CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

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The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done: A Clinton appointee who resigned in protest over the new welfare law explains why it is so bad and suggests how its worst effects could be mitigated.
by Peter Edelman
The Atlantic
March, 1997




I HATE welfare. To be more precise, I hate the welfare system we had until last August, when Bill Clinton signed a historic bill ending “welfare as we know it.” It was a system that contributed to chronic dependency among large numbers of people who would be the first to say they would rather have a job than collect a welfare check every month—and its benefits were never enough to lift people out of poverty. In April of 1967 I helped Robert Kennedy with a speech in which he called the welfare system bankrupt and said it was hated universally, by payers and recipients alike. Criticism of welfare for not helping people to become self-supporting is nothing new.

But the bill that President Clinton signed is not welfare reform. It does not promote work effectively, and it will hurt millions of poor children by the time it is fully implemented. What’s more, it bars hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants—including many who have worked in the United States for decades and paid a considerable amount in Social Security and income taxes—from receiving disability and old-age assistance and food stamps, and reduces food-stamp assistance for millions of children in working families.

When the President was campaigning for re-election last fall, he promised that if re-elected he would undertake to fix the flaws in the bill. We are now far enough into his second term to look at the validity of that promise, by assessing its initial credibility and examining what has happened since.

I resigned as the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services last September, because of my profound disagreement with the welfare bill. At the time, I confined my public statement to two sentences, saying only that I had worked as hard as I could over the past thirty-plus years to reduce poverty and that in my opinion this bill moved in the opposite direction. My judgment was that it was important to make clear the reasons for my resignation but not helpful to politicize the issue further during an election campaign. And I did want to see President Clinton re-elected. Worse is not better, in my view, and Bob Dole would certainly have been worse on a wide range of issues, especially if coupled with a Republican Congress.

I feel free to speak out in more detail now, not to tell tales out of school but to clarify some of the history and especially to underscore the damage the bill will do and explain why the bill will be hard to fix in any fundamental way for a long time to come. It is also important to understand what is being done and could be done to minimize the damage in the short run, and what would be required for a real “fix”: a strategy to prevent poverty and thus reduce the need for welfare in the first place.

Four questions are of interest now. Did the President have to sign the bill? How bad is it really, and how can the damage be minimized as the states move to implement it? Can it be fixed in this Congress? What would a real fix be, and what would it take to make that happen?


WAS the President in a tight political box in late July, when he had to decide whether to sign or veto? At the time, there was polling data in front of him showing that very few people were likely to change their intended vote in either direction if he vetoed the bill. But even if he accurately foresaw a daily pounding from Bob Dole that would ultimately draw political blood, the real point is that the President's quandary was one of his own making. He had put himself there, quite deliberately and by a series of steps that he had taken over a long period of time.

Governor Clinton campaigned in 1992 on the promise to “end welfare as we know it” and the companion phrase “Two years and you’re off.” He knew very well that a major piece of welfare-reform legislation, the Family Support Act, had already been passed, in 1988. As governor of Arkansas he had been deeply involved in the enactment of that law, which was based on extensive state experimentation with new welfare-to-work initiatives in the 1980s, especially GAIN in California. The 1988 law represented a major bipartisan compromise. The Democrats had given in on work requirements in return for Republican concessions on significant federal funding for job training, placement activities, and transitional child care and health coverage.

The Family Support Act had not been fully implemented, partly because not enough time had passed and partly because in the recession of the Bush years the states had been unable to provide the matching funds necessary to draw down their full share of job-related federal money. Candidate Clinton ought responsibly to have said that the Family Support Act was a major piece of legislation that needed more time to be fully implemented before anyone could say whether it was a success or a failure.

Inadequate safety net

Instead Clinton promised to end welfare as we know it and to institute what sounded like a two-year time limit. This was bumper-sticker politics—oversimplification to win votes. Polls during the campaign showed that it was very popular, and a salient item in garnering votes. Clinton's slogans were also cleverly ambiguous. On the one hand, as President, Clinton could take a relatively liberal path that was nonetheless consistent with his campaign rhetoric. In 1994 he proposed legislation that required everyone to be working by the time he or she had been on the rolls for two years. But it also said, more or less in the fine print, that people who played by the rules and couldn't find work could continue to get benefits within the same federal-state framework that had existed since 1935. The President didn't say so, but he was building—quite incrementally and on the whole responsibly—on the framework of the Family Support Act. On the other hand, candidate Clinton had let his listeners infer that he intended radical reform with real fall-off-the-cliff time limits. He never said so explicitly, though, so his liberal flank had nothing definitive to criticize. President Clinton's actual 1994 proposal was based on a responsible interpretation of what candidate Clinton had said.

Candidate Clinton, however, had let a powerful genie out of the bottle. During his first two years it mattered only insofar as his rhetoric promised far more than his legislative proposal actually offered. When the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, the bumper-sticker rhetoric began to matter. So you want time limits? the Republicans said in 1995. Good idea. We’ll give you some serious time limits. We now propose an absolute lifetime limit of five years, cumulatively, that a family can be on welfare. End welfare as we know it? You bet. From now on we will have block grants. And what does that mean? First, that there will be no federal definition of who is eligible and therefore no guarantee of assistance to anyone; each state can decide whom to exclude in any way it wants, as long as it doesn't violate the Constitution (not much of a limitation when one reads the Supreme Court decisions on this subject). And second, that each state will get a fixed sum of federal money each year, even if a recession or a local calamity causes a state to run out of federal funds before the end of the year.

This was a truly radical proposal. For sixty years Aid to Families with Dependent Children had been premised on the idea of entitlement. "Entitlement" has become a dirty word, but it is actually a term of art. It meant two things in the AFDC program: a federally defined guarantee of assistance to families with children who met the statutory definition of need and complied with the other conditions of the law; and a federal guarantee to the states of a matching share of the money needed to help everyone in the state who qualified for help. (AFDC was never a guarantor of income at any particular level. States chose their own benefit levels, and no state's AFDC benefits, even when coupled with food stamps, currently lift families out of poverty.) The block grants will end the entitlement in both respects, and in addition the time limits say that federally supported help will end even if a family has done everything that was asked of it and even if it is still needy.

In 1995 the President had a new decision to make. What should he say about the Republican proposal? The Republicans started considering the issue in the House in the heady post-election period, when it seemed not at all dissonant for them to talk of reviving orphanages and turning the school-lunch program into block grants. The Administration concentrated its fire on these exponentially extreme measures and said nothing about time limits and the destruction of the entitlement. The President won the public argument about orphanages and school lunches, but his silence on the rest of the bill made it more difficult to oppose the time limits and the ending of the entitlement. For months, while the Republican bill was going through the House and the Senate, the President said nothing further. He might have said, “This isn't what I meant in my campaign rhetoric of 1992.” He might have said, “This is totally inconsistent with the bill that I sent up to the Hill last year.” He might have sent up a new bill that clearly outlined his position. He might have insisted that the waivers he was giving the states so that they could experiment with reform under the existing law were a strategy superior to the Republican proposals. He did none of these things, despite importuning from Hill Democrats, outside advocates, and people within the Administration.

The House Democrats had remained remarkably unified in opposition to the House Republicans’ bill, which gave new meaning to the word “draconian.” But when Democratic senators were deciding how to vote on the more moderate Senate bill, which nonetheless contained the entitlement-ending block grants and the absolute time limit, they looked to the President for a signal. Had he signaled that he remained firm in opposing block grants and the arbitrary time limit, there is every reason to believe that all but a handful of Democratic senators would have stayed with him. The opposite signal left them with no presidential cover for a vote against the Senate bill. It invited them to vote for the bill.

Prior to the Senate vote on September 19, 1995, the President sent the signal that he could sign the Senate bill (but warned that he would veto a bill that was too much like the House version). The Senate Democrats collapsed and the Senate passed its version of the bill by a vote of 87 to 12. To make matters worse, the President had been presented with an analysis showing that the Senate bill would push more than a million children into poverty. The analysis had been commissioned from the Urban Institute by Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala's staff (specifically Wendell Primus, the deputy assistant secretary for human-services policy), and Shalala had personally handed it to the President on September 15.


THIS was the major milestone in the political race to the bottom. The President had said he was willing to sign legislation that would end a sixty-year commitment to provide assistance to all needy families with children who met the federal eligibility requirements. In the floor debate Senator Edward Kennedy, who voted against the bill, described it as “legislative child abuse.” In late 1995 and early 1996 the Republicans saved the President from having to make good on his willingness to sign a welfare block-grant bill by sending him versions of the bill that contained horrible provisions concerning food stamps, disabled children, and foster care, which he vetoed. The Republican strategy at the time was to run against the President as a hypocrite who talked welfare reform but wouldn't deliver when he had the chance.

But President Clinton was not finished. Perhaps he saw some threat to himself in the Republican strategy. Perhaps he did not see the entitlement as being quite so meaningful as others did. It is important to remember that he is not only a former governor but the former governor of Arkansas. AFDC benefits in Arkansas were so low that he might not have seen the entitlement as meaning what it does in higher-benefit states. He might have thought that as governor of Arkansas he would have been able to design a better program if he had received the federal money in the form of a block grant, without the restrictions, limited as they were, that were imposed by the federal AFDC program. And many people have remarked that he seems never to have met a governor he didn't like—an observation that appeared valid even after the 1994 elections reduced the number of Democrats in the gubernatorial ranks.

Whatever the reason, when the governors came to town for their winter meetings early last year, the President invited them to draft and submit new proposals on welfare and, for that matter, Medicaid. For a time it seemed to some observers that the President might even be willing to consider block grants for Medicaid, but it quickly became apparent that Medicaid block grants would have negative consequences for a much larger slice of the electorate than would welfare block grants. Large numbers of middle-income people had elderly parents in nursing homes whose bills were paid by Medicaid—to say nothing of the potential impact on hospitals, physicians, and the nursing homes themselves, all of which groups have substantial political clout. Welfare had no politically powerful constituency that would be hurt by conversion to block grants.

Hill Republicans, still pursuing the strategy of giving the President only bills that he could not sign, tied the governors’ welfare and Medicaid proposals into a single bill. It was clear that the President would veto the combined bill, because by spring he had come out firmly against block grants for Medicaid.

As of late spring it looked as if a stalemate had been reached, and that 1996 might pass without enactment of a welfare bill. Behind the scenes, however, White House political people—Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed, in particular—were telling Hill Republicans almost daily that if they separated the welfare and Medicaid bills, they could get a bill that the President would sign. In early summer a new dynamic arose on the Hill. House Republicans, especially freshmen, began to worry that they were vulnerable to defeat on the basis that they had accomplished so little of what they had come to Washington to do. Thinking that Bob Dole was a sure loser anyway, they decided to save their own skins even though it would be to the detriment of the Dole candidacy. The Republicans decided to separate welfare and Medicaid, and began to move a freestanding welfare bill through Congress. The Senate and House bills were each roughly comparable to the respective Senate and House bills passed in 1995, but this time the conference outcome was very different: the conference produced a bill that was fairly close to what the Senate had passed. This time the Hill Republicans wanted the President to sign it.

The game was over. Now no one could ever say again with any credibility that this President is an old liberal.


Up in a puff of smoke

BEFORE I begin my critique, I need to say something about the motivations of those who genuinely support this new approach. Some of them, anyway, had in my estimation gotten impatient with the chronicity of a significant part of the welfare caseload and the apparent intractability of the problem. I believe they had essentially decided that handing everything over to the states was the only thing left to try that didn't cost a huge amount of money. They may well understand that there will be a certain amount of suffering, and may believe that the bucket of ice-cold water being thrown on poor people now will result in a future generation that will take much more personal responsibility for itself and its children. I think they have made a terrible mistake, as I will try to show, but I respect the frustration that motivated at least some of them. How bad, then, is it? Very bad. The story has never been fully told, because so many of those who would have shouted their opposition from the rooftops if a Republican President had done this were boxed in by their desire to see the President re-elected and in some cases by their own votes for the bill (of which, many in the Senate had been foreordained by the President's squeeze play in September of 1995).

The same de facto conspiracy of silence has enveloped the issue of whether the bill can be easily fixed. The President got a free ride through the elections on that point because no one on his side, myself included, wanted to call him on it. He even made a campaign issue of it, saying that one reason he should be re-elected was that only he could be trusted to fix the flaws in the legislation. David Broder wrote in The Washington Post in late August that re-electing the President in response to this plea would be like giving Jack the Ripper a scholarship to medical school.

Why is the new law so bad? To begin with, it turned out that after all the noise and heat over the past two years about balancing the budget, the only deep, multi-year budget cuts actually enacted were those in this bill, affecting low-income people.

The magnitude of the impact is stunning. Its dimensions were estimated by the Urban Institute, using the same model that produced the Department of Health and Human Services study a year earlier. To ensure credibility for the study, its authors made optimistic assumptions: two thirds of long-term recipients would find jobs, and all states would maintain their current levels of financial support for the benefit structure. Nonetheless, the study showed, the bill would move 2.6 million people, including 1.1 million children, into poverty. It also predicted some powerful effects not contained in the previous year's analysis, which had been constrained in what it could cover because it had been sponsored by the Administration. The new study showed that a total of 11 million families—10 percent of all American families—would lose income under the bill. This included more than eight million families with children, many of them working families affected by the food-stamp cuts, which would lose an average of about $1,300 per family. Many working families with income a little above what we call the poverty line (right now $12,158 for a family of three) would lose income without being made officially poor, and many families already poor would be made poorer.

The view expressed by the White House and by Hill Democrats, who wanted to put their votes for the bill in the best light, was that the parts of the bill affecting immigrants and food stamps were awful (and would be re-addressed in the future) but that the welfare-reform part of the bill was basically all right. The immigrant and food-stamp parts of the bill are awful, but so is the welfare part.

The immigrant provisions are strong stuff. Most legal immigrants currently in the country and nearly all future legal immigrants are to be denied Supplemental Security Income and food stamps. States have the option of denying them Medicaid and welfare as well. New immigrants will be excluded from most federal means-tested programs, including Medicaid, for the first five years they are in the country. All of this will save about $22 billion over the next six years—about 40 percent of the savings in the bill. The SSI cuts are the worst. Almost 800,000 legal immigrants receive SSI, and most of these will be cut off. Many elderly and disabled noncitizens who have been in the United States for a long time and lack the mental capacity to do what is necessary to become citizens will be thrown out of their homes or out of nursing homes or other group residential settings that are no longer reimbursed for their care.

The food-stamp cuts are very troubling too. Exclusive of the food-stamp cuts for immigrants, they involve savings of about $24 billion. Almost half of that is in across-the-board cuts in the way benefits are calculated. About two thirds of the benefit reductions will be borne by families with children, many of them working families (thus reflecting a policy outcome wildly inconsistent with the stated purposes of the overall bill). Perhaps the most troubling cut is the one limiting food stamps to three months out of every three years for unemployed adults under age fifty who are not raising children. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describes this as "probably the single harshest provision written into a major safety net program in at least 30 years"
-- although it turns out that more states than the drafters anticipated can ask for an exception that was written to accommodate places with disproportionate unemployment. One of the great strengths of food stamps until now has been that it was the one major program for the poor in which help was based only on need, with no reference to family status or age. It was the safety net under the safety net. That principle of pure need-based eligibility has now been breached.

Neither the cuts for immigrants nor the food-stamp cuts have anything to do with welfare reform. Many of them are just mean, with no good policy justification. The bill also contains other budget and benefit reductions unrelated to welfare. The definition of SSI eligibility for disabled children has been narrowed, which will result in removal from the rolls of 100,000 to 200,000 of the 965,000 children who currently receive SSI. Although there was broad agreement that some tightening in eligibility was warranted, the changes actually made will result in the loss of coverage for some children who if they were adults would be considered disabled. Particularly affected are children with multiple impairments no one of which is severe enough to meet the new, more stringent criteria. Child-nutrition programs have also been cut, by nearly $3 billion over six years, affecting meals for children in family day care and in the summer food program. Federal funding for social services has been cut by a six-year total of $2.5 billion. This is a 15 percent cut in an important area, and will hamper the states in providing exactly the kind of counseling and support that families often need if a parent is going to succeed in the workplace.

So this is hardly just a welfare bill. In fact, most of its budget reductions come in programs for the poor other than welfare, and many of them affect working families. Many of them are just cuts, not reform.
(The bill also contains an elaborate reform of federal child-support laws, which had broad bipartisan support and could easily have been enacted as separate legislation.)

THIS brings us to welfare itself. Basically, the block grants mean that the states can now do almost anything they want—even provide no cash benefits at all. There is no requirement in the new law that the assistance provided to needy families be in the form of cash. States may contract out any or all of what they do to charitable, religious, or private organizations, and provide certificates or vouchers to recipients of assistance which can be redeemed with a contract organization. So the whole system could be run by a corporation or a religious organization if a state so chooses (although the latter could raise constitutional questions, depending on how the arrangement is configured). Or a state could delegate everything to the counties, since the law explicitly says that the program need not be run “in a uniform manner” throughout a state, and the counties could have varying benefit and program frameworks. For good or for ill, the states are in the process of working their way through an enormous—indeed, a bewildering—array of choices, which many of them are ill equipped to make, and which outside advocates are working hard to help them make well.

The change in the structure is total. Previously there was a national definition of eligibility. With some limitations regarding two-parent families, any needy family with children could get help. There were rules about participation in work and training, but anybody who played by the rules could continue to get assistance. If people were thrown off the rolls without justification, they could get a hearing to set things right, and could go to court if necessary. The system will no longer work that way.

The other major structural change is that federal money is now capped. The block grants total $16.4 billion annually for the country, with no new funding for jobs and training and placement efforts, which are in fact very expensive activities to carry out. For the first couple of years most of the states will get a little more money than they have been getting, because the formula gives them what they were spending a couple of years ago, and welfare rolls have actually decreased somewhat almost everywhere (a fact frequently touted by the President, although one might wonder why the new law was so urgently needed if the rolls had gone down by more than two million people without it).

Many governors are currently crowing about this “windfall” of new federal money. But what they are not telling their voters is that the federal funding will stay the same for the next six years, with no adjustment for inflation or population growth, so by 2002 states will have considerably less federal money to spend than they would have had under AFDC. The states will soon have to choose between benefits and job-related activities, with the very real possibility that they will run out of federal money before the end of a given year. A small contingency fund exists for recessions, and an even smaller fund to compensate for disproportionate population increases, but it is easy to foresee a time when states will have to either tell applicants to wait for the next fiscal year or spend their own money to keep benefits flowing.

The bill closes its eyes to all the facts and complexities of the real world and essentially says to recipients, Find a job. That has a nice bumper-sticker ring to it. But as a one-size-fits-all recipe it is totally unrealistic.

Total cutoffs of help will be felt right away only by immigrants and disabled children—not insignificant exceptions. The big hit, which could be very big, will come when the time limits go into effect—in five years, or less if the state so chooses—or when a recession hits. State treasuries are relatively flush at the moment, with the nation in the midst of a modest boom period. When the time limits first take effect, a large group of people in each state will fall into the abyss all at once. Otherwise the effects will be fairly gradual. Calcutta will not break out instantly on American streets.

To the extent that there are any constraints on the states in the new law, they are negative. The two largest—and they are very large—are the time limit and the work-participation requirements.

There is a cumulative lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid for with federal money, and states are free to impose shorter time limits if they like. One exception is permitted, to be applied at the state's discretion: as much as 20 percent of the caseload at any particular time may be people who have already received assistance for five years. This sounds promising until one understands that about half the current caseload is composed of people who have been on the rolls longer than five years. A recent study sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation found that 30 percent of the caseload is composed of women who are caring for disabled children or are disabled themselves. The time limits will be especially tough in states that have large areas in chronic recession—for example, the coal-mining areas of Appalachia. And they will be even tougher when the country as a whole sinks into recession. It will make no difference if a recipient has played by all the rules and sought work faithfully, as required. When the limit is reached and the state is unable or unwilling to grant an exception, welfare will be over for that family forever.

Under the work-participation requirements, 25 percent of the caseload must be working or in training this year, and 50 percent by 2002. For two-parent families 75 percent of the caseload must be working or in training, and the number goes up to 90 percent in two years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill falls $12 billion short of providing enough funding over the next six years for the states to meet the work requirements. Even the highly advertised increased child-care funding falls more than $1 billion short of providing enough funding for all who would have to work in order for the work requirements to be satisfied. States that fail to meet the work requirements lose increasing percentages of their block grants.

The states are given a rather Machiavellian out. The law in effect assumes that any reduction in the rolls reflects people who have gone to work. So states have a de facto incentive to get people off the rolls in any way they can, not necessarily by getting them into work activities.

The states can shift a big chunk of their own money out of the program if they want to. There is no matching requirement for the states, only a maintenance-of-effort requirement that each state keep spending at least 80 percent of what it was previously contributing. This will allow as much as $40 billion nationally to be withheld from paying benefits over the next six years, on top of the $55 billion cut by the bill itself. Moreover, the 80 percent requirement is a static number, so the funding base will immediately start being eroded by inflation.

Besides being able to transfer some of their own money out, the states are allowed to transfer up to 30 percent of their federal block grants to spending on child care or other social services. Among other things, this will encourage them to adopt time limits shorter than five years, because this would save federal money that could then be devoted to child care and other help that families need in order to be able to go to work. Hobson's choice will flourish.

The contingency fund to cushion against the impact of recessions or local economic crises is wholly inadequate—$2 billion over five years. Welfare costs rose by $6 billion in three years during the recession of the early nineties.

The federal AFDC law required the states to make decisions on applications within forty-five days and to pay, retroactively if necessary, from the thirtieth day after the application was put in. There is no such requirement in the new law. All we know from the new law is that the state has to tell the Secretary of Health and Human Services what its “objective criteria” will be for “the delivery of benefits,” and how it will accord “fair and equitable treatment” to recipients, including how it will give “adversely affected” recipients an opportunity to be heard. This is weak, to say the least.


GIVEN this framework, what can we predict will happen? No state will want to be a magnet for people from other states by virtue of a relatively generous benefit structure. This is common sense, unfortunately. As states seek to ensure that they are not more generous than their neighbors, they will try to make their benefit structures less, not more, attractive. If states delegate decisions about benefit levels to their counties, the race to the bottom will develop within states as well.

I do not wish to imply that all states, or even most states, are going to take the opportunity to engage in punitive policy behavior. There will be a political dynamic in the process whereby each state implements the law. Advocates can organize and express themselves to good effect, and legislatures can frustrate or soften governors’ intentions. There is another important ameliorating factor: many welfare administrators are concerned about the dangers that lie in the new law and will seek to implement it as constructively as they can, working to avoid some of the more radical negative possibilities.

Citizens can make a difference in what happens in their state. They can push to make sure that it doesn't adopt a time limit shorter than five years, doesn't reduce its own investment of funds, doesn't cut benefits, doesn't transfer money out of the block grant, doesn't dismantle procedural protections, and doesn't create bureaucratic hurdles that will discourage recipients. They can press for state and local funds to help legal immigrants who have been cut off from SSI or food stamps and children who have been victimized by the time limits. They can advocate an energetic and realistic jobs and training strategy, with maximum involvement by the private sector. And they can begin organizing and putting together the elements of a real fix, which I will lay out shortly.


EVEN given effective advocacy, relatively responsive legislatures and welfare administrators, and serious efforts to find private-sector jobs, the deck is stacked against success, especially in states that have high concentrations of poverty and large welfare caseloads. The basic issue is jobs. There simply are not enough jobs now. Four million adults are receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Half of them are long-term recipients. In city after city around America the number of people who will have to find jobs will quickly dwarf the number of new jobs created in recent years. Many cities have actually lost jobs over the past five to ten years. New York City, for example, has lost 227,000 jobs since 1990, and the New York metropolitan area overall has lost 260,000 over the same period. New York City had more than 300,000 adults in the AFDC caseload in 1995, to say nothing of the adults without dependent children who are receiving general assistance. Statistics aside, all one has to do is go to Chicago, or to Youngstown, Ohio, or to Newark, or peruse William Julius Wilson's powerful new book, When Work Disappears, to get the point. The fact is that there are not enough appropriate private-sector jobs in appropriate locations even now, when unemployment is about as low as it ever gets in this country.

For some people, staying on welfare was dictated by economics, because it involved a choice between the “poor support” of welfare, to use the Harvard professor David Ellwood's term, and the even worse situation of a low-wage job, with its take-home pay reduced by the out-of-pocket costs of commuting and day care, and the potentially incalculable effects of losing health coverage. With time limits these people will no longer have that choice, unappetizing as it was, and will be forced to take a job that leaves them even deeper in poverty. How many people will be able to get and keep a job, even a lousy job, is impossible to say, but it is far from all of those who have been on welfare for an extended period of time.

The labor market, even in its current relatively heated state, is not friendly to people with little education and few marketable skills, poor work habits, and various personal and family problems that interfere with regular and punctual attendance. People spend long spells on welfare or are headed in that direction for reasons other than economic choice or, for that matter, laziness. If we are going to put long-term welfare recipients to work—and we should make every effort to do so—it will be difficult and it will cost money to train people, to place them, and to provide continuing support so that they can keep a job once they get it. If they are to have child care and health coverage, that will cost still more. Many of the jobs that people will get will not offer health coverage, so transitional Medicaid for a year or two will not suffice. People who have been on welfare for a long time will too often not make it in their first job and will need continuing help toward and into a second job. Both because the private sector may well not produce enough jobs right away and because not all welfare recipients will be ready for immediate placement in a private-sector job, it will be appropriate also to use public jobs or jobs with nonprofit organizations at least as a transition if not as permanent positions. All of this costs real money.

For a lot of people it will not work at all. Kansas City's experience is sadly instructive here. In the past two years, in a very well-designed and well-implemented effort, a local program was able to put 1,409 out of 15,562 welfare recipients to work. As of last December only 730 were still at work. The efforts of Toby Herr and Project Match in Chicago's Cabrini-Green public-housing project are another case in point. Working individually and intensively with women and supporting them through successive jobs until they found one they were able to keep, Herr had managed to place 54 percent of her clients in year-round jobs at the end of five years. This is a remarkable (and unusual) success rate, but it also shows how unrealistic is a structure that offers only a 20 percent exception to the five-year time limit.

I want to be very clear: I am not questioning the willingness of long-term welfare recipients to work. Their unemployment is significantly related to their capacity to work, whether for personal or family reasons, far more than to their willingness to work. Many long-term welfare recipients are functionally disabled even if they are not disabled in a legal sense. News coverage of what the new law will mean has been replete with heartbreaking stories of women who desperately want to work but have severe trouble learning how to operate a cash register or can't remember basic things they need to master. A study in the state of Washington shows that 36 percent of the caseload have learning disabilities that have never been remediated. Many others have disabled children or parents for whom they are the primary caretakers. Large numbers are victims of domestic violence and risk physical retaliation if they enter the workplace. These personal and family problems make such people poor candidates for work in the best of circumstances. Arbitrary time limits on their benefits will not make them likelier to gain and hold employment. When unemployment goes back up to six or seven or eight percent nationally, as it will at some point, the idea that the private sector will employ and continue to employ those who are the hardest to employ will be even more fanciful than it is at the current, relatively propitious moment.

When the time limits take effect, the realities occasioned by the meeting of a bottom-line-based labor market with so many of our society’s last hired and first fired will come into focus. Of course, a considerable number will not fall off the cliff. An increased number will have obtained jobs along the way. The time limits will help some people to discipline themselves and ration their years of available assistance. Some will move in with family or friends when their benefits are exhausted. The 20 percent exception will help as well.

But there will be suffering. Some of the damage will be obvious—more homelessness, for example, with more demand on already strapped shelters and soup kitchens. The ensuing problems will also appear as increases in the incidence of other problems, directly but perhaps not provably owing to the impact of the welfare bill. There will be more malnutrition and more crime, increased infant mortality, and increased drug and alcohol abuse. There will be increased family violence and abuse against children and women, and a consequent significant spillover of the problem into the already overloaded child-welfare system and battered-women's shelters.


I AM amazed by the number of people who have bought the line that the bill was some little set of adjustments that could easily be done away with. Congress and the President have dynamited a structure that was in place for six decades. A solid bipartisan majority of Congress and the President himself have a stake in what they have already done. Fundamental change in the bill is therefore not possible this year. So the answer to the question is no, not in any fundamental way. One possible area for adjustment is in the immigrant and food-stamp provisions. These occasioned the most hand-wringing from the President and some of the people who voted for the bill. They could be changed without redoing everything. The President has made some proposals for limited change on these items.

The bigger question is welfare. If there is going to be a short-term fix of the new law, it will be not in the fundamentals of the new structure but rather in some of the details. It might possibly include the following, although I hasten to say that even this list stretches credulity.

• Congress could make extra funds available to the states for job creation, wage subsidies, training, placement, support and retention services, and so on. The President has proposed a fund of $3 billion over three years for this kind of activity, saying it would result in a million new jobs. As campaign rhetoric, this was pure spin. It amounts to $3,000 per job. There is simply no way in which $3,000 per job will get a million jobs for people who have been on the welfare rolls for extended periods of time. The President has also proposed a modest additional tax credit for hiring welfare recipients. This, too, will have little practical effect.

• The Democrats tried very hard to create a voucher covering basic necessities for children in families that had run up against the time limit. The idea failed by a narrow margin in the Senate, and is worth pursuing. Another item worth advocating would be raising the 20 percent exception to the time limit to 25 or even 30 percent.

• The states are chafing under the requirements about the percentage of the caseload that has to be participating in work or related activities. It would help a little if people were permitted to receive vocational training for longer than the twelve months the law allows.

• The law is excessively flexible on what the states can do with the block-grant funds. A number of possible changes would be helpful: reducing the percentage that can be transferred out of the block; raising the requirement for states' contributions of their own funds; requiring states to comply with the plans they adopt; requiring states to process applications for assistance expeditiously; and clarifying the procedural protections for people denied or cut off from assistance.

• It is vitally important that adequate data be gathered and reported on what happens under the new legislation. The new law contains some funding for research and some instructions about data to be gathered, but additional funds and specification would be helpful.

If reliable and affordable health care and child care were added to this list, and were available beyond a transitional period, it would help a lot. However, my crystal ball tells me that whatever is enacted in these areas will be modest at best, and the new structure will remain substantially in place. And of course not even these adjustments would solve the fundamental problems created when the previous structure was dynamited: the disappearance of the national definition of eligibility and of the guarantee that federal funds will be available for all eligible children.


A REAL fix would involve, first, jobs, jobs, jobs—preferably and as a first priority in the private sector, but also in the public sector, where there is real work to be done. And then everything that enables people to be productive citizens. Schools that teach every child as well as they teach every other child. Safe neighborhoods. Healthy communities. Continuing health-care and day-care coverage, so that people can not only go to work but also keep on working. Ending the racial and ethnic discrimination that plagues too many young people who try to enter the job market for the first time.

When we discuss jobs, we need to be talking about opportunities for men and women both. That may seem obvious, but the welfare bill skews our focus. By allocating to long-term welfare recipients such a large share of the limited resources available for jobs and training, we may be draining funds and attention from others who deserve to be a higher priority. Inner-city young men come particularly to mind. We need to be promoting responsible fatherhood, marriage, and two-parent families. If young men cannot find work, they are far less likely to marry. They may have children, but economics and low self-esteem may defeat responsibility. Tough child-support enforcement is part of the solution, but genuine opportunity and clear pathways to opportunity are vital.

The outside world tends to believe that the inner city is hopeless. (I do not mean to neglect strategies to reduce rural poverty.) That is not the case. In the toughest neighborhoods, with all the dangers and pitfalls of street life, there are young people who beat the odds, stay in school and graduate, and go to college or get a job. These young people have exceptional strength and resiliency. But there are many more who could make it with a little extra support and attention. It is enormously important that we increase the number of young people who make it. We give a lot of lip service to prevention, whether of crime or drug abuse or teen pregnancy. But we will never prevent these negative outcomes as well as we could until we pursue a general strategy of creating opportunity and clear pathways to opportunity—a positive youth-development strategy.

Many of the jobs that welfare recipients and other low-income people get do not pay enough to pull them out of poverty. Continuing attention to the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit will be necessary. States should insist, as the city of Baltimore has, that all their contractors pay all their workers a sufficient wage to keep them out of poverty (or at least approximately enough to keep a family of four out of poverty), and should fund their contracts accordingly. Current child-care and health-care policies are insufficient to allow low-wage workers to stay out of poverty even if transitional subsidies let them escape temporarily when they leave the welfare rolls. Federal and state child-care subsidies should help all workers who would otherwise be poor, not just those who have recently left the welfare rolls. And at the end of the day we still have 40 million Americans, including 10 million children, who do not have health coverage. We still have to deal with that as part of a real antipoverty strategy.

We have been reduced to the politics of the waitress mom. She says, all too legitimately, “I bust my tail. I don’t have decent child care. I don’t have health coverage. Why should ‘these people’ get what I don't have?” We started to bring greater equity to the working poor but, except for the recent minimum-wage increase, progress was halted by the 1994 congressional elections. A real fix would help the waitress mom as well as those a rung below her on the income ladder.

We are not just talking policy; we are talking values. We are talking people, especially young people growing up, who understand that they have to take responsibility for themselves, both as earners and as parents.

Personal responsibility and community responsibility need to intersect. The community has a responsibility to help instill and nurture values. The community has a responsibility to offer support, especially to children and youths, so that everyone has an opportunity to acquire the tools necessary to achieve the personal responsibility that is such a vital element in the equation. The community has a responsibility to help parents do their job. And community means something different from programs, something larger, although programs are part of the equation. Liberals have tended to think in terms of programs. The community's taking responsibility is a much larger idea. But communities cannot succeed in isolation. National leadership and policy are essential as well.

Welfare is what we do when everything else fails. It is what we do for people who can't make it after a genuine attempt has been mounted to help the maximum possible number of people to make it. In fact, much of what we do in the name of welfare is more appropriately a subject for disability policy. The debate over welfare misses the point when all it seeks to do is tinker with welfare eligibility, requirements, and sanctions. The 1996 welfare law misses the point.

To do what needs to be done is going to take a lot of work—organizing, engaging in public education, broadening the base of people who believe that real action to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency in America is important and possible. We need to watch very carefully, and we need to document and publicize, the impact of the 1996 welfare legislation on children and families across America. We need to do everything we can to influence the choices the states have to make under the new law. We can ultimately come out in a better place. We should not want to go back to what we had. It was not good social policy. We want people to be able to hold up their heads and raise their children in dignity. The best that can be said about this terrible legislation is that perhaps we will learn from it and eventually arrive at a better approach. I am afraid, though, that along the way we will do some serious injury to American children, who should not have had to suffer from our national backlash.

Illustrations by Robert Goldstrom
The Atlantic Monthly; March 1997; The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done; Volume 279, No. 3; pages 43-58.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:40 am

Hillary Clinton Should Ask for Black America’s Forgiveness Before She Asks for its Vote
by Antonio Moore
Los Angeles Attorney, Producer "Crack in the System" Documentary
February 18, 2016



Houston, we have a problem. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has run into a major speed bump and it’s called Bernie Sanders. As we move toward the day of reckoning known as Super Tuesday, she’s dialing up Black America to answer the call to action.

The woman that was supposedly married to America’s first black president is now hoping that it is Black America that buoys her campaign. The problem is that regardless of whether Bill Clinton believes, as he has recently stated, that “we are all mixed-race people...”, he is white and the Clintons were far from good for Black America in their last go around in the White House.

Whether we look at “The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act “ signed by President Clinton in 1994, a piece of legislation which led to more black men being incarcerated than we had seen in all of America’s dark history, which is saying a lot. Or, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which nearly gutted black media ownership by removing caps on corporate media ownership. The Clinton era was marked by a reality of setbacks for African Americans that are too often understated, and are best summed up by Michelle Alexander, author of the bestseller “The New Jim Crow”.

“If anyone doubts that the mainstream media fails to tell the truth about our political system (and its true winners and losers), the spectacle of large majorities of black folks supporting Hillary Clinton in the primary races ought to be proof enough. I can’t believe Hillary would be coasting into the primaries with her current margin of black support if most people knew how much damage the Clintons have done — the millions of families that were destroyed the last time they were in the White House thanks to their boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine and their total capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes. There’s so much more to say on this topic and it’s a shame that more people aren’t saying it. I think it’s time we have that conversation.” Michelle Alexander

Under former President Bill Clinton’s administration the number of incarcerated rose dramatically, the increase primarily being composed of young black males. According to the Los Angeles Times, “During Clinton’s eight-year tenure, the total population of federal and state prisons combined rose by 673,000 inmates—235,000 more than during Reagan’s two terms.” As I wrote in one of the more popular pieces on incarceration, The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It’s Catastrophic,

“... there are currently more African American men incarcerated in the U.S. than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined. India alone is a country of 1.2 Billion people, the country in total only has around 380,000 prisoners.”

The Black Male Incarceration Problem is Real and It's Catastrophic

Recently Bill Clinton admitted regret for his part in the incarceration increase stating, “... the president spoke a long time and very well on criminal justice reform,..But I want to say a few words about it. Because I signed a bill that made the problem worse and I want to admit it.” But his words do little to correct the effects his legislative pen had on millions of black families. This is covered extensively in the documentary I served as a producer on “Freeway: Crack In The System”, which details how lawmakers racialized the punishment of non-violent crimes, and the devastating impact that approach had on black homes across the nation. The increase in gangs and drugs that we covered in our film, resulted in Hillary Clinton calling those convicted ‘super-predators’, and stating they needed to be brought to heel. An action often reserved for breaking an animal, rather than rehabilitating human beings.

“ They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel...” Hillary Clinton 1996

The problem was they were not super, nor predators, they were just a generation of misguided young black men. In actuality they were brothers, fathers and sons caught in a webbing of economics that was 30 years in the making, one that dated back to a time when President Nixon formally declared a “war on drugs”. This entanglement closed in on them as cheap drugs became available, and cities across the nation lost manufacturing jobs leaving employment deserts in urban ghettos.

Following her earlier statement, Michelle Alexander wrote a scathing critique, being highly critical of Hillary Clinton receiving support from Black America. In it she details the reasons why Hillary should not get Black America’s vote, and calls on African Americans to take on a deeper review of the Clintons’ policy history.

Bill Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare... Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to African Americans by belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in black churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites that he was willing to be tougher on black communities than Republicans had been... An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were good for the economy and for black unemployment rates.

The truth is more troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.”

-- Why Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the Black Vote” - The Nation

Hillary Clinton’s backing from blacks should not be a given, it should be a question mark given the very questionable past the Clintons have with Black America. As stated by Shaun King of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, “The idea of an African-American firewall for Hillary Clinton is deeply insulting.” For those that conveniently try to separate Bill Clinton’s time in the oval office from Hillary, no matter how you slice it Hillary Clinton’s campaign is indelibly intertwined with Bill’s administration. It is undeniable her record of preparedness for the White House is based in large part on his presidency.

Focusing in on the economy, the Clinton era is remembered as a great time for America, a time when everyone prospered. But so often what is forgotten is a detail of how at least in part all those supposed good times occurred. The prosperity everyone remembers was short lived, and it lacked sound fundamentals to sustain itself. As an example, in 1999 President Bill Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act, effectively repealing Glass Steagall the law that separated commercial banks and investment banks. Many economists credit Bill Clinton signing this legislation with the creation of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. A financial catastrophe, which particularly ended up targeting so many Latino and African American families across the nation.

Incarceration was yet another instrument used to skew economic numbers. Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration as a social tool used for punishment also became a major job creator. According to a piece written in 2002,

During the last two decades, the large-scale use of incarceration to solve social problems has combined with the fall-out of globalization to produce an ominous trend: prisons have become a “growth industry” in rural America. Communities suffering from declines in farming, mining, timber-work and manufacturing are now begging for prisons to be built in their backyards. The economic restructuring that began in the troubled decade of the 1980s has had dramatic social and economic consequences for rural communities and small towns. Together the farm crises, factory closings, corporate downsizing, shift to service sector employment and the substitution of major regional and national chains for local, main-street businesses have triggered profound change in these areas. The acquisition of prisons as a conscious economic development strategy for depressed rural communities and small towns in the United States has become widespread. Hundreds of small rural towns and several whole regions have become dependent on an industry which itself is dependent on the continuation of crime-producing conditions.

The incarceration of young blacks is part of the reason the unemployment numbers fell under the Clintons. Effectively by incarcerating young black men they became an invisible population and no longer counted as unemployed, despite still being jobless behind bars. In addition, through their imprisonment jobs were created for officers, judges, prison guards and the like, in communities across the country.

While Hillary’s recent speech in New York on Black America’s social issues is respected, I have reviewed her plan and it falls short on specifics and timelines. At a time when the black and white wealth gap has reached astronomical levels, African Americans need more than a message in exchange for their votes in 2016. They need a commitment with performance benchmarks, and a plan focused on them and the effects of their legacy of disenfranchisement in America. Her speech lacked the recognition that would come alongside an apology, whereby it would be clear she has a better grasp these actions she is proposing are corrective in nature. In one of the more tepid moments of the same speech she stated,

“I’ve made mistakes, I’ve walked my own journey... we also learned about what doesn’t work, some of what we tried didn’t resolve problems. Some ended up creating new ones. And that caused disappointment, frustration, even anger.” Hillary Clinton 2016

It is not enough to say Black America faces problems; the Clintons must go further and take responsibility for playing a role in planting part of those problems’ roots. The great irony of her speech came when she referenced second chances for convicts stating, “... in my faith we believe in second chances, in America we believe in second chances. Let’s give those chances to people who need them the most.” If we take full stock of the lasting effects that resulted from the legislative policies enacted by the Clintons, we are ultimately lead to the question, why should we give you a second chance in the White House?

As the Congressional Black Caucus places their backing behind Clinton, Black America should take this moment to demand more for their support.
The question African Americans should ask Hillary Clinton, is what will you commit to doing in the first one hundred days that addresses our needs? Demand a real reform of criminal justice with benchmarks, demand America apologize for the institution of slavery and it be coupled with a review of the United Nation’s recommendation of implementation of some form of reparatory justice, demand more avenues for black owned business to grow with improved access to commercial loans from banks. In the end Black America should come with a succinct ask, and also demand that Hillary Clinton apologize to get the black vote.

Antonio Moore is a Los Angeles Attorney. He is also one of the producers of the documentary on the Iran Contra, Crack Cocaine Epidemic and the resulting issues of Mass Incarceration “Freeway: Crack in the System”. Mr. Moore has contributed pieces to Huffington Post, and thegrio on topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics.

Follow Antonio Moore on Twitter:
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:52 am

I Was 16 and in Solitary Before I Ever Even Went to Trial
by Reginald Dwayne Betts, Legal Intern, ACLU
July 10, 2014



February is cold in Northern Virginia. It's even colder when you're in a cell alone, without a mattress, a blanket, a pillow, or a sheet.

When I walked into that cell in the basement of the Fairfax County Jail, my hands cuffed behind my back and stomach grumbling from a half a day without food, I was almost relieved. Happy to be soon free from cuffs, to be close to being processed, and to be moved to wherever I'd suffer next. What I didn't know is that once the deputy uncuffed me and closed the small opening that I'd slipped my hands through, no one would talk to me again for days.

This was February 21, 1997. Seventeen years ago and still the date, the time of day I arrived, and the exact location of the cell in solitary confinement are permanent fixtures in my memory. I was sixteen years old and being held in pre-trial detention on carjacking and robbery charges.

After spending three months in juvenile facilities, I had grown strangely familiar with being in a cell. But nothing prepares you for solitary confinement.

I spent ten days in that cell. I learned to pace, seven steps back and forth, again and again. I stared at the wall, sought out figures in the cracks. Across from me was the padded room where they sent prisoners who threw things on the deputies. The kid in the cell beside me, he too only sixteen or seventeen years old, told me about all of his fears of a straightjacket. Those days felt like a straightjacket to me.

Eight of those days were without a shower or any of the other small allowances that helped men from freezing in the night. I wore the same clothes and slept on a concrete slab that was covered in phlegm. For a time I told myself that the ordeal couldn't be real. I wondered if one of the punishments for guilt was solitary. How would I know otherwise? I hadn't been to court, hadn't seen my lawyer in a few weeks, had yet to have a trial – and yet, without explanation I was in solitary confinement.

After those first ten days in solitary, I would go on to plead guilty to carjacking and robbery. Sentenced to eight years in prison, the better part of my youth was spent confined. And during those eight years, I spent a year and a half doing various short stints in solitary confinement. I watched grown men crack under the pressure of a solitary cell. I watched men beg for relief, strapped to a bed by their arms and legs.

Seventeen years later, I find that I'm again constantly thinking about solitary confinement. The horror stories that drive the public conversation about solitary are not stories to me, but memories. It's unsettling because as much as I know the truth of what the noise of silence can do to a person's mind, I know the dangers for juveniles are worse.

It's good to see this issue getting more press. And it's encouraging to see some states slowly making changes. But it's still unacceptable that every day children are held in solitary confinement for upwards of 22 hours — in adult prisons and jails and juvenile facilities alike. It's unacceptable that we still have a practice on the books that devastates children's minds. We know that solitary confinement does not reduce violence and likely increases recidivism, and we must end this child abuse nationwide.

To help address the widespread issue of solitary confinement and isolation in juvenile facilities, check out the ACLU's new advocacy toolkit, "Ending the Solitary Confinement of Youth in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities."
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:00 am

Federal and State Prison Populations Soared Under Clinton, Report Finds
Justice: An analysis of federal statistics shows that more inmates were added than during any previous administration.

by Greg Krikorian
Times Staff Writer
February 19, 2001



The federal and state prison populations rose more under former President Bill Clinton than under any other president, according to a report from a criminal justice institute to be released today.

In fact, the analysis of U.S. Justice Department statistics by the left-leaning Justice Policy Institute, a project of a San Francisco-based justice center, found that more federal inmates were added to prisons under Clinton than under presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan combined.

"I remember thinking when Bill Clinton got elected that we would have a chance to turn things around," said Vincent Schiraldi, president of the institute, a project of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice. "But I think we read the tea leaves wrong."

From opposing a federal commission's push for equalization of drug sentences for powder cocaine and crack cocaine to embracing a 1994 crime bill that accelerated the rate of prison construction, the Democratic president often stole the show from "tough-on-crime" Republicans, the study said.

In doing so, it said, he left a record that did not square with his rhetoric on such topics as easing mandatory sentences.

While calling as recently as last fall for a review of the nation's prison policies, Clinton presided over an administration that, in its first term, saw an additional 277,000 prisoners incarcerated in federal and state facilities, according to the study. That number compared with 243,000 prisoners during Bush's four years in office and 129,000 during Reagan's first four years in office.

During Clinton's eight-year tenure, the total population of federal and state prisons combined rose by 673,000 inmates--235,000 more than during Reagan's two terms.

In California, the state prison population rose from 105,467 in 1992 to 161,401 as of last June, according to California Department of Correction figures.

Although most of the national increase in incarceration occurred in state-run prisons, the study found that the number of prisoners under federal jurisdiction doubled during the Clinton years and grew more than during the previous 12 years of Republican control of the White House.

Nearly 60% of those sentenced to federal prison during the Clinton administration are serving time for drug offenses, the study said. The total number of people in federal prison on drug charges--63,448--is 62% more than the number in 1990.

The dramatic increase in prison populations was attributable to several factors, Schiraldi said, including the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which earmarked $30.2 billion over six years for, among other things, new state prisons. One condition for receiving the federal funds, he noted, was that states scale back early paroles and adopt sentencing policies requiring that inmates serve more time in prison.

Also contributing to the increase, Schiraldi said, were tougher three-strikes sentencing laws adopted in more than 20 states, including California, during 1994 and 1995.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:46 am

The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It’s Catastrophic
by Antonio Moore
Los Angeles Attorney, Producer "Crack in the System" Documentary




“We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.” President Barack Obama

In a recent article the widely held belief surrounding the number of black men incarcerated outnumbering the number of black men enrolled in higher education was refuted. The piece is titled “The myth that there are more black men in prison than in college, debunked in one chart”. The author appears to believe through proving this assertion about prison and education ratios to be inaccurate either a point of great progress can be demonstrated, or an overstatement of calamity about the state of African American men can be corrected.

Yet the real issue is the number of people in prison should never be similar to the number educated. For most in our country this in fact holds true, but for black men the two numbers are in fact close and that is the inescapable problem. The supposed myth on its face may in fact be incorrect. There may be more black men in college than in prison, but the truth still stands that there are a socially catastrophic number of black men behind bars in the United States. Let me give a bit of context for this discussion. Referencing the same article above.

“The Census estimates that approximately 18,508,926 people in the U.S. population are black males, of all ages...The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Prisoner Statistics Program reports that in that same year, 526,000 were in state or federal prisons, and, as of mid-year 2013, 219,660 were in local jails, making for a total of about 745,000 behind bars.”

To give a lens for viewing this data India is a country of 1.2 Billion people, the country in total only has around 380,000 prisoners. In fact, there are more African American men incarcerated in the U.S. than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined.


As stated by Nicole Porter in the piece “Politics of Black Lives Matter”

...countries have the policies and prison populations they choose. Between 1965 and 1990, a period during which overall and violent crime rates tripled in Germany, Finland, and the United States, German politicians chose to hold the imprisonment rate flat, Finnish politicians chose to substantially reduce theirs, and American politicians generally enacted policies that sent more people to prison, along with lengthened prison terms.

Today in the United States there are approximately 18 million black men, and nearly 161 million women of all races. According to the Sentencing Project the total number of women incarcerated in America is about 200,000. Even more shocking despite the population of black men being about a tenth the size, there are nearly 4 times as many black men incarcerated in comparison to women of all races in the U.S.

To give a more appropriate contrast than just black men in college and black men incarcerated, lets look at the debated education vs incarceration reality for white women and black men comparatively. According to the Census in total there are about 8.5 million white women in college, and there are just 60,000 white women incarcerated. For black men the numbers are as listed above, there are about 1.4 million black men enrolled in higher education, and a cataclysmic 745,000 behind bars, with another large sum on probation and parole.


So in the end the contrasting of college enrollment vs. incarceration is not the key comparative. While it is part of an analysis, only by applying it with more depth can we see a fuller and more accurate picture. It is more important to look at these rates and be honest about the advantaged, and disadvantaged. The key is that as then presidential candidate Barack Obama stated “We have more work to do...” We can only take steps and start this work by asking the hard question of why historical differences in both opportunity and misfortune have left us such a disparity in access to opportunity for all.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:15 pm

Relentless Moral Crusader Is Relentless Gambler
by Katharine Q. Seelye
New York Times
May 3, 2003



William J. Bennett, author of "The Book of Virtues" and one of the nation's most relentless moral crusaders, is a high-rolling gambler who has lost more than $8 million at casinos in the last decade, according to online reports from two magazines.

The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, by William J. Bennett

Body Count: Moral Poverty ... And How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs, by William J. Bennett, John J. Dilulio, Jr., and John P. Walters

"... fatherless, Godless, and jobless ... radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more teenage boys, who murder, assault, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs, and create serious disorders” (Bennett, DiIulio, & Walters, 1996, p. 27).

The Washington Monthly said on its Web site that "over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a `preferred customer' at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million."

In an article that depends on much the same reporting, the online version of Newsweek said that 40 pages of internal casino documents show that Mr. Bennett received treatment typical of high-stakes gamblers, including limousines and "tens of thousands of dollars in complimentary hotel rooms and other amenities."

Mr. Bennett, who has served Republican presidents as education secretary and drug czar, declined to be interviewed today by The New York Times, with a spokesman saying that he needed to digest the articles before responding.

The fact of Mr. Bennett's gambling is not new. He has said over the years that he likes to gamble and that it relaxes him. What is unusual is the apparent extent of his losses; neither magazine reported his winnings.

Mr. Bennett told the magazines that he has basically broken even over the years. "I play fairly high stakes," he said, adding, "I don't put my family at risk, and I don't owe anyone anything."

The magazines said they had no documentation that he was in debt but suggested that he had lost more than he had won. In response, Mr. Bennett is quoted as saying, "I've made a lot of money and I've won a lot of money," adding, "You don't see what I walk away with." He said he gave some of his winnings to charity and reported everything to the Internal Revenue Service.

The magazines said that in one two-month period, Mr. Bennett wired one casino more than $1.4 million to cover his losses.

The magazines say he earns $50,000 for each appearance in speaking fees on the lecture circuit, where he inveighs against various sins, weaknesses and vices of modern culture.

But Mr. Bennett exempts gambling from this list.

He has said in the past that he does not consider gambling a moral issue. When his interviewers reminded him of studies that link heavy gambling with a variety of societal and family ills, Mr. Bennett said he did not have a problem himself and likened gambling to drinking alcohol.

"I view it as drinking," he said. "If you can't handle it, don't do it."

Mr. Bennett is popular among social conservatives, but many of them consider gambling a serious problem. James C. Dobson, the president of Focus on the Family and a member of a federal commission that studied gambling, said in 1999: "Gambling fever now threatens the work ethic and the very foundation of the family. Thirty years ago, gambling was widely understood in the culture to be addictive, progressive and dangerous."

In the 1990's, leaders of the conservative Christian Coalition joined with other religious leaders to create the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, called gambling "a cancer on the American body politic" that was "stealing food from the mouths of children."

Friends of Mr. Bennett were reluctant today to criticize him directly.

"It's his own money and his own business," Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative advocacy group, said. "The downside of gambling losses is that the government gets a third of the money, which is unfortunate and probably a sin in and of itself," said Mr. Norquist, whose group advocates smaller government.

William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and another conservative ally of Mr. Bennett, agreed that this was a matter between Mr. Bennett, his wife and his accountant.

"It would be different if he had written anti-gambling screeds," Mr. Kristol said. "I'm sure he doesn't regard gambling as a virtue but as a rather minor and pardonable vice and a legal one and one that has not damaged him or anyone else."

Mr. Kristol said that Mr. Bennett was not being hypocritical. "If Bill Bennett went on TV encouraging young people to gamble the rent money at a Las Vegas casino or was shilling for gambling interests, that would be inconsistent" with his moral crusades, Mr. Kristol said.

As Mr. Bennett told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1995, "I've played poker all my life and I shouldn't be on my high horse about it."
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:47 pm

The Coming Mayhem: Pre-Teens today are more violent than ever before. In their world -- nothing matters. Where are all the adults?
by Richard Rodriguez
San Francisco
January 21, 1996



The monster has the face of a child. The nightmare figure outside our window is wearing Reeboks and is 7 years old.

In recent months, politicians and police chiefs have proudly reported a drop in the crime rate in major U.S. cities. Criminologists are warning, however, that youth crimes -- particularly violent crimes by the young -- are increasing and will continue to increase.

James Q. Wilson, for example, predicts that the growing population of teenage boys will mean an increase in murders, rapes and muggings. A new type of criminal is appearing. John J. Dilullo Jr. calls them "the super-predators." Remorseless, vacant-eyed, sullen -- and very young.

A tough street kid (16 years old) says he thinks of himself as bad. But his younger brother, 9 years old, is crueler -- "that mother scares even me."

We are entering a Stephen King novel: We are entering an America where adults are afraid of children. Where children rule the streets. Where adults cower at the approaching tiny figure on the sidewalk ahead.

A friend, a heavyweight amateur wrestler, warns me away from making a dinner reservation at a Venice Beach restaurant. "There are too many gang kids around after dark."

Adults put bars on their windows. Or move into fortified communities. Adults pay to send their children to safe, private schools. But sometimes now, the adult wonders if, perhaps, the monster is asleep in the bedroom down the hall.

It is the inner-city monster -- the black kid in the Raiders' jacket -- we imagine more quickly.
But everyday in the paper, from rural America to the suburbs, come stories of young violence. A kid shoots up the chemistry classroom. A gang stomps a homeless man to death. Two boys in Beverly Hills murder their parents.

And it may not even be a case of "he" anymore. Youth counselors tell me that the toughest kids they meet now are girls. The girls are getting meaner than the boys. We adults are left feeling like children. We don't know if we are seeing the world for what it really is.

A father who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles says that his neighborhood appears safe -- almost like the America he remembers from childhood. Kids play soccer in the park on Saturdays. Couples stroll the sidewalk on soft summer nights. "Why, then," he wonders, "did the local high school need to hire a full-time security cop this year?"

A 12-year-old tells me adults don't matter when you're in trouble. He avoids the parking lot of the mall, whether or not there are adults around. He avoids certain streets. The other day, he was accosted on the sidewalk, lost his jacket to a pair of young thieves while, all around him, adults passed oblivious.

Were we adults surprised last week to learn from a Louis Harris poll that teenagers live daily aware of danger? One in nine -- more than one in three in high-crime neighborhoods -- admit that they often cut class or stay away from school because of fear of crime. One in eight carry a weapon for protection.

A mortician in black Oakland says that kids often use his mortuary as a kind of hang-out. Kids come in to look at the corpses (most of the dead are young). The smallest ones will bring their tiny brothers and sisters, tiptoe to peer inside the coffin. Death bears a familiar face.

We adults now name the young criminals super-predators. Perhaps we should think of them as the super-alones. There are children in America who have never been touched or told that they matter. Inner-city mama is on crack. Or suburban mama gives the nanny responsibility for raising the kids. Papa is in a rage this morning. Where are the aunts to protect the child? Where is there a neighbor who cares?

The child takes the role of the adult. A friend, now in prison for armed robbery, remembers his father's drunken rages -- his father quoting the Bible with whiskey breath. My friend, one night, took a knife to his father's neck to protect a younger brother from being beaten to death.

"I don't know." The same, dull answer so many kids give you. The question may vary: What do you want to be? What is your happiest memory? Why did you murder the old lady for $20? The answer is always the same.

On the other hand, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I was at my yuppie gym in front of a row of Stairmasters. The TV was blaring. On CNN, President Bill Clinton and Coretta Scott King were exchanging flatteries.

The buffed blond (a preternaturally youthful-looking 40-year-old) reached for the remote control. In an instant we were transported to MTV, where three black rapsters were talking about their music.

Question: Why is it that most of the people who buy black rap are white kids in the suburbs?

Answer: Because the rapster is glamorous for having a big, mean, thumping voice that extends beyond "I don't know."
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:32 pm

How Well Do You Know Your Kids?
by Pat Wingert



Jocks, preps, punks, Goths, geeks. They may sit at separate tables in the cafeteria, but they all belong to the same generation. There are now 31 million kids in the 12-to-19 age group, and demographers predict that there will be 35 million teens by 2010, a population bulge bigger than even the baby boom at its peak. In many ways, these teens are uniquely privileged. They've grown up in a period of sustained prosperity and haven't had to worry about the draft (as their fathers did) or cataclysmic global conflicts (as their grandparents did). Cable and the Internet have given them access to an almost infinite amount of information. Most expect to go to college, and girls, in particular, have unprecedented opportunities; they can dream of careers in everything from professional sports to politics, with plenty of female role models to follow.

But this positive image of American adolescence in 1999 is a little like yearbook photos that depict every kid as happy and blemish-free. After the Littleton, Colo., tragedy, it's clear there's another dimension to this picture, and it's far more troubled. In survey after survey, many kids -- even those on the honor roll -- say they feel increasingly alone and alienated, unable to connect with their parents, teachers and sometimes even classmates. They're desperate for guidance, and when they don't get what they need at home or in school, they cling to cliques or immerse themselves in a universe out of their parents' reach, a world defined by computer games, TV and movies, where brutality is so common it has become mundane. The parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have told friends they never dreamed their sons could kill. It's an extreme case, but it has made a lot of parents wonder: do we really know our kids?

Many teens say they feel overwhelmed by pressure and responsibilities. They are juggling part-time jobs and hours of homework every night; sometimes they're so exhausted that they're nearly asleep in early-morning classes. Half have lived through their parents' divorce. Sixty-three percent are in households where both parents work outside the home, and many look after younger siblings in the afternoon. Still others are home by themselves after school. That unwelcome solitude can extend well into the evening; mealtime for this generation too often begins with a forlorn touch of the microwave.

In fact, of all the issues that trouble adolescents, loneliness ranks at the top of the list. University of Chicago sociologist Barbara Schneider has been studying 7,000 teenagers for five years and has found they spend an average of 3-1/2 hours alone every day. Teenagers may claim they want privacy, but they also crave and need attention -- and they're not getting it. Author Patricia Hersch profiled eight teens who live in an affluent area of northern Virginia for her 1998 book, "A Tribe Apart." "Every kid I talked to at length eventually came around to saying without my asking that they wished they had more adults in their lives, especially their parents," she says.

Loneliness creates an emotional vacuum that is filled by an intense peer culture, a critical buffer against kids' fear of isolation. Some of this bonding is normal and appropriate; in fact, studies have shown that the human need for acceptance is almost a biological drive, like hunger. It's especially intense in early adolescence, from about 12 to 14, a time of "hyper self-consciousness," says David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of "All Grown Up and No Place to Go." "They become very self-centered and spend a lot of time thinking about what others think of them," Elkind says. "And when they think about what others are thinking, they make the error of thinking that everyone is thinking about them." Dressing alike is a refuge, a way of hiding in the group. When they're 3 and scared, they cling to a security blanket; at 16, they want body piercings or Abercrombie shirts.

If parents and other adults abdicate power, teenagers come up with their own rules. It's "Lord of the Flies" on a vast scale. Bullying has become so extreme and so common that many teens just accept it as part of high-school life in the '90s. Emory University psychologist Marshall Duke, an expert on children's friendships, recently asked 110 students in one of his classes if any of them had ever been threatened in high school. To his surprise, "they all raised their hand." In the past, parents and teachers served as mediating forces in the classroom jungle. William Damon, director of the Stanford University Center for Adolescence, recalls writing a satirical essay when he was in high school about how he and his friends tormented a kid they knew. Damon got an "A" for style and grammar, but the teacher took him aside and told him he should be ashamed of his behavior. "That's what is supposed to happen," Damon says. "People are supposed to say, 'Hey, kid, you've gone too far here'." Contrast that with reports from Littleton, where Columbine students described a film class nonchalantly viewing a murderous video created by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In 1999 this apparently was not remarkable behavior.

When they're isolated from parents, teens are also more vulnerable to serious emotional problems. Surveys of high-school students have indicated that one in four considers suicide each year, says Dr. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt., and author of "Help Me, I'm Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood and Adolescent Depression." By the end of high school, many have actually tried to kill themselves. "Often the parents or teachers don't realize it was a suicide attempt," he says. "It can be something ambiguous like an overdose of nonprescription pills from the medicine cabinet or getting drunk and crashing the car with suicidal thoughts."

Even the best, most caring parents can't protect their teenagers from all these problems, but involved parents can make an enormous difference. Kids do listen. Teenage drug use (although still high) is slowly declining, and even teen pregnancy and birthrates are down slightly -- largely because of improved education efforts, experts say. More teens are delaying sex, and those who are sexually active are more likely to use contraceptives than their counterparts a few years ago.

In the teenage years, the relationship between parents and children is constantly evolving as the kids edge toward independence. Early adolescence is a period of transition, when middle-school kids move from one teacher and one classroom to a different teacher for each subject. In puberty, they're moody and irritable. "This is a time when parents and kids bicker a lot," says Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University and author of "You and Your Adolescent: A Parents' Guide to Ages 10 to 20." "Parents are caught by surprise," he says. "They discover that the tricks they've used in raising their kids effectively during childhood stop working." He advises parents to try to understand what their kids are going through; things do get better. "I have a 14-year-old son," Steinberg says, "and when he moved out of the transition phase into middle adolescence, we saw a dramatic change. All of a sudden, he's our best friend again."

In middle adolescence, roughly the first three years of high school, teens are increasingly on their own. To a large degree, their lives revolve around school and their friends. "They have a healthy sense of self," says Steinberg. They begin to develop a unique sense of identity, as well as their own values and beliefs. "The danger in this time would be to try to force them to be something you want them to be, rather than help them be who they are." Their relationships may change dramatically as their interests change; in Schneider's study, almost three quarters of the closest friends named by seniors weren't even mentioned during sophomore year.

Late adolescence is another transition, this time to leaving home altogether. "Parents have to be able to let go," says Steinberg, and "have faith and trust that they've done a good enough job as parents that their child can handle this stuff." Contrary to stereotypes, it isn't mothers who are most likely to mourn in the empty nest. They're often relieved to be free of some chores. But Steinberg says that fathers "suffer from thoughts of missed chances."

That should be the ultimate lesson of tragedies like Littleton. "Parents need to share what they really believe in, what they really think is important," says Stanford's Damon. "These basic moral values are more important than math skills or SATs." Seize any opportunity to talk -- in the car, over the breakfast table, watching TV. Parents have to work harder to get their points across. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, has studied teenagers' views of parents. "One 16-year-old told us, 'I am proud of the fact that [my mother] deals with me even though I try to push her away. She's still there'." So pay attention now. The kids can't wait.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Fri Apr 22, 2016 11:49 pm

Contra-Cocaine Was a Real Conspiracy
by Robert Parry
December 3, 2013



In the insular world of Manhattan media, there’s much handwringing over the latest blow to print publications as New York Magazine scales back from a weekly to a biweekly. But the real lesson might be the commercial failure of snarky writing, the kind that New York demonstrated in its recent hit piece on “conspiracy theories.”

What was most stunning to me about the article, pegged to the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was that it began by ridiculing what is actually one of the best-documented real conspiracies of recent decades, the CIA’s tolerance and even protection of cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s.

According to New York Magazine, the Contra-cocaine story -– smugly dubbed “the last great conspiracy theory of the twentieth century” -– started with the claim by ”crack kingpin” Ricky Ross that he was working with a Nicaraguan cocaine supplier, Oscar Danilo Blandon, who had ties to the Contras who, in turn, had ties to the CIA.

Author Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes: “The wider the aperture around this theory, the harder its proponents work to implicate Washington, the shakier it seems: After several trials and a great deal of inquiry, no one has been able to show that anyone in the CIA condoned what Blandon was doing, and it has never been clear exactly how strong Blandon’s ties to the contra leadership really were, anyway.”

So, it was all a goofy “conspiracy theory.” Move along, move along, nothing to see here. But neither Wallace-Wells nor his New York Magazine editors seem to have any idea about the actual history of the Contra-cocaine scandal. It did not begin with the 1996 emergence of Ricky Ross in a series of articles by San Jose Mercury-News investigative reporter Gary Webb, as Wallace-Wells suggests.

The Contra-cocaine scandal began more than a decade earlier with a 1985 article that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press. Our article cited documentary evidence and witnesses -– both inside the Contra movement and inside the U.S. government –- implicating nearly all the Contra groups fighting in Nicaragua under the umbrella of Ronald Reagan’s CIA.

Our Contra-cocaine article was followed up by a courageous Senate investigation led by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts who further documented the connections between cocaine traffickers, the Contras and the Reagan administration in a report issued in 1989.

Yet, part of the scandal always was how the Reagan administration worked diligently to undercut investigations of the President’s favorite “freedom fighters” whether the inquiries were undertaken by the press, Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration or federal prosecutors. Indeed, a big part of this cover-up strategy was to mock the evidence as “a conspiracy theory,” when it was anything but.

Big Media’s Complicity

Most of the mainstream news media played along with the Reagan administration’s mocking strategy, although occasionally major outlets, like the Washington Post, had to concede the reality of the scandal.

For instance, during the drug-trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1991, U.S. prosecutors found themselves with no alternative but to call as a witness Colombian Medellín cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who — along with implicating Noriega — testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry.

“The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

Yet, despite the Washington Post’s belated concern about the mainstream news media’s neglect of the Contra-cocaine scandal, there was no serious follow-up anywhere in Big Media -– until 1996 when Gary Webb disclosed the connection between one Contra cocaine smuggler, Danilo Blandon, and the emergence of crack cocaine via Ricky Ross.

But the premier news outlets -– the likes of the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times -– didn’t take this new opportunity to examine what was a serious crime of state. That would have required them to engage in some embarrassing self-criticism for their misguided dismissal of the scandal. Instead, the big newspapers went on the attack against Gary Webb.

Their attack line involved narrowing their focus to Blandon -– ignoring the reality that he was just one of many Contras involved in cocaine smuggling to the United States -– and to Ross -– arguing that Ross’s operation could not be blamed for the entire crack epidemic that ravaged U.S. cities in the 1980s. And the newspapers insisted that the CIA couldn’t be blamed for this cocaine smuggling because the agency had supposedly examined the issue in the 1980s and found that it had done nothing wrong.

Because of this unified assault from the major newspapers -– and the corporate timidity of the San Jose Mercury-News editors -– Webb and his continuing investigation were soon abandoned. Webb was pushed out of the Mercury-News in disgrace.

That let the mainstream U.S. media celebrate how it had supposedly crushed a nasty “conspiracy theory” that had stirred up unjustified anger in the black community, which had been hit hardest by the crack epidemic. The newspapers also could get some brownie points from Republicans and the Right by sparing President Reagan’s legacy a big black eye.

But Webb’s disclosure prompted the CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz to undertake the first real internal investigation of the ties between the Contra-cocaine smugglers and the CIA officers overseeing the Contra war in Nicaragua.

The CIA’s Confession

When Hitz’s final investigative report was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war had taken precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra drug-smuggling crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the extensive evidence of Contra trafficking through the entire decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of Contra-drug smuggling but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

How bad, then, is it? Very bad. The story has never been fully told, because so many of those who would have shouted their opposition from the rooftops if a Republican President had done this were boxed in by their desire to see the President re-elected and in some cases by their own votes for the bill (of which, many in the Senate had been foreordained by the President's squeeze play in September of 1995).

-- The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done: A Clinton appointee who resigned in protest over the new welfare law explains why it is so bad and suggests how its worst effects could be mitigated. by Peter Edelman

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts. Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations — serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his disclosures in 1996.

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers.

8: Spreading the Word

The daily press knew how to handle this story. So what if Science buried Nelson-Rees's report in the back pages under the stodgy title "Banded Marker Chromosomes as Indicators of Intraspecies Cellular Contamination." The newspapers, properly horrified, played it on page one with headlines more to the point:


A line of human tumor cells used by laboratories around the world for more than 20 years may have invalidated millions of dollars worth of cancer research, according to a scientist's report .... As a result, says the author, Dr. Walter A. Nelson-Rees, checks are in order for dozens of laboratories engaged in cancer research. -- Los Angeles Herald Examiner


Dr. Walter Nelson-Rees, one of the most experienced cell biologists in the world ... has reported that many cell lines are by no means what they are thought to be by the laboratories handling them. -- Miami Herald


"The main situation has probably existed for years," said the main author of the report, Walter A. Nelson-Rees, a highly respected researcher. ... Nelson-Rees said the contaminating potential of the HeLa cells is well known, but that sufficient precautions against it have apparently not been taken. -- San Francisco Chronicle

All this publicity made no sense to a number of scientists. Why was Nelson-Rees taking bows now when Stan Gartler had dropped the original bomb in 1966?

Part of the reason was that Nelson-Rees's paper was printed in Science, one of the few technical journals that nonscientists, particularly reporters, find accessible. One section, prepared by the journal's news staff, was actually written in English, and in the 7 June 1974 issue, the section carried a story that translated Nelson-Rees's article beautifully. "If Nelson-Rees is right," wrote Barbara Culliton, "a lot of people may have been spending a lot of time and money on misguided research. If, for example, you are studying the properties of human breast tumor cells, hoping to find features that distinguish breast cells from others, and are, all the while, dealing unknowingly with cervical tumor cells, you've got a problem." That was plain enough even for a newspaper reporter to understand, and to embellish and bang out for the morning edition.

But what really made Nelson-Rees a media star was the dramatic background of his shocking results: "The War." In Gartler's day, HeLa contamination had been the dirty little family secret of the tissue culture crowd. Its broader impact was not obvious. In 1974, however, "The War" had been officially declared and raging for several years. Everybody knew that the nation's most brilliant medical experts were at this very moment working feverishly against the scourge of cancer. It was a national priority.

Nelson-Rees's message made this large and serious effort seem a little silly. Sure, the institute was spending millions of dollars sending its brave recruits over the top against the enemy. But it turns out our boys were shooting with blanks!

-- "Goof" Costs 65 Years to Infinity of Cancer Research. Excerpt From: "A Conspiracy of Cells: One Woman's Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal It Caused", by Michael Gold

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s final report was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood.

Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the contents of Hitz’s findings though Los Angeles had been “ground zero” of the Ross-Blandon connection.

In 2000, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee’s majority Republicans still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000 — except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Because the confirmation of the Contra-cocaine scandal received so little mainstream media coverage, Gary Webb remained a pariah in his profession of journalism, making it next to impossible for him to land a decent-paying job and contributing to his suicide in 2004. [For details, see’s “The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death.”]

What’s a Conspiracy Theory?

So, what is one to make of New York Magazine’s decision 15 years after the CIA’s confession and nearly a decade after Webb’s death to lead off its snarky ridicule of “conspiracy theories” with such a grossly inaccurate account of what was undeniably a real conspiracy?

One might have hoped that a publication that fancies itself as iconoclastic would have had the journalistic courage not to simply reinforce a fake conventional wisdom -– and have the human decency not to join in the mainstream media’s dancing on Webb’s grave. But that is apparently too much to expect of New York Magazine.

There is another problem in New York’s sneering takedown of “conspiracy theories” -– and that is the magazine lacks a decent definition of what a “conspiracy theory” is, especially given the pejorative implications of the phrase.

In my view, a “conspiracy theory” is a case of fanciful, usually fact-free speculation positing some alternative explanation for an event. Typically, a “conspiracy theory” not only lacks any real evidence but often ignores compelling evidence that goes in other directions. For instance, the current conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama being born in Kenya despite birth certificates and birth notices of his birth in Hawaii.

By contrast, a real conspiracy can be defined as a collaboration among individuals to engage in criminal or scandalous behavior usually in a secretive manner. There are many such examples involving high government officials, including Richard Nixon’s Watergate and Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra Affair.

The difference between a “conspiracy theory” and a real conspiracy is that the latter is supported by substantial evidence and the former is reliant on someone simply thinking something up, often with partisan or ideological motivation.

There is, of course, much gray area between those two poles. There are cases in which some evidence exists indicating a conspiracy but it’s short of conclusive proof. In such cases of legitimate doubt, aggressive investigations are warranted -– and the U.S. news media should welcome, not punish, these lines of inquiry.

Instead, the role of the mainstream press often has been to ridicule journalists and other investigators who venture into these murky waters. Often, that ridicule leads to serious cases of journalistic malfeasance as occurred with the mistreatment of Gary Webb and the Contra-cocaine story.

Other times the smug “anti-conspiracism” makes it impossible to get at the facts and to inform the American public about wrongdoing in a timely fashion. That can allow corrupt government officials to go unpunished and sometime to return to government in powerful positions.

The other important lesson to take from New York Magazine’s lumping real conspiracies and possible conspiracies in with fanciful conspiracy theories is that each case is unique and should be treated as such. Each set of facts should be examined carefully.

Just because one conspiracy can be proven doesn’t substantiate every claim of conspiracy. And the opposite is also true, just because one fact-free conspiracy theory is nutty doesn’t mean all suspected conspiracies deserve ridicule.

Through its anti-journalistic behavior, New York Magazine makes it hard to mourn its current financial predicament as it cuts back to publishing every other week. Indeed, the magazine is making a case that few tears should be shed if it disappears entirely.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He is the author of America's Stolen Narrative and the editor of Consortium News.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:38 pm

A pawn in the CIA drug game
by Rosalind Muhammad
West Coast Bureau Chief



AN DIEGO--Ricky Donnell Ross, 36, was a trailblazer in the crack cocaine trade in Los Angeles and other parts of the U.S.

A celebrated drug dealer, Ricky reaped millions as an unknowing pawn of Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operatives, who supplied him with unlimited amounts of cocaine. His suppliers used the profits to pay for the CIA-spawned Contra war versus Nicaragua's leftist government in the 1980s. Ricky's connections were first revealed in a series of articles published by the San Jose Mercury News and in court testimony.

He granted The Final Call an exclusive interview at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is awaiting sentencing on cocaine trafficking charges.

The Contra connection

In his interview, Ricky described how he was seduced into the lucrative cocaine brokering market in 981. It would be more than a decade before Ricky would learn that his key supplier, Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes, a man whom he called a friend, had a master's degree in marketing and was a DEA informant, with connections to the CIA.

Known simply as "Freeway Rick," Ricky started out as a poor, illiterate, high school dropout from South Central Los Angeles and a talented tennis player.

At 19, Ricky said, an older teacher, who taught at a job center, turned him on to cocaine. Ricky said he looked up to the man and started selling cocaine for him.

The money was good. Ricky went solo. His teacher's Nicaraguan supplier and Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes, supplied him.

Ricky's operation grew, soon he was one of the biggest cocaine dealers in South Central and Danilo Blandon became his sole supplier. Their business relationship grew personal, said Ricky, adding that he would spend time at Danilo's home, far from the crowded ghettoes of L.A.

Danilo schooled his portage in the art of staying "low key" and taught him how to market mass quantities of cocaine at bargain-basement prices, said Ricky.

"At first we were just getting eight ounces or so worth $16,000," he explained. "As time went on Danilo started supplying kilos (worth tens of millions of dollars). I don't know how it was possible. I didn't question him. Just took it as a blessing."

By 1984, "Freeway Rick" was a kingpin, with over a dozen crack houses in South Central, churning out $20,000 to $40,000 a day in profits. His network of drug dealers peddled a staggering 500,000 crack nuggets daily.

Ricky used cashiers' checks to but close to $6 million in property--motels, tire shops, junk yards, apartment buildings, houses. One day Ricky's partner was showing off a .22 pistol to Danilo. The next day Danilo brought him a brand new Uzi submachine gun "still in a box," and gave Ricky a .22 with a silencer.

Ricky and partner became gun dealers selling the Uzis, AK-47s, and Colt AR-15 assault rifles that became the trademark of bloody Crip versus Bloods gang wars and drive-by shooting in the 1980s.

Danilo once tried to sell his partner a grenade launcher, Ricky said.

Ricky traveled with Danilo to Detroit, Miami, Atlanta and New York. In New York, Ricky said, he met one of Danilo's dealers, who boasted of a 500-kilo-a-month operation worth about $10 million.

Ricky also knew Danilo was sending guns to the Contras. "After two or three years together, he told me that he got ran out of his country and they was trying to fight and get his country back," Ricky said.

Danilo Blandon, an illegal citizen and founder of one Contra army was once described by a federal prosecutor as one of the biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealers in America.

Time to 'Chill Out'

In January 1987, with crack markets exploding in major cities, police went after L.A.'s crack problem. They formed the Freeway Rick Task Force dedicated to putting Ricky Ross out of business.

Ricky headed to Cincinnati with his girlfriend, who was battling crack addiction and had family there. They settled into a suburban home.

After a couple months, Ricky said, Danilo visited him and offered a cut into 13 kilos of cocaine that he needed distributed. Ricky went to work and soon monopolized Cincinnati's virgin crack market, using the same strategies and Nicaraguan drug connections.

He started selling crack as far away as Cleveland, Dayton, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Ricky's luck ran out in 1988. One of his cocaine loads ran into a drug-sniffing dog at a New Mexico bus station and drug agents eventually connected it to him. He pleaded guilty to crack trafficking and received a mandatory 10-year prison sentence which began serving in 1990.

"Freeway Rick" becomes an informant

Federal prosecutors from Los Angeles approached Ricky days after the arrest and offered a deal. If he would help prosecutors investigating a drug scandal engulfing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's elite narcotics squads, they would help cut down his jail time.

Ricky became a government informant.

"They wanted me to talk about searches the task force made on crack houses, money at the houses, did they beat up (people) or steal money," Ricky received five years off his sentence and an agreement that his remaining drug profits would not be seized.

He was still behind bars in 1994, awaiting parole, when San Diego DEA agents targeted him for a "reverse" sting, one in which government agents provide the drugs and the target provides the cash.

Within days of his parole and return to Los Angeles in October 1994, Ricky said, Danilo called him saying he had 600 kilos of cocaine worth about $12 million and he wanted Ricky to help sell it.

Ricky said he initially declined but later gave in to the persistent phone calls and obtained a buyer for 100 kilos of the cocaine Danilo claimed he had.

On March 2, 1995, in a parking lot near San Diego, Ricky looked inside a cocaine-laden Chevy Blazer. Suddenly the place was swarming with police.

Ricky jumped into a friend's pickup, sped off and was captured after the truck swerved into a hedgerow. He has been in jail without bond since.

Ricky stood trial in March and the government's star witness against him was his old friend, Danilo.

On Danilo's testimony, Ricky and two other men were convicted by an all-white jury of conspiracy charges, conspiring to sell the DEA's cocaine. Ricky now faces life in jail, with no chance for parole.

Ricky's eyes teared as he described Danilo's testimony, "It was like he was killing me. It was nothing I could do but sit there and take it. There's a tape they played in court where (Danilo) said, "I hate n-----s, but they pay cash,' "Ricky recalled.

"I would have died for him. He's the worst. When I see how (the government) twists the rules for him and they want to give me a life sentence, to me it's sickening."

Danilo received $45,000 in government rewards and expenses for Ricky's arrest, records show.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff postponed Ricky's Aug. 23 sentencing until Sept. 13 to allow his attorney, Alan Fenster, to question two inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego about their knowledge of Danilo Blandon's alleged drug dealing while working for the DEA.

Atty. Fenster told The Final Call that he hopes such testimony will convince the judge that Ricky deserves a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct.

"Our contention is that (Ricky) was minding his own business and was an unsuspecting victim" of the DEA's reverse sting, Atty. Fenster said.

"If the judge finds government misconduct was so outrageous, she has the power to dismiss the charges," the attorney added. "This was a trial by ambush. The defense was denied information on Mr. Blandon that would impeach him. The government really sandbagged us."

Ricky, who taught himself to read and write about five years ago, said he could be looked at two ways: As a villain or as a victim.

Asked if he was every concerned about how crack cocaine was affecting the Black community, Ricky admits, "Not at first. It never crossed my mind."

He feels "partially responsible" for the legions of crack babies as well as addicts who prostitute themselves to sustain their drug habits.

"I took the drugs and I transferred them from (Danilo's) hands to their hands," Ricky concedes. "I feel that I was a 'strawberry' too. I was manipulated. I was just like the prostitute."

Ultimately, he said, the U.S. government is responsible for the crack epidemic. "They put it in our hands. They financed it. It was their planes that brought it over here," Ricky said. "Their guy, Oscar Danilo, Blandon, he set up the market. They picked me. I didn't go to Nicaragua. This could go higher than the CIA. They say that drugs corrupt whole governments."
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