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Spring 2000
 
City Journal Spring 2000.
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Clueless in Seattle

To the editor:
Believe it or not, sometimes we read City Journal out here in podunk Seattle. I was amused at "What Seattle's Cops Should Have Done" (Soundings, Winter 2000), in which NYPD Chief Louis Anemone lectures us hick cops on five things that could have prevented the WTO riot.

Had we just met with the protesters beforehand to establish ground rules, he suggests, all would have been okay. We did. Of course, it was made more difficult when they deliberately organized themselves into cells that didn't know what other cells would be doing.

Next he says we should have deployed a sufficient number of police. The NYPD has 45,000 police officers. How safe would Times Square have been on New Years Eve with 1,200 cops, which is how many Seattle has, instead of 8,000 at one intersection and 12,000 more stationed nearby?

We should have established "frozen zones" in advance, he says. We're now under threat from the ACLU for doing just this—in the middle of a riot! What works in New York doesn't necessarily work elsewhere.

Next, he says we should have used a mixture of foot, motorcycle, and mounted police to shunt protesters to side streets. We did. But the odds were still 40 to one.

Finally, we should have arrested those who vandalized places like Starbucks, so we wouldn't have had to call out the National Guard. In fact, a plainclothes team arrested most of this group within minutes, and the rest later. By the way: the NYPD has over eight times more cops than Washington State has National Guardsmen.

The good news for Seattle is that we now have a city to recommend to the WTO for its next U.S. conference—New York. In the meantime, we'll stick to getting our advice from a police department that hasn't recently undergone a criminal scandal of international proportion.

Harv Ferguson
Assistant Chief, Investigations Bureau
Seattle, WA

Louis Anemone responds:
If amusement was all Chief Ferguson took from my article, I failed in my objective. I was hoping to generate thoughtful discussion on planning and tactics for disruptive urban events.

Prudent planning dictates that you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. When faced with the possibility of groups of demonstrators whose numbers might overwhelm police, who plan to be disruptive, and who thus pose a threat to public safety, law enforcement needs to be proactive. Authorities should mobilize beforehand additional personnel—reserve police officers or volunteers, surrounding local police departments, local and surrounding sheriff's deputies, and state police—to assist in policing the event. They should also mobilize city attorneys to obtain restraining orders and injunctions.

I'm struck by the naivete shown in the comment about protesters organizing into cells that didn't know what other cells would be doing. I find it extraordinary that all these different cells wound up at the same places at the same times.

The truly disturbing aspect of the chief's letter (putting aside its scurrilous name-calling) is its tone, which suggests that his department has learned nothing from this fiasco—that there's nothing to learn, in fact—and that, if faced with another such event, they'd use the same reactive methods all over again.
 

Be Prepared . . . for Lawsuits?

To the editor:
Heather Mac Donald's "Why the Boy Scouts Work" (Winter 2000) ignores a vital fact in the Boy Scouts of America's court loss in New Jersey: the Scouts accept charters from public schools and the military, yet claim to be "completely private." Private institutions can turn away those without the "right" sexual orientation or religious beliefs, but the public schools and other government entities that charter over 300,000 Scouts cannot so discriminate. If the BSA wants to spread their prejudices against people like me, they'll have to do it without the aid of my own government, which has no business running a youth group that rejects atheists.

Brian Westley
Via e-mail

To the editor:
I have just read Heather Mac Donald's excellent article on the Scouts and felt that I must offer congratulations. This is first-class journalism—it brought tears to my eyes! The text's impact was also greatly enhanced by the wonderful Norman Rockwell illustrations, which I had not seen before.

I hope that your article succeeds in rallying support for the Scouts in what appears to be a difficult time.

Robert Whelan
Institute of Economic Affairs
London, England

Heather Mac Donald responds:
Mr. Westley should address his complaint to the schools and military bases that sponsor Scout troops, not to the Scouts themselves. Accepting government sponsorship does not convert the BSA into an agent of the government; if anything, the opposite is closer to the truth. Sponsoring organizations agree to abide by BSA values and rules; if the government rejects those values, it does not have to support any troops. The government has never conditioned its sponsorship of the Scouts on their changing their moral code. Having failed to impose conditions on its original chartering agreements, the government cannot now demand a revision to the Scout Oath and Law after the fact.
 

Engaging Reading

To the editor:
City Journal gets better and better. Its articles are timely and so well researched that I always learn something—even in fields where I am already informed.

In the Winter 2000 issue, for instance, while Sol Stern confirmed my already low opinion of Jonathan Kozol, I was unaware of Kozol's telling Cuban infatuation. As a criminologist, I know the literature fairly well, but I learned a lot from the article on DNA testing by Howard Safir and Peter Reinharz.

But while "What's Wrong with the Kids?" by Kay S. Hymowitz—whose writings I admire—makes the important point that disengaged parents leave kids morally adrift, she goes a little too far. The landmark study behind Laurence Steinberg's Beyond the Classroom introduced the concepts of "disengaged" parents, teachers, and high-school students. These researchers estimate that 30 percent of parents are disengaged. Whether their figure is accurate or wildly off, it is unlikely that the overwhelming majority of parents—whatever their mistakes—are as disengaged as Hymowitz seems to imply. She might recall what someone said about Freud: it is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of sex in human behavior, but somehow he managed to do it.

Jackson Toby
Rutgers University

Kay S. Hymowitz responds:
I'm puzzled that Professor Toby saw the parents depicted in my article as disengaged, and that he concluded I thought such parents were an "overwhelming majority." The parents in the documentary, The Lost Children of Rockdale County, defied social science's usual categories of parenting styles—including Steinberg's useful "disengaged." These parents seemed devoted to their children: planning family vacations, coaching Little League, and so on. But they did little to guide and shape their kids. They were not disengaged; they were morally clueless.

Whether 30 percent—or 80 percent, or 10 percent—of parents fit this category, I have no idea—and I suspect I never will. Social science has never shown much interest in these matters.
 

Catholic Charities Responds

To the editor:
"How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul" in your Winter 2000 issue was disappointing. It missed the mark on the breadth and scope of our work, our adherence to Catholic Social Teaching, and the Catholic view on poverty.

Ten million people a year benefit from Catholic Charities  services provided by 47,000 staff, 270,000 volunteers, and 9,000 board members at 1,400 member U.S. sites. Your writer made a one-day visit to only six CC programs out of 180 operated by our Brooklyn agency alone—only one of our 233 member agencies.

Catholic Charities embodies Catholic Social Teaching, in which popes and bishops have developed the implications of Christ's teachings for the modern world. We make no apology for proudly adhering to the magisterium's social teachings, which, as our bishops have said, "do not easily fit the categories of right or left, Democrat or Republican."

Recently, the U.S. bishops unanimously approved a statement praising CC's balanced work. In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium reiterates Church teaching on the purposes and roles of charitable work by Catholic agencies. The bishops quote John Paul II: "Our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through . . . charity, which finds expression in personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity, and political commitment."

The Holy Father has stated that "interventions of aid . . .  must be made in a spirit of service and as a free gift, . . . without any ulterior motives of possible supervision or proselytism, which would suggest that charity is offered in part for political or economic goals." CC respects the faiths of all who come to us, offering them the gospel care of the Good Samaritan without proselytism.

In his most recent U.S. trip, the pope again urged Catholics to work to reduce racism and injustice in this country, situations your article calls an illusion.

The most unfortunate part of your article is its attack on the poor. In All Things Charity takes exception to blaming the poor for the conditions that oppress them, citing the pope's call "to abandon a mentality in which the poor—as individuals and as peoples—are considered . . . irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced."

Poverty has many complex causes: individual (self-destructive behavior), familial (parental death, domestic violence), natural (disaster, disability), and systemic (racism, oppression, unemployment). American CC agencies have responded in many ways since 1727; we provide direct services to individuals and families (counseling, mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, job training); establish helping institutions (elderly group homes, day care centers, shelters for battered women and children); conduct family education programs; provide disaster-relief assistance; promote economic development; and encourage public policy changes (protection of abused and neglected children, minimum-wage increases, child-care subsidies).

My experience living and working among the poor for 25 years and visiting CC agencies nationwide is that most who come to us pray, go to church, and read holy writ. Like all of us, they need forgiveness and a closer relationship with God. They come hungry, needing affordable housing, and fleeing persecution, war, and domestic abuse. They need our love, better wages, safe day care, and help for disabled family members.

Jesus taught us to find Him among the hungry, homeless, sick, and imprisoned. Like Jesus, we think the poor are blessed. I urge your readers to do what 270,000 others do each year: volunteer in a CC program. Meet Christ in those who live in poverty. See for yourself. Your writer suggests we have lost our souls. We will keep our souls with Christ, the Holy Father, the bishops, and the poor.

Fred Kammer, SJ
President and CEO
Catholic Charities USA

Brian C. Anderson responds:
Father Kammer is correct, as I acknowledged in my article, that I have seen only a small fraction of CC's universe of social services. Nevertheless, I spoke at length with local CC agency officials across the country, with Kammer and several of his key Washington aides, and with a host of CC critics and supporters. I looked extensively at CC's history, too. What exactly did I miss? Have CC agencies not embraced the morally neutral welfare-state ethos or grown dependent on government funding as extensively as my article claims? Kammer presents no evidence that I overstated my case.

Kammer defends CC's adherence to Catholic social thought by selectively quoting Pope John Paul II and offering the witness of the U.S. bishops—with notable exceptions, a reflexively left-wing group for decades now. Tellingly, he ignores my substantive charges: that a) CC has abandoned subsidiarity—the key concept of Catholic social teaching, which entrusts problem solving to the institutional or social level closest to the problem, seeing family and neighbors as far more flexible and morally involved than politicians or lobbyists; and b) CC has downplayed the pope's warnings that an overreaching bureaucratic welfare state breeds dependency. Kammer doesn't respond to these charges because CC is wedded to the failed idea that welfare-state entitlements are the poor's best hope.

It's nonsense to claim that I call racism and injustice illusory. No this-worldly society will be free from such evils. But CC's sixties-vintage worldview wrongly deems America thoroughly racist—requiring top-down government programs like affirmative action as amelioration—and deeply unjust. This is a dangerous way to think about a political system that has brought opportunity and at least relative justice to more people than any other in human history.

Kammer defends the poor from my "attack." But I do not attack the poor, I attack CC's no-questions-asked approach to "service delivery," which does not help the poor; it in fact hurts them. Of the list of poverty's "complex" causes, only one—the behavioral—correlates with long-term poverty. To claim otherwise is to squirt ink and hide what is at stake: how best to help the underclass into the American mainstream. The best anti-poverty program is instruction in traditional moral values and ethical conduct for the dependent poor, as CC knew—before the sixties. Is Father Kammer really saying that stressing morality and personal responsibility to those with dysfunctional values is the same thing as proselytizing? If so, he is coming perilously close to contemporary liberalism's destructive view that all talk of morality is "imposing values."

More and more Americans trust "faith-based" institutions to help people turn their own lives around with a message of moral uplift. Nothing in Kammer's letter suggests that CC will soon take advantage of that trust.

 

 


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