Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Friday, May 30, 2008

More Denunciations from Obama

Continuing in his step and fetch it routine for the white vote, Obama has denounced a white pastor.

CHICAGO - Sen. Barack Obama sought Thursday night to extinguish a burgeoning controversy over another Chicago minister who supports him, denouncing the comments of a Catholic priest who said “a whole lot of white people [are] crying” because a black man was within reach of the Democratic presidential nomination...

Obama released a statement late Thursday repudiating the priest, who resigned from the campaign’s pastoral advisory committee several months ago.

“As I have traveled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that unites us,” he said. “That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

So at least we find that Rev Wright was wrong about one thing: This is not an attack on the black church, just an attack on unpopular worldviews regardless to their accuracy. This guy wasn't his pastor, didn't marry him to his wife, baptize his children or even a part of his election team. He had no reason to even make a comment on it except to Shuck and Jive for white folk.

Meanwhile no denounciations of the legion of religious bigots lined up on the Republican team. After all, that kind of thinking is, well, mainstream.

And yes, I said, Shuck and Jive. M

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interview with Minister Faust

The Author of the Notebook of Doctor Brain (and excellent read), and author of the Bro-Log blog linked on the right, has a very good interview. View it here:

A Walk To Beautiful

And so last night I was watching A Walk to Beautiful about women in rural Ethiopia who had developed fistulas due to inadequate health case during chld birth. Some of these women had been in labour for a week. A Week! For those who do not know what a fistula is, it is a hole from the vagina to either the bladder or Rectum (in some cases both). This causes incontinence among other things.

One of the things that bothered me about the situation, as a Pan-Africanist, which was alluded to in the film where there was a 3-4 year old standing on a rusted out tank, was how the government of Ethiopia (and elsewhere) were/are far more concerned with it's next door neighbor's government and being area stooges for the US, than with the welfare of it's population. It is a continuous pattern that I see across Africa, where the elites live in relative if not outright comfort, while leaving millions of their countrymen in relative squalor.

Even more appalling in this case was that the vast majority of the fistulas were entirely preventable. How? First why are women in 2008, anywhere, carrying 200 pound loads over long distances? Seriously. I won't carry a Mac Pro more than 100 yards. This is important because this back breaking work along with inadequate nutrition, leads to stunted growth among many of the women. As a result childbirth (usually early) is more difficult.

The second thing that bothered me was the attitudes towards the women suffering from fistulas. Looked down upon by the rest of the family treated as outcasts and such. Not OK at all.

Anyway you can see the movie here:

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

For the Observant

An excellent read in the NY Times somewhat about the "smiley" picture from Abu Gharib. But there is a fascinating section on distinguishing fake smiles.

No. It’s just what people put on their face when someone’s going to take a photograph of them, a big, broad smile. The crucial thing is, there’s no sign that she’s really feeling genuine enjoyment while this picture’s being taken. Nor is there any sign that she feels any other emotion, no sign of sadness, no fear, no disgust, and no contempt. It’s just a “say cheese” smile.

ERROL MORRIS: It makes me think the “say cheese” smile was “invented” just for photography.

PAUL EKMAN: Oh, no, no. People do this all the time. This is a very broad smile. It’s the zygomaticus major. That’s the muscle that pulls the lip corners up obliquely. And she’s contracted it to its maximum. In the typical polite smile, the smile you give a host for a dinner party, when you’re going home and telling them you really enjoyed yourself, but you didn’t, you would employ the same zygomaticus muscle, but it wouldn’t be contracted as much. It would be inappropriate to give this broad a smile for most polite-smile situations. This broad smile only occurs with genuine enjoyment or when you’re posing for a camera. Unless you’re Philip Roth — all of the photos for his recent book show him with a totally serious, non-smiling face.

ERROL MORRIS: Just once again so I can be sure I understand. You can distinguish the “say cheese” smile from genuine smiling, the smile of enjoyment.

PAUL EKMAN: Absolutely. It’s the absence of the orbicularis oculi par lateralis. That muscle orbits the eye completely. It pulls up the cheek and it produces crow’s feet wrinkles. However, when you get a big broad smile, like she’s doing, that pushes the cheeks up anyhow. And it will produce crow’s feet wrinkles just on its own. So the only reliable clue as to whether orbicularis oculi par lateralis has acted is to look above the eye. No muscle can lower that skin other than the orbicularis oculi. The smiling-muscle, zygomaticus, can’t affect it. So you can put on as big a smile as you want, and the cover fold skin will not come down.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Hillary Lost It

And so with the Democratic primaries winding to a close I think I'll point out why I think Hillary Clinton lost the race.

1) Sexism: By no means do I think that sexism was the biggest factor in Hillary's loss to Obama, but it is as undeniable as the 90% black vote that Obama has gotten. From the comments about what she was wearing, the ball busting souvenir, "Bro's before Hos" signs that I have seen all over the place it is pretty clear that there has been an undercurrent of sexism here. I wont even get into the religion based ideas of the submissive woman and the on air name calling. So yes sexism played it's part and needs to be acknowledged.

2)"Invincibility" and it's fallout: Early in the expanded primary season Hillary Clinton came off as the inevitable Democratic nominee. That was very bad. To "everyday" folk, that comes off as arrogant. But for Hillary it was worse than that. Because she saw herself (or at least projected) as the shoo-in, she made a few related mistakes. First she spent money on the campaign as if she only needed to make it past the first 3-4 or so. Reading the NY Times report on her spending on high priced hotels and the likes was like watching an accident about to happen. Let's not get into how bad it looks to be a presidential candidate who can't keep her own campaign finances in order.

Secondly. she underestimated everyone else, specifically Obama. She should have known when Obama hit that stage in 2004 that should he run, she would have problems. Here you had a new black face representing a state, not a district, indicative of broad white support. furthermore, it seems that Clinton's people didn't look at who was behind Obama's money machine. So we see that Hillary's decision to play the "inevitable" and "invincible" cards were big mistakes on her part.

3) She's a Clinton: This is one of the hardest things that she'll come to understand. Polls have been out for ever showing that Hillary Clinton, while popular has a huge "hater crowd." Huge. This hater crowd consists of a few groups of people:

a) People who hate Democrats.
b) People that hate Bill Clinton and therefore hate his wife too.
c) People who think Hillary was dumb to stand by her man after the Lewinsky thingy.

Read the press and you'll see references to at least the last two come up all the time.

The second biggest problem with being a Clinton is that there was already a Clinton presidency and Americans are not up for dynasty's unless it's the old TV show. The whole Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton thing is not a good sell. It smacks of insiderism. Think about it, people looking for change are going to look back and say, hmmmm 20 years of the same two folk and another 4 to 8? Ummmm, maybe not.

Related to being a Clinton is the claim that being first lady counts as qualifications. I actually agree with this argument to an extent. I think Hillary's experience in as First Lady was pretty instructive and formative for the person we see now. I recall that whole episode with Health Care. I saw the relatively naive Clinton, find out the hard way how Washington and certain industries work.

Unfortunately I don't think a good portion of the voting population quite appreciates that or for that matter cares. There's a sexist angle to that (First lady as arm decoration for the President) but it also just looks like more insider. Furthermore if, Hillary can claim experience for being first lady then Bill Clinton would have power in a Hillary presidency and there are people who aren't comfortable with that. So the 2-fer angle is a sword that can cut both ways for Clinton and generally I think it's been cutting Hillary.

4) The Iraq war vote: I have no doubt that Hillary's Iraq war vote is a big reason why she has lost this race. If the candidate is saying I have better judgment than Bush, then he or she has to explain how they voted for the Iraq war. Either Hillary fell for the story, hook line and sinker despite the numerous writings a Google Search away that showed the "imminent danger" or Iraq to be a total fabrication or Hillary was going for political points by trying to look tough (manly?). Either way Hillary loses.

5) Gawd Awful Timing: I sincerely believe that Hillary's best chance for a presidential run was in 2004 (Clinton factor aside). I know that the strategy was that with Bush having to leave office and Republicans being on the ropes for mismanaging the war and the economy, it would be relatively easy for a Democrat to get the White House. The problem here is that GWB has done so badly as a president and the Democrats have been so unwilling to confront these criminals in office, that the citizenry wants change. Clinton, who has not done anything outstandingly newsworthy to show that she's a different kind of politician, simply looks like another politician looking to get into the big house. Meanwhile Obama, is fresh faced, little if any real political baggage (that most citizens care about or know of) and who got the Iraq war vote right, looks the part. Furthermore; with Bush's clear ineptitude, I think a lot of voters are thinking Obama can't possibly do any worse than Bush so why not give him a chance.

6) Bad "friends": What was Gloria Steinhem thinking with that OP-Ed piece that was so blatantly a-historical? Geraldine "Obama's an Affirmative Action Case" Ferraro? Mr. "Shuck and Jive" Cuomo? Bob "You know what I'm talking about" Johnson? Methinks Hillary will need to spend the time after the convention thinking about the friends she has. I believe 1/3 of the democratic base is black. You simply are not going to get black votes when you have "friends" who talk like that. But in a larger picture it is clear that Hillary (and Bill) were thinking that they could call in political favors for this run. To be honest I'm somewhat shocked at the number of superdelagates that owe some portion of their political careers to the Clintons for having publicly sided against her. I would have thought that friendship would have at least called for respectful silence (which is a good enough warning shot IMHO). So if I were Hillary (and Bill) Bill Richardson would be on my FOAD list. But this underscores the idea that the Clintons, though popular, really don't have loyal friends.

7) The MLK-Johnson thing: I'm not sure how to rate this, but that flap did serve to wrongly galvanize a lot of black voters. I think Hillary got a raw deal on that one. Most people I discussed this with had not even heard the entire comment. I would lay hard cold cash on the table, that most of the people who were upset about the comment could not have even have named Johnson as the President that signed the Civil Rights Act. Was Clinton going to get more than the 10 or so percent she got? I don't think so. Black voters were going to vote the popular black candidate as sure as whites in West Virgina were going to vote the popular white candidate. Different reasons, same phenomenon. If there was no popular black candidate then black folk would have followed the same voting patterns that they had done before: vote one of the white candidates (See Gawd Awful Timing).

So that's my list. They are not in order but if I had to do so I would rate the Iraq War vote tops with "Being a Clinton" and " Invincibility" as close seconds.

Misplaced Priorities

I recall in Elementary School when I accidentally dropped my best friend's Torah. He insisted that I kiss it before giving it to him. I had no clue at the time why a book was the object of so much emotion since I had dropped a bible any number of times, and had merely picked it up and dusted it off.

Today I read that a US soldier used a Quran for target practice in Iraq. Not one of the brightest moves and certainly not an accident as he attempted to explain. However, upon reading about the "outrage" by certain members of the Iraqi political establishment such as:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.

One must wonder what kind of priorities these fellows have. In a country in which people have been killed for being in the wrong sect, I would think that there are far more important problems facing Iraqis than the dumb actions of a US Soldier. How about "maximum punishment" for them? And how about an effective government? Yes? Would that be important too? What of those corrupt government officials? How about maximum punishment for them too?

The one thing that I thought I understood about Islam was it's conscious avoidance of elevating persons and objects to deification if you will. The Quran is not important because of the paper it is written on, or even the language in which it is presented. What makes the Quran important is the message. Destroy the paper and the message still lives. And since the message is the most important thing, then it would seem logical to be more outraged when that message is desecrated.

But I guess political theater is far more popular.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."

Friday, May 16, 2008

On The California "Gay Marriage" Ruling

Though I am personally opposed to homosexuals marrying, I am in complete agreement with the ruling and reasoning offered by the California court. I have said on many occasions that the ban on homosexual marriage runs afoul the "equal protection" clause because the state gives married couples benefits that is does not give to single people. Curiously, the situation with "civil partnerships or whatever they are being called, runs afoul the same logic that undergirded the concept of separate but equal. This was well explained in the ruling as well. It's pretty odd that those opposed to homosexual marriage failed to see that they were on the losing side of the argument.

My position has been and continues to be that the state ought to get out of the marriage business altogether. Instead I have proposed that all "marriages" be civil unions in the eyes of the state. The act of Marrying ought to be left to religious organizations who would be free to marry or not marry who they want given that the state cannot dictate to religious institutions what their ideologies are, nor whom they can or cannot discriminate.

However; what is more important about this decision is that the reasoning also makes any laws against polygamy in California unconstitutional. There is no leap of logic that would justify the marriage of two men or two women and not allow the marriage of three, four or more individuals. In the absence of the legal standing of marriage as a necessary social construct to produce and raise children, there is then no legal standing to prevent a man and any number of women (of legal age of course) from doing the same. The "2" designation is simply an arbitrary limitation imposed by the state and the state has no rational or legal reason to enforce such an arbitrary limit if that same state can allow for two men or two women to marry. Mind you that unlike homosexual relations, polygamous relations can produce children in no different manner than any other heterosexual union and is therefore far more "natural" than any homosexual union.

Furthermore, on the matter of child rearing, it is far more beneficial to both child and parent when there are more adults to provide both supervision and finances. In terms of pressures on family members, there is "ideally" more help around and more opportunities for women in polygamous relationships since any number of persons are available as babysitters, etc possibly negating the need to expensive childcare.

I find it odd and insightful that a good number of homosexuals, while fighting for their "right" to marry, will in the next breath talk all manner of trash about polygamy, some even going so far as to point to the recent raids in Texas. The truth of the matter is that the issue in Texas (and possibly elsewhere) is one of child abuse, not plural marriage. Child abuse happens in "broken" homes, two parent homes, among extended family members, etc.

I think the constitutional issues coming out of this will be huge. Utah was admitted into the union on the basis of it banning polygamy. Seeing that the argument about 'state interest' has been shot down in two states, for maintaining marriage as between one man and one woman, I think the LDS church will soon be in a position to sue not only the state of Utah but the Federal Government over this issue. Since "family" is being defined in terms of who loves who and who can raise children (as opposed to producing them), there is no legal standing to ban polygamy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One out of 30 to 50

The NY Times reports this morning on Police gun searches
and we find the following:

In one case, the officer explained that he had a special technique for detecting who was hiding a gun. He had learned it from a newspaper article that described certain clues to watch for: a hand brushing a pocket, a lopsided gait, a jacket or sweater that seems mismatched or out of season.

That was one reason, he told a judge, that he was certain the man he saw outside a Brooklyn housing project last September was concealing a gun. The man, Anthony McCrae, had moved his hand along the front of his waistband, as if moving a weapon, the officer said. Sure enough, a search turned up a gun.

The judge, John Gleeson of Brooklyn federal court, asked the officer, Kaz Daughtry, how successful his method had been in other cases.

Officer Daughtry replied that over a three-day period, he and his partner had stopped 30 to 50 people. One had a gun.

Calling that a “dismal record,” the judge said the officer’s technique was “little more than guesswork.”

Moreover, Judge Gleeson said he did not believe that Officer Daughtry could even have seen the gesture he found so suspicious: Mr. McCrae’s hand was in front of him and the officer was about 30 feet behind.

So to put this in perspective, the police correctly suspect a person has a gun 3.33% of the time and they are wrong on deciding people have guns 96.7% of the time. Therefore the police, with a 96.7% chance of being wrong about Guzman, Bell and Benefield went and shot them up anyway.

And then there is this:

The judge, Laura Taylor Swain, heard the officer, Sean Lynch, testify that he had shined his flashlight through the window of a parked sport utility vehicle one night in the Bronx and had seen a gun. The driver’s lawyer said that Officer Lynch could not have seen the gun because the car’s windows were heavily tinted.

So after sunset one evening in January 2006, the judge walked outside the Manhattan federal courthouse and shined a flashlight into the vehicle. She could see nothing.

Her inspection and other evidence, she wrote, “give the lie” to Officer Lynch’s account, which she called “impossible.” Prosecutors dropped the case.

The police, to be sure, have a difficult job trying to root out guns without overstepping the law. Some judges acknowledged this in court, saying they believed not that officers had lied, but rather that they had failed to recall an event accurately, perhaps because of its brevity, a limited vantage point or the subsequent passage of time.

And some expressed sympathy for the police. Judge Gleeson said in one case that while he found two officers’ testimony contradictory, he did not want to imply they had lied.

No, lets not imply that police lie. Nooooooo. They don't recall. They make split second decisions like getting out of vehicles and walking in front of vehicles they "think" gunfire is coming from and then shoot into the windows of those vehicles fearing guns they never saw. No, the simply "don't recall." Only "thugs" lie.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RE: Is The Criminal-Justice System Racist? By Heather Mac Donald

The recent article which is the replied title of this piece is an "interesting" article in that right from it's title it seeks to change the subject. For the uninitiated, the question seems to be straight forward. Is the Criminal Justice System racist? Yes or no? If one is like the general population that is trained to see different social phenomenon and institutions as wholly separate, unrelated entities, then one will readily fall into this trap. On the one hand one can say "yes" and point to such things as the recent Sean Bell verdict and the conviction of John White. The problem though is that one would run up against the argument given by Mac Donald, and the statistics found therein.

On the other hand one could say "no" and advance the argument given by Mac Donald, that arrest, conviction and imprisonment rates are simply reflective of criminal activity and not some nefarious scheme to jail black men and women. Of course then, one would need to explain things such as the recent Sean Bell verdict (and it's reasoning by both the judge and defense attorneys) and the John White conviction to name a few.

So in either case, one is left taking a side and then hemming and hawing about the "exceptions" to one's argument. It's not a pretty sight. Instead those of us who see the Criminal Justice System as a part of a larger machine are not bound by these binary arguments. And so we examine the article with this proper perspective.

The race industry and its elite enablers take it as self-evident that high black incarceration rates result from discrimination.

You have to hand it to Mac Donald for starting off with this line. At least we know what her real objective is: Silence the so called "race industry"

What is this "race industry" she speaks of? Who are it's elite enablers? Is it in fact their argument that high black incarceration rates is a direct result of discrimination? You'll note that the question of discrimination is used here rather than say racist intent or systematic targetting of black populations or some other more specific terminology. The use of the term serves to lighten the charge. It seeks to make the reader believe that the supposed "race industry" is blaming everyone but the criminal for their actions.

At a presidential primary debate this Martin Luther King Day, for instance, Senator Barack Obama charged that blacks and whites “are arrested at very different rates, are convicted at very different rates, [and] receive very different sentences . . . for the same crime.” Not to be outdone, Senator Hillary Clinton promptly denounced the “disgrace of a criminal-justice system that incarcerates so many more African-Americans proportionately than whites.”

While I don't know either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton personally, I do know that among nationalists circles, neither is particularly known for their membership in any "race industry" and certainly are not among any of the "elites" that inhabit our circles. What I do know is that both parties are politicians seeking two terms of POTUS and therefore will say (or not say) whatever they deem necessary to get votes. Aside from their political aspirations we note that both Obama and Clinton fall into the trap laid out at the beginning of the article. Since they do not ascribe to the idea that the criminal justice system is but a part of a larger entity, they have no recourse but to make statements that are somewhat true.

If a listener didn’t know anything about crime, such charges of disparate treatment might seem plausible. After all, in 2006, blacks were 37.5 percent of all state and federal prisoners, though they’re under 13 percent of the national population. About one in 33 black men was in prison in 2006, compared with one in 205 white men and one in 79 Hispanic men. Eleven percent of all black males between the ages of 20 and 34 are in prison or jail. The dramatic rise in the prison and jail population over the last three decades—to 2.3 million people at the end of 2007 (see box)—has only amplified the racial accusations against the criminal-justice system.

I don't have any particular problem with the statistics offered here. I have plenty of posts on the subject (here,here, here and here) in those links you'll find the seeds of my forthcoming argument.

The favorite culprits for high black prison rates include a biased legal system, draconian drug enforcement, and even prison itself. None of these explanations stands up to scrutiny. The black incarceration rate is overwhelmingly a function of black crime. Insisting otherwise only worsens black alienation and further defers a real solution to the black crime problem.

Favorites by whom? You'll note that Mac Donald stays focused on the criminal justice system itself and does not even allow for an expanded discussion. This is called "controlling the field." She has set the boundaries of the discussion and in effect frames other peoples arguments without allowing them to make their own specific argument. To make matters worse Mac Donald goes on to suggest that black alienation, which she does not define nor discuss exists but does not discuss the origins of or potential impact on the phenomenon of black crime. Instead, it is the critics of the criminal justice system who are fault to furthering this undefined black alienation and therefore they, not the factors which these "critics" discuss, that are preventing "real solutions." Mac Donald continues:

Racial activists usually remain assiduously silent about that problem. But in 2005, the black homicide rate was over seven times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. From 1976 to 2005, blacks committed over 52 percent of all murders in America. In 2006, the black arrest rate for most crimes was two to nearly three times blacks’ representation in the population. Blacks constituted 39.3 percent of all violent-crime arrests, including 56.3 percent of all robbery and 34.5 percent of all aggravated-assault arrests, and 29.4 percent of all property-crime arrests.

The advocates acknowledge such crime data only indirectly: by charging bias on the part of the system’s decision makers. As Obama suggested in the Martin Luther King debate, police, prosecutors, and judges treat blacks and whites differently “for the same crime.”

Again with Obama the sudden "expert." Amazing what a few speeches will do. In fact the so called "racial activists" whatever that is, directly acknowledge those statistics and speak out on them often. Simply because a TV camera is not present when they do so does not mean that the discussion is not had. Every so called "racial activist" that I know is deeply concerned about black crime and it's victims both direct and indirect. That said, we must understand that central to the argument of so called "race activists" is not the raw numbers, but what they represent. For example just because a black person is arrested it does not mean that he or she is actually guilty of a crime. Earl Ofari Hutchinson points out in his recent article that a great deal of people arrested are in lock up awaiting charges or trials. Often these individuals are pushed by DA's and court appointed lawyers to plead out to "lesser charges" or reduced charges having convinced these persons that they "cannot win" a jury trial. Of course Mac Donald isn't going to give us any statistics on how often these events happen because, well these numbers don't exist. But this is but one part of the argument.

Let’s start with the idea that cops over-arrest blacks and ignore white criminals. In fact, the race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data. As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim identifications and in arrests—a finding replicated many times since, across a range of crimes. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.

Well lets put this another way. We already know that criminals usually victimize people of the same race. Therefore black victims will likely finger black perps and white victims will likely finger white perps. Even the so called "race activists" know this. This is really a fake argument. It is not whether a victim points out that a black person was the perp, it's what happens after that. For example, if such an ID was given and the police then decide to say, stop all black men in a given location for no other reason then that they "fit the description" as has happened on college campuses, in NYC, and to yours truly, then the criminal justice system is engaged in racial profiling. That would be "racist." I do not ever recall reading a report that white men were stopped en mass on any campus or in NYC, due to a crime victim saying that the perp was white.

Moving up the enforcement chain, the campaign against the criminal-justice system next claims that prosecutors overcharge and judges oversentence blacks. Obama describes this alleged postarrest treatment as “Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others.”

Well, let's put aside the Jena 6 case for a second. Comparisons to Jena and Scooter Libby are really not appropriate. At the very least because one involves a federal crime of disclosing a CIA operative and the other involves assault and racial harrassment. Very different crimes. What would be more appropriate would be my previous post on Kemba and the NYU student where we find an NYU student caught selling all manner of narcotics given the kid glove treatment, while Kemba Smith who was merely involved in a romantic relationship with a drug dealer and received prison time. So I raise the question again, how many of these things have been happening? We won't know because there are no statistics covering "Blacks who got dicked by the system" and "Whites who got over on the system."

The next paragraph in the article refers to studies that are not linked and it is not timely for me to find each report to respond to it, so I'm going to leave it as is. This last sentence though is quite informative:

The media’s favorite criminologist, Alfred Blumstein, found in 1993 that blacks were significantly underrepresented in prison for homicide compared with their presence in arrest.

Recall that I made the point about arrests and profiling. I would think that such a disproportion of arrests to imprisonment supports the contention that blacks are disproportionately seen as "fitting the description" than whites are.

Some criminologists replace statistics with High Theory in their search for racism. The criminal-justice system does treat individual suspects and criminals equally, they concede. But the problem is how society defines crime and criminals. Crime is a social construction designed to marginalize minorities, these theorists argue.

I'm not sure who these criminologists are that say such things as the system treats individual suspects and criminals equally. That is patently untrue. It is clear to anyone with two neurons firing that if one is a rich suspect that, though one has the same rights and procedures as a poor one, the treatment is far from equal. The recent Sean Bell verdict as well as the John White verdict underscores the inequity of the criminal justice system. equally important is the discussion of what constitutes a crime and criminal behavior (a subject Mac Donald takes up later). For example, recent ordinances about the wearing of baggy pants in some municipalities are prime examples of criminalizing behavior that was previously not criminal (though a social eyesore). I seriously doubt that these "racial theorists" who still remain unnamed and unquoted, would say that crime is in and of itself socially created with the sole intent of marginalizing minorities. That's a ludicrous argument. That argument would assume that these "racial activists" and "racial theorists" believe that white people do not commit crimes. Clearly this is not the case. The real argument any so called "racial activists" would be that certain criminal codes have been in the past created to marginalize black people socially or economically. So for example they could go back to the Reconstruction era, where certain laws were passed to prevent loitering of black people. The intent being to jail black people so that they could be legally used for involuntary servitude (as approved of by the 13th Amendment to the constitution). This is an important fact to understand. Slavery wasn't abolished in the United States by the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment simply put limits on how one could enslave a person. Once convicted of a crime a person could be made to serve involuntarily for the duration of their punishment. Therefore, there was a strong incentive to criminalize as many black people as possible.

Moving forward from reconstruction, one could site the various Jim Crow laws and the non-enforcement and non-prosecutions of crimes against black people done by whites or blacks. One could look at the criminalization of the use of marijuana and cocaine. It is also believed that the Mann Act prohibiting the transportation of women across state lines for prostitution was largely targeted at the boxer Jack Johnson, who had a thing for white women. Therefore it is quite plausible to suggest that certain criminal codes serve no other purpose but to target a certain population. Therefore the following statement by Mac Donald is just plain old distortions:

But the social constructivists are talking about all crime, and it’s hard to see how one could “socially reconstruct” assault or robbery so as to convince victims that they haven’t been injured.

Since no one is seriously suggesting what she wrote this statement doesn't make sense. The argument that may be made is that social and economic environments may be at the source of the disproportionate crime statistics . However; is telling that she can't find a "racial activist" to quote on this matter.

Playing a starring role in this conceit are federal crack penalties, the source of the greatest amount of misinformation in the race and incarceration debate. Crack is a smokeable and highly addictive cocaine concentrate, created by cooking powder cocaine until it hardens into pellets called “rocks.” Crack produces a faster—and more potent—high than powder cocaine, and it’s easier to use, since smoking avoids the unpleasantness of needles and is more efficient than snorting. Under the 1986 federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act, getting caught with five grams of crack carries a mandatory minimum five-year sentence in federal court; to trigger the same five-year minimum, powder-cocaine traffickers would have to get caught with 500 grams. On average, federal crack sentences are three to six times longer than powder sentences for equivalent amounts.

And now we get to the meat of the argument. We know that the crack epidemic is the primary catalyst for the recent spike in the jailing of black men. Anyone who came up in the 80's knows what happened when crack cocaine hit the scene. But lets straighten out Mac Donald on some things about Crack. While crack produced a faster and more potent high than powder cocaine, let us be clear that the "unpleasantness" of needles and in-efficiencies of snorting is not really what made it so popular. Crack was cheap. Period. You can get more high for your buck with crack. Simple economics. But the real point here about crack and powder cocaine really isn't so much about the actually sentencing. The issue is the whole "drug war." It is a known fact that whites use more drugs than blacks and do so by a wide margin. It is also known that cocaine is not grown in LA, NY, North Carolina, Chicago or anywhere else where black drug dealers are arrested. Putting aside the violence that follows the street drug sales, dope boys are easy to spot on street corners, corner stores, parks, etc.. For law 'enforcement" these kids are easy to catch since they are literally in plain sight. However; when it comes to powder cocaine sales you're generally dealing with a different set. For example we see news of Hollywood actors going into and out of rehab centers all the time. Yet and still we are not hearing about Hollywood drug arrests. Why is that? You'll see documentaries that talk about cocaine parties, where there are bowls of coke being passed around. Where are the arrests? It is clear then that tracking powder cocaine users and dealers is either not a high priority among law enforcement or it is way to hard to go after them. After all if someone is selling coke out of their property in an upscale suburb it is far harder to do the NYC stop and frisk. Furthermore, it profits a rival drug dealer little, too do a drive by on property he or she would still have to buy.

Related, if those selling coke are doing so for extra income rather than primary income, which is the case for many if not most black drug dealers, then the probability of getting caught and convicted go up quite a bit. After all, if the cops are on your tail and you have real income, you can, well, stop. If you're a dope boy on the corner and crack is how you put food in your mouth or perhaps the mouths of relatives, your options are severely constrained.

But consider the actual number of crack sellers sentenced in federal court each year. In 2006, 5,619 were tried federally, 4,495 of them black. From 1996 to 2000, the federal courts sentenced more powder traffickers (23,743) than crack traffickers (23,121). It’s going to take a lot more than 5,000 or so crack defendants a year to account for the 562,000 black prisoners in state and federal facilities at the end of 2006—or the 858,000 black prisoners in custody overall, if one includes the population of county and city jails. Nor do crack/powder disparities at the state level explain black incarceration rates: only 13 states distinguish between crack and powder sentences, and they employ much smaller sentence differentials.

I'm not sure where these numbers are coming from, but in my post on Bill Bennett's comments, I saw that 50% of those blacks who are incarcerated were on drug related offenses. and I got that from the Bureau of Prisons as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Since Mac Donald does not provide any references for her numbers, we have to take her at her word.

The press almost never mentions the federal methamphetamine-trafficking penalties, which are identical to those for crack: five grams of meth net you a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. In 2006, the 5,391 sentenced federal meth defendants (nearly as many as the crack defendants) were 54 percent white, 39 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent black. But no one calls the federal meth laws anti-Hispanic or anti-white.

Now what is particularly interesting in this portion of the argument is the focus on federal penalties. The real object of ire are things like the NYS Rockefeller laws which put someone in jail potentially for 25 years to life, for having some crack. Even then, as pointed out in the link, it was seen as being unfair to lock up people for 25 to life for non-violent crimes. There is no doubt that the effect of this legislation in NYS put a whole lot of black men in jail for long periods of time for doing little more than holding some crack. Not that I am excusing or minimizing the effects of drug dealing. In addition to this we have the now well known and documented fact of cocaine being flooded into the US as a part of the Iran-contra affair under Reagan. So in effect you have the executive branch of the US government complicit in the introduction of a narcotic into the US, put into black communities, and then a legal system that then arrests and locks up those involved on the street level doing admitted harm to their communities. Of course Mac Donald is not going to discuss this. Of course then we then can dismiss the previously quoted text as being a real red herring. Perhaps the numbers that Mac Donald is seeing is a result of police finally dealing with drug dealing in white communities.

Harlem congressman Charles Rangel initiated the federal response to the epidemic, warning the House of Representatives in March 1986 that crack had made cocaine “frightening[ly]” accessible to youth. A few months later, Brooklyn congressman Major Owens explicitly rejected what is now received wisdom about media hype. “None of the press accounts really have exaggerated what is actually going on,” Owens said; the crack epidemic was “as bad as any articles have stated.” Queens congressman Alton Waldon then called on his colleagues to act: “For those of us who are black this self-inflicted pain is the worst oppression we have known since slavery. . . . Let us . . . pledge to crack down on crack.” The bill that eventually passed, containing the crack/powder distinction, won majority support among black congressmen, none of whom, as Kennedy points out, objected to it as racist.

Let us note the dates of the comments by both Rangel and Major. This is long before it was discovered how crack was being trafficked into the US. That Rangel and Owen wanted the crack epidemic dealt with does not excuse the activities discussed earlier.

Because crack came in small, easily digestible amounts, it democratized what had been a rarefied drug, making an intense high available to people with very little money. The crack market differed radically from the discreet phone transactions and private deliveries that characterized powder-cocaine distribution: volatile young dealers sold crack on street corners, using guns to establish their turf. Crack, homicides, and assaults went hand in hand; certain areas of New York became “like a war zone,” retired DEA special agent Robert Stutman told PBS’s Frontline in 2000. The large national spike in violence in the mid-1980s was largely due to the crack trade, and its victims were overwhelmingly black inner-city residents.

You'll note that earlier Mac Donald said that crack was easier because it didn't involve needles and snorting. Now nearing the end of her piece, she switches track to the economics. Now this is very important. What was the general motivation for the burgeoning crack business in black neighborhoods? We discussed such economics in our post in regards to Cory Booker's issues in Newark NJ:

According to the Department of Justice, in terms of education the two groups with the highest conviction rates, 30.6% and 26&% respectively, are persons with "some high school" and "high school diploma". The conviction rates drop precipitously for those who get a GED (18%) which tells us a very important thing: Those who consciously go for their education are less likely to commit or be convicted of a crime. This would mean that those who see a purpose to education, since one must seek out a GED as opposed to being "forced" to go to school, are less likely to commit crimes. Therefore it would make sense to focus on education, as in increasing it's perceived value, as a means of addressing crime.

Another statistic of interest was the income of those arrested (from 2002 statistics available from the DOJ).

71% of those arrested had employment, 57% of which claimed full time employment. Of these persons a whopping 60% had yearly incomes of $11,900 or less. I don't have these income stats by race or location, but if we assume that this pattern holds in Newark, then it should be very clear that the two major indicators, if not causations of crime in Newark, East Orange and Paterson, would be the educational system and the economy. It is pretty much well known that the vast majority of business in Newark are owned by persons who do not live in Newark or are simply non-existant. By non-existant I mean that Newark is not Manhattan, the number of jobs available to black residents of that city (and I have a hard time calling it a city in comparison to NY but that's my hang up), is simply not the same as other parts of NJ. Much of the high paying jobs exist in office parks and other places where travel is prohibitive. One has to remember that the vast majority of middle class persons in NJ who work in NJ do not take public transportation. Therefore it would stand to reason that in many cases the crime we see in Newark is partially indicative of the lack of other viable prospects for income.

The incomes of persons in Newark are reflective of this issue. From the 2000 census we learn that Newark residents who are in households where the head is aged between 25 and 35, have a median income of $28,000. In Bergen County the median income is $63,000 for the same age group and among blacks in that county by contrast the median income of the same aged residents for Essex County is $40,000.

When we focus on per capita income among blacks in those counties we find that blacks in Essex County have a per capita income of $16,067. In Newark the number is $12,648 and in Bergen county it is $24,109.

By comparison whites in Essex County have a per capita income of $35,578. In Bergen County whites have a per capita income of $36,290

And in Newark whites have a per capita income of 15,024.

It is quite clear then that blacks in NJ in general and Newark in particular do not have the income of even their white fellow Newark residents and are clearly behind those blacks and whites in Bergen County (understood to be the richest in the state) where such crimes do not occur as frequently and the perpetrators, especially the older white ones (whites are arrested for more violent crimes than blacks once they reach 40+ years old) who can afford decent lawyers.

Simple economics. Many of these same patterns of income (or lack thereof) hold for parts of NYC as well. NY currently has a 50% unemployment rate among black males. Are they expected to not eat? School budgets are increasingly under attack and the tax base continues to erode as neighborhoods continue to be economically segregated. So we have a combination of poor schooling, lack of gainful, long term employment and you get a lot of people susceptible to falling to the quick dollar. Of course Mac Donald does not want to get into the intricate interplay of education, economics and crime. It is easier to simply point out that blacks are killing each other and point to numbers. So true to form Mac Donald continues to point to federal laws and crack.

Examine this statement:

Equally misleading is the criticism that few crack “kingpins” can be found in federal prison. This is not surprising, because “kingpins” in the traditional sense—heads of major drug-importing rings—don’t exist in the crack world. Crack is not imported but cooked up locally. Its supply and distribution scheme is more horizontal than vertical, unlike that of powder cocaine and heroin. Federal crack enforcement wasn’t about stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country; it was about stopping urban violence. And that violence was coming from street dealers.

This is not misleading at all. While it is definitely the case that crack is cooked up locally, the main ingredient, cocaine must be brought into the country. No cocaine imports, no crack. It's really that simple. So in reality kingpins do exist, the issue is that they are the same kingpins of the the powder cocaine industry. The same ones Ollie North and Ronald Reagan were in bed with. The same ones given the OK to flood the streets with cocaine. So in effect, that urban violence that Mac Donald points out is as much a result of government action as it is the fools pulling the triggers. But Mac Donald isn't really interested in any of that.

Critics follow up their charges about crack with several empirical claims about drugs and imprisonment. None is true. The first is that drug enforcement has been the most important cause of the overall rising incarceration rate since the 1980s. Yet even during the most rapid period of population growth in prisons—from 1980 to 1990—36 percent of the growth in state prisons (where 88 percent of the nation’s prisoners are housed) came from violent crimes, compared with 33 percent from drug crimes. Since then, drug offenders have played an even smaller role in state prison expansion. From 1990 to 2000, violent offenders accounted for 53 percent of the census increase—and all of the increase from 1999 to 2004.

Well again, I'm not sure who these "critics" are exactly, or what their exact quotes are on the subject but none of the people I confer with make the claim made above. Or if such a claim such as "drug enforcement has been the most important cause of the overall rising incarceration rate since the 1980s"

Then they mean the entire drug industry which includes the violent crime that is associated with the establishment and maintenance of drug spots which show up in statistics as "assaults", "robberies." "murders" etc. . It is also a fact that the rise of crack coincided with and may have fueled the rise of certain gangs, especially on the east coast. So gang violence and drug violence often go hand in hand since many of the players are one and the same. Recall that many of these gangs feed off of young people from broken homes (as in broke and already socially dysfunctional, not in regards to single parents). We've already expounded on the economics of various inner city areas.

So much for the claim that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned because of the war on drugs.

No, so much for statistically sexed up explanations that misrepresent arguments by so called "racial activists." You have got to love that term "sexed up."

But a final, even more audacious, argument maintains that incarceration itself, not criminals, causes crime in black neighborhoods. Because blacks have the highest prison rate, this argument holds, incarceration constitutes an unjust and disproportionate burden on them. This idea has gained wide currency in the academic world and in anti-incarceration think tanks. Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan offered a representative version of the theory in a 2003 law review article co­authored with two public health researchers. Sending black males to prison “weakens the general social control of children and especially adolescents,” Fagan writes. Incarceration increases the number of single-parent households. With adult males missing from their neighborhoods, boys will be more likely to get involved in crime, since they lack proper supervision. The net result: “Incarceration begets more incarceration [in] a vicious cycle.”

It must be the "low company" I keep but I'm not familiar with Jeffery Fagan's work but let me get into what happens when black men are jailed in high numbers:

First and foremost, children get the idea that jail is something to be expected or somewhat inevitable. That is not good for any community. These same childen may witness violence or be touched by violence, So the young mind is presented with some very powerful and immediate realities: The child will grow up with the high possibility of going to jail. The child has an equally if not higher possibility of being a victim of a crime (most likely of violence). So that child has to make some not too pleasant choices long before he or she is even capable of thinking long term.

For the women in these communities you have the issue that these locked up men present: few mates. In the medical field it is already understood to an extent that the rise of HIV infections among non-drug using black women is related to "unsafe" sex practices with the relatively few available men. Studies have found that these women are usually willing to forego "safe" sex in order to "keep" the man, or if there are financial concerns, "men." These are all unstable environments for children and do not bode well for the future.

Furthermore, as these men, locked up in the 80's are released after 25 years and who are now in their late 30's and early 40's return to communities with little or no job skills, what happens? In certain states, they cannot live in public housing, the only housing they can either afford, or the only place where they have family. Many cannot get drivers licenses, etc. Then many of those communities into which they return have no real job infastructure to absorb them. On top of all of that they face employment discrimination because they are black AND ex-convicts. So it is clear that the effects of crime and incarceration goes far beyond the initial imprisonment. Mac Donald, like many of those of her ilk attempt to dismiss the aforementioned with the following:

This analysis elides the role of individual will. Fagan and others assume that once one lives in a high-incarceration—that is, high-crime—area, one can do little to avoid prison. But even in the most frayed urban communities, plenty of people choose to avoid the “Life.” Far from facing diminished marriage prospects, an upstanding, reliable young man in the inner city would be regarded as a valuable catch.\

This "individual will" argument hold only so much water. Society bails out persons who make bad choices all the time. George Bush had his individual will when be broke the FISA statutes and the 4th Amendment. He is not looking at the inside of a prison cell. Neither is Ronald Reagan. The police who killed Sean Bell and others, also had individual will but in the end the system does not arrest or prosecute based on "individual will" but rather on what is politically expedient. It is individual will that poor communities have poorly financed schools, lack day care and increasingly decent supermarkets. Exactly how many people involved in fraudulent mortgage lending will go to jail? Is that any less of a crime simply because a gun was not involved? How many people at Standard and Poor who fraudulently rated Mortgage backed SIV's as AAA, will go to jail? Very few of the wealthy goes to jail for dicking the poor. In the end the fact that the wealthy, not to be mistook for high income earners (whites generally fall into the former and blacks in the latter), often do not have to answer for their crimes, the way we expect the local crack dealer, or violent offender to answer for his or hers. In other words, we scrutinize the bad "individual choices" of black street criminals, but not those of the white colar criminal who is often, white. However, that is beside the point.

A recent episode of The Shield took up this issue when a team consisting of a white officer and black one, stopped a black motorist who apparently had weed in his car. The white officer grabed up the black motorists and had him arrested over the black cop's objection. Later the team pulled over a white motorist who had a stack of conterfeit DVD's. The white cop was going to let him off with a warning. The black cop, seeing the clear double standard, grabbed up the white motorist and had him arrested.

This brings us back to the comment made by Mac Donald in regards to Meth:

The press almost never mentions the federal methamphetamine-trafficking penalties, which are identical to those for crack: five grams of meth net you a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. In 2006, the 5,391 sentenced federal meth defendants (nearly as many as the crack defendants) were 54 percent white, 39 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent black. But no one calls the federal meth laws anti-Hispanic or anti-white.

Not only does the press not mention the rate of white arrests for Meth, but the attitude towards meth is far different than that of crack. Firstly, Mac Donald would need to recognize that the image of the white drug dealer does not fit the news that sells. Recently a set of white greek letter organizations were busted for selling drugs in the frat houses in San Diego. Lets see the next Stephen Segal movie featuring white meth dealers that need a good beat down. Who creates these images? Not black people, we barely register in the editorial boards of these news agencies. The second thing with meth has been the response to it. Whereas crack addicts were looked down upon as the lowest of the low of black people, white meth addicts have been treated as people with medical problems. They have been presented as everyday people who just lost their way rather as prima facie evidence of the faults of white culture. Again though who is making those determinations? Not black folk. Lastly in regards to the numbers of white busted for meth, Perhaps it is a sign that authorities are finally getting serious about white drug use.

In the end Mac Donald's entire essay is dependent on making broad and wrong generalizations about supposed arguments of mostly unidentified and unquoted "racial activists", whatever that is. Her strength at looking up and repeating statistics is good for scaring off the casual person who hasn't done research. Such persons, especially those who cling to certain types of thinking, will fall easily into Mac Donald's trap because they would have to give a yea or nay answer to her very broad question. The only way out of the question is to rephrase and re-contextualize the issue so that one is not trapped into discussing crack or drug offenses vs. violent crimes. That is a losing proposition.

Friday, May 09, 2008

On The Criminal Justice System

While I finish up my reply to Mac Donald, you'll want to peruse some data from Human Rights Watch

Because the white population in the United States is slightly more than six times larger than the black population,61 and the rate of drug use is roughly comparable between the two, the number of white drug users is significantly higher than the number who are black. For example, according to the 2006 surveys conducted by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 111,774,000 people in the United States age 12 or older have used illicit drugs during their lifetime, of whom 82,587,000 are white and 12,477,000 are black.62 There are also far more whites than blacks among people who have used cocaine in any form in their lifetime, as well as among those who have used crack cocaine. According to the 2006 SAMHSA estimates, there are 27,083,000 whites who have used cocaine during their lifetime, compared to 2,618,000 blacks, and 5,553,000 whites who have used crack cocaine, compared to 1,536,000 blacks.63 If black and white drug users are combined (and leaving aside other races), blacks account for 13 percent of the total who—according to SAMSHA surveys—have ever used an illicit drug, 8 percent of those who have ever used cocaine, and 21 percent of those who have ever used crack cocaine.

Memin Pinguin: the structural violence of an image

Abdul-Halim over at Planet Grenada has posted a YouTube video about the Memin Pinguin character in Mexico which discusses the African presence in Mexico.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008