April 2017 Archives
Apparently bandits are running wild in California. I put "teen" in quotes because who really knows how old these bandits are?
BART police are beefing up patrols at Oakland stations after dozens of juveniles terrorized riders Saturday night when they invaded the Coliseum Station and commandeered at least one train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries.
The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.
I feel like the police and media are being pretty quick to blame "juveniles" because it makes the horrendous failure of the government seem less scary. How do they know this mob of bandits consisted of kids? Did someone check all their IDs? What proportion of the bandits were kids? Were there some adults present leading the banditry?
Saying "teens" and "juveniles" makes it sound like this attack was some kind of misguided prank rather than a victory for chaos over the forces of law and order.
"I've been there 24 years and this is the first time I've heard of anything like this happening," said Keith Garcia, a BART police officer and union president.
So, things in California are getting worse.
Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman, said Monday that seven people were robbed -- with the victims losing a purse, a duffel bag and five phones. Six people were robbed inside the train car, with a seventh confronted on the platform, she said. Police received no reports of guns or other weapons being brandished.
A police summary prepared after the incident said that at least two victims suffered injuries to the face or head that required medical attention.
How many people reported injuries or assaults that didn't require medical attention? I bet it was a lot.
The attack was so quick, police reported, that the teenagers were able to retreat from the station and vanish into the surrounding East Oakland neighborhood before BART officers could respond. The train was held for about 15 minutes as authorities interviewed victims and witnesses and tended to the injured.
Bandits running rampant. Law enforcement has completely lost control of a swathe of territory right in the heart of one of the richest areas of the country. How humiliating.
Trost said police arrived at the station in less than 5 minutes, but that the robberies took place in just seconds.
When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. The outcome would have been different if some of the victims had been armed, and the bandits would think twice before trying again if a few of them had gotten shot. As it is, if all 40-60 aren't arrested, prosecuted, and punished then the government in California has basically given up its sovereignty.
(HT: Althouse, who is surprised that the police aren't releasing the surveillance video of the attack because the criminals are "juveniles". I guess it would be an invasion of their privacy.)
I've written about alternatives to imprisonment several times over the past... 14 years. Wow.
Now Ross Douthat is asking similar questions: why should imprisonment be our only official form of punishment?
Our prison system, which officially only punishes by restraint, actually subjects millions of Americans to waves of informal physical abuse -- mistreatment by guards, violence from inmates, the tortures of solitary confinement, the trauma of rape -- on top of their formal yearslong sentences.
It is not clear that this method of dealing with crime succeeds at avoiding cruel and unusual punishment so much as it avoids making anyone outside the prison system see it. Nor is it clear that a different system, with a sometimes more old-fashioned set of penalties, would necessarily be more inhumane. ...
We tell ourselves that we have prisoners' good in mind, and the higher standards of our civilization, because we do not offer them this choice. But those standards may be less about preventing ourselves from becoming like our sinful ancestors, and more about maintaining the illusion of clean hands -- while harsh punishment is still imposed, but out of sight, on souls and bodies not our own.
If given the choice, I'd rather face pain and humiliation than years in prison... and it seems like such punishment would be better for my mental and physical health as well, not to mention that of my family. I agree with Douthat that "civilized" imprisonment is more for the benefit of a society that doesn't want to think about punishment than for the protection of society or the benefit of convicts.
In the midst of advising California Democrats to not mote the state's primary earlier in the year for the 2020 election cycle, Michael Barone notes that America's most populous state has been drifting pretty far left from the mainstream.
As I wrote in a December 2016 Washington Examiner column, is that for the first time in the nation's history our largest state has voted at one end of the political spectrum. California has become a political outlier. New York, the largest state in censuses from 1820 to 1960, almost always voted within 5 percent of the national average in those years. So did California from the time it became the largest state in 1963 up through 1996. But it voted 6 points more Democratic than the nation in 2000 and 2004, 9 points more in 2008, 10 points more in 2012 and a whopping 14 points more Democratic than the nation in 2016. Only one state, Hawaii, voted more Democratic, and by only 1 point.
This monolithic drift isn't good for America, and it isn't even good for left-wing Californians. Breaking the state up into several smaller states would allow the people in different regions of California to have governments that most suit them -- and a break-up could easily be crafted that preserves a net advantage of two Senators for the Democrats. The only people who would lose from the break-up would be the hacks who sit atop the pyramid of government now.
Of course rich nations are failing to fulfill their obligations to create a $100 billion "Climate Fund", and of course developing nations will use that failure to avoid their obligations to reduce carbon emissions. Newsflash: climate politics is all a scam.
First world donors have been busily relabeling other foreign aid as contributions to the climate kitty. For developing countries, this is a cheat--they expect $100 billion in new money.
Or, to put it more accurately, they are not nearly stupid and naive enough to believe the lies Western diplomats tell when trying to bamboozle naive green voters at home that they are "Doing Something" about climate change. So they don't really expect all that money, but hope to use these commitments to pry something out of the West. Also, since the West will certainly default on these bogus commitments, developing countries have all the justification they need to blow off their own commitments when the time comes.
First off, kudos to the St. Charles School District for paying off existing bonds ahead of schedule. The district's finances appear to be well-managed, which is a big reason that I've decided to reluctantly vote "yes" on Proposition KIDS, despite my skepticism about the flagship product and what I consider to be a flawed campaign.
On April 4th, 2017, voters in the City of St. Charles School District will be asked to consider a ballot measure called Proposition KIDS. Proposition KIDS is a 47 million dollar bond issue that does not require a tax rate increase and allows the District to borrow money to fund capital projects such as building renovations, repairs, technology costs and other building upgrades. The money generated by Proposition KIDS, by law, can only be used to fund renovations, repairs, property acquisitions and other approved capital projects. Bond issues proceeds cannot be used to pay salaries or benefits.
Most Approximately one-third of the money will be spent to build an Early Childhood Center. (Corrected from "most" to "one-third".)
The building of the Early Childhood Center would provide approximately 200 additional spaces for students to enroll in the District and remove some of the burden placed upon the elementary schools currently housing pre-Kindergarten programs.
However, the district has nearly 1500 fewer students than it had 20 years ago, so why do we need to build new classrooms? I posed this question to Chris Bennett, the district's communication coordinator, who replied:
This is an excellent question. There are a few reasons for this. One is that schools use educational space much differently that they did 20 years ago. With the proliferation of technology and changes in pedagogy, today's teaching methods use more space than in the past.
Also, it's been a goal of our school board to keep our class sizes low, the lowest in St. Charles County in fact, in order to increase individual instruction for our students and to enhance the classroom experience for both teacher and student. So, while we do have less students than in the past, our dedication to keeping low class sizes means that same amount of space becomes more spread out in order to achieve this goal.
Finally, we've seen a shift in population the past few years, with the eastern portion of the district seeing quite a bit of growth. This means that schools such as Blackhurst and Lincoln are at capacity to achieve our class size goal and have 2-3 classrooms dedicated to preschool. Relocating these classes to a dedicated early childhood building will alleviate some of the burden placed upon these schools and allow us to offer our community a facility that is 100% dedicated to early childhood education.
There do seem to be some benefits to smaller class sizes, but the research isn't very strong despite the "obviousness" of the conclusion. A lot depends on the ability to provide enough high-quality teachers and facilities -- it's better to have a large class with a great teacher than a small class with a mediocre teacher.
(I couldn't find any more information about the population shift that Bennett referred to.)
Anyway, the plan seems generally reasonable, which is why I'm going to be voting "yes". Two elements of the publicity pitch grate on me though.
1. "Does not require a tax rate increase" -- this is literally true, but I think it's misleading. A bond issuance is exactly equivalent to a tax increase: the bond will be paid off with tax dollars, and if you don't issue the bond then you don't need the tax revenue. A bond is a tax on the future taxpayer. A person who makes the last payment on his 5-year-old car and then immediately buys a new car with an identical monthly payment is still incurring a significant expense.
2. Keeping up with the Jonses. An email I received from the district says:
"Early childhood centers are becoming more prevalent in today's educational environment," said Dr. Danielle Tormala, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction to the City of St. Charles School District. "Due to research showing the importance of early childhood education to the overall success of a child, we've seen an increase of early childhood centers in districts across the region."
Currently, the City of St. Charles School District is the only district in St. Charles County that does not have a location solely dedicated to early childhood education.
"Early childhood centers are now a thing that young families have on their checklist when looking to move into a district," Tormala said. "It's an important thing to offer if you want to remain a viable option within the community."
This is a questionable argument, as the publicity email itself admits in the very next paragraph.
While early childhood centers are becoming increasingly common in the region, their prevalence is not based in the logic of "keeping up with the Joneses", but rather the numerous studies that statistically show their importance.
I've looked into some of the research, but I'd love to know specifically which studies the district relied on to make this decision. It appears to me that Early Childhood Centers are trendy -- oh, and by the way, there's some research somewhere that says you should build one. Great.
Anyway, as I said, I'm going to vote "yes". I've been impressed with the District since my kids started school, and I trust the administration despite my misgivings about the campaign. Maybe I'm just grumpy.
It's fascinating to watch non-religious people react with wide-eyed astonishment at the decision of Vice President Mike Pence and his wife to observe what many call "the Billy Graham rule".
A story about Billy Graham goes something like this: In 1949 or 1950, after one of his famous evangelistic meetings, Graham returned to his hotel room to find a naked woman lying on his bed, ready to seduce him in an attempt to destroy his ministry. Graham, cautious and humble as usual, fled the hotel room and immediately implemented a rule that would come to bear his name: From that day forward, Graham would not travel (including by car), eat or meet alone with a woman other than his wife, Ruth. ...
Recently, a Washington Post article about second lady Karen Pence has brought the Billy Graham Rule back into the public eye. The article cites a 2002 interview with Vice President Pence -- who has called himself an "evangelical Catholic" -- saying that he "never eats alone with a woman other than his wife," and that he doesn't attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him as well.
Generally the response from the left has been to focus on the impact of this rule on the women that Mike Pence won't meet with privately -- it's not fair to be denied private access to the Vice President.
But good intentions do not always produce helpful consequences. In this case, the Billy Graham Rule risks reducing women to sexual temptations, objects, things to be avoided. It perpetuates an old boys' club mentality, excluding women from important work and career conversations simply by virtue of their sex.
But why should the Pences' personal decisions about their marriage be subject to public judgement? Why should they be required to run their marriage in a way that most benefits the careers of the women around them?
As the entire internet has noted by now: Bill Clinton's affair with an intern in the Oval Office was declared to be a personal matter, and certainly had no impact on his job performance or the career prospects of the women around him. It's hard to see how the Pences' approach to marriage is more offensive or dangerous than established presidential standard.