The Wire

  • Mobile pastor sentenced to 50 years for child sex crimes

    Excerpt from WKRG:

    Alvin McNeil was sentenced Thursday to 30 years on Rape 1st of a child and additional 20 years for sexual abuse of another child. The sentences are set to run consecutively.

    Back in April, a jury found Pastor Alvin McNeil guilty of rape and sex abuse of a child under 12.

    Judge Lockett revoked his bond and took the defendant into custody, the District Attorney’s office said.

    56-year-old Alvin McNeil was a pastor of Open Door True Worship Apostolic Church.

  • ‘Monster’ who video-recorded his rape of 3-year-old girl gets life without parole

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

    An Odenville man who video-recorded himself raping a 3-year-old girl was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Wednesday.

    43-year-old Robert Armbrust, Jr. pled guilty last week to rape, sodomy, sex abuse of a child younger than 12, and child porn involving a child younger than 17. St. Clair County Judge Phil Seay sentenced Armbrust to life in prison without parole for the rape charge and life in prison on the remaining charges.

    According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Lyle Harmon, Armbrust committed the horrific crimes from June through September 2016 while he and his girlfriend were babysitting a sick friend’s grandchild. Armbrust videotaped and photographed himself committing the child sex crimes.

  • Alabama Archers Win Top Honors at National Championship

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    It was a very good year for Alabama’s student archers at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Eastern National Championship. Placing in the top five of their shooting categories were two Alabama teams and four individual students. Additionally, an Alabama elementary school student was chosen as an Easton Academic Archer and five Alabama students made the NASP All-American Academic Team.

    “We are extremely proud of the performance of Alabama’s student archers,” said Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “Their determination and dedication to both archery and academics is paying off and will serve them well in other aspects of life.”

    More than 14,000 archers traveled from 35 states to the competition, which was held May 10-12, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. Alabama’s top five results are listed below.

    Overall Competition

    Teams

    East Elementary, First Place, Elementary School Division
    Alma Bryant High, Fifth Place, High School Division
    Individuals

    Kayden Henderson, Vinemont Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Male Division
    Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Fourth Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High, Third Place, in both the overall competition and the High School Male Division with a near perfect score of 297 (out of 300).
    International Bowhunters Organization 3D Tournament

    Teams

    East Elementary, First Place
    Individuals

    Ava Ray, East Elementary, Second Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Academic Archer

    The Easton Academic Archer program highlights students who excel in the classroom as well as on the archery range. Each of the newly chosen academic archers received a Genesis Bow and custom Easton Academic Archer arrows during the tournament.

    Pierce Gudger of East Elementary School was chosen as one of 10 academic archers for 2018.
    All-American Academic Team

    The 2018 NASP All-American Academic Team was formed based on the results of both the NASP Eastern and Western National tournaments and a roster of Academic Archers from across North America. Five students from Alabama have made this year’s team.

    Allie Stewart, East Elementary
    Jonathan Hall, Breitling Elementary
    Taylor Darby, Munford Middle
    Justin Liveoak, Chilton County High
    Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High

3 days ago

I can help Democrats and their media allies find Russian collusion and interference

(YHN/Pixabay)

Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump and the Russians colluded to rig the 2016 presidential election so far has borne little fruit. The Democrats and their media allies would love to find some Russian collusion and interference. I can help them discover some, but I doubt that they will show much interest. Here it goes.

For years, Russia has been the world’s largest oil producer. Within recent times, the U.S. has edged Russia out of the No. 1 spot. Much of the increased U.S. production is attributable to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the shale formations in Texas and North Dakota. Now the U.S. is a net exporter of oil. Exports of oil have exceeded oil imports since 2011. This hasn’t sat well with Russia, which has taken measures to hinder our oil productivity.

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An American Spectator magazine story points to the kind of Russian collusion and domestic meddling that meets the approval of Democrats, leftists and their media allies. The story is aptly titled “Russian funding of U.S. environmental groups shows how collusion is done”. A 2014 U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report identified that the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation receives funding from a Bermuda-based shell company known as Klein Ltd. Klein Ltd. was created by attorneys from Wakefield Quin, a law firm that has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Klein Ltd. operates as a “pass-through” organization for foreign funds going into the U.S.

The IRS requires nonprofit organizations to file 990 forms that report their activities. Those 990s show that Klein Ltd. contributed $23 million to the Sea Change Foundation in 2010 and again in 2011. That’s about half of the contributions Sea Change Foundation received during those years. Those same 990 forms show that the Sea Change Foundation distributed more than $20 million in grants in 2010 and 2011 to environmental organizations. It gave more than $40 million in grants to leftist environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Sierra Club Foundation, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Tides Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the World Wildlife Fund.

In return for the grant money, those leftist environmentalists were “to promote awareness of climate change,” “reduce reliance on high carbon energy,” “educate the public about climate and clean energy” and “promote climate and clean energy communications.” A U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee report, titled “Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media,” details that the environmental groups used the Russian money to protest the process of fracking and fight the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. If environmentalists can thwart U.S. oil production, Russia, which is a major energy supplier to Europe, stands to gain greater economic and political power.

Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, has raised the possibility that those complicit in the scheme to use American environmentalists to advance Russian propaganda and interests could be in violation of federal statutes that apply to foreign agents lobbying in behalf of foreign interests.

Russia is also a major supplier of natural gas to all of Europe. U.S. natural gas producers long wished to export some of their product to Europe and Japan to take advantage of higher prices. But up until 2016, they were blocked by natural gas export restrictions. In the case of natural gas, the Russians didn’t have to bribe environmentalists to do their dirty work. They had willing support from U.S. industrial giants such as Dow, Alcoa, Celanese and Nucor, members of America’s Energy Advantage.

These U.S. companies lobbied against natural gas exports, saying that it would be unpatriotic to allow unlimited natural gas exports. Export restrictions kept natural gas prices artificially low and gave U.S. manufacturing companies a raw material advantage. The lifting of export restrictions has raised natural gas prices in the U.S. but lowered them in the recipient countries and weakened Russia’s economic and political hold on Europe. In my book, that’s a good thing.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

1 week ago

Kanye saying what black conservatives have said for decades

In the aftermath of the Kanye West dust-up, my heart goes out to the white people who control the Democratic Party. My pity stems from the hip-hop megastar’s November announcement to his packed concert audience that he did not vote in the presidential election but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. Then, on April 21, West took to his Twitter account, which has 28 million followers, to announce, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” Owens is Turning Point USA’s director of urban engagement and has said that former President Barack Obama caused “damage” to race relations in the United States during his two terms in office.

West’s support for Trump, along with his criticism of the “plantation” mentality of the Democratic Party, has been met with vicious backlash from the left. In one song, West raps, “See, that’s the problem with this damn nation. All blacks gotta be Democrats. Man, we ain’t made it off the plantation.” Rep. Maxine Waters said West “talks out of turn” and advised, “He should think twice about politics — and maybe not have so much to say.” The bottom-line sin that West has committed is questioning the hegemony of the Democratic Party among black Americans. The backlash has been so bad that West had to hire personal security to protect him against threats made against his life. Fortunately, the police are investigating those threats.

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Kanye West is not saying anything different from what Dr. Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Jason Riley, I and other black libertarians/conservatives have been saying for decades. In fact, West has tweeted quotations from Sowell, such as “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it” and “The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best.” Tweeting those Sowell quotations represents the highest order of blasphemy in the eyes of leftists.

The big difference between black libertarians/conservatives and West is that he has 28 million Twitter followers and a huge audience of listeners whereas few blacks have even heard of libertarian/conservative blacks outside of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I might add in passing that Dr. Thomas Sowell is one of the nation’s most distinguished and accomplished scholars alive today.)

The Kanye problem for the Democratic Party is that if the party doesn’t keep blacks in line and it loses even 20 to 25 percent of the black vote, it can kiss any hope of winning any presidential and many congressional elections goodbye. Democrats may have already seen that threat. That’s why they support illegal immigration and voting rights for noncitizens. Immigrants from south of the border who are here illegally may be seen as either a replacement for or a guarantee against the disaster of losing the black vote.

Keeping blacks blind to the folly of unquestioned support for the Democratic Party by keeping blacks fearful, angry and resentful and painting the Republican Party as racist is vital. Democrats never want blacks to seriously ask questions about what the party has done for them. Here are some facts. The nation’s most troublesome and dangerous cities — Indianapolis, Stockton, Oakland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit — have been run by Democrats, often black Democrats, for nearly a half-century. These and other Democratic-run cities are where blacks suffer the highest murder rates and their youngsters attend the poorest-performing and most unsafe schools.

Democrats could never afford for a large number of black people to observe, “We’ve been putting you in charge of our cities for decades. We even put a black Democrat in the White House. And what has it meant for us? Plus, the president you told us to hate has our unemployment rate near a record low.” It turns out that it’s black votes that count more to black and white politicians than black well-being, black academic excellence and black lives. As for black politicians and civil rights leaders, if they’re going to sell their people down the river to keep Democrats in power, they ought to demand a higher price.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 weeks ago

Before and after welfare handouts

Before the massive growth of our welfare state, private charity was the sole option for an individual or family facing insurmountable financial difficulties or other challenges. How do we know that? There is no history of Americans dying on the streets because they could not find food or basic medical assistance. Respecting the biblical commandment to honor thy father and mother, children took care of their elderly or infirm parents. Family members and the local church also helped those who had fallen on hard times.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, charities started playing a major role. In 1887, religious leaders founded the Charity Organization Society, which became the first United Way organization. In 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America started helping at-risk youths reach their full potential. In 1913, the American Cancer Society, dedicated to curing and eliminating cancer, was formed. With their millions of dollars, industrial giants such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created our nation’s first philanthropic organizations.

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Generosity has always been a part of the American genome. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French civil servant, made a nine-month visit to our country in 1831 and 1832, ostensibly to study our prisons. Instead, his visit resulted in his writing “Democracy in America,” one of the most influential books about our nation. Tocqueville didn’t use the term “philanthropy,” but he wrote extensively about how Americans love to form all kinds of nongovernmental associations to help one another. These associations include professional, social, civic and other volunteer organizations seeking to serve the public good and improve the quality of human lives. The bottom line is that we Americans are the most generous people in the world, according to the new Almanac of American Philanthropy — something we should be proud of.

Before the welfare state, charity embodied both a sense of gratitude on the behalf of the recipient and magnanimity on the behalves of donors. There was a sense of civility by the recipients. They did not feel that they were owed, were entitled to or had a right to the largesse of the donor. Recipients probably felt that if they weren’t civil and didn’t express their gratitude, more assistance wouldn’t be forthcoming. In other words, they were reluctant to bite the hand that helped them. With churches and other private agencies helping, people were much likelier to help themselves and less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. Part of the message of charitable groups was: “We’ll help you if you help yourself.”

Enter the federal government. Civility and gratitude toward one’s benefactors are no longer required in the welfare state. In fact, one can be arrogant and hostile toward the “donors” (taxpayers), as well as the civil servants who dish out the benefits. The handouts that recipients get are no longer called charity; they’re called entitlements — as if what is received were earned.

There is virtually no material poverty in the U.S. Eighty percent of households the Census Bureau labels as poor have air conditioning; nearly three-quarters have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have at least one computer. Forty-two percent own their homes. What we have in our nation is not material poverty but dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives, aided and abetted by the welfare state. Part of this pathological lifestyle is reflected in family structure. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. Today it’s respectively 75 percent and 30 percent.

There are very little guts in the political arena to address the downside of the welfare state. To do so risks a politician’s being labeled as racist, sexist, uncaring and insensitive. That means today’s dependency is likely to become permanent.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

3 weeks ago

Colleges: Anti-diversity and pro-exclusion

Just within the past week or so, some shocking professorial behavior has come to light. In the wake of Barbara Bush’s death, California State University, Fresno professor Randa Jarrar took to Twitter to call the former first lady an “amazing racist.” Jarrar added, “PSA: either you are against these pieces of s— and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. that’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee.”

In New Jersey, Brookdale Community College professor Howard Finkelstein, in a heated exchange, was captured on video telling a conservative student, “F— your life!” At the City University of New York School of Law, students shouted down guest lecturer Josh Blackman for 10 minutes before he could continue his remarks. When Duke University President Vincent Price was trying to address alumni, students commandeered the stage, shouting demands and telling him to leave.

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None of this professorial and student behavior is new at the nation’s colleges. It’s part of the leftist agenda that dominates our colleges. A new study by Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert — “Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty” — demonstrates that domination. (By the way, Academic Questions is a publication of the National Association of Scholars, an organization fighting the leftist propaganda in academia.) Langbert examines the political affiliation of Ph.D.-holding faculty members at 51 of the 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News & World Report. He finds that 39 percent of the colleges in his sample are Republican-free — with zero registered Republicans on their faculties. As for Republicans within academic departments, 78 percent of those departments have no Republican members or so few as to make no difference.

Langbert breaks down the faculty Democrat-to-Republican ratio by academic department, and there are not many surprises. Engineering departments have 1.6 Democrats for every Republican. Chemistry and economics departments have about 5.5 Democrats for every Republican. The situation is especially bad in anthropology departments, where the Democrat-to-Republican faculty ratio is 133-to-1, and in communications departments, where the ratio is 108-to-zero. Langbert says, “I could not find a single Republican with an exclusive appointment to fields like gender studies, Africana studies, and peace studies.”
Later on in the study, Langbert turns his attention to Democrat-to-Republican faculty ratios at some of our most elite colleges. At Williams College, the Democrat-to-Republican ratio is 132-to-1. At Amherst College, it’s 34-to-1. Wellesley’s is 136-to-1. At Swarthmore, 120-to-1. Claremont McKenna, 4-to-1. Davidson, 10-to-1. Only two colleges of the top 66 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list have a modicum of equality in numbers between Democratic and Republican faculty members. They are the U.S. Military Academy, aka West Point, with a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of 1.3-to-1, and the U.S. Naval Academy, whose ratio is 2.3-to-1.

Many professors spend class time indoctrinating students with their views. For faculty members who are Democrats, those views can be described as leftist, socialist or communist. It is a cowardly act for a professor to take advantage of student immaturity by indoctrinating pupils with his opinions before the students have developed the maturity and skill to examine other opinions. It is also dereliction of duty of college administrators and boards of trustees to permit the continuance of what some professors and students are doing in the name of higher education.

Langbert’s findings suggest biases in college research and academic policy, where leftist political homogeneity is embedded in the college culture. The leftist bias at most of the nation’s colleges is in stark contrast to the political leanings of our nation. According to a number of Pew Research Center surveys, most Americans identify as conservative. These Americans are seeing their tax dollars and tuition dollars going to people who have contempt for their values and seek to indoctrinate their children with leftist ideas.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

1 month ago

Shocking educational fraud continues

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation’s Report Card, was released. It’s not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.

The atrocious NAEP performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math. For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level. However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level. It’s grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify attendance.

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Fraudulent high school diplomas aren’t the worst part of the fraud. Some of the greatest fraud occurs at the higher education levels — colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of white high school graduates in 2016 enrolled in college, and 58 percent of black high school graduates enrolled in college. Here are my questions to you: If only 37 percent of white high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 70 percent of them? And if roughly 17 percent of black high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 58 percent of them?

It’s inconceivable that college administrators are unaware that they are admitting students who are ill-prepared and cannot perform at the college level. Colleges cope with ill-prepared students in several ways. They provide remedial courses. One study suggests that more than two-thirds of community college students take at least one remedial course, as do 40 percent of four-year college students. College professors dumb down their courses so that ill-prepared students can get passing grades. Colleges also set up majors with little analytical demands so as to accommodate students with analytical deficits. Such majors often include the term “studies,” such as ethnic studies, cultural studies, gender studies and American studies. The major for the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.

The bottom line is that colleges are admitting youngsters who have not mastered what used to be considered a ninth-grade level of proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic. Very often, when they graduate from college, they still can’t master even a 12th-grade level of academic proficiency. The problem is worse in college sports. During a recent University of North Carolina scandal, a learning specialist hired to help athletes found that during the period from 2004 to 2012, 60 percent of the 183 members of the football and basketball teams read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. About 10 percent read below a third-grade level. Keep in mind that all of these athletes both graduated from high school and were admitted to college.

How necessary is college anyway? One estimate is that 1 in 3 college graduates have a job historically performed by those with a high school diploma. According to Richard Vedder, distinguished emeritus professor of economics at Ohio University and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, in 2012 there were 115,000 janitors, 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders and about 35,000 taxi drivers with a bachelor’s degree.
I’m not sure about what can be done about education. But the first step toward any solution is for the American people to be aware of academic fraud at every level of education.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. 

(Creators, copyright 2018)

1 month ago

Why whites — and blacks — flee some cities as soon as they can and what intelligent mayors must do about it

When World War II ended, Washington, D.C.’s population was about 900,000; today it’s about 700,000. In 1950, Baltimore’s population was almost 950,000; today it’s around 614,000. Detroit’s 1950 population was close to 1.85 million; today it’s down to 673,000. Camden, New Jersey’s 1950 population was nearly 125,000; today it has fallen to 77,000. St. Louis’ 1950 population was more than 856,000; today it’s less than 309,000. A similar story of population decline can be found in most of our formerly large and prosperous cities. In some cities, population declines since 1950 are well over 50 percent. In addition to Detroit and St. Louis, those would include Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

During the 1960s and ’70s, academic liberals, civil rights advocates and others blamed the exodus on racism — “white flight” to the suburbs. However, since the ’70s, blacks have been fleeing some cities at higher rates than whites. It turns out that blacks, like whites, want better and safer schools for their kids and don’t like to be mugged or have their property vandalized. Just like white people, if they have the means, black people can’t wait for moving companies to move them out.

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At the heart of big-city exoduses is a process that I call accumulative decay. When schools are rotten and unsafe, neighborhoods become run-down and unsafe, and city services decline, the first people to leave are those who care the most about good schools and neighborhood amenities and have the resources to move. As a result, cities lose their best and ablest people first. Those who leave the city for greener pastures tend to be replaced by people who don’t care so much about schools and neighborhood amenities or people who do care but don’t have the means to move anywhere else. Because the “best” people — those who put more into the city’s coffer than they take out in services — leave, politicians must raise taxes and/or permit city services to deteriorate. This sets up the conditions for the next round of people who can do better to leave. Businesses — which depend on these people, either as employees or as customers — also begin to leave. The typical political response to a declining tax base is to raise taxes even more and hence create incentives for more businesses and residents to leave. Of course, there’s also mayoral begging for federal and state bailouts. Once started, there is little to stop the city’s downward spiral.

Intelligent mayors could prevent, halt and perhaps reverse their city decline by paying more attention to efficiency than equity. That might be politically difficult. Regardless of any other goal, mayors must recognize that their first order of business is to retain what economists call net positive fiscal residue. That’s a fancy term for keeping those people in the city who put more into the city’s coffers, in the form of taxes, than they take out in services. To do that might require discrimination in the provision of city services — e.g., providing better street lighting, greater safety, nicer libraries, better schools and other amenities in more affluent neighborhoods.

As one example, many middle-class families leave cities because of poor school quality. Mayors and others who care about the viability of a city should support school vouchers. That way, parents who stay — and put a high premium on the education of their children — wouldn’t be faced with paying twice in order for their kids to get a good education, through property taxes and private school tuition. Some might protest that city service discrimination is unfair. I might agree, but it’s even more unfair for cities, once the magnets of opportunities for low-income people, to become economic wastelands.

Big cities can be revitalized, but it’s going to take mayors with guts to do what’s necessary to reverse accumulative decay. They must ensure safe streets and safe schools. They must crack down on not only violent crimes but also petty crimes and misdemeanors, such as public urination, graffiti, vandalism, loitering and panhandling.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

1 month ago

Black political power means zilch

It’s often thought to be beyond question that black political power is necessary for economic power and enhanced socio-economic welfare. That’s an idea that lends itself to testing and analysis.

Between 1970 and 2012, the number of black elected officials rose from fewer than 1,500 to more than 10,000. Plus, a black man was elected to the presidency twice. Jason Riley, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, tells how this surge in political power has had little beneficial impact on the black community.

In a PragerU video, “Blacks in Power Don’t Empower Blacks”, Riley says the conventional wisdom was based on the notion that only black politicians could understand and address the challenges facing blacks. Therefore, electing more black city councilors, mayors, representatives and senators was deemed critical. Even some liberal social scientists now disagree. Gary Orfield says, “There may be little relationship between the success of … black leaders and the opportunities of typical black families.” Riley says that while many black politicians achieved considerable personal success, many of their constituents did not.

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After the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, riots, which followed the killing of Michael Brown after he charged a policeman, much was made of the small number of blacks on the city’s police force. Riley asks: If the racial composition of the police force is so important, how does one explain the Baltimore riots the following year after Freddie Gray died in police custody? Baltimore’s police force is 40 percent black. Its police commissioner is black. Its mayor is black, as is the majority of the City Council. What can be said of black political power in Baltimore can also be said of Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans. In these cities, blacks have been mayors, police chiefs, city councilors and superintendents of schools for decades.

By contrast, when blacks had little political power, they made significant economic progress. During the 1940s and ’50s, black labor force participation rates exceeded those of whites; black incomes grew much faster than white incomes. Between 1940 and 1950, black poverty rates fell by as much as 40 percent. Between 1940 and 1970, the number of blacks in middle-class professions quadrupled. Keep in mind that was before affirmative action programs. Riley says that racial gaps were narrowing without any special treatment for blacks. After the 1960s, the government began pouring trillions of dollars into various social programs. These programs discouraged marriage and also undermined the work ethic through open-ended welfare programs, helping keep poor people poor.

The fact that political success is not a requirement for socio-economic success — and indeed may have an opposite effect — doesn’t apply only to blacks. American Jews, Italians, Germans, Japanese and Chinese attained economic power long before they had political power. By almost any measure of socio-economic success, Japanese and Chinese are at or near the top. Riley asks, “How many prominent Asian politicians can you name?” By contrast, Irish-Americans have long held significant political power yet were the slowest-rising of all immigrant groups.

Riley says that the black experience in the U.S. has been very different from that of other racial groups. Blacks were enslaved. After emancipation, they faced legal and extralegal discrimination and oppression. But none of those difficulties undermines the proposition that human capital, in the forms of skills and education, is far more important than political capital. Riley adds that the formula for prosperity is the same across the human spectrum. Traditional values — such as marriage, stable families, education and hard work — are immeasurably more important than the color of your mayor, police chief, representatives, senators and president.

As Riley argues in his new book — “False Black Power?” — the major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the anti-social, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. 

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Busting discrimination and disparities myths

I don’t mind saying that this column represents a grossly understated review of “Discrimination and Disparities,” just published by my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell. In less than 200 pages, Sowell lays waste to myth after myth not only in the United States but around the globe.

One of those myths is that but for the fact of discrimination, we’d all be proportionately represented in socio-economic characteristics, such as career, income, education and incarceration. The fact of business is that there is no evidence anywhere on earth, at any time in human history, that demonstrates that but for discrimination, there would be proportionate representation in anything by race, sex, nationality or any other human characteristic. Sowell shows that socio-economic outcomes differ vastly among individuals, groups and nations in ways that cannot be explained by any one factor, whether it’s genetics, discrimination or some kind of exploitation.

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A study of National Merit Scholarship finalists shows that firstborns are finalists more often than their multiple siblings combined. Data from the U.S., Germany and Britain show that the average IQ of firstborns is higher than the average IQ of their later siblings. Such outcomes challenge those who believe that heredity or one’s environment is the dominant factor in one’s academic performance. Moreover, the finding shows that if there is not equality among people born to the same parents and living under the same roof, why should equality of outcomes be expected under other conditions?

In Chapter 2, Sowell provides evidence that people won’t take racial discrimination at any cost. The higher its cost the less it will be tolerated, and vice versa. One example is segregated seating on municipal transit in the South. Many companies were privately owned, and their decision-makers understood that they could lose profits by offending their black customers by establishing segregated seating. Transportation companies fought against laws mandating racially segregated seating, both politically and in the courts, but lost. Companies even chose to ignore the law. Faced with heavy fines, though, they began to comply with the law.

The point is that the difference between the white transportation owners and the white politicians and segregationists was the transportation company owners had to bear the cost of alienating black riders and the politicians and segregationists didn’t. Sowell broadens his analysis to show that regulated companies and organizations — such as public utilities and nonprofit entities, including colleges and government agencies — will be at the forefront when it’s politically popular to discriminate against blacks but also will be at the forefront when it’s politically popular to discriminate in favor of blacks. Why? Because in either case, they don’t bear the burden of forgone profits.

In Sowell’s chapter titled “The World of Numbers,” he points out what I’m going to call out-and-out dishonesty. In 2000, a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights study pointed out that 44.6 percent of black applicants were turned down for mortgages, while only 22.3 percent of whites were turned down. These and similar statistics led to charges of lending industry discrimination and demands that government do something about it. While the loan rejection rate for whites was 22.3 percent, that for Asians and native Hawaiians was only 12.4 percent. Those statistics didn’t see the light of day. Why? They didn’t fit the racial discrimination narrative. It would have been difficult for the race hustlers to convince the nation that lending institutions were discriminating against not only black applicants but white applicants, as well, in favor of Asian and native Hawaiian applicants.

At several points in the book, Sowell points to the tragedies created in the pursuit of social justice. He gives the example of the Gujaratis expelled from Uganda and the Cubans fleeing Cuba. Many of the Gujaratis arrived in Britain destitute but rose again to prosperity. It’s the same story with the Cubans who came to the U.S. and prospered. By losing their most productive people, both Uganda and Cuba became economic basket cases.

The general public, educators and politicians would benefit immensely from reading “Discrimination and Disparities,” if only to avoid being unknowingly duped.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

The worst kind of ignorance is not knowing just how ignorant we are

Here’s a question for you: In 1950, would it have been possible for anyone to know all of the goods and services that we would have at our disposal 50 years later? For example, who would have thought that we’d have cellphones, Bluetooth technology, small powerful computers, LASIK and airplanes with 525-passenger seating capacity? This list could be extended to include thousands of goods and services that could not have been thought of in 1950. In the face of this gross human ignorance, who should be in control of precursor goods and services? Seeing as it’s impossible for anyone to predict the future, any kind of governmental regulation should be extremely light-handed, so as not to sabotage technological advancement.

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Compounding our ignorance is the fact that much of what we think we know is not true. Scientometrics is the study of measuring and analyzing science, technology and innovation. It holds that many of the “facts” you know have a half-life of about 50 years. Let’s look at a few examples.

You probably learned that Pluto is a planet. But since August 2006, Pluto has been considered a dwarf planet. It’s just another object in the Kuiper belt.

Because dinosaurs were seen as members of the class Reptilia, they were thought to be coldblooded. But recent research suggests that dinosaurs were fast-metabolizing endotherms whose activities were unconstrained by temperature.

Years ago, experts argued that increased K-12 spending and lower pupil-teacher ratios would boost students’ academic performance. It turned out that some of the worst academic performance has been at schools spending the most money and having the smallest class sizes. Washington, D.C., spends more than $29,000 per student every year, and the teacher-student ratio is 1-to-13; however, its students are among the nation’s poorest-performing pupils.

At one time, astronomers considered the size limit for a star to be 150 times the mass of our sun. But recently, a star (R136a1) was discovered that is 265 times the mass of our sun and had a birth weight that was 320 times that of our sun.

If you graduated from medical school in 1950, about half of what you learned is either wrong or outdated. For an interesting story on all this, check out Reason magazine.

Ignorance can be devastating. Say that you recently purchased a house. Was it the best deal you could have gotten? Was there some other house within your budget that would have needed fewer extensive repairs 10 years later and had more likable neighbors and a better and safer environment for your children? What about the person you married? Was there another person available to you who would have made for a more pleasing and compatible spouse? Though these are important questions, the most intelligent answer you can give to all of them is: “I don’t know.” If you don’t know, who should be in charge of making those decisions? Would you delegate the responsibility to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump, Ben Carson or some other national or state official?

You might say, “Stop it, Williams! Congressmen and other public officials are not making such monumental decisions affecting my life.” Try this. Suppose you are a 22-year-old healthy person. Rather than be forced to spend $3,000 a year for health insurance and have $7,000 deducted from your salary for Social Security, you’d prefer investing that money to buy equipment to start a landscaping business. Which would be the best use of the $10,000 you earned — purchasing health insurance and paying into Social Security or starting up a landscaping business? More importantly, who would be better able to make that decision — you or members of the United States Congress?

The bottom line is that ignorance is omnipresent. The worst kind of ignorance is not knowing just how ignorant we are. That leads to the devastating pretense of knowledge that’s part and parcel of the vision of intellectual elites and politicians.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Our problem is a widespread decline in moral values that has nothing to do with guns

(Pixabay)

One of the unavoidable tragedies of youth is the temptation to think that what is seen today has always been. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in our responses to the recent Parkland, Florida, massacre.

Part of the responses to those murders are calls to raise the age to purchase a gun and to have more thorough background checks — in a word, to make gun purchases more difficult.

That’s a vision that sees easy gun availability as the problem; thus, the solution is to reduce that availability.

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The vision that sees “easy” availability as the problem ignores the fact of U.S. history that guns were far more available yesteryear. With truly easy gun availability, there was nowhere near the gun mayhem and murder that we see today. I’m tempted to ask those who believe that guns are today’s problem whether they think that guns were nicer yesteryear. What about the calls for bans on the AR-15 so-called assault rifle? It turns out that according to 2016 FBI statistics, rifles accounted for 368 of the 17,250 homicides in the U.S. that year. That means restrictions on the purchase of rifles would do little or nothing for the homicide rate. Leaders of the gun control movement know this. Their calls for more restrictive gun laws are part of a larger strategy to outlaw gun ownership.

Gun ownership is not our problem. Our problem is a widespread decline in moral values that has nothing to do with guns. That decline includes disrespect for those in authority, disrespect for oneself, little accountability for anti-social behavior and a scuttling of religious teachings that reinforced moral values. Let’s examine elements of this decline.

If any of our great-grandparents or even grandparents who passed away before 1960 were to return, they would not believe the kind of personal behavior all too common today. They wouldn’t believe that youngsters could get away with cursing and assaulting teachers. They wouldn’t believe that some school districts, such as Philadelphia’s, employ more than 400 school police officers. During my primary and secondary schooling, from 1942 to 1954, the only time one saw a policeman in school was during an assembly period where we had to listen to a boring lecture on safety. Our ancestors also wouldn’t believe that we’re now debating whether teachers should be armed.

There are other forms of behavior that would have been deemed grossly immoral yesteryear. There are companies such as National Debt Relief, CuraDebt and LendingTree, which advertise that they will help you to avoid paying all the money you owe. So after you and a seller agree to terms of a sale, if you fail to live up to your half of the bargain, there are companies that will assist you in ripping off the seller.

There are companies that counsel senior citizens on how to shelter their assets from nursing home care costs. For example, a surviving spouse may own a completely paid-for home that’s worth $500,000. The costs of nursing home care might run $50,000 a year. By selling her house, she could pay the nursing home costs, but her children wouldn’t inherit the house. There are firms that come in to shelter her assets so that she can bequeath her home to her heirs and leave taxpayers to foot the nursing home bill. In my book, that’s immoral, but it is so common that most of us give it no thought.

There is one moral failing that is devastating to the future of our nation. That failing, which has wide acceptance by the American people, is the idea that Congress has the authority to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another American. That is nothing less than legalized theft and accounts for roughly three-quarters of federal spending. For the Christians among us, we should consider that when God gave Moses the commandment “Thou shalt not steal,” he probably didn’t mean thou shalt not steal unless you get a majority vote in the U.S. Congress.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

(Image: File)

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 months ago

Trump’s Tariffs: Seen beneficiaries, unseen victims

(White House/Flickr)

There are a couple of important economic lessons that the American people should learn. I’m going to title one “the seen and unseen” and the other “narrow well-defined large benefits versus widely dispersed small costs.” These lessons are applicable to a wide range of government behavior, but let’s look at just two examples.

Last week, President Donald Trump enacted high tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Why in the world would the U.S. steel and aluminum industries press the president to levy heavy tariffs? The answer is simple. Reducing the amounts of steel and aluminum that hit our shores enables American producers to charge higher prices. Thus, U.S. steel and aluminum producers will earn higher profits, hire more workers and pay them higher wages. They are the visible beneficiaries of Trump’s tariffs.

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But when the government creates a benefit for one American, it is a virtual guarantee that it will come at the expense of another American — an unseen victim. The victims of steel and aluminum tariffs are the companies that use steel and aluminum. Faced with higher input costs, they become less competitive on the world market. For example, companies such as John Deere may respond to higher steel prices by purchasing their parts in the international market rather than in the U.S. To become more competitive in the world market, some firms may move their production facilities to foreign countries that do not have tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Studies by both the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition show that steel-using industries — such as the U.S. auto industry, its suppliers and manufacturers of heavy construction equipment — were harmed by tariffs on steel enacted by George W. Bush.

Politicians love having seen beneficiaries and unseen victims. The reason is quite simple. In the cases of the steel and aluminum industries, company executives will know whom to give political campaign contributions. Workers in those industries will know for whom to cast their votes. The people in the steel- and aluminum-using industries may not know whom to blame for declining profits, lack of competitiveness and job loss. There’s no better scenario for politicians. It’s heads politicians win and tails somebody else loses.

Then there’s the phenomenon of narrow well-defined large benefits versus widely dispersed small costs. A good example can be found in the sugar industry. Sugar producers lobby Congress to place restrictions on the importation of foreign sugar through tariffs and quotas. Those import restrictions force Americans to pay up to three times the world price for sugar. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that Americans pay an extra $2 billion a year because of sugar tariffs and quotas. Plus, taxpayers will be forced to pay more than $2 billion over the next 10 years to buy and store excess sugar produced because of higher prices. Another way to look at the cost side is that tens of millions of American families are forced to pay a little bit more, maybe $20, for the sugar we use every year.

You might wonder how this consumer rip-off sustains itself. After all, the people in the sugar industry are only a tiny percentage of the U.S. population. Here’s how it works. It pays for workers and owners in the sugar industry to come up with millions of dollars to lobby congressmen to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign sugar. It means higher profits and higher wages. Also, it’s easy to organize the relatively small number of people in the sugar industry. The costs are borne by tens of millions of Americans forced to pay more for the sugar they use. Even if the people knew what the politicians are doing, it wouldn’t be worth the cost of trying to unseat a legislator whose vote cost them $20 a year. Politicians know that they won’t bear a cost from sugar consumers. But they would pay a political cost from the sugar industry if they didn’t vote for tariffs. So they put it to consumers — but what else is new?

(Image: President Donald J. Trump signs the Section 232 Proclamations on Steel and Aluminum Imports. White House/Flickr)

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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