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“Let’s Look At The Crime Bill”: Doing What You Can, When You Can, While Recognizing That The Job Is Never Done

Watching Bill Clinton bickering with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia recently, I had several conflicting, and not entirely praiseworthy responses. One was that the longer an American political campaign continues, the dumber and uglier it gets.

Another was, why bother? People holding up signs saying “Hillary is a Murderer” aren’t there for dialogue. The charge is so absurd it’s self-refuting. Certainly nobody in the audience was buying.

That woman who shouted that Bill Clinton should be charged with crimes against humanity? He probably should have let it go. Bickering over a 1994 crime bill has little political salience in 2016, particularly since Hillary’s opponent, the sainted Bernie Sanders, actually voted for the damn thing. She didn’t.

Instead, Clinton briefly lost his cool. The next day, he said he “almost” wanted to apologize, which strikes me as slicing the bologna awfully thin even for him.

You’ve probably seen the ten-second clip on TV. “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children,” Clinton said angrily. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens, [Hillary] didn’t. You are defending the people who killed the people whose lives you say matter! Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.”

Many Democratic-oriented pundits found this shocking. Evidently political journalism is where Freudianism—or Maureen Dowdism anyway—has gone to die. Even as astute an observer as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg went all psychoanalytical on Clinton.

“It is somehow only when he is working on his wife’s behalf that he veers into sabotage,” she wrote. “What is needed here is probably a shrink…Either he doesn’t want her to overtake him, or he doesn’t want her to repudiate him. Regardless, Hillary should shut him down. She can’t divorce him, but she can fire him.”

Fat chance. Anyway, who says the outburst hurt her? Sure Bill Clinton can get hot defending his wife. I suspect more voters find that admirable than not.

It’s also unclear whom Clinton’s tantrum offended. “If you read some intellectuals on the left, they’d suggest there should be a grudge against the Clintons,” Michael Fortner, a professor of urban studies at the City University of New York told the Christian Science Monitor “but I think the primary results show there isn’t a grudge at all.”

Fortner, author of the book “Black Silent Majority,” argues that contrary to Black Lives Matter, many in the African-American community understand that the tough-on-crime aspects of the 1994 law weren’t foisted upon them by white racists. Devastated by a veritable Tsunami of violence and gang warfare, “political leaders, mayors, and pastors played an important role in pushing for these policies.”

In Little Rock, where I lived, it was common to hear fusillades of gunfire in black neighborhoods at night. During Clinton’s first term, the city’s homicide rate was nearly triple today’s—the vast majority of victims young black men. Teenagers I coached on Boys Club basketball teams needed to be careful what color clothing they wore en route to practice. People got shot to death for wearing Crips blue in Bloods neighborhoods.

Businesses closed, jobs dried up; anybody with the means to get out, got out. Including, one suspects, the parents of some Black Lives Matter activists. There’s a reason two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus joined Bernie Sanders in supporting the 1994 legislation.

Clinton told them about all that, along with a recitation of the bill’s Democratic virtues: a (since rescinded) assault-weapons ban, the Violence Against Women Act, 100,000 new cops on the beat. Then he made some probably insupportable claims about the crime bill’s good effects:

“A 25-year low in crime, a 33-year low in the murder rate—and listen to this, because of that and the background-check law, a 46-year low in the deaths of people from gun violence. And who do you think those lives were, that mattered? Whose lives were saved, that mattered?”

But then it’s also a stretch to say the bill’s responsible for America having more citizens in prison than Russia and Iran. Eighty-seven percent are in state penitentiaries, not federal lockups. Fifty-three percent of those for violent crimes. Those numbers Clinton didn’t dwell upon, although he did in a speech last year. “The bad news,” he said “is we had a lot of people who were locked up, who were minor actors, for way too long.”

Hillary Clinton herself has regretted resorting—one time, 20 years ago—to a comic-book term like “super-predators” to describe drug gang members.

Lost in all the hubbub was Bill Clinton taking the protesters seriously enough to engage them about what the dread “triangulation” really signifies. It’s not an ideological label, but a philosophical inclination: doing what you can, when you can, while recognizing that the job is never done.

 

By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Bill Clinton, Black Lives Matter, Crime Bill 1994, Law and Order | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Laws For Thee, But Not For Me”: Kentucky’s Kim Davis Jailed, Held In Contempt

Federal judges really don’t like it when people ignore court orders and claim the law doesn’t apply to them.

A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky clerk to jail after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning…. Davis, in tears, said on the stand that she could not comply with the judge’s order. U.S. Marshals later took her into custody.

As she was being led out of the courtroom, the clerk said, “Thank you, judge.”

Davis, if you’re just joining us, is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but she refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” Davis and her lawyers have filed several appeals, all of which lost.

She could, of course, find some other job – one that doesn’t pit her professional responsibilities against her spiritual beliefs – but she refuses to do so. As we talked about yesterday, Davis feels entitled to keep her job and refuse to do her job at the same time.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, apparently didn’t find this persuasive.

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

Marriage-equality proponents did not ask the judge in the case to take her into custody, but by some measures, Judge Bunning didn’t have much of a choice.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Law and Order, Marriage Equality | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Backlash Notes, Cruz Edition”: Climbing On Board The Same Old Twentieth Century Law-And-Order Bandwagon

Ever since the virtual strike of cops in New York and Baltimore in conjunction with protests against police shootings of unarmed African-Americans, I’ve been concerned that on the brink of potential bipartisan action on criminal justice reform we’d see a 1960s-1970s style backlash fed by vote hungry conservative politicians. The recent spikein some forms of violent crime after decades of gradually declining rates struck me as likely to create some ugly racial dynamics as well, or at least “buyer’s remorse” among conservatives for police or criminal justice reform.

With his usual lack of inhibition, Donald Trump was first to get in touch with his inner Frank Rizzo, arguing that even if police were unjustly targeting African-Americans it was important to “give back power to the police” to deal with the “crime wave.”

Now Trump’s buddy Ted Cruz is climbing on board the same old twentieth century law-and-order bandwagon after the shooting of a police officer in Houston (as reported by TPM’s Allegra Kirkland:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested President Obama bore some of the blame for Friday’s fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy in Houston, Texas. During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Cruz told reporters that “cops across this country are feeling the assault” thanks to the “vilification” of law enforcement by administration officials, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“These are brave heroes who risk their lives keeping us safe,” Cruz said. “And I do think we’re seeing the manifestation of the rhetoric and vilification of law enforcement, of police, that is coming from the president of the United States and it’s coming from senior officials.”

Cruz’s comments come just days after Harris County deputy Darren Goforth was shot 15 times while pumping gas at a Houston Chevron station. No motive has yet been found for the killing, but the alleged shooter, Shannon Miles, has been charged with capital murder.

Local authorities, including Harris County Sherriff Ron Hickman, believe Goforth “was a target because he wore a uniform.”

Cruz suggested President Obama’s condemnation of the fatal shootings of unarmed black teenagers in cities including Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland helped to inflame anti-cop sentiment.

There you have it: express concern about the police shooting black people without cause and you are inciting cop-killers. Yet in the same breath Cruz accuses Obama of inflaming “racial divisions.”

Yeah, it’s feeling mighty 1970 out there.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Law and Order, Police Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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