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War Criminal’s Terrible Arguments Look Even More Terrible

[ 100 ] December 12, 2014 |

Look who’s back to defend the indefensible — Mr. John Yoo:

As a member of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel at the time of the 9/11 attacks, I thought that the CIA’s proposed interrogation methods were within the bounds of the law—just barely. They did not inflict serious, long-term pain or suffering, as prohibited by the federal statute banning torture. We realized then that waterboarding came closest to the line. But the fact that the U.S. military has used it to train thousands of U.S. airmen, officers, and soldiers without harm indicated that it didn’t constitute torture. Limiting tough interrogation methods only to al Qaeda leaders thought to have actionable information, during a time when the nation was under attack, further underscored the measured, narrow nature of President Bush’s decision.

This defense of waterboarding has always been specious on multiple levels. First of all, there’s the obvious problem of consent, a concept that seems to consistently elude conservatives. The fact that it’s used in training to allow military personell to resist torture is…not a good argument that it’s not torture. It is, in fact, torture.

All this aside, the Senate’s Report renders this focus on waterboarding largely beside the point:

The Bush administration’s supporters, operating under the assumption that its most brutal “enhanced interrogation technique” was waterboarding, spent much of the past decade defending this singular practice. Waterboarding did not amount to torture, they insisted, because Navy SEALS allegedly undergo the same treatment as part of their training. Anyway, it happened just a handful of times. Marc Thiessen, the Bush administration’s torture point man, later insisted, “We waterboarded in the CIA—the CIA waterboarded three terrorists. Just three.”

The torture regimen turns out to have been carried out on a vastly broader and more depraved scale than the administration’s defenders, or even its critics, ever imagined. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, released this week, describes practices few conservative politicians or intellectuals had prepared themselves to justify. Men were shackled to walls or ceilings for days, in diapers, locked in coffins, rectally violated, subject to days of sleep deprivation, beaten, and (in one instance) murdered. Several intelligence staffers reported being traumatized by the experience.


At no point did Cheney even approach a cursory answer to questions like: How did he know that those subjected to these techniques were, in fact, terrorists? Did some elaborate judicial process exist that contained even stronger safeguards against false conviction than the imperfect American legal system? How could American intelligence staffers, dropped into foreign lands, reliably pluck out the guilty while sparing the innocent?

As we now know, they could not. ­Twenty-six of the 119 detainees turned out to be innocent. One of them was a Pakistani or Afghan man named Janat Gul. In July 2004, the CIA seized Gul, acting on a tip from local informants who claimed he knew of a terror plot. His interrogators subjected him to sleep deprivation, slammed him into walls, and forced him to stand for as long as 47 hours in a row until he suffered hallucinations that he could see and hear his wife and children. He begged to be killed. Eventually, the informant who fingered Gul admitted to fabricating his story.

The entirely predictable consequence of ends-justifies-the-means reasoning that is not only hideously immoral but fails even on its own terms.

In conclusion, I turn things over to Dean Chemerinsky:

Torture is a crime, a violation of the Federal Torture Act. Those who engaged in the torture documented in such exhaustive detail in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report should be prosecuted, and those who conspired in that torture should also be prosecuted. They include UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, says Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the Law School at the University of California Irvine.

Yoo was co-author of the infamous “torture memo” of 2002, when he was Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Bush Justice Department. In the memo he declared that—in the words of Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side, “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.”

Yoo’s memo “directly led to the torture policy that resulted,” Chemerinsky said in an interview, citing Mayer’s evidence. “That’s being part of a conspiracy to violate a federal statute. Someone isn’t excused from criminal liability just because they work for the federal government.”

The Federal Torture Act defines torture broadly, as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control.” The penalty for violating the Torture Act is imprisonment “for not more than 20 years.”

Most important for the case of John Yoo, the Federal Torture Act specifically includes conspiracy, stating that “A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties . . . as the penalties prescribed for the offense.” That means Yoo could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

“I think he should be,” Chemerinsky said. “All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future—except by criminal prosecutions?”

It won’t happen – but it should.

Deep Thoughts, By Charles Murray

[ 75 ] December 12, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim Charles Murray: ” If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.”

I especially like the tell of the last sentence — evidently, if it were actually a question worthy of serious consideration, it would be unnecessary to point this out. I’m pretty confident that had Murray been mugged and assaulted on his way out of this lunch he’d figure out the answer pretty quickly.

And, yes, it’s worth considering the amount of money and effort that has gone into presenting Murray as a serious intellectual.

Enact the Best Policy You Can And Hope (And Fight) For the Best

[ 78 ] December 11, 2014 |

My epic column on the various terrible arguments about the ACA being a mistake advanced by Democratic public officials is up. (Remarkably, the Harkin comments seem to be getting renewed attention this week by people determined to demonstrate that the “Obama could have gotten Congress to nationalize the health insurance industry but didn’t. even. try! is, sadly, not a strawman.) The brutal truth is that good policy has never been a guarantee of good electoral results:

Again, it’s worth putting things in historical perspective. The problem with waiting for the perfect, risk-free time to pass major reform legislation is that there’s never a perfect time. There have been three major periods of progressive reform legislation in Congress between the Civil War and 2008. (The fact that there have been only three should give pause to those who think that Obama, Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are worthless sellouts because they failed to completely transform the American political economy in Obama’s first two years.) In 1966, Great Society Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate, a preview of the crack-up of the Democratic coalition that would (with a detour created by Watergate) lead to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. In 1938, New Deal Democrats lost 72 seats in the House and seven in the Senate, and this tally doesn’t account for the failure of FDR’s efforts to defeat anti-New Deal Democrats in the primaries. In 1874, the Reconstruction-era Republicans lost 93 (out of 293) seats in the House and a net of seven seats in the Senate, effectively ending Reconstruction.

Does this mean that Lyndon Johnson shouldn’t have signed the Civil Rights Act? That FDR should have waited until he didn’t need Southern segregationists to pass New Deal legislation? That Republicans should have nominated Andrew Johnson rather than Ulysses S. Grant in 1868? Of course not.

The perfect response to these kind of arguments was made by Pelosi: “We come here to do a job, not keep a job. There are more than 14 million reasons why that’s wrong.” This is exactly right. The window for progressive reform in the United States is always narrow and treacherous — you get the best you can get when you have the chance. The unpopularity of the greatest progressive achievement passed by Congress in nearly five decades is unfortunate, but misguided Monday-morning quarterbacking isn’t the right response.

There was an additional discussion of recent results that got cut because the piece had already exceeded the usual limits, but to be clear I’m not advancing a completely deterministic or structural theory of electoral outcomes. Choices matter at the margins, and in 2010 in particular the Democrats performed to towards the bad end of the plausible spectrum of results. But there was no politically viable course of action that could have been worth a swing of 50 House seats in 2010 or saved the Senate in 2014. The federal elections that were close enough to be affected by legislative choices since the passage of the ACA, the Democrats won.

There is a dark side to the historical perspective — we don’t know what will happen to the ACA. It might not only endure but be eventually built on and further improved, like most of the central programs of the New Deal. It might at least hang in there, like most of the key programs of the Great Society. Or conservatives in the judiciary, hostile statehouses, and eventually Congress might roll it back as happened with Reconstruction. The fight is far from over. But the solution is not to wait for the perfect circumstances, because they don’t exist.

Today in the Machinery of Death

[ 16 ] December 11, 2014 |

Robert Wayne Hosley was executed Tuesday night:

Holsey was represented at his murder trial by an alcoholic lawyer who was under investigation at the time for stealing from a client and who drank a quart of vodka every night of the trial.

He was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a police officer. The Georgia supreme court refused to stay the execution and the US supreme court also declined to intervene.

Even in a capital system that has seen its fair share of incompetent and negligent legal representation, the story of Holsey’s 1997 trial stands out as particularly egregious. His attorney, Andy Prince, had a history of heavy drinking since the age of 14.

Every night during the trial he drank the equivalent of more than 20 shots of vodka. He was also under police investigation at the time for having stolen more than $100,000 from a client – a theft for which he was convicted soon after Holsey’s trial ended, sentenced to 10 years in prison and disbarred from practising the law.

As a further indication of his mind not being entirely focused on Holsey’s life-and-death legal struggle, shortly before trial Price was arrested for disorderly conduct and accused of threatening to shoot three black neighbours to whom he was shouting racial slurs. Price was white and his capital client defendant black.


Holsey’s current lawyer, Brian Kammer, has argued that Price’s alcohol-sodden incompetence was not merely academic – it effectively put Holsey on death row. A key piece of information about Holsey, that should have been emphasised at the sentencing phase of his trial, was that he was intellectually disabled with a level of functioning equivalent to a nine-year-old.

Why should a little thing like the lack of effective counsel get in the way of a good execution?

“They Should Have Made Sure Ed Brooke and John Chafee Were On Board Before They Went Forward.”

[ 26 ] December 10, 2014 |

Ah, Bob Kerrey, the Democratic senator from Nebraska who makes Ben Nelson look good.

Of course, I blame Obama for not creating bipartisan comity by joining with receptive congressional Republicans to pass the Republican agenda, as Kerrey so sagely suggested.

Relatedly, I’m glad Atrios salvaged this classic from the archives.

Just Invite Yourself to the de Sader and Bring Some Gorbachev Fish And You’ll Seal the Deal. Happy Chernenko!

[ 37 ] December 10, 2014 |

Today in Republican minority crossover appeals:

Walker told Gimbel his office would be happy to display a menorah celebrating “The Eight Days of Chanukah” at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and asked Gimbel to have a representative from Lubavitch of Wisconsin contact Walker’s secretary, Dorothy Moore, to set it up.

The letter is signed, “Thank you again and Molotov.”

Panel Of Ivy League Graduates Determines That Wage Laborers Should Perform Required Tasks For Employers Without Compensation

[ 85 ] December 10, 2014 |

Earlier this year, I argued that 9CA was right to interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act as requiring employers to compensate employees for mandatory security checks. This being the Roberts Court, it took them less than two months to unanimously conclude otherwise. The Sotomayor concurrence (joined by Kagan) suggests that the Obama administration siding with the employers helped foster the unanimity, although the workers were obviously drawing dead when it comes to securing a majority.

This is a statutory interpretation case, so Congress could step in and protect the worke….sorry, probably too soon for black humor.

…[Erik] It’s also worth noting how pervasive this sort of unpaid labor was in the early 20th century and it’s centrality to union campaigns at that time. The Triangle workers had to go through these checks to make sure they weren’t stealing. Loggers had to walk from the logging camp to the logging site without pay. Miners had to timber their own mines so they wouldn’t collapse on them–on their own time. All of these workers fought to end these injustices through their union campaigns and union contracts. Reinforcing the ability of employers to force workers to do things like this without pay is a real step back toward those principles of the Gilded Age. That it is a 9-0 decision really reinforces how far the ideology of employer domination over workers has come in this country and how far we have to go to turn this nation back toward one where workers and their time and their dignity is respected.

…[SL] Noah Feldman:

But there’s still something fundamentally wrong with the court’s formalistic reasoning. The trouble lies in the logic of defining “principal activity” as though it were some abstract philosophical question about the essence of the warehouse employees’ job.

In reality, the “principal activity” is the job as defined by the employer. Amazon need not define the job to require security screening, because of course you can work at a warehouse without stealing anything. But once the employer says that the job can only be performed if you get screened, it’s redefining the principal activity from “warehouse work” to “warehouse work including screening.”

Compare the court’s examples of security gear. You don’t work at the chemical plant in order to wear protective gear — it’s just necessary if you want to do the job safely. Similarly, you don’t need to be screened to fulfill orders in the warehouse — it’s just that it’s necessary (according to Amazon) if the job is to be performed profitably.

Ditto for knife sharpening. You can cut meat with a dull knife but it reduces employer’s profits if you do. An activity included in the job as part of the employer’s profit motive should count as a principal activity.

The court’s liberals should see this. They should have looked at the idea of “principal activity” in functional, economic terms — not like a problem in pure definition, but like a problem in the real world.

Insanely Over-Privileged and Self-Impressed Academic of the Day

[ 99 ] December 9, 2014 |

Ben Edelman.

…The great wjts in comments:

Men of Harvard, whine to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Four whole dollars stand before ye,
Hear ye not their call?
At your sloth they seem to wonder;
Pick the menu’s costs asunder,
Let entitled, deaf’ning thunder
Bartenders appall.
E-mails loudly wanking,
Poor consumers thanking;
With the gripes of B-School shites,
The Rest’rant’s business tanking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
‘Till Ran Duan learns with quailing,
Cambridge ne’er can yield!

Senate Report Reveals Bush Administration Engaged in Horrible Torture With No National Security Benefits

[ 287 ] December 9, 2014 |

More on the torture report later, but I think we can sum up two major points. First, the scope of torture was horrible:

In Nov. 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to the floor died, apparently from hypothermia. This case appears similar to the that of Gul Rahman, who died of similarly explained causes at a Afghan site known as the “Salt Pit,” also in Nov. 2002. The site was also called ‘The Dark Prison’ by former captives.

The aide said that the Cobalt site was was dark, like a dungeon, and that experts who visited the site said they’d never seen an American prison where people were kept in such conditions. The facility was so dark in some places that guard had to wear head lamps, while other rooms were flooded with bright lights and white noise to disorient detainees.

At the Cobalt facility, the CIA also forced some detainees who had broken feet or legs to stand in stress-inducing positions, despite having earlier pledged that they wouldn’t subject those wounded individuals to treatment that might exacerbate their injuries.


At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration,” without any documented medical need. “While IV infusion is safe and effective,” one officer wrote, rectal hydration could be used as a form of behavior control.

Others were deprived of sleep, which could involve staying awake for up to 180 hours—sometimes standing, sometimes with their hands shackled above their heads.

Some detainees were forced to walk around naked, or shackled with their hands above their heads. In other instances, naked detainees were hooded and dragged up and down corridors while subject to physical abuse.

At one facility, detainees were kept in total darkness and shackled in cells with loud noise or music, and only a bucket to use for waste.

Far more where that came from, I’m afraid. This would be grotesquely immoral no matter what the consequences, but as tends to be the case the alleged payoffs in national security were illusory:

It’s official: torture doesn’t work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden,” as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11.

The report’s executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday. After reviewing thousands of the CIA’s own documents, the committee has concluded that torture was ineffective as an intelligence-gathering technique. Torture produced little information of value, and what little it did produce could’ve been gained through humane, legal methods that uphold American ideals.

Meanwhile, a Fox News hack has declared that “This is the apology tour on steroids.” America is being thrown under the bus, people! I wish I thought this reaction was going to be an outlier…

The Limitations of Narrative

[ 71 ] December 9, 2014 |

Smart piece by Elizabeth Stoker Breuning:

Personal stories that lack fact checking leave the arguments they bolster incredibly vulnerable. Worse yet, relying on one person’s testimony for the central argument invites probing of individual people, as happened in this case — the victim’s friends have turned on her and her classmates are gossiping about her trauma to a sudden flood of reporters. Self-styled reactionary cyber Sherlocks have already begun digging up and sharing personal details about her and her family. Placing the weight of entire arguments on the shoulders of specific people, especially those who have survived trauma, thus seems unfair both to them and the success of the arguments.

Leftist analysis is at its best when it focuses on systematic critiques. Erdely’s piece was arguably engaged in just such a project, though the undoing of its anecdotal obsession has undermined that thrust. The strength of leftist critique is that it concerns itself with the broad, the historical, the powerful, the structural. Contrast this with right-wing accounts of politics, which focus on individual choice and disposition, private and personal interests, and folk-legendary tales of bootstrapping.

There’s a reason Ronald Reagan preferred ticky-tacky bullshit tales of welfare fraud (such as the woeful story of Linda Taylor that gave us the pejorative “welfare queen”) to structural analysis. These days right-wing blowhards like Paul Ryan keep the ignominious tradition alive. The Wisconsin congressman has opined, for example, that free school lunches are bad because he heard of a little boy who wanted a brown paper sack to signify parental love.

Evidently, the implosion of the Rolling Stone story indicates a real dilemma: without the compelling anecdote that opened the story, it wouldn’t have gotten nearly the attention that it did. But reliance on individual stories is a dangerous road to go down.

In the Wake of Landrieu

[ 204 ] December 9, 2014 |

Explicitly invoking Tom Schaller’s prescient book, Michael Tomasky says it’s time for the Democrats to pretty much kiss off Dixie:

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

Actually, that’s not quite true. They need Florida, arguably, at least in Electoral College terms. Although they don’t even really quite need it—what happened in 2012 was representative: Barack Obama didn’t need Florida, but its 29 electoral votes provided a nice layer of icing on the cake, bumping him up to a gaudy 332 EVs, and besides, it’s nice to be able to say you won such a big state. But Florida is kind of an outlier, because culturally, only the northern half of Florida is Dixie. Ditto Virginia, but in reverse; culturally, northern Virginia is Yankee land (but with gun shops).

So Democrats still need to care about those two states, at least in presidential terms. And maybe you can throw in North Carolina under the right circumstances. And at some point in the near future, you’ll be able to talk about Georgia as a state a Democrat can capture. And eventually, Texas, too.

But that’s presidential politics. At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place.

I think this a touch overstated; I wouldn’t give up on fielding competitive Senate candidates in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, at least.  In a Republican wave midterm year, after all, Hagan lost by less than two points and Nunn wasn’t an embarrassment.  And while in the Electoral College the non-Virginia South is gravy, in the Senate there’s really no such thing as gravy — every seat matters, and the Democrats have to have multiple options in red states to get a significant majority.

But that aside, most of the South is such a write-off that we won’t be hearing nearly as much about how the Democrats need to appeal to Authentic Americans (i.e. Southern Christian conservative white men) for a while, and thank Sherman for that.  Remember when people tried to make Mudcat Saunders a thing?  Bad times.

Violence and the racialized failure of the American state [Guest Post By Lisa L. Miller]

[ 16 ] December 8, 2014 |

We are very pleased to present this post from our friend Lisa L. Miller. Lisa is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. Her research is on the political dynamics of crime and punishment, social policy and law, and constitutionalism. Her most recent book is The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty and the Politics of Crime Control (2008 Oxford University Press) and her new book project is entitled, The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent crime and democratic politics. She has published in Perspectives on Politics, Law and Society Review, Policy Studies Journal and Theoretical Criminology, among others. She is a former Visiting Scholar at All Souls College, Oxford University, and a former Fellow at Law and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

The refusal of grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York, to indict the police officers that killed Michael Brown and Eric Gardner has led some conservative commentators to direct attention to the so-called “Black on Black” crime problem, a much greater threat to Blacks than the police. The reaction from advocates for racial progress is to reject such attempts to connect these phenomenon, and to re-focus attention on state violence.

This is a mistake. The use of lethal force against Black Americans by the police or the state more generally, should not be untethered from the heightened risk of criminal violence that Blacks experience. Doing so simply reinforces the assumption that the primary tool for ameliorating racial inequality is to further constrain the state, which exercises its criminal justice authority disproportionately against African-Americans.

But this view misses the larger problem of racial inequality in the U.S., which is the failure of the state to act affirmatively to successfully protect Blacks, to the same degree as whites, from a wide range of causes of early death. Understanding the link between the disproportionate exposure of Black Americans to one of these causes – murder – as well as to state violence reveals a far more tragic reality than a singular focus on the police suggests, and that is the racialized failure of the American state.

What is a failed state? There is no single definition but, at a fundamental level, failed states are unable to deliver on the most basic of positive goods: security from violence. The United States, as a whole, fails to protect its citizenry from the risk of murder to the same degree as other rich democracies. But for Black Americans, this failure is astounding. The risk of being murdered is seven to eight times as high for Black men as white men, and three to four times as high for Black women as white women. More starkly, at the height of murder risk in the 1990s, the lifetime risk for Blacks was one in twenty-three, compared to one in 160 for whites.*

This exposure to violence is coupled with heightened exposure to other forms of physical risk, including police harassment, arrest, imprisonment and execution, often for offenses, such as drug violations, that they are no more likely to engage in than whites. Sociologists Becky Pettit and Bruce Western estimate that, for men born between 1964 and 1969, approximately three percent of whites and an astonishing twenty percent of Blacks had served time by their earlier thirties. It is not hyperbole, then, to say that African-Americans, far more than their white counterparts, experience devastating under-protection and over-enforcement of, the law.

Some will object to characterizing this as an instance of state failure, and return again to “Black on Black” crime. But why is this a meaningful phrase? It implies that Black victims of murder are somehow implicated in their own victimization, simply because the perpetrators of the crime are from the same race. This is sophistry. The vast majority of murders are intra-racial and crimes committed with greater frequency by whites – such as mass shootings – are never referred to as white-on-white crime. The simple fact is that some American communities are much more likely than others to experience murder and its collateral consequences, and this differential experience does not fall randomly across the population but, instead, is deeply racialized.

From the perspective of state capacity and responsibility, the race of perpetrators is immaterial with respect to its obligation to reduce the levels of violence to which a people are exposed. In nearly twenty years of research on the political dynamics of crime and punishment, I have found that security from violence, from fellow citizens and from the state, are essential public goods, and that the persistent exposure to risk of such violence, no matter the source, is a first-order political problem that citizens of all races expect the state to ameliorate.  The fact that both types of violence fall so disproportionately on African-Americans calls into question the very legitimacy of the American state.

In this sense, thinking about risk more broadly – rather than zeroing in on the risk of police violence – draws into sharp relief the differential exposure of Blacks and whites to the positive goods that the state helps to produce. Whites have little understanding of the historic and contemporary role of the state in producing many of the social conditions that insulate them from serious injury and death. But, as political scientist Ira Katznelson describes in When Affirmative Action Was White, few areas of society are untouched by broad social policies that shaped the opportunities and social conditions of white Americans and that have made society much more secure for them.

That Blacks were often excluded from such goods – directly or indirectly – is a function of the long attachment to racial hierarchy that animates much of our history. That Blacks continue to be at significantly heightened risk of violence reflects the persistent racialized failure of state institutions to work proactively to provide the same protections from violence to which whites are privilege.

While this approach may seem even less likely to come to pass than reforming police, it offers an opportunity to reconnect the fundamental political and socio-economic conditions into which people are born, with specific actions of the state. In fact, the economic crisis of 2008 dramatically highlighted the role of government in contributing to conditions that create greater inequality, as well as those that ameliorate such inequalities. Americans are easily seduced by anti-statist arguments, but in the current political economy – with a stagnant Congress and ineffective leadership in both parties – it is becoming clear that the greatest threat to American democracy is not that the state does too much but, rather, that it does too little, failing address the fundamental needs of citizens. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the life course of African-Americans, for whom violence at the hands of other citizens and violence from the long arm of the law are all too common.

Limited and fair application of the use of force by the police is a crucial component of the democratic state. But restricting ourselves to this understanding of state obligation in relation to racial progress misstates the depth and breadth of racialized risk in the United States. If the economic, social and political conditions in which African-Americans live constituted a distinct nation, there is little question that our government would characterize such conditions as evidence of an ineffective state, one that leaves its citizens unnecessarily exposed to the kinds of risks that modern democratic states have very effectively reduced.  Only through popular demand for a more robust, proactive state, one that can address the causes of violence and reanimate trust between citizens and government, can we extricate ourselves from failure and become the successful state for all citizens that we imagine ourselves to be.

*Lifetime risk calculates the likelihood of being murdered if the homicide rate remained static at the year of one’s birth. While this is an artificial calculation – homicide rates wax and wane and have not remained at their peak for decades at a time – it nonetheless provides a powerful way of understanding just how significant a risk homicide is for Blacks, compared to whites.

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