Friday, April 12, 2013

Good for Bob Costas

I don't usually like it when Bob Costas gets on his preening high horse, even when I'm sympathetic to his point of view. His Sunday Night Football traditionalist Get Off My Lawn segment is my weekly cue to go to the bathroom and pick up a beer before the start of the second half. But calling in to the Dan Patrick Show today, a venue much more appropriate for opining, Costas let CBS have it for its annual Tradition Like No Other coverage of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National (via Deadspin):
What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta's history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds—forget about taking a side—never acknowledging it. So not only will I never work the Masters because I'm not at CBS, but I'd have to say something and then I would be ejected.
I think someone shoulda had the guts to do it along the way. Broadcaster, executive, somebody should have said to someone at Augusta, 'Look this is an issue. And this is not Nightline or Meet The Press, we understand that. But this is an issue. And it's an elephant in the room. And we're going to address it as concisely as we can but we're going to address it so our heads are not in the collective sand trap.'
Sand trap pun notwithstanding, he's absolutely right. In 2012, Augusta National admitted its first female members--Condi Rice and Darla Moore--and didn't admit its first black man until 1990.

I'll leave it to Deadspin and others to speculate whether its a shot at Jim Nance, I don't really care. But Patrick admits that it would be difficult to broach the subject, as the Masters has traditionally been harsh in its treatment of any criticism whatsoever. I think this typifies my longstanding beef with Southern romanticism: they market their "tradition" as the reason they're special, but god forbid anyone actually talks about that tradition with any amount of candor. With that gentility, honor, and that historic Southern charm came economic degradation, societal marginalization, and domestic terrorism. But the past is the past, right?

It would simply be impolite to discuss the state of things as far back as...last year's Masters when Augusta National still had no female members. But as Costas and Patrick both recognize, doing so without Augusta's explicit permission would very likely cost someone his or her job. That would be perfectly acceptable, depriving someone of their livelihood for recognizing the bloody obvious, but we must not defile the Tradition with pesky facts like year after year of prideful, defiant bigotry. No sir, we just can't have that.

You can catch the entire video at Deadspin here.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Truth About Good Guys with Guns

NB: I'm writing strictly in my personal capacity, despite linking to my employer's website. Their endorsement should not be inferred. Thx, mgmt.

I'm beginning to believe Mark Follman was put on this Earth just to vex me. His latest at MoJo almost immediately gave me a migraine for its selectivity and implicit privilege in its data.
Moreover, our investigation made clear that so-called "good guys with guns" do not stop public shooting rampages. Likewise, Blair's data couldn't be any clearer when it comes to the National Rifle Association's favorite myth: He found just 3 cases out of 84 in which an armed individual who had been on the scene used a firearm to stop the shooter. And none of the three were ordinary citizens. According to Blair, in two instances those who intervened were off-duty police officers: one in a case in upstate New York in 2010, and another in a case in Philadelphia in 2005. The third case took place in Winnemucca, Nevada, in 2008; the man there who intervened and shot the rampaging gunman, as I've reported previously, was a US Marine.
Granted, the NRA and other pro-gun folks have been giving Follman & company a litany of straw men to take down. (There's an argument that Follman overestimates the utility of training police get with the use of firearms which he believes makes them something other than ordinary citizens, and any number of instances of police overreacting and endangering the public with reckless shootings supports this, but it's beside the point here.) I don't think every citizen should be armed at all times, but I think every law-abiding citizen should be able to protect himself if he feels threatened. And while only a few mass shootings have been stopped by armed citizens, which I've already pointed out are themselves extraordinarily rare by any metric, the same is less true for more common crimes.

There are hundreds of documented cases of armed civilians stopping crime against themselves or others, and who knows how many robberies, rapes, and assaults are stopped by a citizen brandishing a weapon are never reported. The more zealous anti-gun folks support Vice President Biden's "if it saves one life" mantra for more gun control, but such simplistic sloganeering ignores the indisputable fact that, at least sometimes, guns save lives.

And in those instances, like this one in my old neighborhood, often don't find their way to national headlines because dozens of disrupted liquor store robberies in marginalized neighborhoods don't garner the same emotional effect as horrific scenes at middle class schoolhouses. And that makes complete sense when you're talking about what makes headlines, but national policy should be aimed at the broader problems: those issues which affect more people and have more common underlying factors like poverty, educational outcomes, high crime neighborhoods, drug abuse, and the like. But Follman exploits a freak and random tragedy in order to push new gun laws--none of which up for vote would have have affected Newtown one bit--without considering what impact they may have on places like the south side of Fort Wayne and any number of other cities where people have reason to defend themselves.

Law-abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves and have done so on literally countless occasions. Maybe "good guys with guns" don't stop random mass murderers, but they do stop a lot of other crime and save many lives. There is more to gun violence than mass shootings, and there is more to America than Newtown. Any new regulations should recognize both of these facts, where Follman recognizes neither.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

About Rand Paul's Howard Speech

Today I watched Sen. Rand Paul give a speech before Howard students on the relationship between blacks and the GOP. Much of my twitter feed watched the speech, but if without context you'd think they were watching completely different speeches by the tone of the reactions. The libertarians were more or less enjoying the speech, the Left seemed to be yelling in unison "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?" I find myself squarely in between these camps on this issue, but am closer to the Left in the speech's efficacy.
From the outset, Paul bombed with two opening jokes about how people had warned him about going to Howard, perhaps the most storied HBCU, because of its mostly black, presumably Democratic student body. While not really offensive, the jokes were inappropriate. The audience didn't need to be reminded about the Otherness with which Republicans view blacks and Democrats generally. (Say nothing of universities.) But out-of-place reminders seemed to be the order of the day for the junior senator from Kentucky.
Paul spent much of his speech retracing Civil Rights history and the role of the Republican party in it--conveniently glossing over anything since 1964. He was seemingly unaware that a university dedicated to black uplift would be peopled with individuals whose understanding of The Struggle is not only equal to but, in many cases, surely surpasses his own. While it may come as a shock to some people, black people are well aware of what the Republican party used to be. Paul compounded this problem by saying that it was the Democrats who were the slavery party and the party of Jim Crow.

Well, that's true enough, but the false equivalence of the Democratic parties of 1863, 1963, and 2013 is an insult to everyone's collective intelligence and he should be ashamed of himself for conflating them. Whether or not you buy Kevin Williamson's contrarian view of the modern Republican party, it is just wholly absurd to think the parties of Alexander Stephens and Richard Russell would ever nominate a black man as its titular leader. Think what you will of today's DNC, the word "Democrat" just doesn't mean what it used to and saying it does is contemptibly ridiculous.
 Paul's comments betrayed a low intellectual expectation and historical awareness of his audience. Given the venue, this is particularly insulting, and I would bet that cost him any credibility he may have earned by just showing up.
Unfortunately lost in all this, Paul finally began to talk about serious policy issues we face in this century toward the end of his remarks. He brought up two issues, specifically, that could begin to bridge the credibility deficit between the GOP and black voters: mandatory minimum sentences and the Drug War. On these issues, Paul is a solid senator and he's been getting better. But so much of his time and effort was dedicated to telling an audience that they've misunderstood the GOP and it hasn't changed from its Civil Rights heyday.

It is as if the leader of the new vanguard of the GOP decided to approach black America and say: "Come back! It's you, not us! But we forgive you for the misunderstanding."

Relatedly, I was baffled when he hailed the Reagan era as a sterling example of Republican vision to that audience. Whatever his economic policies did for the country, Reagan's escalation of the War on Drugs turned America's inner cities into the killing fields of that war. The mandatory minimum sentences Paul opposes today were ramped up in the Reagan era in response to the "crack epidemic," eventually culminating in the 100:1 sentencing disparity for crack to powder cocaine, only recently lowered to 18:1. Black people disproportionately suffered from that escalation and those laws, with bi-partisan consensus, no less. This is what he should have been driving home: that government, however well-meaning, can ruin lives and devastate communities through unintended consequences.

This is his view of government and, on these issues, young Democrats should work with the GOP to correct some of these horrible wrongs.
That's the history he should have begun, started, and ended with. Paul missed a great opportunity today. Let's hope the next time he tries something like this, and I sincerely hope he does, he comes with a higher estimation of the audience he's speaking to. Maybe then, if he focuses on today's issues and why his approach can benefit all people, and particularly the folks in his audience, he might leave the room with a little more respect than he came in with.
bellum medicamenti delenda est