aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, February 29, 2008
Obama’s Chicago politics
My prediction that Clinton will get no knock-out Tuesday assumes no bombshell before. Let’s hope that’s a safe assumption.
I’ve given Obama credit for being a tough Chicago pol. That has its downside:
With the corruption trial of one of Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime friends and supporters set to begin Monday in Chicago, Ill., reform watchdogs say it will reveal the “cesspool” of Illinois politics in which Obama came of age and has said little about in his campaign for president.
“We have a sick political culture,” said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, “and that’s the environment that Barack Obama came from.”
Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.” [...]
While Obama is not considered a target of the Rezko investigation, Stewart says it will shed light on a man who was pivotal to Obama’s political career.
“This wasn’t just some guy who wrote a check once for Barack Obama, it’s someone who was an early supporter and had a personal relationship with Sen. Obama for quite some time,” Stewart said.
Indeed, even after he was elected to the United States Senate, Obama involved Rezko in a land deal that enabled the senator to buy his current home on Chicago’s South Side.
Obama has since called his decision to involve Rezko “a bone-headed mistake.”
A Tuesday TimesOnLine piece “raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.”
Fodder for Republicans in the general.
But for the moment I’m wondering what it will do to the election dynamic next week. The media loves a horse race. Saturday Night Live, the press narrative about the debate, and the truth of David Plotz’s comment—“he’s basically a journalist is why we’re so gaga over him”—has them bending over backward to make it a horse race this week.
Google expands Project Homeless phone numbers
I love GrandCentral!
Google is partnering with homeless shelters in San Francisco to distribute free phone numbers and voicemail accounts to those without homes, the company said Wednesday.
The Internet giant is expanding a service that was started by Grand Central, a San Francisco-based start-up that Google acquired last year. Grand Central’s technology allows calls to be routed to a home, business, or cell phone using a single phone number. The service offers people a way to organize and unify their communications, a Google spokesman said.
Grand Central had already been offering the free phone number and voicemail service to people in San Francisco through Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Project Homeless Connect, which brings together nonprofit organizations and other social-service providers in one location to provide on-the-spot services for homeless. The services include medical, mental health, substance abuse, housing, dental, and legal services, plus free eyeglasses, California ID, food, clothing, and wheelchair repair.
Since the acquisition of Grand Central last year, Google has been participating in periodic Project Homeless Connect events in which it has been providing the homeless with free phone numbers and voicemail accounts that they can access from any phone. More than 4,000 phone numbers and voicemail accounts have been distributed this way, Craig Walker, a senior product manager of voice products for Google, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
1 in 100 behind bars in “free” America
Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.
Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.
The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.
Either way, said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, “we aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration.”
But Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah and a former federal judge, said the Pew report considered only half of the cost-benefit equation and overlooked the “very tangible benefits - lower crime rates.”
You know, that last statement is just plain disputable. Correlation is not causation. More police on the streets means less crime. But locking more people up all by itself does not reduce the crime rate.
I’ve quoted Glenn C. Loury a number of times before for asking in The Boston Review last summer, why are so many Americans in prison?
Loury says that ”we have become progressively more punitive...because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment.”
From his 5,200 word piece:
One simple measure of punitiveness is the likelihood that a person who is arrested will be subsequently incarcerated. Between 1980 and 2001, there was no real change in the chances of being arrested in response to a complaint: the rate was just under 50 percent. But the likelihood that an arrest would result in imprisonment more than doubled, from 13 to 28 percent. And because the amount of time served and the rate of prison admission both increased, the incarceration rate for violent crime almost tripled, despite the decline in the level of violence. The incarceration rate for nonviolent and drug offenses increased at an even faster pace: between 1980 and 1997 the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses tripled, and the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses increased by a factor of 11. Indeed, the criminal-justice researcher Alfred Blumstein has argued that none of the growth in incarceration between 1980 and 1996 can be attributed to more crime:The growth was entirely attributable to a growth in punitiveness, about equally to growth in prison commitments per arrest (an indication of tougher prosecution or judicial sentencing) and to longer time served (an indication of longer sentences, elimination of parole or later parole release, or greater readiness to recommit parolees to prison for either technical violations or new crimes).
This growth in punitiveness was accompanied by a shift in thinking about the basic purpose of criminal justice. In the 1970s, the sociologist David Garland argues, the corrections system was commonly seen as a way to prepare offenders to rejoin society. Since then, the focus has shifted from rehabilitation to punishment and stayed there. Felons are no longer persons to be supported, but risks to be dealt with. And the way to deal with the risks is to keep them locked up. As of 2000, 33 states had abolished limited parole (up from 17 in 1980); 24 states had introduced three-strikes laws (up from zero); and 40 states had introduced truth-in-sentencing laws (up from three). The vast majority of these changes occurred in the 1990s, as crime rates fell.
We’re locking our citizens up at rates higher than anyplace else in the industrial world—our incarceration rate is 40% higher than Russia, for example. We can kid ourselves that we’re doing it to reduce crime if we like. But one day the truth will come out, if for no other reason than the raw expense of it!