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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

“Describing White-On-White Violence”: Reporting On Waco Biker Gang Killings Reveals Disparities In News Coverage

Nine people have died after a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco on Sunday, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in the central Texas city.

I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that — despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence — they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.

A riot is not simply a demonstration against police brutality. It can also be what happens when scores of hostile white people open gunfire in a parking lot. And when that happens, it can be described as anything but a “riot.”

Here are some synonyms different outlets, as well as law enforcement officials, came up with:

CNN:
melee
ruckus
fracas
brawl
fistfight
brouhaha
“issues”
trouble
chaos

New York Times:
shootout
chaos
fight
confrontation
problems

Waco Tribune:
shootout
altercation
biker gang shooting
incident
“What happened here today” (Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton)
“gun fights” (Swanton)
melee (Swanton)
scuffles and disturbances (on the issue of related violence around the city)
very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs (Swanton)
something akin to a war zone

KWTX:
turned a local restaurant into a shooting gallery
a rival motorcycle gang fight
melee
absolute chaos (Swanton)
a situation like happened Sunday afternoon

 

By: Jenny Kutner, Assistant Editor at Salon, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Protests, Riots, White on White Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Are We, Anyway?”: A Moral Issue Of How We Choose To Define Ourselves As A Country

Something extraordinary is happening at our southern border. Thousands of children, most unaccompanied by adult relatives, are crossing from Mexico and immediately turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. They come principally from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

What must be going on in those countries that impels their most precious legacy, their children, to make such a journey? What are we, as a nation, going to do about it?

Reports from Central America center on two issues: poverty and gang violence. Poverty in that region is not new, nor has it ever been the stimulus for a mass migration of children. Gang violence has increased, driven in part by the trade in illegal drugs and perhaps by some success in Mexico in confronting drug gangs.

The more important question is what we’re going to do about it? Texas Governor Perry advocates a military response, perhaps by the National Guard. What exactly does he anticipate that the National Guard would do? Are they supposed to shoot at children as they cross a bridge or a river? Doesn’t sound right to me.

The Administration’s response to the problem is financial and legal. Appropriate 3.7 billion dollars to house these children until their cases can be heard by a (hopefully more efficient) adjudication process to determine whether each child is legitimately a refugee. But there aren’t lawyers to represent most of these children, so the legal process is likely to be a farce.

Some in Congress want to change the applicable laws to make it easier to expel these children without a legal process. I suppose such a course might relieve the government of some costs, but does such a policy square with our values?

The arrival of large numbers of children on our doorstep is not a physical menace to us. Nor is it an unsustainable financial burden. It is not a legal or bureaucratic matter either. Instead, it is a moral issue of how we choose to define ourselves as a country.

We need to move these children out of mass holding pens and into homes of people who will care for them and raise them. Then we can let the legal process grind away.

 

By: Joseph B. Kadane, Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Carnegie Mellon University; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Immigration Reform, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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