Saturday, October 31, 2015

Last Call For Putting The Smack Down

A funny thing happens when a drug epidemic affects suburban America: suddenly the war on drugs "lock all those people up" voters become "hey these laws are too draconian" and people start asking questions about how white kids from gated subdivisions end up in jail on heroin possession charges.

When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white
And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease. 
Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.” 
Mr. Botticelli, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 26 years, speaks to some of these parents regularly. 
Their efforts also include lobbying statehouses, holding rallies in Washington and starting nonprofit organizations, making these mothers and fathers part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement. These days, in rare bipartisan or even nonpartisan agreement, punishment is out and compassion is in.

And if you're wondering why all of a sudden criminal justice reform, mandatory sentencing revisions, marijuana legalization, treatment programs and the war on drugs all are major campaign issues in an election year when for 30 years it was "lock them up and throw away the key", then you now know just how bad the nation's heroin epidemic has gotten in white America.

The presidential candidates of both parties are now talking about the drug epidemic, with Hillary Rodham Clinton hosting forums on the issue as Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina tell their own stories of loss while calling for more care and empathy. 
Last week, President Obama traveled to West Virginia, a mostly white state with high levels of overdoses, to discuss his $133 million proposal to expand access for drug treatment and prevention programs. The Justice Department is also preparing to release roughly 6,000 inmates from federal prisons as part of an effort to roll back the severe penalties issued to nonviolent drug dealers in decades past. 
And in one of the most striking shifts in this new era, some local police departments have stopped punishing many heroin users. In Gloucester, Mass., those who walk into the police station and ask for help, even if they are carrying drugs or needles, are no longer arrested. Instead, they are diverted to treatment, despite questions about the police departments’ unilateral authority to do so. It is an approach being replicated by three dozen other police departments around the country.

Suddenly, the war on drugs is ruining the lives of Tyler, Madison and Hunter and not just Tyrone, Marisha and Hector.  Suddenly, zero tolerance for those people has turned into "Well, we have to have compassion for these sick souls that need help."

Suddenly, lawmakers and cops give a damn about serious criminal justice reform.  It took until the war on drugs finally escaped the battlefields of the inner cities they tried to contain it in and burned out the exurbs and the private schools and the galleria malls.

It took until the lives of the victims actually mattered, you see.  Black lives, well.  Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that there's finally real steps being taken on the criminal justice reform front and not just empty talk.  I'm glad users are getting real help, and real dollars are being spent to treat the core of addiction and not just the symptoms.  I'm glad we're doing something about non-violent drug offenders and legalization.

But this should have happened 20 years ago.  And one of the major reasons it didn't happen 20 years ago is a guy by the name of Bill Clinton.

And his wife.

Let's not forget that.

Taking The New York Red Line

Anytime I hear claims that institutional, systemic, and economic racism is long gone from blue states and is "only in the South" I have a good long laugh because I know that's absolutely untrue.

The green welcome sign hangs in the front door of the downtown branch of Hudson City Savings Bank, New Jersey’s largest savings bank. But for years, federal regulators said, its executives did what they could to keep certain customers out. 
They steered clear of black and Hispanic neighborhoods as they opened branches across New York and Connecticut, federal officials said. They focused on marketing mortgages in predominantly white sections of suburban New Jersey and Long Island, not here or in Bridgeport, Conn. 
The results were stark. In 2014, Hudson approved 1,886 mortgages in the market that includes New Jersey and sections of New York and Connecticut, federal mortgage data show. Only 25 of those loans went to black borrowers
Hudson, while denying wrongdoing, agreed last month to pay nearly $33 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Justice Department. Federal officials said it was the largest settlement in the history of both departments for redlining, the practice in which banks choke off lending to minority communities.

Those of you keeping score at home, 25 out of 1,886 is 1,3%.

Folks, post-Great Recession redlining is rampant all across the country, and one of the main issues I have with the awful lie that anti-redlining measures like the Community Reinvestment Act signed by Clinton into law forced banks to give mortgages to "broke minorities" and caused the housing collapse.  That particular lie I've documented for seven years on this blog as false.

And redlining is exactly why the CRA lie cannot possibly be true: if banks weren't lending to minorities, then how did minorities cause the Great Recession Housing Crash?

Ahh, but that brings us back to redlining going on still today.  And if you want to know why the GOP is so eager to get rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this is one major reason why.

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Jonah

After seven years of the Obamas being too ghetto for conservatives to handle, the new charge from professionally compensated idiot Jonah Goldberg is that Ben Carson is what real blackness is, and Obama is not black enough.

But what’s remarkable is that at no point in this conversation did anyone call attention to the fact that Carson is an African-American. Indeed, most analysis of Carson’s popularity from pundits focuses on his likable personality and his sincere Christian faith. But it’s intriguingly rare to hear people talk about the fact that he’s black.

One could argue that he’s even more authentically African-American than Barack Obama, given that Obama’s mother was white and he was raised in part by his white grandparents. In his autobiography, Obama writes at length about how he grew up outside the traditional African-American experience — in Hawaii and Indonesia — and how he consciously chose to adopt a black identity when he was in college.

Meanwhile, Carson grew up in Detroit, the son of a very poor, very hard-working single mother. His tale of rising from poverty to become the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital is one of the most inspiring rags-to-riches stories of the last half-century. (Cuba Gooding Jr. played Carson in the movie about his life.) He was a towering figure in the black community in Baltimore and nationally — at least, until he became a Republican politician.

And that probably explains why his race seems to be such a non-issue for the media. The New York Times is even reluctant to refer to him as a doctor. The Federalist reports that Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, is three times more likely to be referred to as “Dr.” in the Times as brain surgeon Carson. If the Times did that to a black Democrat, charges of racism would be thick in the air.

Goldberg manages to get all his racist hangups in one article here: Carson is One Of The Good Ones(tm), Liberals Are The Real Racists(tm), and Only In My Infinite White Wisdom Can You Judge Blackness(tm).

Expect a lot more of "Hey black voters, since you only voted for Obama because he's black, you'll vote for Ben Carson now, right?" in the future.

Making The Kynect-tion On Tuesday

Heading into the final weekend before Tuesday's gubernatorial election here in Kentucky, just a gentle reminder of what's at stake here should Republican Matt Bevin win and Kynect and Medicaid expansion goes away for 450,000 Kentuckians.

Two years into Obamacare, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t. 
The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor. They tend to live in Republican-leaning states. The rates of people without insurance in the Northeast and the upper Midwest have fallen into the single digits since the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions kicked in. But in many parts of the country, obtaining health insurance is still a problem for many Americans. 
These trends emerged in an analysis we undertook with the help of two organizations that are closely monitoring the progress of the health law. Last year, we used similar data to show the the substantial effects Obamacare had on reducing the number of Americans without health insurance. This year, the same groups updated their estimates of where America’s uninsured live, and the change is a lot less drastic. States that were late to expand Medicaid, including Pennsylvania and Indiana, showed substantial reductions in their uninsured residents compared with last year. In other places, the changes have been more modest. In a few — like Mississippi — things appear to have gotten worse, with fewer people having health insurance this year than last.

A county-by-county map makes this even more clear:

Now that Indiana and Pennsylvania are on board with Medicaid expansion, it's very clear that the red states in the South  (and Missouri) that are under GOP rule are in real trouble. Arkansas is the lone holdout as GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson hasn't been able to kill it yet after inheriting it from his Democratic predecessor.

But you'd better believe that Matt Bevin will put Kentucky back into the nearly solid purple of the South if he wins in a few days.  He's gone from wanting to scrap it totally to considering Indiana's block grant expansion/private insurance hybrid mess, but that would still kick hundreds of thousands of people off Medicaid, and he still wants to scrap Kynect completely and force Kentucky to go to a federal exchange (again wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process).

It's a pretty clear choice on Tuesday, folks.

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