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Crack Babies


Hardly surprising that the crack babies “epidemic” in the 1980s was based on poorly designed scientific studies and really was just another tool in white backlash tool box to blame black people for their own poverty and justify the war on some classes of people who use some drugs.

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  • Anonymous


    • Malaclypse

      Why won’t Loomis focus like a laser on Jennie’s distraction of the day? Is it still Benghazi, or are we outraged over umbrellas now?

      • Hogan

        Bulworth, apparently. Go figure.

      • I hear the Benghazi Marines couldn’t fight back because they were all holding umbrellas.

        • Not Jennie

          That’s the hidden cover up controversy scandal, you libtards. Armed with stealth umbrellas, the Benghazi Marines could have air lifted the embassy personnel out. Wake up sheeple!

          (Even better, watch that Youtube clip and play Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. It’s almost up there with Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon).

  • Anonymous

    So the “scientific consensus” was wrong on crack babies, and mostly driven by media hysteria.

    hmmm…what does this remind me of? That’s right, global war, er, “climate change”.

  • sharculese

    I had a friend in law school who was a ‘crack baby’. It had no effect on his abilities and he thought it was hilarious to tell people about his origin story.

    • bexley

      his origin story

      This sounds like he had superpowers. Did he have the ability to make conservatives incoherent with rage?

      • Hogan

        Who doesn’t?

        • witless chum

          Yeah. My equivalent superpower is turning oxygen into carbon dioxide.

      • BigHank53

        Given that you can make a conservative incoherent with rage by holding an umbrella for a black guy, I’m not thinking that there’s any superness required.

        • Given that you can make a conservative incoherent with rage by holding an umbrella for a black guy person, I’m not thinking that there’s any superness required.

    • Halloween Jack

      Fun fact: Dr. Ira Chasnoff was my pediatrician.

      (no, I’m not a crack baby)

  • A much more serious problem, it turns out, is infants who are born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

    Duh! (And that’s speaking as one who lived in Washington Heights during that time, down the block from where Senator Pothole and Rudy G. came to buy their stuff.)

    Anyone expecting we’ll see a major movement to increase the penalties for drunkness, and especially drunk driving, in my (non-existent) grandchildren’s lifetime?

    (And, no, the NTSB saying “we should have the same standards as Canada and Europe” does not count as a major movement.)

    • i will say that we knew that infants could be born with fetal alcohol syndrome in the ’80s, so the idea that babies born from a crack-addicted mother could be damaged wasn’t, on the face of it, insane, regardless of how it was played and whether it has turned out to be accurate.

      • PhoenixRising

        Further, there do seem to be some effects on some babies born to mothers who used stimulants during pregnancy.

        Sadly, the war on drugs means we can’t have nice things…like data that would help to narrow down the windows for exposure that are most damaging and the types of effects and any dose/effect metric or anything that would, for example, help women who take common stimulants for ADHD to determine what if any the risks are to their pregnancies.

        Crack almost certianl has some effect on the developing fetus but we still don’t know what, when, or how much.

      • thebewilderness

        Premature babies exhibit symptoms of being premature babies. Use of drugs sometimes causes premature delivery.
        This isn’t really that hard.

    • Josh G.

      The penalties for drunk driving already were substantially increased in the 1980s, at the instigation of MADD. I don’t think that much would be accomplished by lowering the BAC threshold; most drunk driving casualties are inflicted by drivers who are *way* over the limit, not at the margins.

      One reason why the US still isn’t quite as strict on drunk driving as Europe is that driving itself is much more important here. In most parts of Europe, if you take away someone’s car, it’s an inconvenience. In most parts of the US, taking away someone’s ability to drive removes their ability to live as an independent adult. For better or worse, almost all of the US outside the big urban areas is built on the premise that everyone has a privately owned automobile.

      The drunk driving problem will ultimately be solved by Google and its partners in the automotive industry. Computers don’t get drunk.

      • HAL

        I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that.

      • catclub

        “Computers don’t get drunk.”

        Tell it to Bender. And kiss his shiny metal ass.

    • Richard

      The penalties for drunk driving are, IMHO, pretty severe as is. I don’t see the need to increase them more.

      As far as increasing the penalties for drunkeness in general, I can’t see any reason to do that.

      As far as reducing the .08 threshold for driving to .05, I don’t think that is a good idea. It will reduce drunk driving accidents and fatalities but it will also reduce people going to restaurants and having one drink and reduce night life entertainment even more than the current state of affairs. Question is whether the marginal reduction in injuries and fatalities overcomes the other losses. I don’t think so. Enacting prohibition again would also decrease drinking and therefore drunk driving but its not worth it.

      And I’m aware that most of Europe has the .05 standard. But Europe also has, for the most part, great public transportation and more people living close to entertainment/dining areas. Not the case here.

      • Dany Tardgaryen

        All arguments for better infrastructure and incentivizing urbanization over suburbanization. I sympathize, and I sympathize with working and earning a living, but at some point the general public’s interest in not being maimed or killed as a result of someone’s selfishness and poor decision-making outweighs that. Livelihoods are important, but so are lives. That said, one and done is a little too strict. Every criminal defendant has a family and needs to earn a living. It would be unacceptable to absolve them from punishment because of this. Two or three DUIs, and you’re done. You gotta go go to work and feed your family, but I gotta *live* and feed my family.

        • Just Dropping By

          I support “better infrastructure and incentivizing urbanization,” but it’s going to take a couple decades at bare minimum to approach European levels of urban density, whereas we seem to be discussing changing blood alcohol levels today.

      • Dany Tardgaryen

        I was never a fan of this argument. Even just being “buzzed” affects your decision making. I’m six foot, weigh almost 200 pounds, and I never drive after more than one drink, because I find it irresponsible. Cabs and designated drivers are not burdensome. If you can’t afford to plan or spend a little extra on cab fare, I guess you can’t afford to drink. And I love my booze as much as the next guy, but I can’t stand how much people act so put-upon in these conversations.

        • Malaclypse

          I’m six foot, weigh almost 200 pounds, and I never drive after more than one drink, because I find it irresponsible.


          I assume most people realize shooting a gun after drinking is irresponsible. Drivers should never forget that a car at highway speeds has way more kinetic energy that a bullet. Most people will never do anything more dangerous than operate a car. If you can’t be bothered to do it at the best of your ability, don’t do it.

        • Richard

          I have no problem with losing your license forever after three DUIs and in having a lengthy suspension after two (which is the law in many states).

          I agree with you that having one glass of wine has a slight impairment effect but it only marginally raises the chance of a serious or fatal accident.

          I often drive after having a glass of wine at a meal, especially if the meal lasts more than an hour. I don’t drive after two drinks unless the meal or event has lasted two or more hours.

      • Emma in Sydney

        Australia has 0.05 , zero alcohol for drivers in their first 3 years of driving and mandatory loss of license for subsequent offences. We also have much lower accident and death rates despite similar density and sprawl problems. When they made zero alcohol the limit for young drivers, the proportion of accidents involving that group and alcohol halved. There’s no doubt it works , just how much it is worth to your society. The young people I know never drink and drive, having built habits during their early driving years.

        • Cody

          I think this is an interesting approach. For the first three years after getting your license, you are a bit young and immature. I assume (big assumption) that most people get a better grasp at how drunk they are with experience.

          If you’re a new driver and fairly new at drinking, I would imagine your chances of thinking you are okay to drive when you aren’t are very high. And with a policy of 0 BAC, you would know you can’t legally drive if you’ve even had one drink. No judgement call required!

          • Emma in Sydney

            Yep. We also have random breath testing, so the chances of getting caught are not zero. It certainly concentrated my son’s mind when one of his friends was busted back to learner for a blood alcohol reading of 0.01

  • The Dark Avenger

    In Sweden, ONE DUI is enough to have your drivers’ license lifted for LIFE.

    I had a friend who described a party in Sweden where many of the guests weren’t just a little drunk or floaty, they were falling-down drunk. None of them drove home, all took cabs or had a DD.

    • Josh G.

      How hard is it to live in Sweden without a car, compared to most parts of the US?

      • The Dark Avenger

        Driving is a privilege, not a right. You want to keep that right, don’t drive after you’ve had a few. The life you save may be your own.

        • the original spencer

          Driving is also a necessity in many parts of the US. Take away someone’s driver’s license, and you take away their ability to live independently, as someone else stated above.

          So you may see it as “a privilege, not a right,” but for a lot of people that isn’t the question at all.

      • FLRealist

        A friend of mine’s daughter was hit by a drunk driver and killed. As far as I am concerned, you drink and drive, you lose your license.

      • Malaclypse

        How hard is it in the US to go a single evening without a drink, knowing that one was about to operate a potentially deadly machine?

        • GAASP! You’ll be suggesting guns and booze don’t mix next and then TOTAL FASCISM!

        • Richard

          I don’t understand the “single evening without a drink” comment. I eat out with my wife probably twice a week for dinner. On most of those occasions, I will have a glass of wine with dinner. I live where there is no restaurant within walking distance and where there is no public transit within walking distance. So I will have my glass of wine and two if the dinner is a long one and then drive home. I don’t believe I am a danger to society under those circumstances and don’t believe the law should forbid all consumption of alcohol in connection with driving a car.

          • Dany Tardgaryen

            I don’t disagree with anything you said. But walking distance and public transit are irrelevant to the question of alcohol impairment. I object to the juxtaposition is all. If its harder for some people because they don’t, say, live in manhattan or can’t easily call a cab, that doesn’t weigh heavily at all against safety concerns, which is what I’m talking about.

            • Richard

              I agree that walking distance and public transportation are irrelevant to alcohol impairment but they arent irrelevant to a discussion of risks versus benefits and the way we all have to lead our lives. The risk of an accident while driving is most likely marginally enhanced after having had a glass of wine. It is significantly enhanced after four glasses of wine. I wont drive after four glasses of wine. I will drive after one glass of wine even though I am slightly putting the lives of others at greater risk of being hit by my car. I will do that since the enhanced risk is statistically minimal. (I have been driving for fifty years and drinking, in moderation for almost that long but have never been in an accident while having any alcohol in my bloodstream). However, if the restaurant were within walking distance, I would not assume even that minimal risk and would walk home.

              • sparks

                Why I’m glad that late running public transit is near me. The downside is the best restaurants aren’t near late running public transit.

                BTW, what is considered “walking distance” these days?

          • Malaclypse

            I don’t believe I am a danger to society under those circumstances

            Yes, many people fail to understand the risks associated with driving.

            • Anonymous


              One glass of wine is enough to seriously endanger other drivers?

              • Malaclypse

                Driving sober seriously endangers other drivers. A glass of wing marginally increases that already-significant risk, yes.

            • Richard

              We just disagree there. The danger to society posed by one glass of wine over an hour long dinner is extremely low (although I dont doubt that there is some minimal risk increase). I will continue to have my glass of wine and drive home.

              • nixnutz

                I think about this sometimes, the thing is the cost is measured in lives. You increase risk by n% you’re costing .000n lives, or something. But the real point of contention is the benefit; what’s the difference in enjoyment between a meal with wine and one without, expressed in fractions of a human life?

                One glass of wine with a bit of rest is probably no more risky than loud music, bright sunshine or bickering kids so I don’t think you’re a monster, but I do think you’re assigning wine way more benefit value than I would.

                • Richard

                  I greatly enjoy having a glass of wine with a meal so I probably am assigning it more benefit value than you. And I agree that the benefit is measured against a very marginal increase in the risk to a human life that is not my own (as well as my own). But its probably about the same, as you point out, in driving a car with bickering kids and that never stopped me from driving my kids anywhere

                • thebewilderness

                  It is pretty simple Richard. You have decided that risking other peoples lives is less important than you being inconvenience by having to call a cab when you are alcohol impaired.

    • TribalistMeathead

      Maybe I just didn’t know enough dickweeds, but add “slept on the floor at the house” and that sounds like every college party I ever went to.

      • sharculese

        You don’t know enough dickweeds.

        • sharculese

          Or more accurately, I guess, you know the proper number of dickweeds.

      • Malaclypse

        College parties are actually pretty easy ways to avoid driving drunk – at least where I went, most parties were an easy walk from where most people lived. Hell, most cars were parked further away than the party was.

        Now for genuine horror-show drinking-and-driving situations, look at office parties in exurban office parks.

  • The Dark Avenger

    BTW, this dialog could apply to alcohol as well:

    Quark: What’s that disgusting smell?

    Nog: I think it’s called tobacco. It’s a deadly drug. When used frequently, it destroys the internal organs.

    Quark: If it’s so deadly, then why do they use it?

    Nog: It’s also highly addictive.

    Rom: How do they get their hands on it?

    Nog: They buy it in stores.

    Quark: [stunned] They buy? If they buy poison they’ll buy anything. I think I’m gonna like it here.

    • Richard

      Except for the fact that I like the taste of alcohol and like the effect of alcohol. And except for the fact that alcohol is not addictive for most people. Is your position a return to prohibition but this time close all the loopholes and really make it impossible to have a drink?

      • Anonymous

        alcohol is not addictive for most people.

        I don’t want to get in the weeds on this question, but it’s addictive for many people. Not a majority, sure, from what I hear and read.

        If you think drunk driving is overblown as a problem, I recommend attending an AA meeting or two. You will probably hear some hair-raising tales of drunk driving that ended in arrests or dramatic crashes. You’ll also hear people admit to driving drunk – like, drunk drunk – on a daily basis for years, and never getting busted.

        You may still think that MADD are a bit puritanical, but you’ll also never look the same way at the cars around you.

        Short of prohibition, there have been sane (but politically unlikely to pass) proposals to curb problematic alcohol use (not just drinking and driving). Some I can think of are: requiring a license, not just proof of age, to buy alcohol (revokable upon alcohol-related conviction); higher alcohol taxes; and a bunch of technological things you could put in cars to make drunk driving harder.

        I don’t advocate prohibition by any means, but I think we should all keep in mind that for some people, alcohol’s a hell of a drug – and you can buy it anywhere, and pretty cheaply.

        • Anonymous

          I like Mark Kleiman on this issue. Here’s one example of his thoughts,and here’s another.

        • The Dark Avenger

          I’m more in favor of things like limiting the # of bars and liquor stores in poor areas, more treatment options for alcoholism, and the complete intolerance of public intoxication and driving drunk, as in the Swedish case.

  • This shit wouldn’t happen if people didn’t want to believe it. “Drug using black people on drugs making broken black babies! With drugs! Of course, it makes so much sense because we know black people use drugs and have babies and drugs are bad!”

    Of course, it would also help if people who reported on studies learned how to read and report on studies. Combine basic ineptitude with a lack of skepticism about the original premise and of course this happens:

    Major newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times, ran articles and columns that went beyond the research. Network TV stars of that era, including Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, also bear responsibility for broadcasting uncritical reports.

    • Plus they probably bought those drugs with their welfare checks.

      Make sure you include that part.

  • Slocum

    People used to make crack out of babies? That’s fucked up.

    • It is, dare I say it, wack.

  • E Dhp

    Not to take away from the very real race stuff, but this is also “Drugs and Alcohol [sic]” Part XXXXXX. Cuz a substance can’t hurt babies if it’s got good lobbyists, of course.

    • Walt

      What? The current hysteria over pregnant women drinking is immense. Many women quit drinking entirely for their whole pregnancies, either because they’re worried about fetal alcohol syndrome, or they’re worried about the constant shaming they’ll get if they get caught having a drink. This is even though there is no evidence that occasional drinking makes any difference.

      • E Dhp

        We’re discussing an article about the 80s. Or I was, at least.

        And while it’s certainly true that concern over fetal alcohol syndrome has gone over the top the last few years, it’s hardly enough to invalidate the basic bullshit distinction between our socially protected recreational drug and the rest of them.

        And if that’s something you also want to fly self-righteously off the handle about, we should probably be talking to other people.

        • Walt

          You wrote two sentences, one of which was wrong. That’s a 50% error rate.

          • E Dhp

            Your inability to read context is not my error. They’re called “comment sections” for a reason. Did you even read/watch the article that’s linked? It doesn’t come across that way.

            Maybe work on reading comprehension instead attacking me for something for I didn’t say.

            • RedSquareBear

              E Dhp may be the most tragic argument against lead-based paint we’ve had here in a while.

  • Andrew Burday

    It’s good to see this discussed, but someone should explicitly point out that it wasn’t black people, generally, who were blamed for crack babies. It was black women. Along with the exaggerated FAS scare, the crack baby scare was a move to depersonalize women. Of course that’s not making excuses for racism or the drug war, which certainly also were important factors here.

    Now I’m going to sit back and wait for some helpful anonymous to explain that concerns about crack babies applied just as strongly to pregnant men as they did to pregnant women, so my comment is just an example of runaway political correctness.

    • E Dhp

      That’s totally right. A lot of Daniel Patrick Moynihan in these articles.

    • Anonymous

      World Ends, Women and Minorities Hardest Hurt

      • sharculese

        People Point Out Obvious, Wingnut Quakes With Impotent Rage

        • Progressive


          • Latin Declension Mynah Bird


            • Uncle Kvetch


          • sharculese

            yes, like this. exactly.

            • Malaclypse

              I’m willing to grant the possibility that typing that out left Jennie at least semi-tumescent, in a way that actual personal contact with physical humans has not managed in years.

              • This is measured in the same manner as note duration, right? So it’s more likely a hemisemidemitumescence.

                • Hogan

                  AKA a thirty-second boner.

                • LeftWingFox

                  Excited inhalation, disappointed exhalation. The end.

              • sparks

                Thank you. I enjoyed my lunch. Twice.

          • herr doktor bimler


    • herr doktor bimler

      the crack baby scare was a move to depersonalize women

      Just like an incubator to act irresponsibly.

  • Manju

    So, Rob Ford is off the hook?

    • The Dark Avenger

      They just haven’t found his TARDIS yet, Manju.

  • Manju

    the crack babies “epidemic” in the 1980s…was just another tool in white backlash tool box to blame black people for their own poverty and justify the war on some classes of people who use some drugs.

    This is not quite how it went down in the 1980’s. The Congressional Black Caucus backed the 1986 anti-drug bill that mandated the now-infamous sentencing disparity (which has been rolled back somewhat under Obama).

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