Category Archives: Police

Mexican illegal immigrant population in US lowest since 2009 – study

A new report has found that the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants residing in the US has been steadily decreasing over the past 10 years, and they no longer make up the majority of illegal immigrants.

The Pew Research Center released a report Tuesday that estimates the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the US to have decreased from its peak of 12.2 million during the recession in 2007 to 11.3 million in 2016.

For the first time, the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the US has fallen below the level in 2009, the end of the Great Recession, the report found.

Pew included immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas as unauthorized immigrants.

The report estimates the unauthorized immigrant population in 1990 was around 3.5 million, which grew to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

Since 2009, the report estimates the population grew by around 350,000 unauthorized immigrants per year, with 100,000 of those coming from Mexico.

It is estimated that 2016 was the first year since 2005 that Mexicans have not made up the majority of the unauthorized immigrant population.

Mexicans remain largest group among unauthorized immigrants in US, but now may no longer account for a majority http://pewrsr.ch/2pvCkcf 

Using data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey through former President Barack Obama’s second term, the report estimated the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants decreased from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2016.

Their data showed Mexicans went from making up 57 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population to around 50 percent in roughly 10 years.

While the Pew report did not include any data from the Trump administration, it did note that policy changes on increased border protections under the current administration have accompanied a sharp decline in the number of apprehensions at the southwest border, according to data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

CBP data shows 16,600 apprehensions were made along the southwest border in March 2017, a 30 percent decrease from the previous month and a 64 percent increase from the same month in the previous year.

During Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border, despite the fact that border crossings have decreased, calling the wall “a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency.

Just because you have a couple good months in a year, I think you want to make sure that you take prudent long-term steps,” Spicer said. “Eight years from now, the next President will have that wall in place to make sure that it doesn’t continue.

Pew also found that while the share of unauthorized Mexican immigrants has been declining, there have been a growing number of immigrants coming from other areas in the world, namely Central America and Asia.

Estimated authorized immigrant totals from Mexico declined during 2009-2015, but rose from Asia & Central America http://pewrsr.ch/2qaFLB4 

In 2015, the report estimates there were 1.8 million unauthorized immigrants from Central America and 1.5 million from Asia. Both of these populations have increased by around 200,000 since 2009.

The Pew Research Center also released a report earlier this month that showed federal law enforcement agencies have been making more immigration-related arrests and fewer arrests for other offenses, including drug, property and gun-related crimes.

Their data showed half of the 165,265 arrests made by federal law enforcement agencies in fiscal year 2014 were related to immigration, an increase of 22 percent from 2004.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Anarchism of Blackness

An activist rallies the crowd at the Young Gifted & Black Coalition march in Madison, Wisconsin, January 1, 2014. (Photo: Joe Brusky)

An activist rallies the crowd at the Young Gifted & Black Coalition march in Madison, Wisconsin, January 1, 2014. (Photo: Joe Brusky)

Present incarnations of an unfazed and empowered far right increasingly demand the presence of a real, radical left. In the coming months and years, the left and left-leaning constituencies of the United States will need to make clear distinctions between potentially counterproductive symbolic progress, and actual material progress. Liberalism and party politics have failed a public attempting to bring about real change — but there are solutions.

The Black liberation struggle, in particular, has long provided a blueprint for transformative social change within the boundaries of this empire, and it has done so due to its positioning as an inherently radical social formation — a product of the virulent and foundational nature of anti-Blackness in American society. Understanding the significance of this struggle, we can proceed through examinations of the past, present and future to build new movements, a strong and radical left, and political power that generates and inspires rather than disappoints.

The Failings of American Liberalism

The United States’ self-ascribed democratic traits have long been filtered through oppressive forms that the state insists are necessary. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are measured by the success of a capitalist system that only truly benefits a few. Meanwhile, everyone else is told to believe that our supposedly meritocratic chance at being one of those few beneficiaries is what makes us “free.” True, unfiltered freedom and deep democracy are far too revolutionary for this state, so radical and revolutionary critiques of systemic limitations are often dismissed as overly idealistic or a utopian fantasy. But it is in the midst of the real-life nightmare that is the Trump administration that we should now — more than ever — be dreaming and striving to achieve something better.

For many years now, American liberalism has been a bitter disappointment to many of those who somehow maintained faith in the democratic integrity of the two-party system. The Democratic Party has seemingly been the only choice for those who consider themselves progressives working for a better society, but the notion that social inequities will be solved through the electoral process was always naïve at best. The entrails of this system are lined with the far-right fascism that is currently rising and has been bubbling under the façade of liberal democracy at the expense of non-whites in a white supremacist society. A system predicated on the over-emphasis of “order” and “security” is primed for authoritarianism.

Genocide, enslavement and other forms of violence the empire inflicts have grown more tepid in their bluntness since this nation’s birth. Over time, the violence has been displaced and restructured by more insidious and invisible modalities of community destruction. The reservation, the prison system and austerity policies are just some of the negotiable forms of violence that liberalism has facilitated over time.

Over the past few decades, the United States has seen a shift in liberal politics leaving the Democratic Party in a completely compromised position. The emergence of the Tea Party, a populist surge in the Republican Party, alienated the more “moderate” establishment Republicans in favor of a more explicitly articulated bigoted takeover. The lack of a real response to this moment further enabled the rightward shift as a shaken liberal establishment only sought and attempted bipartisan negotiations with the more extreme elements commandeering the party. Instead of moving left, the Democratic Party pandered to the alienated “moderate” right as it had been for years, and facilitated this conservative shift with nearly every waking opportunity.

Bipartisan Delusions

Liberal support for the Iraq War, post-9/11 domestic policy and the foreign policy extensions of the War on Terror made clear the position of the Democratic Party. For “millennials” in particular, our generation has come of political age watching perpetual disappointments to this end. There has been no true left in the United States because the positioning of the Democratic Party is not one of stark opposition to the right. The messaging that suggests we should meet conservatives halfway and work on “both sides of the aisle” has comfortably consolidated a giant right-wing apparatus.

It seems fitting that at the end of the Obama era we would see a white supremacist Trump presidency, and that immediately following a Black president whose cabinet was outspoken about diversity and inclusion we would see a spike in right-wing hate group enrollment. And through the transition of administrations and the first wave of antagonistic legislation, there was neither sustained nor sustainable protection being planned by the party purporting to defend progress. That quiet has now manifested itself in a Trump administration filled to the brim with the worst of the worst: the absence of a real left has left so many vulnerable populations exposed and at the mercy of a plutocratic tyrant hell-bent on destruction.

After a spate of extrajudicial police killings, hate crimes and domestic terror incidents, the country is reeling. Black America has been reminded again and again that we are seen as a monolithic group of feeble-minded children to be chastised by the state for our own disenfranchisement and community disadvantage. If there is nothing to be offered that addresses the reparations Black America is owed on several fronts, then we should seek to secure these things ourselves through action.

Liberalism and Democratic Party politics are simply not working for Black people. The agenda of the liberal establishment is frequently not one that is in line with the everyday material needs of Black America. Despite the optics of change and the promises of a new day and the moral victories of “going high,” an old sun is rising on a white horizon. At this point Black people and all people of color across the United States will have to decide between securing real change and bargaining with bigotry for compromise.

Blackness and the Zone of Non-Citizenship

Societal fascism describes the process and political logics of state formation wherein entire populations are either excluded or ejected from the social contract. They are excluded pre-contractually because they have never been a part of a given social contract and never will be; or they are ejected from a contract they were previously a part of and are only able to enjoy a conditional inclusion at best.

Black Americans are the former: they are residents in a settler colony predicated upon the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of the Africans from whom they are descendants. Residents in the United States, as opposed to citizens of. Despite a Constitution laden with European Enlightenment values, and a document of independence declaring egalitarianism and inalienable rights as the law of the land, Black existence was that of private property. The Black American condition is perpetual relegation to the afterlife of slavery, and as long as the United States continues to exist as an ongoing settler project, in this afterlife Black people will remain.

As Hortense Spillers makes clear in her seminal work, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Story,” Blackness was indelibly marked and transformed through the Transatlantic chattel trade. European colonialism and the subsequent process of African enslavement — both as a profit-maximizing economic institution and an un-humaning institution — can be regarded as “high crimes against the flesh, as the person of African females and males registered the wounding.”

Crimes against the flesh are not simply crimes against the corporeal self: the wounded flesh, rather, was the personhood and social positionality of the African. The wounding is the process of blackening and necessarily of subjugation, a wound from which Black people and “Blackness” writ large have yet to recover. Black exclusion from the social contract is existence within a heavily surveilled and heavily regulated state of subjection. We are carriers of the coveted blue passport still trapped in the zone of citizen non-being. We are simultaneously subjugated and teased with promises of liberation via individualized neoliberal self-betterment and swallowing of a long-soured American Dream whilst choking back dissonances and forcibly reconciling irreconcilable double consciousnesses.

Whiteness has long sought to grapple with the existential threat posed by Black freedom. Black repatriation to Africa, or “colonization,” has long been floated as one potential solution. Founded in 1816 and driven by a variety of ultimately complementary motivations, the American Colonization Society helped to found the colony of Liberia in 1822. The abolitionist contingents within the society believed that because of the insurmountable discriminations free-born Black people and freedmen and their families experienced, Black people would fare far better organizing themselves in their African “homelands.”

Slaveholders within American society were concerned that the presence of free Blacks would inspire enslaved Blacks to revolt and thus compromise the stability (both economic stability and the stability of the anti-Black racial order) of the southern slaveocracy, and other openly racist members outright refused Black people the opportunity to integrate into American society. Others still were concerned that Black families would burden state welfare systems and that interracial labor competition would ultimately compromise wages for white workers.

A lesser known proponent of colonization was the “Great Emancipator” himself, Abraham Lincoln, who entertained a far lesser known and quickly abandoned plan for Black colonization in Panama — one decried by Frederick Douglass as “ridiculous” — which would also play a role in the expansion of American trade influence in the Caribbean. The “Back to Africa” project was subsequently taken up by Black thinkers like Marcus Garvey in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries following the failures of Reconstruction in the South, the first attempt to meaningfully extend citizenship to newly emancipated Blacks, to protect them from white supremacist violence and also the social and political disillusionment of Blacks who had migrated to northern states. It is no coincidence that interest in repatriation peaked during the period.

The major problem with both historical and contemporary repatriation-colonization programs is the means by which they fail to both provide reparation for historic violence and answer the perennial question of Black citizenship in the United States. Many or most Black people, including many descendants of enslaved Africans trafficked from the continent centuries ago, have no desire to return to an Africa that has never been their home in any material sense. Given plans to remain, Black people have organized in myriad ways to affect change and actualize varying conceptions of liberation in the United States. But as history has demonstrated, some vehicles for change and political advancement are more fickle than others.

The Anarchism of Blackness

Make no mistake: progress has been secured by Black people’s mobilization as opposed to a single political party. We are the ones who have achieved much of the progress that changed the nation for the better for everyone. Those gains were not a product of any illusion of American exceptionalism or melting pots, but rather through blood, sweat and community self-defense. Our organization can be as effective now as it has been in the past, serving every locality and community based on their needs and determinations. This much can be achieved through disassociating ourselves from party politics that fail to serve us as Black freedoms cannot truly be secured in any given election. Our political energy is valuable and should not all be drained by political cycles that feed into one another as well as our own detriment.

While bound to the laws of the land, Black America can be understood as an extra-state entity because of Black exclusion from the liberal social contract. Due to this extra-state location, Blackness is, in so many ways, anarchistic. African-Americans, as an ethno-social identity comprised of descendants from enslaved Africans, have innovated new cultures and social organizations much like anarchism would require us to do outside of state structures. Black radical formations are themselves fundamentally anti-fascist despite functioning outside of “conventional” Antifa spaces, and Black people have engaged in anarchistic resistances since our very arrival in the Americas.

From slave ship and plantation rebellions during enslavement to post-Emancipation labor and prison camps, to Harriet Tubman’s removal of enslaved peoples from the custody of their owners, to the creation of maroon societies in the American South, to combatting the historic (and present) collusion between state law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan — assertions of Black personhood, humanity and liberation have necessarily called into question both the foundations and legitimacy of the American state.

So given this history, why do we understand Black political formations as squarely entrenched within liberalism or as almost synonymous with supporting for the Democratic Party? The reality of the afterlife of slavery shows that the updated terms of Black citizenship are still inextricably linked to the original sins levied against us from the moment of this nation’s inception. We are not able to escape a cage that has never been fully removed, though liberal fantasy would have you think we will have a dream or dignifiedly protest out of harm’s way.

The simple and increasingly realized reality is that mass protests, petitions and the over-exhausted respectable methods liberals tout as sole solutions have a purpose, but do not stop bullets — that is why Dr. King and many of their favorite sanitized “non-violent” protesters of yesteryear carried weapons to defend themselves.

Responding to This Neo-Fascist Moment

Liberalism cannot defeat fascism, it can only engage it through symbolic political rigmarole. The triteness of electoral politics that has been superimposed onto Black life in the United States positions Black people as an indelible mule for much of this nation’s social progression. Our hyper-visible struggle is a fight for all people’s freedom and we die only to realize that everything gained can be reversed with the quick flick of a pen. While liberalism takes up the burden of protecting “free speech” and the rights of those who would annihilate all non-whites, Black people and other people of color assume all of the risks and harms.

The symbolic battles the Democratic Party and its liberal constituents engage in pose direct existential threats to Black people because they protect esteemed ideals of a constitution that has never guaranteed Black people safety or security. The idealistic gestures with which liberalism defines itself are made at the expense of Black people who are not protected by such ideals in the ways institutional whiteness and even articulations of white supremacy are protected.

Constitutional amendments are contorted based on the state’s historical disregard for sustaining an active antagonism towards Black life. The First Amendment has been repeatedly trampled by militarized police trotting through Black neighborhoods. The Second Amendment has been shot down by countless state enforcers who have extra-judicially murdered Black people based merely on the suspicion they might have a weapon. The Thirteenth Amendment legitimized enslavement through mass incarceration and extended the practice into a new form of white supremacist rationalization and an old capitalist labor politic that still tortures us to this day. This fascist moment is neither ideologically new nor temporally surprising. It is an inevitability.

Anti-fascist organizing must be bold. The mechanisms working against us do not entertain our humanity: they are hyper-violent. They deal death and destruction in countless numbers across the non-Western world while turning domestic Black and Brown neighborhoods into proxies for how to treat sub-citizen “others.” The militarization of police, border regimes, stop-and-frisk and ICE are clear examples of how the state regards the communities it targets and brutalizes. At the very least, a conversation on self-defense that does not mistreat our survival as a form of violence is deeply needed. And it would be even better if such a conversation normalized anti-fascist organizing that prepared people for the possibility of a fight, instead of simply hoping that that day never comes and respectably clutching proverbial pearls at those currently fighting in the streets.

Everyone has a stake in the fight against fascism. It cannot be defeated with bargaining, petitioning, pleading, “civilized” dialogue, or any other mode of response we were taught was best. Fascists have no respect for “othered” humanities. Regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, religion, physical ability or nationality, there is a place for all of us in this struggle. We are always fighting against the odds because there is no respite in a perpetually abusive state. It can only function through this abuse, so we can only prevail through organizing grounded in radical love and solidarity.

Our solidarity must prioritize accountability, and it must be authentic. Strategic organizing of this sort, organizing where we understand the inextricable linkedness of our respective struggles, is our means of bolstering the makings of a cohesive left in the United States. The time wasted on dogma and sectarianism, prejudice and incoherence among leftists is over.

The sooner Black America in particular begins to understand our position as an inherently anarchistic element of the United States, the more realistically we will be able to organize. Moving beyond the misnomer of chaos, the elements that make us such are the very tools we should utilize to achieve our liberation. This burning house cannot be reformed to appropriately include us, nor should we want to share a painful death perishing in the flames. A better society has to be written through our inalienable self-determinations, and that will only happen when we realize we are holding the pen.

By William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi, ROAR Magazine | Op-Ed

Posted by The NON-Conformist

With AG Sessions Calling for a Review of All Federal Consent Decrees, What Is the Future of Police Reform In Ferguson?

The Trump White House is a law and order administration making good on its promises to get tough on crime, increase the police presence in the community and focus on the priorities of law enforcement. Blue lives matter in Trump’s America, a reality that was reinforced in U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to review the Department of Justice consent decrees with police departments across the country. The decision to take another look at these decrees — agreements to reform troubled police departments with a history of brutality, violence and racially discriminatory practices — would seem to fall in line with the interests of the Fraternal Order of Police. The F.O.P. endorsed Trump and supported Sessions in his nomination for attorney general, believing both would put police officers first. In segments of the Black community, Sessions’ announcement raises red flags, with Black activists and police officers in Ferguson warning that this is a push to end or alter these agreements and move away from the direction of reform.

In a DOJ memorandum dated March 31 titled, “Supporting Federal, State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement,” Sessions said that local police must protect and respect civil rights, but it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage nonfederal law enforcement agencies. He ordered his staff to undergo a sweeping review of department activities to determine if they fall in line with the principles of the Trump administration. “The federal government alone cannot successfully address rising crimes rates, secure public safety, protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public or implement best practices in policing. These are, first and foremost, tasks for state, local, and tribal law enforcement,” he wrote.

In his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions had laid the groundwork by expressing his reservations with federal involvement in local policing. “I think there is concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department that have done wrong,” Sessions said in his confirmation hearing in January, as reported by The Baltimore Sun. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness, and we need to be careful before we do that.”

Hanging in the balance are the efforts the Obama administration made with nearly two dozen cities to reform their police departments, as The New York Times reported, leading to DOJ consent decrees with 14 cities such as Ferguson, Cleveland, Seattle and Baltimore. The proposed Baltimore agreement appears in jeopardy as the DOJ now has “grave concerns” it does not promote public safety, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“It really is our belief that these consent decrees are in place for a reason. It’s actually kind of scary that Jeff Sessions is going in as attorney general and reviewing the policies in place,” said Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police (E.S.O.P. Genesis), an association of Black police officers in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

“This is not about individual officers. These are paid professionals that look into policies and procedures from top to bottom and come to the conclusion that the Department of Justice had to come in and intervene,” Taylor noted. “It is really scary for our community. From our standpoint, we don’t see the decision to do that as a good one. It will probably embolden some police officers.” She added that consent decrees are designed to bring the community together to change policies and stop implicit bias.

According to Taylor, while the DOJ has the power to review police departments, that is now out the window under the current administration. “We’re really in trouble. In the conversations after the death of Mike Brown, we were able to shine the light on departments that have bad practices. Not everyone in those departments were absolutely bad,” she said, also noting problems that were uncovered such as racial profiling, disparities in police checks, corruption, promotion of Black officers and internal affairs divisions turning a blind eye to bad officers.

In St. Louis, Black pedestrians are pulled over at a much higher rate than whites, Taylor said, although they have a much lower probability of possessing drugs. Taylor also said her association has teamed up with the ACLU of Missouri to address racial disparities and seek changes to the state’s racial profiling laws, which have not been updated in 17 years.

“With the F.O.P. endorsing Trump, with things said concerning protected groups, police are disconnected from the community. Police community relations are at an all-time low,” Taylor said. The Fraternal Order of Police issued a wish list for the first 100 days of the Trump administration, which included such measures as elimination of Obama-era policing reforms and recommendations, reversal of the federal ban on private prisons, removal of the Bush-era prohibition on racial profiling by federal agencies, restricting aid to sanctuary cities and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

James O. Pasco. executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said his organization is not against investigations into law enforcement. “Contrary to urban legend, the F.O.P. does not oppose investigation of police departments. But, we hold that the investigations of police departments should have probable cause and shouldn’t be fishing expeditions,” Pasco said. “No one [dis]likes a bad cop more than the police officers that have to work with that police officer, so we want to root it out more than anyone.”

The F.O.P. leader also said that bad officers cannot thrive in a well-managed police department, and it is necessary to look at poor hiring, training, management and supervision. “Those things can be solved by hiring better chiefs, maybe by hiring better mayors,” he added.

Pasco also noted that it is the responsibility of the F.O.P. to point out any deficiencies in an agreement involving its members. “We don’t oppose an investigation when an investigation is warranted, whether a consent decree or collaborative agreement, it should be designed to improve the relationship between the city and the community and result in a safer and more harmonious community. In many instances, that has not been the case.”

On the other hand, Black police officers have a different relationship with the Black community and are uniquely situated to speak to the problems facing police-community relations. “We are from those communities, those ghettos, those schools, those environments where people don’t have those opportunities. It is a different perspective,” Taylor of E.S.O.P. Genesis said. “We can understand people having a criminal history and not being a criminal. It’s just a different perspective.”

E.S.O.P. Genesis was founded in 1972 by a group of African-American police officers that faced racism within the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The organization serves as a bridge between the community and the police and its existence underscores the ongoing racism that faces the Black community and Black law enforcement, whether in the St. Louis and Ferguson area or throughout the nation.

“There’s a need for a separate association because of the history of our country and race relations. Our people were slaves. There is a segment of police and the population that does not respect us as people. There’s a need for us to have separate organization. It is a no-brainer. Just because we are wearing blue does not mean we are part of that blue code,” Taylor said. “We do this job because we are proud of our community, proud of our history. We see how things are on the inside.  We are Black first and we are focused on our community.”

What is the future of police-community relations and police reform itself, in Ferguson and beyond, under this new federal landscape? Organizations such as the Ethical Society of Police, Taylor offered, understand that police must connect with the community or they are not going to make any headway.

“The problem is many departments don’t want connections with the community. They don’t care, they care about enforcement,” she said. “If people don’t trust you, they aren’t going to call you about crimes and leave anonymous tips. If you don’t have people who look like people in the community, they’re not going to talk to you.

“If you don’t have people who look like the people you’re investigating, there’s a problem.”

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Eight Policies That Prevent Police Brutality

Civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers have become so routine in the US that it risks becoming predictable. This has resulted in a growing movement of fearful, outraged citizens concerned with police violence–including the increasing militarization of police departments. However, a new report suggests that curbing police violence is quite possible, if police departments and local officials commit to it.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson protests, a citizen’s group—known as Campaign Zero (CZ)—came together to research and recommend solutions to end police brutality. In their “Police Use of Force Project,” Campaign Zero identified eight policies that greatly decrease the likelihood of police violence:

Require officers to de-escalate situations before resorting to force.
Limit the kinds of force that can be used to respond to specific forms of resistance.
Restrict chokeholds.
Require officers to give verbal warning before using force.
Prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
Require officers to exhaust all alternatives to deadly force.
Require officers to stop colleagues from exercising excessive force.
Require comprehensive reporting on use of force.
Researchers examined 91 of the 100 largest cities to see if police departments were using these policies, and found that none of the departments utilized all eight. The lowest rates of police killings were associated with those departments that implemented four or more policies—only about a third of the country’s largest departments. If all the policies were enforced, it’s estimated police killings would drop by 72%.

Why then are implementation rates so low? Historical precedence is partly to blame. In some cases, police unions claim that the policies would endanger officers. However, research findings show the opposite: better regulation of use of force is better for police, too—with the numbers of officers assaulted or killed in the line of duty decreasing in proportion to the number of policies adopted. It’s time to call for the implementation of “Use of Force” policies in every city and community across the country.

From/Projectcensored

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s

Welfare reform. NAFTA. The crime bill. Prisons. Aides wondered if Bill knew who he was. His legacy is sadly clear

 

 Everyone remembers the years of the Bill Clinton presidency as good times. The economy was booming, the stock market was ascending, and the mood was infectious. You felt good about it even if you didn’t own a single share.

And yet: What did Clinton actually do in his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? While writing this book, I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president. Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

It proved difficult for my libs. People mentioned the obvious things: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. He balanced the budget. He secured a modest tax increase on the rich. And he did propose a national health program, although it didn’t get very far and was in fact so poorly designed it could be a model of how not to do big policy initiatives.

Other than that, not much. No one could think of any great but hopeless Clintonian stands on principle; after all, this is the guy who once took a poll to decide where to go on vacation. His presidency was all about campaign donations, not personal bravery—he basically rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, for chrissake, and at the end of his time in office he even appeared to sell a presidential pardon.

It’s easy to remember the official, consensus reasons why we’re supposed to admire Bill Clinton—the achievements which the inevitable Spielberg bio-pic will no doubt illustrate with poignant and whimsical personal glimpses. First was the economy, which did really well while he was in office. So well, in fact, that we had something close to full employment for several years while the Dow hit 10,000 and the Nasdaq stock index went effing vertical—flush times that are almost inconceivable from our present-day vantage point. Yes, the bubble burst soon after he left office, but so what? Surely those glory years of Wall Street trump everything.

The other great source of the Clinton myth is the insane vendetta against him launched by the Republicans—what his former aide Sidney Blumenthal has called the “Clinton Wars.” The attacks began soon after Clinton took office—the Whitewater pseudoscandal actually made page one of The New York Times in 1992—and the Clinton Wars were so outrageously unfair that you couldn’t help but stand behind their victim. Clinton’s enemies spent millions trawling Arkansas for his old paramours. Congress actually impeached the guy for lying about a blowjob.

For many of the authors who have examined the Clinton presidency, the Clinton Wars eclipse everything else. For instance, take Carl Bernstein, the eminent journalist who wrote a meticulously researched biography of Hillary Clinton, Bill’s wife and “co-president.” So many of the pages Bernstein allots to the couple’s White House years are filled with details about Vince Foster and the Travel Office and the Independent Counsels and the Grand Juries and the missing billing records that Bernstein ultimately relegates Bill Clinton’s actual achievements as president to a few desultory paragraphs here and there.

The Clinton Wars were what politics was all about, and Bill Clinton won those wars. The priggish, boorish, pharisaical right raged against him, and he soldiered on. He defied the Republicans and got himself reelected even as his party lost control of Congress. He outmaneuvered the GOP during the budget wars of 1995 and ’96 and convinced the public to blame his rivals for the government shutdown.

Good economic times and victory in the Clinton Wars: These two are enough to secure the man a spot among the immortals. In fact, before the Crash of 2008, my fellow Washingtonians tended to regard the Clinton administration as an obvious triumph. This was what a successful Democratic presidency looked like. This was the model. To do as Clinton did was to follow the clearly marked path of wisdom.

Evaluating Clinton’s presidency as heroic is no longer a given, however. After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

*

Some believe it is unfair to criticize President Clinton for these deeds. At the time of his actions, they recall, each of the initiatives I just mentioned were matters of almost universal assent. In the tight little group of credentialed professionals who dominated his administration as well as the city they worked in, almost everyone agreed on these things. Over each one of them there hovered a feeling of inevitability and even of obviousness, as though they were the uncontroversial policy demands of history itself. Globalization wanted these things to happen. Technology wanted them to happen. The Future wanted them to happen. Naturally the professional class wanted them to happen, too.

The term Clinton liked to use to summarize this sense of inevitability was “change.” This word is, obviously, a longstanding favorite of politicians of the left; what it means is that We the People have the power to shape the world around us. It is a hopeful word. But when Clinton said in a speech about free trade in 1993 that

“Change is upon us. We can do nothing about that.”

he was enshrining the opposite idea as the progressive creed. Change was an external force we could neither escape nor control; it was a reality that limited what we could do politically and that had in fact made most of our political choices for us already. The role of We the People was not to make change but to submit to its dominion. Naturally, Clinton thought to describe this majestic thing, this “change,” by referencing a force of nature: “a new global economy of constant innovation and instant communication is cutting through our world like a new river, providing both power and disruption to the people and nations who live along its course.”

Clinton spoke of change the way other politicians would talk about God or Providence; we could succeed economically, he once announced, “if we make change our friend.” Change was fickle and inscrutable, an unmoved mover doing this or that as only it saw fit. Our task—or, more accurately, your task, middle-class citizen—was to conform to its wishes, to “adjust to change,” as the president put it when talking about NAFTA.

The first time I myself tuned in and noticed some version of this inevitability-speak was in 1993, during that fight over NAFTA. The deal had been negotiated by the departed president, George H. W. Bush, but the Democratic majority in Congress had balked at the original version of the treaty, forcing the parties back to the table. As with so many of the achievements of the Clinton era, it eventually took a Democratic president, working with Republican members of Congress, to pass this landmark of neoliberalism.

According to the president himself, what the agreement was about was simple: “NAFTA will tear down trade barriers,” he said when signing it. “It will create the world’s largest trade zone and create 200,000 jobs in this country by 1995 alone.” The stationery of an outfit that lobbied for the treaty was emblazoned with the argument: “North American Free Trade Agreement—Exports. Better Jobs. Better Wages.”

But it wasn’t reason that sold NAFTA; it was a simulacrum of reason, by which I mean the great god inevitability, invoked in the language of professional-class self-assurance. “We cannot stop global change,” Clinton said in his signing speech.

The phrase that best expressed the feeling was this: “It’s a no brainer.” Lee Iacocca uttered it in a pro-NAFTA TV commercial, and before long everyone was saying it. The phrase struck exactly the right notes of simplicity combined with utter obviousness. Globalization was irresistible, the argument went, and free trade was always and in all situations a good thing. So good, it didn’t even really need to be explained. Everyone knew this. Everyone agreed.

Yet there were people who opposed NAFTA, like labor unions, for example, and Ross Perot, and the majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives. The agreement was not a simple or straightforward thing: it was some 2,000 pages long, and according to reporters who actually read it, the aim was less to remove tariffs than to make it safe for American firms to invest in Mexico—meaning, to move factories and jobs there without fear of expropriation and then to import those factories’ products back into the U.S.

One reason the treaty required no brains at all from its supporters is because NAFTA was as close to a straight-up class issue as we will ever see in this country. It “boils down to the oldest division of all,” Dirk Johnson wrote in The New York Times in 1993: “the haves versus the have-nots, or more precisely, those who have only a little.” The lefty economist Jeff Faux has even told how a NAFTA lobbyist tried to bring him around by reminding him that Carlos Salinas, then the president of Mexico, had “been to Harvard. He’s one of us.”

That appeal to class unity gives a hint of what Clintonism was all about. To owners and shareholders, who would see labor costs go down as they took advantage of unorganized Mexican labor and lax Mexican environmental enforcement, NAFTA held fantastic promise. To American workers, it threatened to send their power, and hence their wages, straight down the chute. To the mass of the professional-managerial class, people who weren’t directly threatened by the treaty, holding an opinion on NAFTA was a matter of deferring to the correct experts—economists in this case, 283 of whom had signed a statement declaring the treaty “will be a net positive for the United States, both in terms of employment creation and overall economic growth.”

The predictions of people who opposed the agreement turned out to be far closer to what eventually came to pass than did the rosy scenarios of those 283 economists and the victorious President Clinton. NAFTA was supposed to encourage U.S. exports to Mexico; the opposite is what happened, and in a huge way. NAFTA was supposed to increase employment in the U.S.; a study from 2010 counts almost 700,000 jobs lost in America thanks to the treaty. And, as feared, the agreement gave one class in America enormous leverage over the other: employers now routinely threaten to move their operations to Mexico if their workers organize. A surprisingly large number of them—far more than in the pre-NAFTA days—have actually made good on the threat.

Mexico has not fared much better. In the decades before NAFTA, its economy often grew rapidly; since NAFTA was enacted, Mexico has experienced some of the feeblest growth of any country in Latin America, despite all the stuff it now makes and exports to the U.S. The country’s poverty rate has not changed much at all while every other country in the region has made considerable progress. One reason for all this is the predictably destructive effect that free trade with American agribusiness has had on the fortunes of millions of Mexican family farmers.

These results have never really shaken the self-assured “no-brainer” consensus. Instead, the phrase returns whenever new trade deals are on the table. During the 1997 debate over “fast track,” restricting the input of Congress in trade negotiations, Al From, the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, declared confidently that “supporting fast track is a no-brainer.” For some, free-trade treaties are so clearly good that supporting them doesn’t require knowledge of their actual contents. The influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for example, still thought so when the debate was over an altogether different treaty. “I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade Initiative,” he told Tim Russert in 2006. “I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.”

Twenty years later, the broader class divide over the subject persists as well. According to a 2014 survey of attitudes toward NAFTA after two decades, public opinion remains split. But among people with professional degrees—which is to say, the liberal class—the positive view remains the default. Knowing that free-trade treaties are always for the best—even when they empirically are not—seems to have become for the well-graduated a badge of belonging.

*

One of the strangest dramas of the Clinton literature, in retrospect, was the supposed mystery of Bill’s developing political identity. Like a searching teenager in a coming-of-age movie, boy president Bill roams hither and yon, trying out this policy and that, until he finally learns to be true to himself and to worship at the shrine of consensus orthodoxy. He campaigned as a populist, he tried to lift the ban on gays in the military, then all of a sudden he’s pushing free trade and deregulating telecom. Who was this guy, really?

How the question used to vex the president’s friends and advisers! There was “a struggle for the soul of Bill Clinton,” said his aide David Gergen just after the Republicans took Congress in 1994. A month later, Clinton’s press people (to quote the hilarious deadpan of the Washington Post) were actually forced to deny “that Clinton lacks a sense of who he is as president and where he wants to go.”

Clinton’s wandering political identity absorbed both his admirers and biographers, many of whom chose to explain it as a quest: Bill Clinton had to prove, to himself and the nation, that he was a genuine New Democrat. He had to grow into presidential maturity. And the way he had to do it was by damaging or somehow insulting traditional Democratic groups that represented the party’s tradition of egalitarianism. Then we would know that the New Deal was truly dead. Then we could be sure.

This was such a cherished idea among New Democrats that they had a catchphrase for it: Clinton’s campaign team called it “counter-scheduling.” During the 1992 race, as though to compensate for his friend-of-the-little-guy economic theme, Clinton would confront and deliberately antagonize certain elements of the Democratic Party’s traditional base in order to assure voters that “interest groups” would have no say in a New Democrat White House. As for those interest groups themselves, he knew he could insult them with impunity. They had nowhere else to go, in the cherished logic of Democratic centrism.

The most famous target of Clinton’s counter-scheduling strategy was the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, the nemesis of the party’s centrists and the living embodiment of the politics the Democratic Leadership Council had set out to extinguish. At a 1992 meeting of Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, with Jackson sitting to his left, Clinton went out of his way to criticize a controversial rapper called Sister Souljah who had addressed the conference on the previous day. The exact circumstances of Clinton’s insult have long been forgotten, but the fact of it has gone down in the annals of politicking as a stroke of genius, an example of the sort of thing that New Democrats should always be doing in order to discipline their party’s base.

Once Clinton was in the White House, counter-scheduling mutated from a campaign tactic to a philosophy of governance. At a retreat in the administration’s early days, Bill’s chief political adviser, Hillary Clinton, instructed White House officials how it was going to be done. As Carl Bernstein describes the scene, Hillary announced that the public must be made to understand that Bill was taking them on a “journey” and that he had a “vision” for what the administration was doing, a “story” that distinguished good from evil. The way to dramatize this story, the first lady continued (in Bernstein’s telling), was to pick a fight with supporters.

You show people what you’re willing to fight for, Hillary said, when you fight your friends—by which, in this context, she clearly meant, When you make them your enemy.

NAFTA would become the first great test of this theory of the presidency, with Clinton defying not only organized labor but much of his own party in Congress. In one sense, it achieved the desired results. For New Democrats and for much of the press, NAFTA was Clinton’s “finest hour,” his “boldest action,” a deed befitting a real he-man of a president who showed he could stand up to labor and thereby assure the world that he was not a captive of traditional Democratic interests.

But there was also an important difference. NAFTA was not symbolism. With this act, Clinton was not merely insulting an important constituency, as he had done with Jesse Jackson and Sister Souljah. With NAFTA he connived in that constituency’s ruin. He assisted in the destruction of its economic power. He did his part to undermine his party’s greatest ally, to ensure that labor would be too weak to organize workers from that point forward. Clinton made the problems of working people materially worse.

It is possible to regard this deed as fine or brave, as so many New Democrats did, if you understand the struggles of workers as a Depression-era cliché you’ve grown sick of hearing. However, if you understand those workers as humans—humans who contributed to Bill Clinton’s election—NAFTA starts to appear like a betrayal on a grand scale. To this day, for working people, the lesson of NAFTA glares like the headlight of an oncoming locomotive: These affluent Democrats do not give a damn about inequality except as an election-year slogan.

Workers were the first casualties of Bill Clinton’s quest for his New Democratic self. But the journey went on. The next great milestones were his big, first-term legislative accomplishments: the great crime crackdown of 1994 and the welfare reform measure of 1996. Both were intended to swipe traditional Republican issues and to demonstrate Clinton’s independence from the so-called special interests.

Back in 1992 Clinton had briefly departed the campaign trail to return to Arkansas and be visibly present while his state went about executing one Ricky Ray Rector, a convicted killer who was so mentally damaged he had no idea what was happening to him or why. Clinton’s design was to signal his toughness and thus avoid the fate of Michael Dukakis, whose presidential run had been done in by TV commercials suggesting he was too much of a wuss to keep dangerous black men behind bars. In the precise words of Christopher Hitchens, Rector was a “human sacrifice” for Clinton’s presidential ambition.

The reasoning that led Clinton to turn the Rector execution into a ritual appeasement of the electoral gods brought him, in 1994, to call for and then sign his name to the most sweeping police-state bill that postwar America has seen. Among other things, the measure provided for the construction of countless new prisons, it established over a hundred new mandatory minimum sentences, it allowed prosecutors to charge thirteen-year-olds as adults in some cases, and it coerced the states into minimizing parole. It also increased the number of federal death penalties from three to sixty, including some for nonlethal offenses—and this from a political party that in 1972 had called for the abolition of capital punishment in its platform.

This was the age of “three strikes,” of “truth in sentencing,” of “zero tolerance,” and Clinton’s aides referred to their bid for mass imprisonment as “upping the ante,” as though it were a poker game with the Republicans. Winning that game was the subject of boasting for Democrats. Said Joe Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, during the debate on the bill:

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties. That is what is in this bill. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has 70 enhanced penalties.  . . . The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 100,000 cops. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 125,000 new State prison cells.

None of this happened because of an increase in crime, by the way—violent crime had actually crested several years before—but rather to demonstrate Clinton’s hard-heartedness. “The one way Bill Clinton defined himself as a different Democrat was his tough position on crime,” said Senator Joe Lieberman on the occasion of the bill’s passage. “And he has redeemed that promise.”

In an ugly coda that was delayed by about a year, the ’94 law also allowed President Clinton personally to decide the fate of the infamous 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.  The former drug was thought to be the scourge of the planet—and 88 percent of the people arrested for it were black—while the latter, even though it was essentially the same thing, was regarded as just another harmless yuppie crime. Handing down prison sentences of many decades for one drug but not the other was both racist and insanely cruel. But Clinton went out of his way to ensure that this practice continued. The number of young black citizens who, in this manner, lost years of their lives to advance Bill Clinton’s journey to political manhood will probably never be known. Let a thousand Ricky Ray Rectors burn, but please God, get this man reelected.

Unfortunately for Bill Clinton, building the greatest gulag in the world was not enough to demonstrate his disregard for the lives of the poor. The right actually mocked the 94 crime bill as a kind of government handout to the poor. He would have to do more.

*

Historians of the Clinton presidency generally skip over the punishment craze into which he led the country in the mid-Nineties. It is hard to account for if the framework you’re applying to those years is one in which Clinton was the victim of right-wing persecution. Those who do acknowledge Clinton’s part in the Big Clampdown either depict it as a great success in the fight against crime—which it was not—or else describe it in superficial Washington terms: He got a great big law passed through Congress, thus proving that he could be an effective bipartisan leader.

Besides, in rhetorical terms, Bill Clinton has always been a steadfast opponent of mass incarceration. In 1991, he said he thought it was awful that “we are now the number one nation in the world in the percentage of people we put in prison.” In 1995, just two weeks before he signed the crack/powder cocaine law, he declared that

blacks are right to think something is terribly wrong . . . when there are more African American men in our correction system than in our colleges; when almost one in three African American men in their twenties are either in jail, on parole or otherwise under the supervision of the criminal system.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2000, Clinton said, “the disparities are unconscionable between crack and powdered cocaine. I tried to change that.” In 2008, he said he was sorry for the crack/powder cocaine law. And then, when every presidential candidate began talking up prison reform in 2015, he apologized again, this time saying that the 1994 crime bill was “overdone” and thus implying that he hadn’t really meant to throw so many people in prison.

And maybe that’s what really matters. Maybe that will suffice to get Clinton off the hook on the day when some future Truth and Reconciliation Commission finally starts parceling out the blame for the generation-destroying policies of those years.

But I doubt it. Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Excerpted from Thomas Frank’s new book, “Listen, Liberal”

Written by Thomas Frank/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Defense Department Paid Sports Teams $53M of Taxpayer Dollars to Play Anthem, Stage Over-the-Top Military Tributes

At a time when professional athletes such as Colin Kaepernick are labeled as unpatriotic for refusing to stand during the national anthem at sporting events, it turns out that the very displays of patriotism and tributes to the armed forces on display at those games were paid for by the U.S. government. So when those teams tell the players to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” it is because the fake patriotism is bought and sold like a commodity.

Stephen A. Smith brought attention to the practice on ESPN’s “First Take” recently, as players have come under fire for refusing to salute the flag. Smith noted that players were not required to stand until 2009, and before that time players did not stand for the anthem because they remained in the locker room until game time.

In November 2015, Republican U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona released a report stating that “In all, the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015. More than $10 million of that total was paid to teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS).”

More from Atlanta Black Star

North Carolina law blocks release of police recordings

Image: ABC11.com

Citing a desire to balance “public trust” with the rights and safety of law enforcement officers, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation this week that blocks the release of law enforcement recordings from body cameras or dashboard cameras with limited exceptions.

Surrounded by uniformed officers from across the state, McCrory signed House Bill 972 on Monday in a news conference in Raleigh. The Republican governor said the new law will promote “uniformity, clarity and transparency” by establishing clear standards and procedures for releasing law enforcement recordings.

Critics, including the state’s attorney general, said it could have the opposite effect of minimizing police accountability.
“Technology like dashboard cameras and body cameras can be very helpful, but when used by itself technology can also mislead and misinform, which causes other issues and problems within our community,” McCrory said.
Under HB 972, audio and video captured by police body cameras or dashboard cameras are not public records, meaning the general public has no right to see or obtain copies of them.
A person whose image or voice is captured in the recording may request its disclosure in writing from the law enforcement agency. If granted, only a look at the recording is possible; if someone wants to copy or record the footage, that person has to petition a judge for a court order for its release. If the person is deceased, incapacitated or a minor, a relative or representative can make the request on their behalf. The law makes North Carolina the latest state to regulate access to law enforcement recordings as departments grapple with the new technology.
“At minimum, people recorded on police body cameras should be able to view it and have a copy,” ACLU of North Carolina spokesman Mike Meno said. “This law prevents that by making people go to court to obtain it.”
Posted by Libergirl