned as to bemoan stealing simply because it’s dishonest and corrosive to the basics of civic life.  Instead, being a capitalist, I want to highlight how stores have adjusted to the new reality.

A picture is, as they say, worth…………………………

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How gang violence contributes to homicide rates: Study

Violent behavior is commonly associated with gangs and the nature of gang homicides often differs when compared with non-gang homicides. For example, gang homicides are affected by relationships between gangs and are often driven by violent acts of retaliation, or out of fear. Further, gang homicides have an influence on the cycle of victimization that impacts relationships between gangs, violent acts of revenge, and safety. These dynamics can also be affected by a plethora of factors (e.g., social, economic, political, cultural, behavioral) that are salient within a specific area or neighborhood. These factors influence things like subcultures of violence and levels of gang membership, which unsurprisingly can increase the gang homicide rates. Understanding these dynamics is very important for addressing homicides nationwide.

A recently published 2022 study in Deviant Behavior sought to do this using a nationwide sample generated by the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS). In the study, the authors examined the probability of gang-related homicides in relation to various community and local factors related to gang violence. The results showed that drug-related factors as well as inter- and intra-gang conflict were the most likely to increase the probability of gang-related homicides in a jurisdiction. While many factors may influence the likelihood of gang violence, it appears that specific factors are more likely to result in more serious issues such as homicide.

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