Thursday, April 04, 2013

Did You Hear The One About...?

In the "people say" dodge, we know "people" sometimes means "I."  So did you hear the one about President Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel being fans of gun violence?

Arguing against gun safety legislation, Rush Limbaugh on Monday claimed

Folks, this is a serious question.  Let me tell you why this is really hideous.  Because there is a theory. If Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, big Democrat, former chief of staff for Obama and Clinton -- you know, Wayne LaPierre said this once of Clinton, too.  He said that Clinton is comfortable with a certain level of violence because it promotes the idea we need new laws.  Well, the same thing is being said about Rahm Emanuel, that there's not a lot being done to stop the murders in Chicago because they provide an excellent backdrop for the quest for more law.  And so people are starting to say to the media, "Why don't you ask the mayor and the president and others, why are they not enforcing existing gun laws in Chicago?  Why is there no effort being made to really reduce the murder rate in Chicago?  Is it because it's too useful?" 

Rush won't accuse Emanuel (or Obama) directly of encouraging violent crime but his audience knows he endorses "what people are starting to say."  Alleging "there is no effort, special or otherwise, to enforce current gun laws or to prosecute people" Rush asks rhetorically "Are they actually sitting idle and using the horrors of the Chicago murders" as a photo-op?

If Mayor Emanuel is encouraging firearm violence, he is as much a failure as George W. Bush was as President (well, almost).  Dylan Matthews evaluates the recent, huge drop in gun violence in Chicago, which in February experienced only 14 homicides, the lowest monthly total since 1957.  Particularly cold weather probably played a role but, additionally,

The Chicago Police Department claims that was achieved through “saturation policing,” in which the police department identifies high-crime areas and then focuses districts’ energies on them. In February, the CPD identified 10 zones, which account for about 2 percent of Chicago’s land area but 10 percent of its violent crimes, and sent 200 officers on overtime patrols in those zones. The approach was a modified version of a policy that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Garry McCarthy had initially abandoned.

Unfortunately, the increased patrols, continued efforts to target gang violence, educational and other forms of intervention are expensive. Matthews notes

Harold Pollack, co-director of the Crime Lab with Ludwig, suggests that barring a federal program like Community Oriented Policing Services, cities may just not have the resources to do what’s necessary. “Many innovative policing strategies are pretty labor-intensive,” he says. “In the current budgetary environment, a program such as COPS might be necessary for either hot-spot policing or different community-policing approaches to really take hold.” And with the federal government in a budget-cutting mood too, even that may be hoping for too much.

So efforts by the Emanuel administration to stem firearm violence may fail because of insufficient resources.  Still, it's curious that Rush Limbaugh would not have heard about the drop in violent crime in the city, which has not been kept a secret.

By contrast, it is likely that when Limbaugh claims "none of these background check laws, none of the new laws that they want to implement would have stopped what happened at the school in Newtown, Connecticut," he is willfully misleading his audience.   Laws mandating background checks for all firearm sales probably would not have prevented the Sandy Hook massacre. But since then, firearms and their owners have been responsible for 3,294 deaths (as of Thursday). Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who Wednesday signed three significant gun control measures.

pointed out that last year, some 2,000 people who underwent a background check in Colorado were denied the right to buy a firearms, either because of a criminal record, an outstanding warrant, a restraining order or some other reason.

"People would say to me, 'Well, criminals aren't stupid. They're not going to sign up for background checks.' It turns out many criminals are stupid," he said.

Limbaugh may have known of the drop in violent crime in Chicago and undoubtedly knows background checks would curb firearm violence. But he is less likely to have the self-awareness to understand that his views on the larger culture are muddled and contradictory.  Switching abruptly from gun legislation to "erosion of our culture," he remarked

Fifty-three percent of Hispanic babies are born out-of-wedlock.  Seventy percent of African-American babies are born out-of-wedlock.  Seventy percent of babies born to poor white women are born out-of-wedlock.  Half of the babies -- get this stat -- half of the babies born to mothers under 30 are born out-of-wedlock.  Let me run through this again, 'cause I maintain that you cannot get rid of the welfare state with these birth statistics.  Somebody has to take the place of the second parent, and the government has willingly, and, in fact, Democrat-led governments have eagerly done so.  So 70% of African-American babies are born out-of-wedlock.  Fifty-three percent of Hispanic babies born out-of-wedlock.

That is not mere race-baiting, only one of Limbaugh's specialties.   Wednesday, he was chagrined about babies born out of wedlock to minority and poor women.   Thirteen months ago, Sandra Fluke argued that birth control needs to be included in the health insurance plans offered by religiously-affiliated institutions for their employees.  Astonishingly Limbaugh, apparently unaware that more sex does not require more birth control, commented

Your daughter appears before a congressional committee and says she's having so much sex, she can't pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it. Would you be proud?  I don't know about you, but I'd be embarrassed.  I'd disconnect the phone. I'd go into hiding and hope the media didn't find me.

But Rush contended also "I don't care, except when I'm told that policy makes it that the rest of society must assume responsibility and cost for behavior that people want to engage in with no consequences and no responsibility themselves."  Appalled last year by the specter of women having access to birth control.  he now rails at the proliferation of babies born out-of-wedlock, especially by the demographic with limited access to birth control.

Spanning a full range of subjects, Rush Limbaugh continues to confound many of us with his adroit use of wit, ignorance, and rank dishonesty.  But then, that sounds a lot like the modern Republican Party- minus the wit.

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