Lead paint and baby steps and the crime rate in Los Angeles: Why are Los Angeles crime rates way down?
We recommend Friday’s post by Kevin Drum—though it’s just a gateway post.
Why have crime rates fallen so far—and not just in Los Angeles? This was the start of Drum’s answer, in which he linked to previous posts on this topic:
DRUM (1/6/12): Don't forget lead! Lead lead lead lead. When is the connection between reduced lead levels and reduced crime levels finally going to penetrate the minds of American journalists? I know it's not sexy and I know everyone wants to ignore it because you can't tell heroic stories about lead, but it's almost certainly the single biggest contributor to crime reductions nationwide.Has the abatement of lead-based paint produced the nation’s large reductions in crime? We don’t know, but Drum has been pointing to serious studies which draw this conclusion for the past several years.
Plus it's good news: the fact that reduced lead levels have played a big role in this means that a lot of the decline in crime is permanent. Hooray! Get rid of even more lead, as well as other environmental neurotoxins that affect small children, and crime levels will come down even more. Double hooray!
People are inclined to dismiss such a thought. For ourselves, we thought of Kevin’s posts on this topic earlier last week, as we drove past our local elementary school right at dismissal time. We have been struck in recent years by the amazingly orderly, calm demeanor of the kids who attend this school, which is part of the Baltimore City Schools. It seems to us that this school’s dismissals used to be extremely chaotic, in ways which may tend to sadden those who have worked with deserving city kids.
We’ve noticed this (apparent) change in demeanor before. We’ve marveled at how impressive this school’s plaid-uniformed children now seem to be—in our local "supermarket," for example. Last week, for the first time, we thought of Kevin’s posts about lead. Also for the very first time, a crazy thought entered our heads:
Could the ongoing rise in the nation’s NAEP scores be due to lead abatement?
We can’t answer that question, of course. But a few days later, there it was—Drum’s latest post on the topic.
Pseudo-liberals can now get busy examining the ugly racism involved in what we have written. We pseudos are very good at this trick—and we seem to know few others. We skip right over posts like Drum’s; we hurry past posts about low-income kids. Except to the extent that they can be used to help us emit our tribal war cries, we don’t seem to give a fig about such populations.
For people who care about the real world, we’ll recommend two recent columns in the New York Times. And we’ll ask two questions we’ve asked before:
Where is William Raspberry? And how are his baby steps coming?
The columns: On Sunday, Nicholas Kristof wrote this piece about the damage which is sometimes done to children in the earliest years of life, long before they reach kindergarten, before they reach pre-school. This morning, Krugman deals with similar topics, though he puts his remarks into the real-world political context which Kristof tends to avoid. For deserving kids from low-income homes, roadblocks to certain types of success may be found right in the environment. At one time, lead paint may have been one. Kristof and Krugman list others.
Such topics are rarely discussed in the pseudo worlds. This brings us to Raspberry.
Raspberry served for many years as a columnist at the Washington Post. In part for that reason, he once won a Pulitzer Prize. Below, we’ll help you recall his two worst moments; one involved that fine man, Colin Powell. But when he retired from the Post in 2005, Raspberry, a measured and genial man, did a truly superlative thing. He returned to his small hometown—Okolona, Mississippi—to start the Baby Steps program.
For the Baby Steps web site, click here.
Reading Kristof, we wondered again how Baby Steps is doing. It’s odd that no one ever seems to ask. Raspberry was a very major inside player. But given the ways of the pseudo worlds, even he disappears from the scene when he works with low-income children—or as in this case, with the parents of same.
How is William Raspberry doing? How odd! No one ever asks!
Two tragic minutes: One of Raspberry’s bad moments came in February 2003. He joined the stampede at the Washington Post in which major columnists tried to top one another in their praise for Powell's UN presentation. It was so convincing! How could anyone doubt?
That was a very bad moment concerning a press corps saint. In June 2000, Raspberry created a very bad moment concerning a press corps demon. In this remarkable passage, he wondered why Candidate Gore couldn’t get his campaign off the ground:
RASPBERRY (6/12/00): Even the overreaching that Gore is so widely accused of—inventing the Internet, being the model for the movie "Love Story," working on the family farm—may not have as much substance as we believe. Lars-Erik Nelson of the New York Daily News is a superb journalist and certainly no flak for the vice president. Here are two paragraphs from Nelson's review in The American Prospect of Bill Turque's biography, "Inventing Al Gore":What a terrible moment! In that passage, Raspberry showed he knew that a war was on—and that it was being staged by his colleagues.
"Although he was born, raised and schooled in Washington, he in fact did work cruelly hard on his father's Tennessee farm during the summer. He was part of the inspiration for Erich Segal's 'Love Story.' . . . He did hold the first congressional hearings into pollution at New York's Love Canal.
"And he did in fact sponsor the spending that required the Pentagon to allow the expansion of the Internet from a small defense communications system into civilian life. In explaining his 1989 National High-Performance Computer Technology Act, he presciently told a House committee: 'I genuinely believe that the creation of this nationwide network . . . will create an environment where workstations are common in homes and even small businesses.' "
Even granting Nelson's point that Gore is a victim of the media's "preference for reveling in gossip rather than checking facts," what does it say about Gore himself that you believe the stories of his overreaching? Shouldn't he and his campaign take some responsibility for not getting the truth out? Isn't that at least as important to his electoral prospects as his adoption of sartorial "earth tones"?
More to the point, why haven't he and his campaign staff been able to shift the conversation away from his weaknesses—including his bland personality and his storied "stiffness"—to the Clinton-Gore record and his own proposals?
And he blamed the whole thing on Gore and his staff! What don’t they make us stop doing these things? So William Raspberry asked.
Raspberry rattled off every script in his guild’s overflowing arsenal. He even cited the famous stiffness and those alleged earth tones. As he did this, he wondered why Gore didn’t make him stop! That is the way a witch trial works—and it’s how you got to Iraq.
As Yevtushenko wrote:
To each his world is private,
and in that world one excellent minute.
And in that world one tragic minute.
These are private.
Go ahead. Just click here.