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There’s Nothing “Senseless” About Nicholas Lindsey’s Killing of Police Officer David S. Crawford


The St. Pete Times (now Tampa Bay Times) has run its latest sob story** about an accused killer, this one Nicholas Lindsey.  True to form, the Times announces in its headline that it will explore why life unravelled for the St. Petersburg teen.

There is the usual objection to be made about such stories.  The reporting is all about the killer’s alleged good qualities, and the reporters work hard to diminish the killer’s responsibility, even though doing so crudely diminishes the value of the murdered police officer’s life.  Buying a Pepsi for a teacher is presented as mitigation against murdering a good man in cold blood.  In the past, I’ve had reporters from that paper tell me they believe they are being “balanced” in their reporting by telling the sob story of the murderer one day and the life story of the murder victim the next, as if doing so balances some ethical scale.

And so, the brute known as mawkish sentimentality strangles moral perspective at her rickety desk in the darkest corner of newsroom.

But even if one sets the lack-of-human-decency objection aside, the reporters still failed.  They failed to explore what they claim to have set out to explore, which is the alleged “unravelling” of Nicholas Lindsey’s life.  The young man committed other serious crimes and apparently faced no consequences for them, but the reporters don’t want to talk about this, so they shove it away quickly, as if it is irrelevant.  In doing so, they deny the very thing they claim to be seeking: the reason why Lindsey went so wrong so young.

Nicholas Lindsey had already been caught and arrested, found guilty, and allowed to walk out of some courthouse laughing over prior crimes.  His father and brother, too, served time.  This ought to be the beginning, middle, and end of the search to explain Lindsey’s escalation to cop-killing, but the reporters do not linger on the subject.  Why?  Have they internalized anti-incarceration biases to the point that they actually believe his prior record is irrelevant?   Or are they that afraid of ruffling the feathers of those who control the anti-incarceration message by shouting “prejudice” when anyone broaches the subject?

Either way, the prior crimes are brushed over, and the “unravelling” is presented as a “mystery” and also a “surprise.”  This is a complete fabrication.  There is no mystery.  There is no surprise.  The reporters scurry away from the facts, tumbling over themselves to reach the only acceptable meme, the “too many minority youths are incarcerated” meme.  Here is the story they must tell, the only story they allow themselves to tell: the prior arrests are irrelevant because punishing the youth for them would have been prejudiced; “gang life” has simply “changed” an otherwise decent young man; the young man is not really responsible for the murder he committed because he is a decent young man, only changed by gang life; more money spent on more social programs for youths who commit crimes is the only answer: thus the only real villain is anyone who refuses to throw more money at youth programs in St. Petersburg . . . a city that already has more youth programs than cockroaches.  Yet young black men keep killing each other and innocents who cross their paths.

There is a great deal of money to be had in this view, and real danger in questioning it.  There is, in fact, a virtually unlimited amount of money to be had in this view, for every time a young person commits a crime, that crime may be used as evidence of the need for more “programs,” which keep bad kids out of jail to commit more crimes, thus increasing the need for more programs.  The alternative — arguing that a youth who steals a car ought to go to jail so he learns his lesson if he is capable of learning a lesson — is virulently attacked as pure racism by the anointed experts who populate every university and law school, federal agency, and editorial board.  Who wants to risk that?

Here’s a question: what comes first, the social program or the teen murderer?

This is less a journalism problem than an “experts” problem.  The journalists just carry the experts’ water.  And so, after closing their eyes to the only real clue and tiptoeing cautiously around the other taboo — assigning blame to the killer’s drug-selling, absentee dad — the St. Pete Times reporters are left with nothing but an embarrassing handful of anecdotes about a violent young man’s paltry virtues: a soda purchased for someone, Lindsey not screaming at a teacher in detention once, an ex-girlfriend who has a mother who is eager to insert herself into the news.  The reporters talk about the killer being a “shy wisp” of a boy and bemoan the “fuzz” just “starting to grow” on his face.  This is repugnant stuff, but it’s all they’ve got because they won’t ask the real questions.

Here are the questions they refuse to ask: who is the judge who let Lindsey walk on previous serious crimes?  How many other youths who walked out his or her courtroom committed more crimes, destroying their lives and others’?  What can be done about it?  Who in our justice system bears responsibility for the legal decisions that enabled Lindsey to be free to commit more crimes?

And this: if Lindsey’s parents were so worried about their son’s involvement in gangs, what, precisely, did they do when he was previously arrested?  Why did they let him advertise his gang connections on Facebook?  Why didn’t they move away from the apartment complex which, allegedly, as the reporters choose to assert as undeniable fact, was the sole source of Lindsey’s transformation into a murderous gang-banger?

If the bar to acceptable behavior is set so low in Lindsey’s community that multiple car thefts aren’t taken seriously, then somebody decided it would be so.  Members of that community who really want change should be protesting outside the courthouse, demanding that judges and prosecutors save young men’s lives by throwing the book at them the first time, and every time they break the law.  They should be sitting alongside the police, who are attending Lindsey’s trial in street clothes because they are not allowed to wear their uniforms, lest doing so deprives the murderer of every little drop of the sympathy the activists deem as his portion.

I know there are people in that community who want to support law enforcement and want to do it out of love for the children who grow up to be Nicholas Lindseys.  I’ve worked in communities like the one that produced Nicholas Lindsey and met those people.  But they are silenced by wealthy and powerful anti-incarceration activists, people who don’t live in or visit such places.  The good people trapped in bad neighborhoods will never be heard so long as the elite activist class — and their eager water-carriers in the media — continue to silence them.  More Officer Crawfords will be murdered as a result, and more Nicholas Lindseys will live their ruined lives behind bars.

But the activists and the reporters will feel virtuous.  And isn’t that all that really counts?



**bad link, try:, or: At 16, Life Unravels for St. Petersburg Teen Accused of Killing Police Officer

“Grassroots” Prisoner Strikes in California Actually Funded Directly by George Soros


The hunger strikes at several California prisons this summer may have seemed like spontaneous uprisings against torturous conditions.  That’s how many incurious souls in the fourth estate are portraying them.  To wit, this hand-wringing Washington Post editorial highlighting the “tragic modesty” of prisoner demands:

DOZENS OF INMATES at California’s Pelican Bay facility went on hunger strikes for several weeks this summer for what seemed like pitifully modest demands: “Allow one photo per year. Allow one phone call per week. Allow wall calendars.”  What would prompt such drastic measures in the quest for such modest goals? Answer: The protest was an exasperated and understandable reaction to the invisible brutality that is solitary confinement. Some of the Pelican Bay inmates have been held in “security housing units” for years; those tagged as gang members can expect to stay there for six years, with no certainty that they will be reintegrated into the general population even if they renounce gang membership.  When an inmate is holed up alone in a cell for up to 23 hours a day with no meaningful human contact, a photograph of a loved one or a weekly telephone call can help to forge a connection with the outside world. With little or no exposure to natural light, a calendar can help forestall losing all track of time, all sense of reality. These simple privileges, in short, can help ward off insanity.

Well, that sounds just horrible.  Why wouldn’t the cruel prison wardens allow a mere snapshot, or wall calendar?

Because the protests weren’t really about family pictures or calendars.  Because the inmates, and particularly their leadership, weren’t really harmless and misunderstood “ex” gang members in the first place.  Because the dozens of well-funded activist organizations who played the media like dumb fiddles aren’t telling the truth about either their tactics or goals.

The whole thing was a set-up, and any fish smarter than many fish in the MSM would have smelled something fishy and swum away from the bait.

Rainy Taylor, “Bay Area Revolution Club”

While the national and international media were busy wringing their hands over the seemingly sentimental prisoner demands, and dumbly reprinting activist agitprop as facts, local news sources like the Sacramento Bee bothered to ask real questions about the policy being protested — Secured Housing Units (SHU), cellblocks which isolate dangerous, disruptive, and gang-related prisoners from the rest of the prison population:

Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [] said they will review policies on how the agency determines which inmates are believed to be gang leaders who are then placed in a security housing unit.

But they insist that inmates inside the SHU, including several who have identified themselves as leaders of the hunger strike, pose a serious threat to others and are there for very good reasons. [emphasis added]

The state’s security housing units were designed as prisons within prisons to house the most dangerous criminals. While SHU inmates are largely isolated from other prisoners, corrections officials say, they still have certain amenities available to them.

“They have 23 channels, including ESPN,” [corrections spokesman Oscar] Hidalgo said. “I think that’s something that’s far from extreme isolation from the rest of the world.”

These guys get cable, including ESPN.  I certainly don’t pay for that.  Yet they claim they’re striking because they lack “wool caps” for “wintertime.”  Such demands don’t pass any smell test.  They are deliberately designed to create an impression that the prisoners are shivering in the cold, not sitting around watching Sports Center.

Inmates in California SHU watching cable TV . . . what, no HBO?

Yet the “wool caps for winter” campaign was repeated uncritically by media sources throughout the world.  Al Jazeera English published a wildly misleading editorial by one prominent Soros-funded activist, Issac Ontiveros, who calls SHUs “torture.”  For good measure, Ontiveros’ editorial throws in a bunch of other deceptive agitprop painting the U.S. as a “prison industrial complex” that must be overthrown.  He repeats all the activists’ greatest hits, bluntly lying about the real circumstances of mass murderer George Jackson’s death, whitewashing the horrific, racially motivated killings perpetrated by Jackson, and downplaying the murders of prisoners and guards by other prisoners during the Attica riots.  Racial accusation?  Check.  Denial of violence by “activists”?  Check.  America equals police state?  Check.

This is the type of “news” about America being disseminated around the world, all subsidized by George Soros.

Quite astonishingly, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee is actually using photos of the bloody Attica riots to illustrate their demands on behalf of the current California hunger strikers.  This is the coalition homepage:

Get it?  Give in and end the practice of secured housing units for offenders who stab prison guards, or . . . prisoners will riot and stab a bunch of prison guards.


Back on Planet Sanity, the San Jose Mercury News bothers to document real conditions in the SHUs, plus the behind-bars behavior that landed some of the benighted residents of California’s Secure Housing Units in secure housing to begin with:

Many of the inmates on the tour were housed in pairs in cells stocked with televisions and books. The cells had doors perforated with dozens of tiny holes, instead of standard prison bars, to make it more difficult for inmates to pass items from one to another.

In one area, two inmates in neighboring cells played virtual chess, calling out their moves to one another.

Inmates do have contact with other prisoners, staff and visitors, including spending more than an hour each day in exercise yards, [corrections spokesman Oscar] Hidalgo said. They have 23 cable television channels, reading materials, access to a law library and learning materials, and can correspond with family and friends.

Conditions are “far from what we think is torturous,” Hidalgo said, though some violent inmates and purported gang leaders are kept physically separated.

Three of the state’s prisons have such units, housing about 3,800 of the state’s 161,500 inmates.

Inmates sent to the unit “have essentially earned their way,” Hidalgo said. “They have numerous assaults on inmates, they have numerous assaults on staff, they have to be isolated for their protection and for the protection of other inmates. These are predatory-type inmates, and we need to ensure they are not harmful to others.” . . .

He said the strike originated in the unit’s “short corridor,” home to 202 top gang leaders. The department provided background on five strike leaders at the request of The Associated Press. They include:

— Todd Ashker, 48, who prison officials contend is a high-ranking member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood. He’s serving 21 years to life for a killing another inmate at Folsom State Prison in 1987, the latest in a long series of convictions. He’s accused of stabbing five inmates and assaulted three employees in prison.

— Danny Troxell, 58, of the Aryan Brotherhood, who’s serving 26 years to life for a Fresno County murder. He’s accused of six assaults on other inmates.

— Arturo Castellanos, 50, of the Mexican Mafia, serving 26 years to life for a Los Angeles County murder. He’s accused of stabbing six inmates in prison.

— Ronnie Dewberry, 53, the Black Guerrilla Family’s “minister of education” in charge of orienting and indoctrinating other inmates. He is serving 25 years to life for an Alameda County murder.

— George Franco, 46, of Nuestra Familia, serving 15 years to life for a Santa Clara County murder.

Hidalgo said the strike was coordinated by gang leaders who normally are sworn enemies.


In order to understand the professional activists orchestrating the hunger strikes, you first have to understand that they view incarceration itself, whatever the crime, as illegitimate.  Their goal, stated openly, is to “empty all prisons.”  Yet, such extreme statements don’t place them beyond the pale in the progressive Left, who largely view America as a fascist police state.  The tone of this activism has grown increasingly extreme, even though public relations efforts often mute the rhetoric for certain audiences.  The current anti-incarceration movement is more powerful and more dangerous than their outré predecessors such as the original Black Panthers.  Unlike these former groups, the current movement’s leaders wield tremendous influence in public policy and legal policy organizations, as well as in the current Justice Department and other government bureaucracies.

Coordinated actions like the California hunger strikes also demonstrate the reach of such extremism into taxpayer-funded institutions like the California university system.  Several movement leaders are tenured professors whose activism is really their only academic work — activism subsidized by the taxpaying victims of the super-thugs being housed in SHU units.

Here are just a few of the activist groups involved in inventing the recent hunger strike.  In one way or another, nearly all these groups are bankrolled by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation:

Critical Resistance — founded by well-reimbursed, Communist, taxpayer-employed, “professor” Angela Davis, Critical Resistance is dedicated to eliminating prisons entirely.  Their mission statement:

We call our vision “abolition”, and take the name purposefully from those who called for the abolition of slavery in the 1800’s. Abolitionists believed that slavery could not be fixed or reformed – it needed to be abolished. As PIC [Prison Industrial Complex] abolitionists today, we also do not believe that reforms can make the PIC just or effective. Our goal is not to improve the system; it is to shrink the system into non-existence.

All of Us Or None — AOUON is at the forefront of a dangerous new legal campaign: promoting lawsuits against corporations like Home Depot when such deep-pocketed targets deign to choose to not hire ex-cons with criminal records.  That’s right — employers everywhere may soon be facing civil rights lawsuits if they choose any non-felon over a felon, or take applicants’ criminal histories into account in any way.  How would you like to not know the criminal background of your kid’s teacher — or your mom’s nursing home aide — or that guy Home Depot sent over to hang the new cabinets?  Disturbingly, Eric Holder is grandstanding on this issue and deploying the resources of the Department of Justice to “research” such discrimination claims.  The EEOC is, of course, on board through Holder’s Cabinet Level Prisoner Re-Entry working group.

Good luck not hiring muggers and robbers in the future.  See here for more shocking details.

Aw, heck.  The day is growing short.  I’ll just list the rest of the organizations agitating for wool hats for violent offenders.  Remember, all of these groups have joined hands with radicals seeking the release of all prisoners and the total elimination of incarceration.  Some things to ponder when reading this list:  Do most of these organizations and “organizations” really look like grassroots groups?  How many are part of the vast activist astroturfing being coordinated through “civil liberties” legal foundations?  How many are extreme left-wing or openly communist political and legal groups rebranding themselves as social justice advocates?  How many are directly or indirectly funded by George Soros?

[Answer: No, Lots, The Rest of Them, and Almost All the Big Ones]

A Better Way Foundation
A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)
A New Way of Life Reentry Project, Los Angeles, CA
ACLU of California (Read Statement here)
ACLU of Mississippi
AIDs Foundation Chicago
All of Us or None
American Civil Liberties Union (National)
American Friends Service Committee
American Gruner: Coalition of Latino Leaders

American Public Health Association (Prisoner Health Committee, Medical Care Section)

Arkansas Voice for the Children Left Behind
Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco)
Black Awareness Community Development Organization
Breakout!, New Orleans, LA
Bristol Anarchist Black Cross
Building Locally to Organize for Community Safety (BLOCS) –Atlanta, GA
Cafe Intifada
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Prison Focus
California Prison Moratorium Project
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)
Campaign to End Prison Slavery (UK)
Campaign to End the Death Penalty (Read statement here)
Cante Wanjila Native American Reentry and Support Project, South Dakota
Center for Community Alternatives
Center for Constitutional Rights (National) (Read statement here)
Center for New Community (national)
Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Providence, RI
Center for Young Women’s Development
Certain Days Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar
Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective (NC) (Read Statement here)
Chicago Anti-Prison Industrial Complex Teaching Collective
Chuco’s Justice Center
CLAC Legal Committee
Coalition for Prisoners Rights
Comité pour un Secours rouge canadien
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
Community justice network for youth
Community Restoration Services (Los Angeles)
Courage to Resist (Read statement here)
Critical Resistance
CUAV: Community United Against Violence (San Francisco)
Defender Association of Philadelphia
Denver Anarchist Black Cross
Detention Watch Network
East Bay Saturday Diaologues with Dr. Nancy Arvold & April Schlenk
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Fair Chance– Los Angeles Project
Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth
Families to Amend California’s Three-Strikes (FACTS)
Florida Immigration Coalition (Miami, FL)
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition
Freedom Archives
Freedom Inc (Madison WI)
Fresno County Brown Berets
Friends Committee of Legislation on California
Frontline Soldiers
Generation 5
Glen Cove Solidarity
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
Human Rights Coalition- Fed Up! (Pittsburg)
Immigrant Workers’ Center
Immigration Law Clinic of UC Davis Law School
International Action Center
International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
International Council for Urban Peace, Justice & Empowerment
International Health Workers for Peace Over Profit (Read Statement here)International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, SF Bay Area Chapter
Justice for Families
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA
Kemba Smith Foundation
L’En-Droit de Laval
La Raza Centro Legal
Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, CA
LAGAI-Queer Insurrection
Law Office of Rebecca Young, East Boston, MA
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Little Lake Learning Center
Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network (Read statement here)
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (Read statement here)
Merced County Brown Berets
Milk Not Jails, New York
MIM Prisons
Modesto Anarcho Crew
Modesto Copwatch
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Jericho Movement
National Lawyers Guild
National Lawyers Guild University of Pittsburg Chapter
National Policy Partnership for Children of the Incarcerated
National Religious Campaign Against Torture (Read statement here)
NC Piece Corps
Needle Exchange Emergency Program
New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter
New York City Anarchist Black Cross Federation
New York City Anti-Racist Action
November Coalition
Oakland Community Action Network
Oakland Education Association (OEA) Peace & Justice Caucus (Read Statement here)
Osiris Coalition
Parolees for Change (Los Angeles)
Parti communiste révolutionnaire
Pathways To Your FuturePeace & Justice of La Luz, New Mexico
Peace Over Violence Los Angeles
People’s Commission NetworkPeople’s Organization for Progress (NJ)
Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center (NY)
Prison Activist Resource Center
Prison Health News
Prison Law Office. (Read Statement here)
Prison Policy Institute, Massachusetts
Prison Radio
Prison Radio Show CKUT 90.3 FM Montreal
Prison Watch Network
Prisoner Correspondence Project
Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie
QPIRG Concordia
Real Cost of Prisons Project
Redwood Curtain Copwatch
Registered Society within Association for Probation and Offenders’ Assistance, Germany
Republicans for Change
Resurrection After Exoneration, New Orleans, LA
Rethinking Schools
Revolution Newspaper
Revolutionary Athletes Worldwide (R.A.W.)
Revolutionary Hip Hop Report
Riverside Church Prison Ministry
Safe Streets/Strong Communities, New Orleans, LA
San Francisco Women in Black.
SF Pride at Work/HAVOQ (Read statement here)
Shabazz Legal Services
Socialist Action
Solidarity Across Borders
Southern California Library
Stanislaus County Radical Mental Health
Stop the Injunctions Coalition
TalkBLACK, Atlanta, GA
Tamms Year Ten, Illinois
Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth
The Mobilization to Free Mumia-Abu Jamal
The New Orleans Loiterers Union
The New York Campaign Against Torture (NYCAT)
The New York Task Force for Political Prisoners
The Outs
The Termite Collective
The WE Project, Los Angeles
Time for Change Foundation
Toronto Anarchist Black Cross
Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois
Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project
UHURU Solidarity Movement
United for Drug Policy Reform (Oakland, CA)
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United National Anti-War Committee
United Panther Movement
Urban Justice Center (New York City)
Vermont Action for Political Prisoners
Visions to Peace Project, Washington, D.C.
Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE)
Voices Unbroken
W. Haywood Burns Institute
WESPAC Foundation (NYC)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Pajaro Valley Chapter
Women’s Council of the CA Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers
Women’s Prison Book Project (Minneapolis, MN)
World Can’t Wait

Fascinatingly, the Open Society Foundation isn’t on the list.  But they don’t really need to be: they are the list.


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Just when you think the stupid barrel’s run dry:

Yes, that is a wanted poster inked onto the arm of defendant Tyree Gland, on trial for killing a young girl, Deandre Brown, in a drive-by shooting.

The real joke?  Our rules of evidence.  Gland’s lawyer has demanded that the tattoo be concealed from jurors because it might “unfairly prejudice” them.  In other words, it might lead jurors to believe that Gland is the type of person who puts out hits on police officers.

The judge rejected the defense’s request.  This threat against an officer of the law will not be brushed under the carpet, like so many others.

But it makes one think: how many times a day does some guilty person walk because a different judge has granted an equally inane demand to suppress facts?

Clockwork Riots, L.A. Lakers Style: These Are Not Sports Fans

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Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

You put on your Men’s Warehouse suit and drive to the office, dreading the inevitable outcome of the day.  Settling into your cubicle, you arrange the day’s work on the chipped laminate desk: a billy club, mace, and a copy of the quarterly budget figures for your division, awaiting approval from above.  In the next cubicle, Joey H. is already rocking back and forth in his mesh swivel knockoff, working the screws on one of the padded armrests.

The word comes from headquarters right before lunch: the budget numbers are good.

Joey lets out a guttural shriek, rips the loosened arm off his chair and kicks the front wall off his cubicle, still howling.  You grab the mace and billyclub and follow him as he tears a path of destruction to the break room, carefully avoiding getting too close, shouting at him to step down.

Joey ignores you and smacks out a fluorescent light fixture with his arm-rest, sending bits of glass and toxic powder all over accounting.  Then he pulls a wad of gasoline-soaked newspaper out of his pocket, lights it with a lighter, and throws the flaming mass in the paper recycling bin by the door.

Mike D. wearily rises from his desk, shouldering his fire extinguisher, and heads for the blaze.

You follow Joey into the break room.  He’s already used a folding chair to demolish the front of the snack machine, filling his pockets with KitKats while chanting “We’re Number One.”  You notice he’s been working out.

“Put the Kit Kats down, Joey,” you say.

“F*** You, Pig-Man,” he screams, winging a full Red Bull can at your face.  Luckily, you thought to wear your plexi face shied to work today.  Now that you’ve cornered him, Joey head-buts your belly.  That hurts.  You smack him a few times with the billy-club, always aware that the altercation is being recorded on security cameras for later review.  Finally, you manage to subdue him with the help of Kathy P., the new associate from sales.  She’s brought her handcuffs, and Joey’s taken off to the bathroom to wash up and get ready for Personnel to review the security tapes.

Later that day, the verdict comes back from Human Resources.  While you should have tried to stop Joey before he broke the front of the snack machine, you’re not going to get docked pay for using excessive force subduing him, like last quarter.  Kathy P. however, is going to have to go before the panel and explain why she bruised Joey H.’s wrist while snapping the handcuffs on.

Cop Injured By Lakers Enthusiasm

Joey H. gets assigned five hours of community service, which immediately gets suspended, as HR is testing a new program which will use positive messaging and self-esteem training to encourage him to stop setting the office on fire.  (Nancy W., still recovering from those lycra burns from the spring quarter numbers, stifles a bitter laugh).  Joey takes the rest of the afternoon off to meet his new esteem coach at the Starbucks.  The rest of the staff gets down to sweeping up broken glass and trying to scrub the scorch marks off the walls while running the numbers on the cost of replacing the carpet.

All except Kathy P., who is hiding in the bathroom to avoid those a-holes from PR who want to snap her picture and use it to illustrate a story they’re writing about the proper way to subdue a co-worker.  You settle into your smoke-fill cubicle and tug your rumpled necktie, wishing you could take it off as you start in on the stack of paperwork explaining your actions.

It’s going to be a long night.  There’s no way you’re going to catch that Lakers game.


That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

I think most police would be grateful if the media and political leaders would just drop the fiction that such premeditated and utterly predictable riots (oh, I’m sorry, University of Santa Cruz: “uprisings”) really have anything to do with uncontrollable fan excitement over sporting events.

For every honest person knows that certain sporting events are just used by criminals and criminal wannabes to justify — to schedule — their own main events: destroying property, setting fires, looting stores, and throwing heavy things at policemen who are damned if they do respond and damned if they don’t respond.  The Los Angeles Times described the mayhem this time as a “a sour note as Los Angeles Police Department officers clashed with rowdy fans.”  Clashed with?

Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:

Police were forced to prepare for weeks in advance, planning and deploying tactical forces at great personal risk, including risk of lawsuits, and all at taxpayer expense, to try to minimize the anticipated violent lawbreaking scheduled for the conclusion of the Lakers game.

Rowdy fans? Do these look like rowdy fans, or do they look like people who showed up knowing they’d have some consequence-free fun breaking things and attacking bystanders and cops?

Alas, there’s always an apologist in academia ready to argue against personal responsibility:

Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, said the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well.  Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.

See, they’re not responsible.  They’re just hormonal.

“When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way,” Cialdini said. “We’re likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven’t done anything.”

OK, why do people riot when their team loses, too?  Shouldn’t they be taking up needlepoint and thinking about changing their hairstyles instead?  And does this really look like joy over a championship season?


How about holding the rioters accountable, instead of the police? L.A.T. columnist Sandy Banks did acknowledge that the police presence was necessary, but even she couldn’t resist minimizing the actions of the criminals and reserving too much irritation for the cops putting their lives on the line . . . to protect people like her.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but why is it so difficult to look at images like this and just blame the guilty parties . . . full stop?

The antics of a bunch of losers shouldn’t obscure the patience, goodwill and high spirits of the thousands of fans who ventured downtown for a communal party and wound up being treated like pariahs. . .  The basketball game had barely begun when LAPD officers were summoned to dispatch growing crowds in the area.  “Keep moving, keep moving.” The command came over the loudspeaker as a phalanx of officers advanced, moving us off the paseo and onto crowded Figueroa Street. They pulled metal gates across the entrance to the complex to keep us out. . . . [The police] deserve a lot of credit for controlling the chaos. Everywhere you looked there were cops: on horseback, scooters, motorcycles and bikes, in buzzing helicopters and siren-blaring black-and-whites. If that set some nerves on edge, it also made clear who was in charge.  But it was hard not to feel unwanted. “If you don’t have a ticket, go home” was the officers’ message — explicitly delivered and universally ignored.

Throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads and trying to pull people out of their vehicles aren’t “antics.”  And what Banks labels a police message here is actually a message from the criminals, to people like her: they own the streets, and law abiding people don’t.  The police were merely stuck in the middle, trying to prevent innocent people from being injured by violent, lawless criminals.

I’d like to see Ms. Banks follow up by following the cases of fifty-or-so rioters arrested for violent “antics,” as they get serially dismissed by the courts.

Maybe then she’ll gain a better understanding of why it really is that L.A. — and other cities, like Atlanta — can’t host public events for decent people like her.  And the answer has nothing to do with whether your team wins, or how the police react to it.

Jonathan Redding, 30 Deep, the Blue Jeans Burglaries, the Standard Bar Murder, and Disorder in Atlanta’s Courts


Jonathan Redding, suspect in the murder of Grant Park bartender John Henderson, suspected of firing a gun in an earlier armed robbery outside the Standard (Why isn’t it attempted murder when you fire a gun during a robbery?  Are we rewarding lack of aim?), suspect in a “home invasion gun battle” in which Redding shot at people, and was shot himself (Two more attempted murders, at least, if sanity existed in the prosecutor’s office), suspected member of the “30-Deep Gang,” one of those pathetic, illiterate, quasi-street gangs composed of children imitating their older relatives, middle-schoolers waving wads of cash and firearms on YouTube: Jonathan Redding is 17.

How many chances did the justice system have to stop Johnathan Redding before he murdered an innocent man?  How many chances did they squander?

In May, Fox 5 ran a chilling story about the 30 Deep Gang.  Deidra Dukes reported:

Police say 30 Deep is based in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville community. The gang reportedly popped up on their radar about three years ago, and recruits members as young as in middle school.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax than they are when they are adults so they get them to do so they get them to do more serious crimes between the ages of 14 and 16, they won’t get into as much trouble,” said Harper.

Everybody knows this.  Everybody knows that there are 14-year olds waving guns on the streets and 16-year olds committing murder.  How can they not know, when there is video evidence of it, not to mention the bodies?  Spend a few minutes on YouTube watching the videos in which young men identify themselves by their housing project, some by the names of housing projects that were torn down but have managed to survive in the imaginations of eighth-graders as places where life was good in direct, not inverse, proportion to violence and chaos.

Look at the apartments these kids live in, that appear in the videos: they have little cathedral ceilings and nice fixtures, but nothing else — no beds, just mattresses, no pictures on the walls.  Nobody is starving: this is cultural poverty.  These are children: they take pictures of themselves in their classrooms, pictures of the school bus, then, inevitably, pictures of wads of cash and guns and little groups of kids who would have a hard time reading Goodnight Moon throwing gang signs with their hands.

What never ceases to amaze me is that I went to college with people who looked upon this stuff as romantic, not tragically stunted.  From the first time I walked into an apartment like the ones on these videos, I could see that what we were doing wasn’t working, if this was the result.  And yet people still debate this, as if there is anything left to say in the face of such colossal ignorance, and violence, and wasted lives, subsidized by us.

For the last year, the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual editorialists and academicians, have all been denying that any of this is a problem.  One Jonathan Redding is one too many, but the powers-that-be, even at this late and tragic date, want to punish the public for daring to say this out loud.  If voters don’t reject this status quo next week, it will be a shame.


Jonathan Redding’s defense attorney is laying the groundwork to claim that her client’s profound ignorance is some type of defense — that he “doesn’t understand” the charges against him.  His life was empty, nihilistic, wasted, violent: this is an argument in favor of him.  Such routine suspension of disbelief in favor of defendants, and the rules of evidence that block the search for truth at every turn, are in Redding’s favor from now on.

It is not believable that Jonathan Redding is such a naif in the courtroom.  Some prosecutor or judge let him go, over and over — first as a truant, then as a juvenile, then as “just a robber” or “just a kid breaking into cars,” or “just a member of the gang stealing blue jeans.”  Now he is lucky to be alive, having been shot, and he is facing a lifetime in prison, and John Henderson is dead.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax.”  Our justice system has tied its own hands in a thousand different ways, and the judge wants Redding to testify before a Grand Jury, to give up names.

Who are we kidding?  Nobody in the juvenile justice system, nobody on the police force, knows who Redding was running with?  How many bites at the apple did they have with this kid?

Sure, put him in front of the Grand Jury; however, the Grand Jury is too little too late: plenty of people with authority to stop him knew precisely what Johnathan Redding was doing and who he was doing it with, but they didn’t take it seriously, and two more lives are over.  When will this price finally seem too high?

Gang Outreach or Just Enforcing the Law: Chicago, LA, Atlanta

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Will Atlanta be the next Chicago or L.A.? Those cities have been shelling out big bucks to “ex-gang members” and holding summits and negotiating with gangsters rather than prosecuting them.

Imagine the impact this must have in communities where these thugs live, where they now draw paychecks because they are/were thugs, and walk the streets empowered by their special relationships to certain politicians.  How does that not teach children the value of going bad?

Predictably, the people drawing paychecks from these programs declare them a complete success, while, jarringly, also insisting that if the money doesn’t stop coming, the killings will start again.  Think about that for a moment: do gang prevention programs just create a new ways for gangs to shake people down?  Meanwhile, despite the purported success of these programs, the body count keeps growing:

A 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot in the head outside her Far South Side home Wednesday as she shielded a younger relative from gunfire has come through surgery, a relative said this morning.

And in L.A.:

The gang member accused of murdering a local high school football player will face the death penalty, prosecutors announced Wednesday. . .

Espinoza, an 18th Street gang member and illegal immigrant, had been released from jail on a firearms charge the day before Shaw was killed.

So what would have kept 17-year old Jamiel Shaw from being killed?

  • A fiscally unaccountable, money-hemorrhaging program with a fancy name that pays politically-connected ministers to “pastor walk” the streets (as Mayor Franklin is proposing), or a policy of not releasing offenders caught with guns prior to their convictions?
  • A “gang negotiation” program that pays thugs who pretend to have gone clean (and later it turns out they haven’t, even when powerful politicians get snowed by them), or sentencing laws that take thugs off the street for significant periods of time when they get caught with guns?

I worked in the world of non-profits and community outreach for a long time, and that is precisely why I’m so cynical about gang summits and pastor walks.  We already spend billions on this stuff, and there is little untainted evidence that it does anything but enrich the non-profits themselves and feed the machines of local politicians.

I’m always amazed when people say to me: “why don’t we do more to reach out to delinquents and help them get jobs and other services they need, instead of throwing them in jail and throwing away the key?”

Well, to answer the first part of the question, we already do, and to answer the second part, that is precisely what we don’t do, even though it would save lives.

Do readers have any idea how much is already spent doing social services, and to what little effect?  The city, county, state, and Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) already directs billions of your dollars into job training and outreach and gang prevention and social service programs  — as Stephanie Ramage details in this excellent article about money spent on Atlanta’s Vine City, and the dubious results:

[M]oney is not the area’s primary problem.  According to Ivory Lee Young, who represents them on the Atlanta City Council, English Avenue and Vine City get more government money than any other neighborhoods in Atlanta. They have received more than $23 million in public funding in recent years. . .There’s the Parcel 25 Trust Fund, which takes a small percentage of earnings from the Courtyard at Maple apartment development and reinvests it in Vine City. . . There’s the Urban Residential Finance Authority (URFA), which has shelled out more than $10 million to the area over the past 20 years. . . The Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD), managed by the Atlanta Development Authority, also includes both neighborhoods. On Aug. 17, it made $2.8 million available for capital improvement projects only . . . In 2005, the Westside TAD disbursed almost $14 million to English Avenue and Vine City. The federally funded Title 20 empowerment zone has allocated $5.8 million for the area.  A Weed and Seed resource audit found that between $4 million and $5 million in funding was disbursed into English Avenue and Vine City in 2008 alone.

And so on.  That doesn’t include all the other resources from private and corporate non-profits, not to mention the vast amounts of taxpayer dollars that go into high-need education, day care, after-school care, city-funded summer camps, Head Start, housing, food stamps, W.I.C. free health-care, transportation, and job training programs, all the types of outreach that activist and the Mayor and Police Chief are now saying we need more of.

Frankly, I wish people would start talking back a bit when their elected officials tell them they’re not doing enough.  It’s utterly untrue, and it’s also pretty insulting.  If you spent a couple of years bopping around in those “outreach” programs, you’d be amazed at what some people are milking off your largesse.  I was surprised.  Salaries of 80K, 150K are hardly uncommon in community outreach — and salaries, frankly, are only the tip of the iceberg.  Then there are the questionable land investment deals that enrich the activists, the power that comes from being able to employ (and thus indebt) vocal community activists and naive VISTA and AmeriCorps neophytes, and the ever-so-flexible category of “administrative costs” that are used to build astonishingly cushy fifedoms, thus laying the ground for future grant-getting.

From Ramage’s article:

There is the Northyards Business Park Improvement Fund, which takes a portion of the money earned from the office park where Bauder College is located and infuses it into English Avenue. The fund is overseen by Antioch Baptist Church North, which boasts a $4.5 million annual budget on its Web site and runs the Bethursday Development Corporation.

Bob Jones, the head of Bethursday, failed to return calls for this story. However, the church’s Web site states the following:

“In addition to the ultra modern, multi-million dollar worship center which was dedicated in 1991, the church campus includes a bi-level administrative complex, a large formidable business plaza that houses the offices of the Antioch Urban Ministries, a community computer center, and the membership orientation facilities, four major parking lots, and a multi-functional Youth Center and adjoining recreational green space for outdoor activities. Dr. [Cameron Madison] Alexander [the church’s minister] has organized the Bethursday Development Corporation to manage building development and other investment opportunities of the Antioch Congregation. In late 2003, construction began on the church campus for a 261 unit apartment building.”

Look, if community programs and community development worked, I’d be the first person in line to support them.  But in addition to largely being theft and waste of taxpayer money, they don’t work.  They often make problems worse, because once you’ve got activists being enabled by tax dollars, those people are empowered through their political connections and your money to promote agendas that actually undermine public safety.

Like doing away with minimum mandatory sentencing, which Attorney General Eric Holder mentioned as part of that “gang summit” Mayor Franklin and Chief Pennington famously attended last week.

How on earth, one might ask, would doing away with laws that take the most violent offenders off the streets actually help with the gang problem?

Good question.  In order to answer it, you have to first understand that the people overseeing the movement to “talk to gangs, not prosecute them” are philosophically opposed to incarceration as a response to crime.  They’re not just anti-incarceration: they believe that people who commit crimes are not really responsible, just deprived.

They believe that you are responsible, for not giving these folks enough things, and that’s why they’re stealing your television set.

Broad strokes, I’ll admit.  But this is the philosophy of the courts, where municipal and criminal court judges have been drawn narrowly from anti-incarceration activist circles for decades.  It’s not the philosophy of the cops on the streets, but it is the philosophy of many Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, many chiefs and sheriffs being elected officials first and cops second.

And it is definitely the philosophy of our new Attorney General, who by saying the things he said at that gang summit clearly delivered the message that he, and the feds, plan to impose themselves on a government power that is not theirs, that is supposed to lie in the hands of the states: sentencing for crimes.

Listen very carefully as Pennington and Franklin and even Fulton D.A. Paul Howard talk about the new gang initiative in coming weeks.  Think about the weird undercurrent of chatter about how this isn’t about putting people away, and we can’t possibly get these people off the streets.

And while you’re at it, take a good look at that child holding up his pants with one hand while trying to break into your car with the other.

How well do you think “negotiating” with him is going to work?

And who’s going to get paid to pretend it did?

Middle-Class Gangsters: Is Poverty a Good Excuse for Being a Gangster?

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The subject of middle-class youths joining gangs was raised in both the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the New York Times last weekend, but in very different ways.

The Times, predictably, describes such youths as “swept up” by forces beyond their control, like their poor counterparts, as if they have no responsibility for choosing to commit armed robbery:

“Raylin [Footman] comes from a good background,” said Mr. Footmon’s aunt Lisa Polite, 44, the correction officer.  [Footman was killed while participating in a violent armed robbery where the store owner opened fire after the robbers began pistol-whipping his employee] “My nephew didn’t have to rob anybody. His mother took care of him. I don’t know why he was there.”

Actually, nobody has to rob anybody.  People don’t commit crimes in order to pay community college tuition: they commit crimes because they choose to break the law.  “Mr. Footmon was a marketing student at Technical Career Institutes in Manhattan,” the Times irrelevantly tells us, going on to describe the academic accomplishments of fellow criminal Bernard Witherspoon in even more detail:

[A] 20-year-old man from East Harlem hoping to get a job with the city sat down at a computer in a building near City Hall and took civil service exam No. 8309. . . Witherspoon, had graduated two months earlier from Borough of Manhattan Community College with an associate’s degree in liberal arts. . . The passing score on the exam is 70. Mr. Witherspoon earned 82.5.  Nearly a year later, Mr. Witherspoon’s life has taken a dramatic turn: He sat last week inside the Manhattan Detention Complex, not as a guard but as a prisoner . . . “I’m not a naïve mom,” said Mr. Witherspoon’s mother . . . “He was really a good kid. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. He really was.”

“[H]ad taken a dramatic turn.”  As if Witherspoon just looked up from his studies one day and was standing in a store, beating an innocent man while his friend waved a gun.  “[W]rong place at the wrong time.”


The Times seems annoyed that the public was not appalled, as they were, when an innocent store owner defended himself and his employees with a gun (“a simple Western-style parable,” they sneer).  They set out to correct their wayward readers:

[T]hat reality coexists with another, less publicized narrative: That while the four men may have put their lives and the lives of others at risk, not all of them fit the stereotypical profile of violent offenders.

More whitewashing.  Armed robbery is not secondhand smoke.  Walking into a store, pulling out a gun, and threatening to kill people cannot be couched in the soft verbiage of “putting others at risk,” at least not by people writing honestly.  But the Times is not interested in honesty.  They are unwilling to examine their ruling preconception: that criminals are merely poor people expressing their feelings about the injustice they experience, that they are victims of society.  The fact that virtually all poor people do not engage in criminal activity to “express themselves” is irrelevant: law-abiding poor people are merely one group they misrepresent, in the interest of mythology.

Then, faced with a situation that even the Times cannot fit into this chosen narrative, they don’t question the narrative: they simply manufacture a new one.  These “sons and strivers,” as they label the armed thugs, are just a slightly different style of criminal-victims, led astray by authentic (“stereotypical”) criminal-victims, but no more culpable than they are, which means not culpable at all:

“No matter what people might say, they did not know [Footmon],” Umar Abdul-Jalil, an imam who is the Department of Correction’s top chaplain, told those gathered. “We knew him. He was a good son.”  Moments later he reached into his pocket and pulled out something small and held it up in the air, to applause. It was a pebble.  “Let those who do not sin cast the first stone,” Mr. Abdul-Jalil said.

In other words, even though a young man of some promise is dead as a consequence of his own action, that action — participating in a violent armed robbery — must not be seen as the cause of his death.  Footmon was not responsible — how could he be responsible?  Maintaining the illusion of “not responsible” is more important, even, than learning how to prevent the next dead young man.


The Times, likewise, learns nothing, even though they are forced by minimal adherence to journalistic standards to include another fact that says a lot:

Raylin Footmon had one previous arrest. Last June, he was charged with robbing a Queens gas station attendant; he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation, was given a conditional discharge and served no jail time.

Curiously, other papers reported that Footmon’s record was more extensive:

Raylin Footman, 21, who had prior arrests for robbery and weapons charges . . .

Either way, Footmon was not really a naif.  He had committed robbery before, probably many times before being caught, and (according to the Post) had been arrested on other weapons charges.  When he was caught victimizing a poor working person in Queens, there had been no consequences.  This is all about the courts: the police arrest them and the courts let them go.  Through the magic of non-prosecution and plea bargaining, Footmon’s Queens robbery became “criminal facilitation.”  The sentence was “no time” for a violent crime.  The other arrests, if they exist, which I’m sure they do, must have ended in non-prosecution as well.

The judge, the D.A., the newspaper, the prison chaplain: all of these people sheltered Footmon (or his post-mortem reputation) at the expense of people he had targeted and would target in the future.  The experiences of his victims — the gas station and the employee — were officially purged, disappeared in multiple travesties of justice benefiting an armed thug.

Of course, for Footmon himself, said benefit was both dubious and short-lived.  Had he served prison time for the gas station robbery, it is possible that he might have decided to lead a different kind of life when he was released.  That’s a moot point now.  But this point is indisputable: had he really been held responsible for that crime, he would be alive in jail right now, thinking about his future options, instead of dead and buried.


The Atlanta Journal Constitution article explores similar territory, but it is not a brief for excusing criminal conduct.  Quite the opposite.  Where the New York Times tries to downplay the New York robbing crew’s culpability on the grounds that two of its members also attended college, AJC reporters Bill Torpy and Steve Visser elicit reactions from observers who are shocked that Atlanta college graduates and other middle-class youths would choose a life of crime:

[Defense lawyer Mawuli] Davis said more middle-class kids were being drawn into gangs, which he partly blamed on the media-generated “thug culture.” “It is almost like a kid who is embarrassed by his privilege, trying to show he is as hard as those guys,” he said. . .

That point was driven home to Morehouse College history professor Augustine Konneh last March when he testified at a bond hearing for a star student charged with murder.

Derek Davis, 27, a former Morehouse student from an accomplished family, is accused of joining another family: Prosecutors say he participated in the Nine-Trey Bloods’ “discipline” of [Jesus] Cintron and is among those charged with his murder.

Konneh came to the hearing believing he knew his favored student well and that the charges would be dismissed. After all, Davis’ mother was a banker, his father was a counselor dealing with deviant behavior and his stepfather was a school board president in Texas.

After hearing the case against Davis, the professor no longer knew what to believe.

“When the prosecutor said there were other members of the gang at Atlanta University Center, that really scared me,” he said. “I left that place trembling.”

Did Derek Davis get bonded out?  Is he one of the 43 accused murderers walking Atlanta’s streets?


Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Mayor and the Chief of Police are gearing up to introduce a new “gang intervention” initiative that will probably be just another expensive, “expert” driven pony show to cover up the fact that they are not really removing dangerous people from the streets.  Expect more of your tax dollars to go into the pockets of ministers and activists who have already made untold millions from your taxes already — all under the guise of “outreach, not incarceration.”

No wonder middle-class kids are joining gangs.  There are few consequences, beyond lots of attention, which kids crave, and the chance to have some exciting times and get some “bling.”  And the possibility of death, of course, but that’s hard for the adolescent mind to conceive.

Everything’s OK in Here, Bob: The D.A., the Police Chief, and Atlanta Gang Story


I am still trying to puzzle out why District Attorney Paul Howard and Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington keep insisting that they do not need more resources to fight crime and prosecute criminals, while they also keep holding press conferences to warn the public that today’s criminals are more numerous, dangerous and better organized:

“We don’t have one person breaking into a store,” Howard said. “We now have eight people.”

I would add that, in addition to organized gangs, there are still plenty of free agents out there.  Nevertheless, Howard keeps buffering his statements about the tidal wave of gang violence with assertions that it is not his aim to prosecute all criminals involved in gangs.  From a July 16 interview with Fox 5:

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard spoke out Thursday about what he called an explosion of gang activity in Metro Atlanta. Howard talked about the wave of gang crimes that have been committed mainly by teenagers.  Howard said that gang violence was never really a big problem in Atlanta until now.  There are now more than 100 active gangs in the city and the number of crimes just keep growing.  “It started as a small stream and now it seems like there is a river of them,” said Howard. . .

[H]e said the rise in gangs is a new phenomenon.  “It’s a warning and I think people ought to heed the warning.  I think we should start getting ready,” said Howard. . .

OK, we need to start getting ready, right?  The problem is exploding and the public needs to act?  Well, wouldn’t that mean that the prosecutor’s office needs more lawyers to deal with this explosion of organized crime?  Not according to Howard:

When asked if locking up the people involved in the gangs would solve the problem Howard said, “It’s not going to solve it and that’s what I want to say to people. I’m the DA and I tell you we cannot lock up every gang member in our community.”

Howard said he was looking at options outside the courtroom, starting with sponsoring a community-wide gang summit.

Ah-ha: a gang summit.  They’re not going to arrest gang members and impose consequences: they’re going to make gang members feel even more important than they already do by sitting down and talking with them and with the activists who view them as victims of society.  That’ll show ’em.  Oh, and by the way, they’re not even going to try to prosecute them.  Howard continues:

“As prosecutors we’re not on some campaign to add more prosecutors,  we’re not asking the governor to strengthen laws to fight gangs . . .

To state the obvious, why not?  Why would any prosecutor not want this, especially when his office has dropped the ball on gun crimes and dropped the ball on recidivism cases, at least one of which led to the released offender committing cold-blooded murder (see my posts here and here)?

Paul Howard, prosecutor, has decided that gang members need to be understood:

“[W]hat we are asking to do is to start to look for the roots, the sources,” said Howard. . . “We have to ask ourselves, ‘why are young people attracted to this gang activity?'”

Meanwhile, over at Pennington’s beat, the chief who denied that crime is a problem is now acknowledging it is a problem — but not for the law abiding.  Crime is a cry for help by criminals who feel squeezed by the economic crisis.  You see, it’s all your fault:

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington told the crowd that crime spiked when the city cut recreational programs for children.

“Kids are idle in our community,” Pennington said.  When you talk to them after you arrest them, they say, ‘I don’t have anything to do.'”

Oh, come on.  Did anybody bother to ask the Chief to produce the figures that support such gawking claims?  The population of school-age children has dropped substantially in Atlanta as public housing populations dispersed, often outside city limits: that represents the only reduction in publicly funded recreation programs for children.  The city still has an enormous (and politically connected, and well-heeled, thanks to taxpayer dollars) network of programs that do all the parenting from cradle to adulthood for its population of parents (read: absentee fathers) who cannot bother to parent their own children or simply have come to expect somebody else to pay.

There has been no denial of spaces for children who need them because of their parent’s choices.  There is also no proof that the economy has anything at all to do with youth crime.  It’s all lies.

Does anybody ever ask these people for any proof to back up the things they say?

Here is what is really going on: the Chief and the D.A. are gearing up to blame the public for failing to provide enough social programs for deprived youths.  They are doing this to punish you for having the temerity to tell them to show up and do their jobs and get criminals off the streets.  They are reverting to a narrative that has tremendous support among the anti-incarceration crowd: offenders are merely victims of society.  We need to understand them, not punish them.  It’s all your fault that they are kicking down your doors.  If you gave them more things than you are already giving them, they would stop victimizing you.  Shame on you.

Of course, that’s just a perception of failing to provide social programs for deprived youths.  But that is one “perception” nobody is going to question on the editorial pages of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The “blame the public, not the criminals” narrative is seeping out in every new public interaction.  The “crime summit” where politically connected activists pretended to teach self defense and community organizing is where Pennington made his contemptuous remarks about the public being responsible for youth crime.  And don’t forget, he showed up there.

Think about it: well-intentioned, taxpaying, law-abiding residents spend six months trying to get Pennington to show up for work and he stays disappeared and heaps contempt on them from undisclosed locations: now he shows up and blames them for the crime problem that he also says doesn’t exist anywhere but in their minds.  Nice.

This is just like Bill Campbell’s last days.

More narrative, on your dime?  There is a very snazzy, very expensive-looking new interactive computer “gang intervention” game posted on the Atlanta Police Department’s website.  Go to this page, or you can find it on the bottom of the department’s homepage.  I encourage you to explore Atlanta Gang Story and let me know what you think.  In fact, let Pennington know what you think, too.  It’s your money.

I think Atlanta Gang Story is a disturbing glamorization of gangs, complete with a cool gun-logo which is inappropriate in so many ways that I’m tempted to contact Francis Ford Coppola to see if he’s interested in copyright infringement.  It looks like a movie poster.  How smart was that?  How long before vendors start hawking t-shirts that say Atlanta Gang Story, gun and all?

I think Atlanta Gang Story will do exactly nothing except amuse those gang members literate enough to use computers and then make them feel all puffed up for being the center of attention.   Self-esteem pieties aside, the last thing 14-year-olds with guns need is to feel more important.

I think this type of intervention is doomed to fail because it rewards the kids who join gangs instead of rewarding the vast majority of kids who do not (and are also most vulnerable to violence by gang members).  Everybody except apparently the D.A. already knows why young people join gangs: they join gangs in order to gain recognition for being tough, and to belong to something, and because it’s exciting and fun and gets them power and gets them noticed.  This is why they put videos on YouTube showing themselves waving wads of twenties and flashing not-so-secret hand signals.  Acknowledging their identity as gangsters will merely reinforce this sense of toughness, and of belonging.  It will enhance their identities as gangsters, not discourage it.

Atlanta Gang Story is also directed at earnest-yet-naive citizens who believe in this stuff, the types who get excited by the idea of the special role they imagine they play in understanding misunderstood gang-bangers.  In other words, this is also PR, directed at that slice of residents most likely to overlook the Chief’s lack of commitment to actual crime fighting in the first place.

I think somebody made a LOT of money producing this site.  I think reporters should start asking what got spent to produce Atlanta Gang Story and what is being spent on the whole rest of this gang summit boondoggle.  Remember Shirley Franklin’s 8 million dollar (according to NPR) “re-branding” campaign?  Atlanta needs to grow up: the party needs to end.

Millions disappear on this type of junk, while you still can’t get a 911 operator to take your call.  Of course, it’s hard to get the money to do something as mundane as hire more 911 operators and train and supervise them correctly.  It’s easy these days to get a fat grant to hold a conference where important people bloviate predictably and then evaluate each other positively while spreading the cash around.  Your cash.

How much money?  Who is getting it?  And in the interest of tracing the future path of the status quo, who do they support in the next election?

Why won’t the city’s chief prosecutor simply commit to prosecuting every single crime?  Which crimes will be deemed unimportant enough to ignore?  Small businesses that have been hit five times?  Certain neighborhoods?  Who, exactly, is going to be denied justice this time?