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We Rock – and We’re Racist! Woo Hoo!

[ 0 ] February 28, 2008 |

Picking up on Rob’s earlier post about our ever-growing prison population, it’s worth noting that not only do we now have more than 1 in every 100 people incarcerated in the U.S., but we also have greater-than-ever racial disparities in whom we imprison. From Liptak:

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

That one-in-nine number is shocking. The high rate of incarcerated black men is no doubt due in large part to the war on (some classes of people who use some) drugs; this also accounts (at least in part) for the difference in incarceration rates for white women and black women.

Besides being racist, our prison policy is counterproductive. It doesn’t ensure community safety. It’s crushingly expensive. It doesn’t “rehabilitate” people. And as Marie Gottschalk argues in her book The Prison and the Gallows, prisons have become our alternative social “safety net” — how we deal with social problems like poverty that we don’t have the political will to actually address. Instead of providing social services and restructuring our educational system, we lock people up.

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A Million Years?

[ 13 ] February 28, 2008 |

And when did the Weekly Standard start hiring twelve year olds?

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We Rock!

[ 21 ] February 28, 2008 |

Awesome!

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

I’m proud to be a citizen of a country tough enough and free enough to imprison 1% of its adult population.

Let freedom ring, baby.

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Fronting

[ 0 ] February 28, 2008 |

Feral Mom admits to having conversed from time to time about books she hasn’t actually read.

[A]s I reflect on my literary sins, I have to admit that Pride and Prejudice is just the tip of this fraudulent iceberg. There’s all sorts of books that I’ve fronted like I read–so effectively, in some cases, that I’ve even fooled myself–for years now. Books I always intended to read, hell, books sitting on my goddamn shelf, that I just haven’t gotten around to reading.

The sad part is? I’m an, erm, English major. Hell, I have an advanced degree in literature. Should I be stripped (heh heh) of my degree? You be the judge. In any case, confession is good for the soul, so I present for your perusal the Fraudulent Five. These are all books that I’ve talked about in mixed company and have never actually read–in some cases, haven’t even cracked the cover.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, and Moby Dick make the list, among several others.

I’m not sure I could come up with a similar list, mainly because I’ve successfully persuaded most people that I’m illiterate. I did eventually get around to reading Crime and Punishment in college, three years after writing a high school term paper about Raskolnikov’s tortured conscience; same thing for Huckleberry Finn and Inferno, both of which served as the basis for my junior thesis. As for Moby Dick, I started reading that eleven years ago and have been about 100 pages from finishing ever since. Meantime, I’ve forgotten everything about the book, which means I’d pretty much have to start all over. Screw that. I’m just going to assume he gets the goddamn whale.

Nevertheless, during the ordinary course of lecturing, I occasionally mention books I’ve never seen or picked up. I don’t necessarily make any direct claims, but I imagine students actually think I’ve read them. Last week, for example, I discussed James Peck’s Freedom Ride, which I can discuss for about 45 seconds only because I’ve read about it via second-hand sources. It’s a short book that I really should read, but like Feral Mom, I’d guess the likelihood of that happening is somewhere beneath 50 percent.

By far the strangest unread book I discuss in class is The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a notorious specimen of anti-Catholic propaganda/soft porn from the mid-1830s. I spend a couple of minutes on it during conversations about antebellum nativism. A slightly edited version is apparently available through Google Books, so I really have no excuse now.

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End of An Era

[ 16 ] February 28, 2008 |

Linda Greenhouse accepts a buyout from the Times. She did very good work. Anybody have guesses about her successor?

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Remind Me to Read This to My Kids

[ 9 ] February 28, 2008 |

So apparently Dr. Seuss is supporting the anti-abortion movement. Or at least, they like to say he is (or did) — despite the fact that Seuss made it clear during his life that he had no interest in allowing them to use his works.

A group in Colorado that supports the quote-unquote Human Life Amendment (aka the tampon policing act of 2008) has latched on to a line from Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who and are using it to advocate for the ridiculous ballot initiative. Their line of choice (bad pun intended) is: “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Right.

So, the inimitable ladies at Jezebel have put together a collection of preposterous abortion rights anthems. It’s pretty good, and it got me thinking about what I would add. My addition: George Michael’s Freedom:

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me.

Anyone got a more or less literal one to add to the pile?

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"I get fetishes"

[ 0 ] February 27, 2008 |

KTVA, the CBS affiliate in Anchorage, just ran a nearly unwatchable, nine-minute “human interest” segment on Ted “Tubemaster” Stevens (who might actually have to face a real Democratic opponent this year). The station’s intro to the piece single-handedly justifies the absence of television in our house:

You might be wondering: ["]In this interview, will he respond or talk about the current FBI investigation surrounding him?["]

The answer–quite simply–is no. For months, Stevens has responded the same way when the topic has come up and has stated that he will not speak about that issue.

As a station, it was never our intention with this interview, to ask questions about the current FBI investigation involving Senator Stevens. We knew what that answer would be and were told what that answer would be, so we moved on. Instead, our goal is to show you a side of the senator we never get to see.

It’s worse than you could possibly imagine. The interview takes place in Stevens’ Girdwood, Alaska home that was remodeled by corporate felons; because of this house, Stevens may be fermenting mason jars of orange juice behind the laundry room radiator in a couple of years. But rather than press the issue — or simply move on to an actual news story — KTVA decided to show the softer side of a man who’s been in office since LBJ was incinerating Vietnam.

Senator Stevens eases into his Alaskan routine, like a small child grateful to be home. He’s here roughly 25 nights a year. After watching him scan the refrigerator, we can’t help but begin with one of the senator’s favorite topics: food.

“I have a piece of chocolate every morning, every morning…dark chocolate,” said Senator Stevens.

“I get fetishes. I don’t eat white potatoes. I don’t eat things that have white sugar in them. I get hooked on stories I hear and things I read, so I love sweet potatoes. Sometimes she cooks something and I don’t eat it. And she says, ‘You’re a nutritional terrorist, that’s all,’” said Stevens.

I believe the proper term for that is “fascist.” But never mind. Before you can howl, “Oh dear God, make it stop — this horrible subdermal burning sensation, Lord have mercy make it stop,” the interview continues with an extensive discussion of the fact that even though he’s a complete prick about a lot of things, at the end of the day Stevens is, like, really old and sensitive and stuff.

“[T]he human body was really meant to live at least 120 years. They really believed in the biblical concepts of 120 years is entirely possible. It’s what you do to your body that you don’t live 120 years. And I said I take pretty good care of mine. This one guy said, ‘My God, you’re not going to stay around that long are you?’ (laughs),” said Senator Stevens.

There is no denying, the road ahead will be long, for many reasons. Alaskans are increasingly demanding more from the people they put into office. [Like, um, maybe not being criminals. -- ed.] They are demands that take a toll across party lines. And yes, even on this face of Alaskan politics. Naturally, I had to ask:

When was the last time you cried?

“You’re getting real personal now. But I cry when I see a sick baby, (long pause)…and when I see things I can not change,” said Stevens.

Readers are encouraged to e-mail Sen. Stevens and briefly describe some of the many things he can not in fact change. Photos of sick babies may be sent directly to the Tubemaster’s office.

Ted Stevens: Weeping for Change (and for Sick Babies) in 2008!

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Buckley

[ 35 ] February 27, 2008 |

William F. Buckley has shuffled off his mortal coil. For want of something useful to say, I’ll just link to this account of a conversation on a NRO cruise between Buckley and Norm Podhoretz, cited by Wolcott:

“Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?” Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him that Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. “No,” Podhoretz replies. “As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War One, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran.” He says he is “heartbroken” by this “rise of defeatism on the right.” He adds, apropos of nothing, “There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we are winning.”

The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn’t he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley “a coward.” His wife nods and says, “Buckley’s an old man,” tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

…Rick Perlstein offers some words of remembrance.

…Media Czech compares Buckley to John Shaft.

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You Want the Money for What Now?

[ 17 ] February 27, 2008 |

It’s not just that the Air Force is requesting $112.5 million for PR; it could buy a little more than half of one of the F-22s it so deeply covets with that, but hey, that’s cool. What bothers me is that the campaign seems so obviously calibrated for embarrassment; for some reason, the Air Force is incapable of describing its activities in something other than military terms, even when the targets are the other services or the American people:

The proposed advertising campaign’s goals are laid out like the strategic targeting plan of an air war.

The targets are 220 million adults. The goal is that each adult over a year’s span will see 30 Air Force advertisements, from ads on Web sites to full-page newspaper ads to prime-time television ads.

Success will be measured by creating a positive attitude about the Air Force. “The program seeks to change a mind-set by educating the American public on how today‚Äôs Air Force is the most engaged, versatile and high-tech of all the military services,” according to the budget proposal.

So yes, this is a campaign that is designed to make people feel good about their Air Force; once you get hit by see thirty advertisements, you no longer worry about the prohibitive cost of a fighter with no obvious role, or the detrimental effects of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. And I think you’ll all agree that spending $112 million is worth it if it results in all of us feeling good.

A reader also reminds me that the new slogan of the Air Force appears to be “Air Force: Above All”. Now I’m as big of a fan of the German national anthem as any liberal fascist, and if I had known that the USAF had similar inclinations, I wouldn’t have been nearly as critical.

Via Yglesias.

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"It was a nationwide, televised, MSM version of one of those noxious Obama smear emails."

[ 12 ] February 27, 2008 |

Russert is a disgrace. (See also here, here, and here.) It seems to be that Obama handled the ridiculous questions about as well as could be expected.

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Emphasize Law , Not Morality

[ 16 ] February 27, 2008 |

Various bloggers have reacted negatively to Amy Sullivan’s claim that her support of legal abortion can’t be labeled “pro-choice” because she believes that abortion is morally problematic. Kevin Drum defends Sullivan, arguing that it’s entirely possible for a good pro-choicer to acknowledge the moral complexity of abortion. And this is true as far as it goes; it’s certainly possible for a pro-choicer to acknowledge that people disagree about the morality of abortion and then go on to explain why bans on abortion are a bad idea no matter what your position on abortion is.

The problem that I and other people have, though, is that for the most part Sullivan and Saletan don’t actually do this. Their arguments about abortion emphasize moral agreements with anti-choicers, not legal disagreements. Sullivan claiming that she can’t be described as pro-choice implies that pro-choicers can’t disagree about the morality of abortion, and of course asserting that everyone has to acknowledge that abortion is icky is central to Saletan’s shtick. And while Obama goes on in the speech cited by Kevin to argue that everyone can agree that it’s good to lower abortion rates but that we need “family planning and education for our young people,” Sullivan has argued that such policies represent “standing up to” pro-choicers whose goal is allegedly to maximize abortion rates per se.

Good coalition-building on reproductive freedom would consist of emphasizing agreement (the stupidities and inequities of using inevitably arbitrary state coercion to force women to bring pregnancies to term, the greater effectiveness of the broad panoply of pro-choice policies in reducing abortion rates by reducing unwanted pregnancies) and de-emphasizing moral conflicts. People object to Sullivan and Saletan because they emphasize the latter rather than the former — and especially in Saletan’s case, in fact denying that abortion is morally complex but that people who don’t share his moral views are simply wrong — and argue almost exclusively on the political terrain favored by anti-choicers. Creating conflicts where no necessary ones exist — like writing yourself out of the pro-choice movement because you think there are moral problems with abortion — is coalition-fracturing. Acknowledging that many people find abortion immoral can be the start of a pro-choice argument, but it can’t be the end of one.

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 42

[ 48 ] February 27, 2008 |


Ralph Nader turns 74 today. After enjoying a breakfast of whole grain toast and Postum, the Green Party’s 2000 presidential candidate will receive his customary birthday tug job from Dick Cheney.

On Ralph Nader’s 67th birthday in 2001, George W. Bush told an audience in Charlotte, North carolina that

[a]nother reason I feel confident in our ability to accomplish some important missions for the country is, I’ve assembled a great team. For those of you who have ever run a company or run an organization, you understand what I’m about to say – that you’re only as good as your team. And my national security team is strong and capable and experienced, and so is my domestic policy team.

The next year, George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer explained to a temporarily combative White House press corps that

the United Nations Security Council called for, in November, full, complete and immediate disarmament. It did not say, stretch it out, delay it and only after you’re under pressure should you say you’re going to destroy a missile that you once claimed you never had and you still say doesn’t even violate the United Nations. And that’s the problem with the Saddam Hussein. Every time he’s under pressure he tries to relieve the pressure by disarming just a touch, just a little; playing the game, playing the deception.

And the’s why, as I said to you, when you sum up what Iraq is, and you sum up the actions they take, the Iraqi actions are propaganda, wrapped in a lie, inside a falsehood.

On the 69th anniversary of Ralph Nader’s birth, George W. Bush welcomed German chancellor Gerhard Shroeder to the White House. In post-meeting remarks with the press, the President opined — quite heterosexually — that

marriage has served society well, and I believe it is important to affirm that, that marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal. And the job of the President is to drive policy toward the ideal. This is a sensitive debate, and it is important that people hold true to their beliefs without condemning anybody else. And so therefore, I call upon all sides in the debate to conduct themselves with dignity and honor and respect. But this is a debate that the Nation must have. And the people’s voice must be heard in the debate.

Two years later, on Nader’s 72nd birthday, a reporter asked Bush’s press secretary Scott McClellan about the President’s opinion of a new South Dakota law that banned abortion in nearly all cases including rape and incest. McClellan assured the press corps that

The President believes we ought to be working to build a culture of life in America. And we have taken practical, common-sense steps to help reduce the number of abortions in America. It is a strong record that is based on building a culture of life, and the President has made very clear that he is pro-life with three exceptions [rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk].

Which is so totally what Al Gore would have said.

(Condolences to LGM reader Spencer, who apparently shares his special day with Mr. Nader but who will not — we assume, at least — be receiving a social call from the Vice President.)

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