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Land of the Free, Potbelly, and Stats

you can learn from stats, I suppose

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 24, 2006.

America is the land of the free, the potbelly, and anal fixation on statistics. We keep stats on everything, partly due to a national pastime of monumental boredom and the Western need for exact quantification. Stats are math and therefore fact and if you understand what the numbers actually represent, much can be learned.

Should we so choose to learn. For example, in these United States, from June 30, 2004 to June 30, 2005 the number of people incarcerated increased by 56,428, to 2.2 million, a jump of 2.6 percent in one year. In the previous decade, the increase was over 30 percent. Much of that swelling in jail population - 33,539 inmates – took place in local jails, which brought up their average population to around 750,000 on any given day. The others are in state and federal prisons. This isn’t just violent crimes, but for everything.

This is the sort of news that swells the hearts of Chickenhawk Republicans and the outer reaches of militant feminism alike, primarily because both have similar bogeymen and profit from panicking their constituents. The conservatives can sigh with happiness that a large part of the jail population is composed of those entirely frightening black people who speak a proto-English and stop killing each other only long enough to periodically threaten Muffy in her Subaru by playing Rap music so she and her children can hear it. The horror.

Because Rap is - to a large degree - misogynistic when not actually homoerotic, the outer Left’s duplicate chromosomed elite are equally thrilled that it’s mostly men who are in jail and not beating their wives and girlfriends. And we can pretend that a large number are terrorists, I suppose, although we now know that, as much federal spending doesn’t appear on the National Budget, many federal prisoners don’t appear on prison roles anywhere. Because the prisons don’t exist.

Of interest to both parties, I choose to believe, is that many of the people incarcerated have not been convicted of a crime at all, according to researcher Allen J. Beck. Beck says judges are reluctant to release certain people pre-trial, and set way high bail, and many of the folks soaking up tax money are just waiting for their day in court.

Along with male participants in domestic violence, and mandated DUI jailings, women in general are incarcerated more often. There’s no real evidence women are becoming more violent, only that, because of certain laws mandating certain actions, and strict rules by insurance companies, they get arrested more. And for both male and female teens and preteens, what used to result in a stern talking to and detention after a slap or fistfight in school now results in arrests and civil lawsuits.

And while the percentage of black men in jail is large, it’s been relatively steady, while whites have seen their numbers increase 40% in the 1990’s. And Hispanics, whose numbers and percent of the population have swelled, have seen their numbers go down steadily in jail intakes. In 1990, Hispanics were 27 percent of the prison population, but by 2005 they were only 22 percent. At this rate, Anglos will outnumber Hispanics in jail by the year 2020. So, question: do the stats show whites becoming less law abiding and Hispanics becoming more so?

It’s been suggested that the swelling in white prisoners is due almost exclusively to those mandated DUI and domestic violence arrests, and that it’s not like white men are becoming worse, or anything disquieting to vanity like that. So far as it goes, yes, that’s true, but the facts are that black men guilty of similar or the same alleged crimes were almost always arrested, at least in areas or in situations where whites conceivably were threatened or might see it. White men never were. White men, when honest with themselves, have to admit the free ride they, their fathers, and their grandfathers received in contrast to others. It’s there in the stats.

What else? Our cowardice and inability to come to grips with our pointless laws left on the books to reduce the street populations for whom no jobs or future exists. Nobody with a straight face can, except in talking about drug laws, claim the buyers of illegal product are victims and not the fueling engines. But much of these buyers are middle class white kids, with parents, who have lawyers. So, we get hysteric about crack – which only the poor can afford – while Kate Moss, Paris Hilton, and the Euro trash wastes of skin they hang with are never arrested unless the authorities are forced to do so by video or the irrefutable.

Don’t get me started on our War on Drugs. Just know we spend vastly more on it in a year, over $20 billion, then we ever have sent in food to equatorial Africa, ever.

That’s a stat we fat Americans can think about while watching an interminable baseball game, putting the building blocks or infarction in place with the revolting food we eat, computing the slugging percentage of Barry Bonds if he were on mere cocaine - like the Babe - or speed - like Rose - rather than steroids, like nearly everyone else. Or with a 2 oz. cocktail of 2.87% cocaine with 89.54% steroids in ballparks in cities that have two or more major rivers, how many doubles would Bonds hit in days beginning with a T?

Stats. So American.