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Partying Like It’s 1988!



What kind of fun does Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III have lined up for us? Restarting the highway that leads black and brown people straight into prison for non-violent crimes!

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.

The guy Sessions has hired to make this happen seems nice:

Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, launched an ambitious clemency initiative to release certain drug offenders from prison early. And Holder told his prosecutors, in an effort to make punishments more fairly fit the crime, to stop charging low-level nonviolent drug offenders with offenses that imposed severe mandatory sentences. He called his strategy, outlined in an August 2013 report, “Smart on Crime.”

Cook has called it “Soft on Crime” and said the Chattanooga case would have been much more difficult to make, “if possible at all,” in recent years.

“We were discouraged from using mandatory minimums,” Cook said about Holder’s 2013 charging and sentencing memo to prosecutors. “The charging memo handcuffed prosecutors. And it limited when enhancements can be used to increase penalties, an important leverage when you’re dealing with a career offender in getting them to cooperate.”

Cook has also dismissed the idea that there is such a thing as a nonviolent drug offender.

“Drug trafficking is inherently violent. Drug traffickers are dealing in a heavy cash business,” he said on the “O’Reilly Factor” last year. “They can’t resolve disputes in court. They resolve the disputes on the street, and they resolve them through violence.”

E-mails, etc.

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  • howard

    When I see them crack down on heroin dealers in poor white neighborhoods, I’ll accept that they are principled scum and not racist scum, but I don’t expect to be put to the test.

    • Bill Murray

      Pharmacists are some of our best people

    • Davis X. Machina

      When I see them crack down on heroin dealers in poor white neighborhoods.


      That’d be D Money, Smoothe and Shifty

    • ZakMcKrackenAndTheAlienMindbenders

      Apples and oranges. I don’t see what some desperate people afflicted with economic anxiety have to do with the super-predators of the late 80s and 90s.

      • DocAmazing

        John DiIulio, White courtesy phone…

        • ZakMcKrackenAndTheAlienMindbenders

          he said he was maybe kinda sorry about that whole kerfluffle

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Also, don’t forget that Hillary Clinton said the word “superpredator” once a quarter century ago! #BothSidesDoIt

    • Hillary, damn near every media pundit, and every D politician that didn’t want to be Willie Hortoned in their next election.

      • Derelict

        And yet, none take the obvious lesson from that and every other election since 1948: Democrats that try to run to the right will not only always get out-flanked by the Republican, they will get attacked as soft on ___________ no matter what they do.

        Clinton thought he could take welfare off the table by passing terrible welfare reforms. Yet, he was still attacked as though he’d decided to hand out crack and C-notes to everyone who decided that life in front of the TV was what they were after.

        Only in his last years did Obama finally divine that his real-life policies made no difference at all to Republicans. He would always be the Kenyan Islamic socialist who was soft on crime but ready to institute Sharia, who was going to take away the guns any day now, who was handing out free iPhones in the ghetto, who was going to nationalize banking and oil. And even then, after all of that, he couldn’t bring himself to run over McConnell and Ryan to let America know that the Russians were working very hard to install Trump, nor could he bring himself to shitcan Comey after the July atrocity.

        • Norrin Radd

          Bill Clinton got plenty of credit across the board for bringing down crime rates. His 100,000 cops on the street was very popular left, right, and center. I haven’t heard the Soft on Crime canard since his first term.

          Reducing mass incarceration is fairly popular politically right now but even most liberals disapprove of lightening sentences for violent crime. Increasing sentences for using a gun during the commission of a crime seems like a good idea. It would seems like a part of reasonable common sense gun control.

          Do Americans really want to end mass incarceration? Or do they simply want to cut prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders?

          These are two different questions: Although much of the focus on prison reform over the past few years has gone to nonviolent drug offenders, the rapid growth of the US prison population since the 1960s — which put America above even Russia and China in incarceration — was actually driven by longer sentences for violent crime.

          To put these numbers in context, there’s more support (32 percent) for reducing the prison sentence of nonviolent criminals with a high risk of reoffending than there is for cutting the sentence of violent criminals with a low risk of reoffending.

          Even the majority of liberals oppose reducing prison sentences for violent criminals with a low risk of reoffending: 55 percent oppose it, versus 42 percent who support.

          • No Longer Middle Aged Man

            Do you have any direct experience with the criminal justice system? Because in my limited experience with same, what may seem rational and even desirable in the abstract – such as your point about minimum sentencing for use of a gun while committing a crime – confers way too much discretion and authority on the prosecutor. Essentially it leaves him/her free to choose charges with sentences that can range from two years, with possibility of serving them outside on probation, to a must serve a minimum 85% 10 year sentence with 5 or 10 years more automatically tacked on if the prosecutor chooses to add the gun charge. The prosecutor becomes judge and jury. There’s no check on this power – it’s what the prosecutor chooses. The only check is to go to court, which takes a lot (and I mean a lot! – personal experience) of money.

            • Norrin Radd

              Public intoxication, nothing serious. ( My lawyer did charge me $800 though for my defense which was $400 more than the maximum fine–so I get your point about expensive).

              You make a good point and others have written the same. But I have a hard time with violent people. Drug use should be handled by treatment not jail but what do you with violent people, especially when they use guns?

              • Origami Isopod

                But I have a hard time with violent people.

                Unless they’re adults beating children, of course.

                • brad

                  Nono, that’s TJ. Norrin just has no problem with black men assaulting women, provided it’s in a state he determines to be racist.

                • Lord Jesus Perm

                  Or men who punch women.

                • Norrin Radd

                  No siree, you got it wrong.

                  Violent people should go to jail period. Having unfortunately had to stop more than a few domestic violence incidents in my life I care less about the gender of who started the violence than the fact that they started the violence. More often than not men are the aggressors but I’ve seen women start physical fights as well. Hope Solo is one example. Ronda Rousey is another. Much less common but it happens. With co-dependent couples it’s less uncommon. Some people have anger issues, some people have substance issues and some like maybe Solo have both. Her case is a pretty frightening tale of a woman insanely and repeatedly striking a man much, much larger than her. Woman needs help. And jail.

                • brad

                  So not only should men be allowed to punch women, they also need protection from them.

                  Did you invest in a snazzy new fedora while you were away?

                • sibusisodan

                  I’m finding it fascinating that Norrin Radd is the one who has crept back in. From memory, NR only popped up rarely and TJ was the main vehicle of wordblather.

          • EliHawk

            Bill Clinton got plenty of credit across the board for bringing down crime rates. His 100,000 cops on the street was very popular left, right, and center. I haven’t heard the Soft on Crime canard since his first term.

            Right. I still remember Guy Millner, the GOP candidate for GA-Governor’s ad tag lines from all of fall 1998 attacking Roy Barnes: Soft on Crime. Too Liberal for Georgia. I also remember Barnes beating his butt by about 8 points: Far more than Cleland beat Millner for Senate and Zell beat him for his second term in 1994. By 1998, that dog didn’t hunt anymore, largely because Clinton both seized the center ground on crime issues and also because crime had gone way down on his watch.

        • I agree

  • Jordan

    The charging memo handcuffed prosecutors. And it limited when enhancements can be used to increase penalties, an important leverage when you’re dealing with a career offender in getting them to cooperate.

    i.e., it made it slightly marginally more difficult to coerce plea bargains from targets of the judicial system, and thus made it slightly more marginally difficult to keep putting those black people brown people white trash people criminals behind bars.

  • “Drug trafficking is inherently violent. Drug traffickers are dealing in a heavy cash business,” he said on the “O’Reilly Factor” last year. “They can’t resolve disputes in court. They resolve the disputes on the street, and they resolve them through violence.”

    Okay, so legalize. Alcohol dealers stopped being violent with the end of prohibition.

    • Jordan

      yabut, the guy liked the KKK until he found out they smoked pot.

      clearly the drug use is the first order problem.

      • Norrin Radd

        Yeah what’s up with that? He’s hates tweakers more than blacks?

        • Bill Murray

          there are other racist outlets for an older white man. He’s probably CCC if that still exists

    • Scott P.

      I am pretty sure the repeal of Prohibition didn’t make the mob less violent.

      • Derelict

        No, but it did take the violence out of the alcohol trade. Sure, there was (and is) still plenty of mob violence related to drugs, prostitution, gambling, and loan sharking. But I do not recall reading or hearing anything about the CEO of Seagrams putting out a contract on the people who make Jack Daniels.

        • Steve LaBonne

          Somebody should.

      • Duhh. But it made them switch to other businesses.

        • Riskier, less profitable, and less socially accepted ones, too.

          • JonH

            Like politics.

    • DocAmazing

      Financial crimes are inherently violent. Foreclosures are handled by armed sheriff’s deputies, and domestic assaults are more common in homes where financial stress levels are high.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Mrs. Grundy has no strong opinions on those subjects.

  • Joe_JP

    more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences

    I’m reading Caroline E. Light’s new book on stand your ground laws and how protections of a RKBA has historically been selectively enforced. Gather more “gun cases” won’t mean the NRA will be upset because their prime demographic will be unduly affected.

    And, Chris Hayes’ book is of course well timed for these times.

    • Norrin Radd

      In light of your comments about Stand Your Ground laws it was rather interesting to see Marissa Alexander come out favor of Florida’s expansion.

      • Joe_JP

        “I got a bad break by the criminal justice system but this would mean I would be protected!”

        sounds naive if understandable … the book does discuss how the “DIY” self-defense sentiment is also shared in various cases by traditionally disadvantaged groups

  • daves09

    Oh, those poor prosecutors. They only manage to plea bargain 97% of all cases forcing them to almost collapse from exhaustion with the remaining 3%.
    As a marijuana grower I’ve got to say that I deal in a lot of cash, but those transactions are not usually where the violence happens. Far more likely to have the pirates knock over your grow, and when most independent growers see the pirates come they head for the hills. The mafioso fight it out but those are not conflicts the law gets involved in.
    The big dealers-who make millions-will of course never see the inside of a jail.
    And of course Sessions will use a little rise in homicides to justify increased harshness for all crime.

    • Jordan

      Oh, those poor prosecutors. They only manage to plea bargain 97% of all cases forcing them to almost collapse from exhaustion with the remaining 3%.

      Its almost like they are parasites, feeding of all the rest of us, in the sure knowledge that except for quite wealthy defendants they can get whatever they want.

      • brad

        My own experience very, very much confirms this. There’s things I won’t bring up here, but it’s absolutely true that justice is for sale.

        • daves09

          Let’s not forget the judges role in this shit show. A cushy job, good salary, great benefits and basically just spend all their time rubber stamping whatever the prosecutors hand them.


          • brad

            Well, don’t forget the petty power trips at the expense of those who don’t have lawyers with powerful reputations.
            I saw a judge reject a plea deal that would have saved years of a man’s life because he was equivocal about it to her.

            • Roberta

              Pro-prosecutor judges–which is nearly all of them–don’t get enough scrutiny from the public. Maybe it’s because the right-wing is busy hyping judges in general as liberal ‘activists,’ and maybe the left doesn’t push back enough. But everything I’ve seen and read of judges is exactly what brad and daves09 say. Enjoying a cushy (and, for Article III judges, permanent) job at the public expense, while rubber stamping prosecutors and indulging in petty power trips.

              The sheer pettiness of the power trips is just galling.

              • Matty

                I mean, part of it is that at least here in Illinois, judges are elected, and in Cook County, there are a shitload of them. I try to be a responsible citizen and whatnot and look up at least who has endorsed them and try and make decisions around that (vote against anyone with an FOP recommendation, e.g., although that would mean not voting for most judges), but that’s a lot to take in and either make a cheat sheet in advance or try and remember on election day.

                I’m theoretically sympathetic to the idea of “well, the people should have a say in criminal justice in their community,” but being asked “shall these 60 people be retained” every two years is maybe not the best way to go about that.

        • Dennis Orphen

          To paraphrase my Criminal Law professor, you can get justice from our system. And the more money you put in, the more justice you get.

  • NewishLawyer

    To be a cynic. Is this different than something any other Republican AG would have done? I think we are going to see this go back and forth for a while. Democratic admins will institute these reforms via memos and how they administer the government and then Republicans will reverse by doing the same.

    We need huge super-majorities to institute real reform of a lasting sort.

    • DrDick

      This is pretty much standard issue Republican policy. They loves to impose draconian remedies for minor problems (like voter fraud and drug use by welfare recipients).

      • aturner339

        Same as it ever was. WEB DuBois once smartly asked people to consider what it feels like to be born a problem.

      • humanoid.panda

        Not that I disagree about republican threat inflation but worth noting that Sessions was an outlier among republicans on criminal reform issues. Which is probably the only issue on which the GOP was better than it was in 1980s. and then they made him AG

    • Norrin Radd

      There is bipartisan support for criminal reform. The Koch Brothers even teamed with the ACLU to push it. I think they put in a big donation in an effort reduce the prison population by half. Tellingly the only big difference between them was in how much sentences for white collar crime should be reduced.

      • DocAmazing

        That was one of several big differences; the Koch Bros. are fans of private penitentiaries, as well, which the ACLU finds problematic, at best.

        The Kochs wanted to bust prison guard unions and skate on white-collar crime, full stop, end transmission.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      Every other Republican candidate wanted to reduce mass incarceration.

      • Murc

        Well. They said that.

        If a Republican told me he was kind to his momma I’d demand two sources of independent verification.

        • Abbey Bartlet

          They said it pretty firmly. Mostly because they’ve finally realized it’s a huge waste of money.

  • Derelict

    Republicans are always big on crime in the streets. And always willing to give a complete pass to crime in the suites. I still recall Ed Meese opining that the police simply do not arrest innocent people. And many of us remember the concentration John Ashcroft devoted to busting purveyors of bongs and dismissing concerns about terrorism and Bernie Maddoff.

    • efgoldman

      many of us remember the concentration John Ashcroft devoted to busting purveyors of bongs and dismissing concerns about terrorism and Bernie Maddoff

      When he wasn’t busy draping cloth over the naked breasts of marble statues.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        I always wondered if he had a case of pygmalionism.

        • N__B

          No, he's normal height.

    • James B. Shearer

      … And always willing to give a complete pass to crime in the suites. …

      Jeffrey Skilling and Bernard Ebbers might disagree.

  • Keaaukane

    Maybe Sessions can bring back Ritual Satanic Abuse prosecutions too! Those were a good way to rile up the rubes also.


    • Steve LaBonne

      Please don’t give them any ideas.

    • rea

      With Session, it will be not prosecutions “for ritual Satanic abuse,” but prosecutions “with ritual Satanic abuse.”

  • Joe_JP

    Is today, the 152nd anniversary of Lee’s surrender, a day of mourning for Sessions?

    • MAJeff

      The only day in Confederate Heritage Month worth commemorating.

    • Davis X. Machina

      No. For the rest of us. It was the beginning of a series of mostly-lost opportunities.

  • Bitter Scribe

    The latest issue of the New Yorker has a review by Adam Gopnik of “Locked In,” a book by John F. Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham. Its basic premise is that the biggest factor in the burgeoning prison population is not racism or mandatory minimums, but asshole prosecutors who have every incentive to overcharge every defendant they come across and little or none to show mercy.

    To be fair, Pfaff also makes the “drug trafficking is inherently violent” argument—to which Gopnik takes exception.

    • Hogan

      I’d say part of it is also that legislators have every incentive to overcriminalize all kinds of behavior, to create overlapping and conflicting offenses at state and federal levels, and no incentive to rationalize and simplify the criminal code, thus handing prosecutors those opportunities.

      • Bitter Scribe

        Yes. And prosecutors want to become legislators (and often do). Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • Rudolph Schnaubelt

      Having spent decades in criminal defence work I believe mandatory minimums are a blight intended to remove the right to a jury trial. 3 suggestions to increase fairness in criminal justice:
      1) Abolish mandatory sentencing;
      2)let jurors know the punishment ;
      3)abolish plea bargains (force prosecutors to take the shit to trial)

      Having spent their career shooting fish in a barrel few prosecutors can find their way around a courtroom. They bring a a megaton warhead to a knife fight and force the innocent to plead guilty rather than risk obliteration.

      Take the power away from the wet behind the ears prosecutors and return criminal judgment to juries. And that’s all I have to say about that.

      • Steve LaBonne

        But then we’d have to spend money on more and better prosecutors, judges, and worst of all public defenders. There would be a real risk that the affluent would have to pay more taxes. Which of course is far more unjust than railroading poor people.

        • Hogan

          That seems to be one thing the affluent don’t mind spending money on, to the point where efforts to stop using the criminal justice system to solve every acknowledged social problem (the way we used to use the public schools before we gave up on them) draw shrieks of terror.

          • Steve LaBonne

            They only want to spend on the prison part of the equation, though.

  • efgoldman

    Erik, shouldn’t your headline be “Party Like It’s 1888″?

    • Bill Murray

      no Sessions wants to reinstitute the 1980s policing and sentencing rules

    • LosGatosCA

      I’m thinking once 1988 is restored they’ll start working on 1953, then 1928, then 1860, etc.

      When they hit 1214 and have restored the whole concept of ‘people who aren’t the king should just bend over and take it’ then they will happy.

      Those were the days when a real man, one that the Republican god favored, could enjoy a full life without political correctness, feminazis, or paying exorbitant taxes to educate the children of masses that the Republican god did not favor.

      America didn’t just take a wrong turn by abandoning the Articles of Confederation, humanity took an even wronger turn when King John became a traitor to the natural order.

      • LosGatosCA

        Also, too, non-Republican god favored masses are merely chattel to the lord of the land or corporation as a matter of natural order. Summary execution of anyone interfering with that natural order should be the default state of the country. That way corporations can stay nimble, and the lords can show mercy from time to time to inspire the chattel to do their best to keep the lords happy.

  • brad

    Also, not to sound conspiratorial, but shitheels like Sessions tend to have more than just racism motivating them. Let’s dispense with the notion that he’s above taking money from cartel level drug dealers to help them keep prices high.

    • Rudolph Schnaubelt

      But only Latin American government officials can be corrupted. More American exceptionalism. International cartels are awash with cash yet corruption and bribery ends at the border. Everybody knows that.

      • CP

        The good “south of the border” action movies tend to have fun pointing this out.

        “Look, you’re corrupt. We’re corrupt. The only difference is we’re honest about it!” (The Mexican border guards in ‘Get The Gringo.’)

        “You think you’re in some banana republic? Even one of your million dollar bribes won’t be enough to get you out of here.” “Two. Two million dollars. A standing offer for anyone who springs me.” (The cop who ends up taking the bribe and the bad guy, ‘Licence To Kill.’)


    • humanoid.panda

      You had perfectly good first four words to your post, and you went and ruined it.

      Seriously whenever you have a post starting with “not to sound x” the x is better left unwritten.

      • brad

        Eh, you haven’t seen Cocaine Cowboys. It’s more than just a theory.

    • AMK

      I think stock and bribes from private prison firms is more likely.

      • brad

        Hardly mutually exclusive.

        To say it in less conspiratorial terms, is there any other international multi-billion, if not trillion, dollar industry that doesn’t undertake efforts to shape policy in its markets to its favor?

  • Dr. Acula

    I’m sure the people Sessions was named after would be quite pleased with him.

  • Rusty SpikeFist

    Jerkoff Sessions

  • Scotius

    And let’s not forget to thank Rebekah Mercer for dumping Sessions on us.


    I hadn’t even heard of the Mercer family until about 6 weeks ago and now I despise them as much as the Kochs.

  • Howlin Wolfe

    Van Jones was excoriated for saying that the GOP is the party of assholes. Every day since then, the GPO has proven Jones correct

  • Q.E.Dumbass

    The quest to validate literally everything negative hip-hop has ever said about law enforcement continues

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      as Staff Sgt Joker says (courtesy of Erik in the twitter feed) they look like they’re ready to go out and behead some moderate cops. I suppose if they can’t find any, they’ll settle for young males of color

      • DocAmazing

        “Military-age males”, s’il vous plait.

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