Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore is Burning and No One is Willing to Do what is Necessary to Stop the Violence

I wish I could say that the recent events in Baltimore are shocking, but in the larger scheme of things, I only can wonder why it took this long for violent unrest to hit that city in the wake of police brutality. Baltimore has long been known for having a brutal and unaccountable police force and in the past four years has paid out nearly $6 million in settlements to victims of police brutality -- and that does not include what the family of Freddie Gray, Baltimore's latest casualty, is going to receive.

One can agree that rioting and its aftermath always is shocking. Watching people destroy property and attack innocent bystanders, as has been done by rioters in Baltimore, is painful to see, although from what I have seen on the alternative media, plenty of black Baltimore residents have tried to keep the peace and have not taken part in violent activities. However, we should not forget why this madness began in the first place.

A couple of weeks ago, Baltimore police approached 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who ran away and was chased down by some officers. Gray had 18 arrests on his record, something that the conservative websites are trumpeting, but none of the arrests was for acts of violence. Instead, he was a criminal because he possessed and sold some plants that government says he should not be owning. When he was most recently arrested, Gray had a "spring-assisted, one-hand operated knife" in his pocket, which cops claimed was a switchblade, but apparently was not.

(As I see it, this is the sort of thing that sounds worse than it is. Switchblades are illegal in the USA, and when I was on the University of Tennessee track team 40+ years ago, my teammates and I would buy switchblades whenever we ran in meets near the Mexican border, such as El Paso. When we brought them back into the country, we, too, were criminals.)

After nabbing Gray, police tossed him into the back of a police van and then gave him the "rough ride" for which Baltimore police are infamous. Gray was handcuffed and placed in leg irons and police purposely did not secure him in a seat belt, and the cop then drove recklessly to the police station and during the way, Gray was so badly injured that he nearly severed his spine. He died a week later after police denied him even basic medical care upon arriving at the station.

The incident hardly is isolated. According to the Baltimore Sun:

When a handcuffed Freddie Gray was placed in a Baltimore police van on April 12, he was talking and breathing. When the 25-year-old emerged, "he could not talk and he could not breathe," according to one police official, and he died a week later of a spinal injury.

But Gray is not the first person to come out of a Baltimore police wagon with serious injuries.

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.
This is stunning. Despite the fact that the City of Baltimore has paid out millions and millions of dollars to victims of the police "rough rides," police officers continue the practice with apparently no attempts by city officials to curb this dangerous activity. The obvious question one might ask is: Why does no one in authority do anything about this mess?

Baltimore: the Bastion of Progressivism

When it comes to police issues, Baltimore is not a right-wing, law-and-order city. It is not Dallas or Houston and certainly not Texas. It is, instead, the very epitome of what the Left wants all of the USA to be: the center city of The Liberal Paradise. Indeed, Baltimore is the fount of governmental policies that American Progressives have been demanding for years, and Maryland with the dominance of liberal Democrats provides the perfect cover.

First, Maryland is the penultimate one-party state, at least when it comes to state government. Maryland has 24 counties but only a few have enough population to decide anything statewide. For example, in 2012, Barack Obama carried only four counties (plus Baltimore City), but Obama took 62 percent of the statewide vote, and the Democrats have overwhelming numbers in the state legislature.

Second, Maryland politics combines a fairly large black population with affluent government workers and lobbyists (given the proximity of several counties to Washington, D.C., and the state has policies that clearly reflect the left wing of the Democratic Party. Abortion-on-demand is plentiful here, taxes are high, environmentalists rule state government, and government employee unions are strong.

Maryland is very affluent, or at least the counties around Washington are wealthy, some of the richest counties in the USA. Maryland's wealth is not built on producing anything, however, but rather its wealth comes from extraction of the wealth produced by others. Perhaps it is ironic that liberal Maryland politicians believe that free markets create wealth through "exploitation" of other people and that restricting private enterprise prevents "unjust" wealth extraction, but in reality, no one exploits the workers and producers of this country more than do Washington and its surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia.

The Democratic Party's dependence upon government employee unions (more than half of the delegates at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in 2016 will be unionized government workers) is at the heart of the brutality that defines the officers of the Baltimore Police Department. In Maryland, government unions rule and no union is more powerful than the Fraternal Order of Police.

Not surprisingly, the formidable police union has been able to gain privileges for its members that ordinary people cannot have. Maybe it is ironic that the website The Daily Kos, which represents the hard left of the Democratic Party and whose adherents believe that all of life should be under state control, is shocked, SHOCKED that the "Bill of Rights" for Baltimore police includes a provision in which "they are given a full 10 days before they have to tell you or anyone else on earth anything they know about what happened" after they kill someone.

No one should be surprised when government unions ensure that their members are not held accountable for wrongdoing or illegal behavior. Unions are about winning privileges for those who hold the union card, which is what liberal Democrats of The Daily Kos claim they want for all workers, and especially government employees, which are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. So, I do find it ironic and perhaps a bit humorous when people of the Left don't like the outcomes of their activism. Sputters The Daily Kos:
So, in other words, the six officers who were involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray have had 10 whole days to get every single minute detail of their story straight. They've had 10 whole days to communicate with one another to make sure every single aspect of their stories perfectly sync up. They've had 10 whole days to watch the news, to watch the cell phone videos of their arrest of Freddie, to study what witnesses say they did or did not see. While the family of Freddie Gray has been forced to suffer during 10 long days of confusion and despair, these officers have been on paid leave, able to rehearse every word they will deliver when the law actually compels them to speak on the record.

This is an absolutely unnecessary and egregious aspect of the Maryland Police Bill of Rights. Officers should be forced to record their perspective on events immediately instead of being allowed 10 days to get a story together that just so happens to perfectly navigate around every detrimental aspect of the law.

The list of police reforms we need in the United States is extensive, but we must now add to that list the that police should never be allowed such an extended time before they have to tell their side of the story in the case of a person they injured and killed.

Politically, Baltimore is the very epitome of what the Wall Street Journal calls the "blue-city model of urban governance." It combines poor and middle-class black with affluent-but-liberal whites into a Democratic political machine that sees only some internal competition, although the choice is between candidates of the Left and of the Hard Left. (Obama received more than 87 percent of Baltimore's votes in 2012.)

Yet, while they are joined at the hip politically, these two groups have nothing in common and they have about as much connection with each other as the rest of us have to do with little green men from Mars. On the one hand, the affluent have the select universities like Johns Hopkins, Loyola, and the University of Baltimore, while the blacks have terrible public schools. The affluent and liberal whites have luxury apartments and the numerous cafes and high-end restaurants that populate their neighborhoods, and the blacks have slums or sterile, crime-ridden housing projects and shops that more resemble bunkers in war zones than places of actual commerce.

As the Wall Street Journal points out in its editorial, government agencies that exist ostensibly to educate children and serve the public in reality are jobs programs for unionized government workers. As for the economy, the city is known for its facade of the Inner Harbor and the downtown baseball and football stadiums, but the liberal "trickle-down" model does not do much for the average person living in sections of the city with black unemployment mirroring what one might expect to see in Greece or Venezuela.

Yes, Baltimore has world-class medical facilities and physicians and researchers at Johns Hopkins, but what the city really needs is what is anathema to the typical liberal Democrat: free markets. Indeed, in a recent interview with National Public Radio, former Baltimore mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (who now is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president) declared that any notion that government regulations and roadblocks actually hamper businesses is nonsense. Said O'Malley:

It is not true that regulation holds poor people down, or regulation keeps middle class from advancing; That's kind of patently bulls---.
While leftists like O'Malley claim that free markets are nothing more than "trickle-down" economics, in truth the Left's model for cities like Baltimore truly is based upon actual trickle down. The city's political elite, along with favored corporations and organizations, build high-profile projects in the name of "revitalization" of city centers that help enrich people who are politically-connected but do absolutely nothing for the masses of people without work and without any real hope of having a future apart from depending upon government assistance for food, housing, and just about everything else.

Unfortunately, most black residents of Baltimore and certainly black politicians believe like O'Malley and will support the very policies that further impoverish them. Let's face it, blacks have done relatively worse under Barack Obama than they have under any other president in my lifetime -- which goes back to Ike -- but despite the fact that Obama is harming them irreparably, blacks will support him and his policies and claim that any dissenting view is racist in origin.

Interestingly, when O'Malley was mayor of Baltimore, he instituted a "zero-tolerance" policy in which police arrested people (mostly blacks) by the score for minor offenses. Police also ramped up the War on Drugs during O'Malley's term in office from 1999 to 2007. (He was elected governor of Maryland in 2006 and served two terms in the statehouse.) While I not emphasized the Drug War in this post, it obviously has much to do with the reign of police brutality in Baltimore.

The Sum of Leftist Governance

So, we see that the inevitable results of the kind of governance Baltimore has had for decades becomes expressed in the events that led to the rioting, as well as the rioting itself. Police officers who are protected by the very unions politicians support engage in brutal behavior because their union contracts protect them from consequences. Thus, they brutalize and kill people who are not a threat to them.

Young people who have gone to failing government schools and whose neighborhoods are hamstrung by policies popular with leftists are left with no future and no real hope. They are angry at the police and angry at everyone else, and we see that anger explode in gang violence and rioting.

The answer? According to leftist politicians like Martin O'Malley, the answer is to expand welfare programs, build more sterile government housing, and woo more crony capitalists to build high-profile projects that make politicians look good.

The politicians and voters of Baltimore will not listen to any other alternatives. Free markets to them are like crosses as a vampire convention; just their very mention sends people into frenzies of rage.

Although the current spate of rioting will end soon enough and the city will go back to a shaky "normalcy," nonetheless the consequences of anti-private enterprise and anti-free markets remain and sooner or later, the union-protected Baltimore police will engage in another atrocity and the city once again will explode. It is just a matter of time.