Adam Serwer

More On Coburn

Greg Sargent gets the full transcript of Senator Tom Coburn's remarks on Obama and surmises that: I think what Coburn means here is that African Americans are more likely to need such programs than whites are, and by his own lights, Coburn actually thinks he’s being charitable to Obama here. He’s essentially saying that Obama’s life experience quite naturally dictated that he would view the safety net as a good thing, because it helped poor African Americans. I think that's probably true--one of the reasons liberals support the social safety net is that it helps reduce the impact of centuries of legalized discrimination. But acknowledging that these programs do a great deal of good before calling them "goofy" and "wrong" is more than a little weird, as is the implicit suggestion that somehow, it's only people of color who benefit or find these programs valuable. What’s funny to me about this whole episode is that it reveals how challenging it is for the saner variety of Republicans to...

Bachmann Staffer Once Accused Of Terrorism

Reading this story on Peter E. Waldron, a staffer for Michele Bachmann in Iowa who was arrested on charges of terrorism in Uganda (the charges were later dropped) I can't help but think of how fortunate he was that he was not immediately assumed to be guilty, placed in indefinite military detention, and then forced through a trial process biased towards the government's claims. Yet that's exactly what Bachmann, would do with any Muslim in U.S. custody accused of terrorism, because she doesn't believe foreigners have the same due process rights as American citizens.

Can DHS Prioritize?

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has released a report on DHS immigration enforcement efforts ( via The Economist ), arguing that the tools DHS is using to reduce illegal immigration conflict with its stated priorities of focusing on undocumented immigrants who are a threat to public safety. Essentially, their argument is that the use of programs like Secure Communities, which mandates local law enforcement in covered jurisdictions forward the identifying information of anyone they arrest to ICE, ensures that "prioritization" can't happen. The deportation numbers offer some evidence for this claim--the vast majority of those deported are guilty of minor offenses beyond being in the country illegally or none at all. The report though, offers something much more compelling than dry statistics: Detailed examples of individuals who were removed after being identified by police through relatively innocuous behavior. In April 2011, a man was a passenger in a car that was pulled...

Adventures In Logic With Tom Coburn

Obama's pal, Senator Tom Coburn on, of all things , Medicare: Responding to a man in Langley who asked if Obama “wants to destroy America,” Coburn said the president is “very bright” and loves his country but has a political philosophy that is “goofy and wrong.” Obama’s “intent is not to destroy, his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him,” he said. “As an African-American male,” Coburn said, Obama received “tremendous advantage from a lot of these programs.” So, I think the notion that somehow black people benefit from social insurance like Medicare but white people don't is a pretty ugly one, but fairly central to the effectiveness of the conservative argument against the welfare state. Even as Republicans win elections by scaring the crap out of white seniors over cuts to Medicare, and Democrats do the same, somehow, the notion that black people are the ones gaining a "tremendous advantage" prevails. Turns out "entitlement" has more than one meaning here...

The Help

John McWhorter offers a contrarian take on the civil rights era drama The Help, arguing that its critics are overreacting. Not content simply to make the case that the film is compelling, he goes onto argue that its critics are actually racist: This is a “feel-good movie for a cowardly nation”? How could it be that this film, hardly The Sorrow and the Pity but honest and thoroughly affecting, is being treated like a remake of Imitation of Life? We must dismiss out of hand a discomfort with this sad period being “packaged” by Hollywood at all. The Help certainly includes swelling strings on the soundtrack, what Nelson George terms its “candy-coated cinematography,” and neatly intertwining stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. Some might prefer a visually peculiar, spiritually ambiguous, narratively desultory art-house opus. But that film would be seen by only a few, which would contravene the imperative that America as a whole needs to see it to learn about its racist past...

Fallout

No you guys are racist! The White House really cares what hippies think even though it wants to punch them. Sweetening the Perry beat. Rush Limbaugh has a problem with miscegenation .

Recidivism, Israel Edition

The Prospect's Jerusalem correspondent Gershom Gorenberg sent me a note in response to my recidivism and unemployment post earlier: Reminded me of attending a Jewish student convention in 1975 and meeting the guy who was there to raise consciousness of the situation of Jews who couldn't keep their religion in American prisons. He'd gotten religion after being convicted of 2nd degree murder in a California bar, or so my memory of the distant conversation tells me. I think he'd been a longshoreman, but maybe that's just because he was burly enough to be one. Anyway, when he got out, he started studying for rabbinic ordination at a Chabad yeshivah. He wasn't a Chabadnik, but no other yeshivah would take a convicted murderer who wanted to start a new life and be a decent person. I always wondered what happened to him afterward, and hoped that he managed to get a job. Me too.

Begging For Recidivism

Matthew Yglesias comments on a New York law recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that would make "convictions for 26 felonies...become automatic disqualifying factors, raising the number of crimes for which a conviction would warrant a permanent ban from school-bus driving to 58." Obviously, it’s tough to be the guy who’s going to bat for convicted murderers, pimps, and rapists. But the reality is that most people convicted of these crimes don’t serve life sentences. They don’t get executed either. So they have to do something. And the nature of the modern American economy is that the majority of job opportunities involve interacting with other human beings. If it was up to me, we’d try to draw these restrictions very narrowly. A school bus driver supervised children and pilots a vehicle. Serious curbs on people with records of criminally inept driving seem clearly warranted. Similarly, you could plausibly worry that pedophiles would be interested in driving a school bus for sub-...

Georgetown, Apartheid, What's The Difference?

The folks who brought you the now-discredited charges behind the New Black Panther voter intimidation case are busy trying to prove that the Justice Department is deeply politicized because it's hiring people with experience in civil rights organizations to work in the civil rights division, as opposed to establishing an illegal Republican litmus test like when Bush was in office. Matt Gertz flags this assertion from NBPP hype man J. Christian Adams about a recent DoJ hire, Tamica Daniel. Ms. Daniel comes to the Section only a year out of Georgetown's law school, where she was the diversity committee chair of the law review, volunteered with the ACLU's Innocence Project, and participated in the Institute for Public Representation Clinic. For those in the real world, diversity committees are groups set up to hector for race-based outcomes in hiring employees and student matters. It is an entity with close cousins in South Africa's apartheid regime and other dark eras in history. Here's...

Rick Perry Doesn't Apologize Except When He Does

It’s 2000 all over again: A Republican governor from Texas is running for president, and the press is swooning over his manly manliness. Opinion columnists are already lining up to squeeze Perry’s biceps. Washington Post “liberal” columnist Richard Cohen thinks Perry “looks like a president,” whatever that means, while Kathleen Parker writes that Perry shares George W. Bush’s “certain brand of manliness.” I can’t tell if she means being a conservative from Texas or being a cheerleader . It’s getting a little hot in here for the straight reporters too. Yesterday, the Washington Post ’s Chris Cilizza wrote an uncharacteristically credulous post where he labeled Governor Rick Perry the “no-apologies” candidate who is “is brash, bold and unapologetic about being so.” Perry famously floated the idea of Texas seceding from the United States if the federal government kept trampling on states’ rights in 2009;he referred to the BP oil spill as an “act of God”; and he once asked Texans to pray...

Desegregation In Wake County

Trymaine Lee has a fascinating story on the role Americans for Prosperity played in dismantling a school desegregation program in North Carolina: Since 2000, Wake County has used a system of integration based on income. Under this program, no more than 40 percent of any school’s students could receive subsidized lunches, a proxy for determining the level of poverty. The school district is the 18th largest in the country, and includes Raleigh, its surrounding suburbs and rural areas. It became one of the first school systems in the nation to adopt such a plan. But Wake County’s plan became a political flash point when five conservative candidates, bankrolled by Americans for Prosperity, a political activist group funded in part by the Kochs, were elected to the school board on a “neighborhood schools” platform that would dismantle the existing integration policy. The new board touted their plan as one that would end busing and eliminate class, and subsequently race, as a factor for...

Fallout

Ricci round two. The Civil War isn't tragic . No one should be billed for their rape kit. Someone tell Rick Perry we already have drones at the border.

When Military Commissions Aren't An Option

Robert Chesney, looking at the trial of Mahamud Said Omar, a Minnesota resident who is accused of aiding Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab, cites it as an example of a case in which military commissions simply can't be used: The case is not unlike the much-discussed (and frequently critized) Warsame scenario, in that it involves a Somali man engaged in supporting al-Shabaab. To be sure, Warsame was also linked to AQAP, whereas there is no such claim so far as I know as to Omar. But on the other hand, Omar allegedly was involved quite directly in the infamous–and quite successful–recruitment of young Somali-American men from the Minneapolis region. In any event, the first important thing to note about the Omar case is that there almost certainly was no alternative to charging him in civilian court. He was arrested in the Netherlands, after all, and as we saw previously with the Delaema case, the Dutch are not likely to extradite if we plan to hold someone in military detention or use a...

Begging For Nixonland

Texas Governor Rick Perry doesn't have a particularly long list of contrasts between him and the last Texas governor to become president: "I am Rick Perry and he is George Bush," Perry declared as he marched through the Iowa State Fair, surrounded by reporters. "And our records are quite different." Asked what the biggest difference is, Perry responded: "I went to Texas A&M. He went to Yale." Getting into Yale is much easier when you're a legacy applicant , but it won't be hard for Perry to aim this kind of attack at Harvard and Columbia alumnus Barack Obama. Except in the latter circumstance, it'll come along with the implied subtext that the president is an affirmative action baby who only got in because he's black. He won't have to imply that himself either--his base, properly primed over the course of the last four years, will do it for him. Meanwhile, Rich Lowry begs for anticipates signs of liberal elitism, predicting Perry will be "an object of derision for self-appointed...

Mass Incarceration And Diminishing Returns

The ACLU's latest criminal justice infographic tries to dispel the notion of causation between an increase in the prison population and a decline in the crime rate. New York has seen its prison population decline along with its crime rates, while Indiana saw its prison population increase with a much more negligible dip in the latter: Most criminologists will acknowledge that incarceration does have an impact on crime rates but that given the sheer number of people in prison the U.S. has long passed the point of diminishing returns . Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, to his credit, tried to implement criminal justice policy reform in Indiana which included some of the ideas in Hawaii's HOPE probation program, but was stymied in part by members of his own party who watered down the bill to the point that, if it had passed, it would have actually "increased prison time, populations, and budgets; the state would have had to build three new prisons, at a cost of $210 million each with an...

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