Primarily Speaking

[Content Note: Racism; carcerality.]

image of Rand Paul standing in front of a US flag, to which I've added text reading: 'This is your regularly scheduled reminder that I am the worst.'

Senator Rand Paul, who is the worst, gave just a terrific interview about the rebellion in Baltimore in which he first said "that talking about 'root causes' was not appropriate in the middle of a riot," then immediately pivoted to dog whistle some execrable racist garbage about black absentee fathers and the inferiority of black families: "There are so many things we can talk about: The breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society." And then tried to cover his ass with: "This isn't just a racial thing." This is, however, a FUCK YOU thing, Senator.

In other Baltimore-related news, Democratic wannabe candidate Martin O'Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore before he served as Maryland's governor, did a walking tour in West Baltimore yesterday, and was not universally well-received (ahem): "He was confronted by two men on motorcycles who shouted expletives and blamed the recent violence in the city on O'Malley's tough-on-crime policies from 1999 to 2007."

Speaking of tough-on-crime policies, former President Bill Clinton said yesterday that "changes in penal policy that happened largely under his watch put 'too many people in prison and for too long' and 'overshot the mark.'"
In 1994 Clinton championed a crime bill that laid down several of the foundations of the country's current mass incarceration malaise. Vowing to be "tough on crime"—a quality that had previously been more closely associated with the Republicans and which Clinton adopted under his "triangulation" ploy—he created incentives to individual states to build more prisons, to put more people behind bars and to keep them there for longer. His also presided over the introduction of a federal three-strikes law that brought in long sentences for habitual offenders.

Under "truth in sentencing", states which sentenced people to long terms in prison with no chance of parole were rewarded with increased federal funds. The crime bill also enshrined a Clinton program known as COPS—Community Oriented Policing Services—in which federal money was provided to states to allow them vastly to increase the number of police officers on the streets—in turn generating more arrests and more convictions.

In a foreword to a new book of essays compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice, Clinton stops short of giving a full mea culpa for the vast increase in prison numbers. He writes that by 1994 crime had become a major problem across the country and that "we acted to address a genuine national crisis".

But he goes on to say that "it's time to take a clear-eyed look at what worked, what didn't, and what produced unintended, long-lasting consequences …Too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored. Some are in prison who shouldn't be, others are in for too long, and without a plan to educate, train, and reintegrate them into our communities, we all suffer."
No shit. And, not for nothing, but there were plenty of progressive advisors who predicted at the time that precisely these things would happen, but Clinton chose to ignore them.

So what does this have to do with the primary? Well, as soon as I read this, I thought: So, Hillary Clinton is going to propose something to address mass incarceration. Because I am a genius! Ha ha just kidding! I am just a supernerd who has been paying attention to politics since I wrote a letter to President Reagan asking him to please work with Mr. Gorbachev so no bombs would be dropped on my head!

Anyway: "Hillary Clinton to Outline Pitch for Criminal Justice Reform." Whaddaya know!

Clinton will reportedly outline a sweeping criminal justice reform plan that includes: The end of mass incarceration, police body cameras, and "a changed approach to punishment and prison, including making changes to probation practices, finding alternative punishments for low-level offenders, and increasing support for mental health and drug treatment."

I mean, sure, that sounds fine. But here I bump up against the same issue as always, which is that no Democratic candidate who even has a reasonable chance of being elected is nearly as progressive as I am. We don't need to reform the system; we need to obliterate it and replace it with something where justice is actually possible. We need to disband the police force and abolish prisons, and replace them with community mediators, rehabilitation and treatment centers, and a robustly funded social safety net that includes a basic minimum income for everyone.

That sounds radical, I know—but a serious look at what underwrites most criminality, and what solutions are actually effective, makes such a radical suggestion also the only reasonable one. That is, if you're interested in justice and not the profits of privatized prisons.

But I digress!

Look at me, all talking about serious policy solutions in a post about presidential politics. HA HA HA I AM SUCH A FUNNY JOKE CLOWN!

In other Hillary Clinton news: It turns out Hillary's logo is kinda cool! And speaking of her logo, if you are a Hillary fan and want a free bumper sticker, here is where you can get one! (In exchange for your address and email.) (Which might not be a bad exchange, especially if you want campaign updates.) (You decide!)

In polls that don't matter and won't for at least a year: Clinton leads the Democratic candidates in Iowa, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leads the Republicans, even though he isn't running (yet).

I love these early polls, especially on the Republican side, because it's always some guy who ain't running who wins the day, until he starts running and voters get a look at him, and then some other guy who ain't running takes the lead. No one is more likeable to Republican voters than someone whose most odious views haven't yet been dissected by the national media!

And finally! Senator Bernie Sanders, the only socialist (♥ ♥ ♥) in Congress will reportedly announce tomorrow that he is seeking the Democratic nomination, too. Good on ya, Bernie. I don't think you can win, but I think you can bring some important progressive ideas to the Democratic primary! Please say the word abortion a lot thank you!

Talk about these things! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy. Life is short.

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