On August 14, eight people were shot outside a downtown Buffalo bar. Four died. A week later, the Buffalo News ran a story detailing the criminal records of 7 of the 8 victims, and it wasn’t shoplifting and jaywalking. Five of them had felony convictions and a fair amount of gun use was involved.
That story spurred a march on the offices of the News by 75 people. That, in turn, caused the News’ editor to write a long defense of their news judgment and to request, and attend, a community meeting about the story. Here’s the News’ editor comment about that event:
And I also hope that we can now start a healing process where we can move this conversation forward, and I think that we’ve actually taken some steps to do that by agreeing to have some meetings and to do some research about what The Buffalo News prints about the African-American community.
This “let the healing begin” rhetoric is the textbook definition of a sop. What’s going on in the News is painfully obvious and probably isn’t going to change.
Like a number of other urban communities, Buffalo has a problem with minority-on-minority, often drug-related violence. In Rochester, for example, the homicide map is almost an exact outline of “bad neighborhoods”. Given the isolation of violence in these cities, when a murder happens, the vast majority of readers want to know if it’s in a bad neighborhood. If it isn’t — and the Buffalo murders weren’t — readers want to know if the people involved were in the life. If the murder happened in a bad neighborhood or involved people with criminal records, it just gets filed away as something explicable as well as something that won’t happen to the average reader.
Of course, this angers minority communities, because the vast majority of people who live there are law-abiding, hard-working people, some of whom are killed in the crossfire when bullets fly. But I can’t see how that makes the newspapers a legitimate target of righteous anger. I’m not a regular reader of the Buffalo News, but even Rochester’s sad-sack corporate rag is full of stories about the struggles of the inner city. They’re happy to jump on any possible remedy to poverty and crime, any little ember of hope is nurtured and enhanced by a sympathetic feature, and they post long, well-written tributes to those who are caught in the crossfire.
The sad fact is that the Buffalo News is giving the people what they want and need: context, in the form of code-words that classify the violence that is in large part a side-effect of drug prohibition.
More guns will solve the problem. That, and some tax breaks to get the government off their back will certainly help the inner-city violence.
That last bit, the drug prohibition link, that’s what they should be writing about.
This Wall Street bursting bubble, it’s all the fault of the Federal government forcing the banks to lend money to “those” people. What’s wrong with the inner cities is their own fault. “Why”, as barry goldwater said (via Herblock, I think), “don’t they go out and inherit a department store?”
PS The easy-money-drug-killing goes on in this not too large town and environs in SC. Too many guns in the hands of excitable kids.
I’d rather see minority-on-minority, often drug-related sex.
Very good post. The one thing that makes me sorry I don’t support my local newspaper is that they do a reasonable job of writing about the city, including the “bad parts”.
Though you probably should have mentioned that all of this is caused by gangsta rap.
This is all very well… but then no one does anything.
It’s crystal clear that drug prohibition is at the root of this problem; yet for those seeing their young people destroy their lives with it, drugs themselves are the problem, and so they do not push for prohibition.
They are unwittingly the ones who push the profit rates higher and higher by demanding, and then getting, more enforcement and incarceration; but you know what?
If that solved it, it would be solved.
This is a classic problem for any group which has been the victim of either de facto or de jure discrimination. The fact of the discrimination leads to economic/social/behavioral (whatever kind) of dysfunction or bad outcome compared to the majority, or dominant social/cultural group(s). But pointing out the dysfunction, even as a good faith effort to attack the causes, can reinforce stereotypes against the oppressed group and hurt their image in the larger community.
Some examples: after the Watts riots (1965) the Kerner Commission study noticed a growing threat to the nuclear black family. This part of the report was attacked by most civil rights organizations as a smear against the African-American community that would only serve to heighten white racism. But the report was prescient, and since the 1980’s the problem of young, single-parent (esp) female-headed households has been a growing concern, not only in the black community. But an early start to try to head off the problem was stopped because of concerns, basically, about bad p.r.
There were divergent currents in the gay community when AIDS ‘broke’ in 1981 over the fact that it seemed to be a gay (male)-centric disease. One current sought to portray the disease as a danger to all segments of society, even though the risks to heterosexual non i.v. drug users (even the sexually active, non-monogamous) was much much lower than the risk among gay men and i.v. drug users. Again, the aim was to avoid adding more social stigma to an already stigmatized group. The other current thought (especially as the science about HIV/AIDS improved) we were misallocating resources warning people who weren’t truly potential victims of the disease, to the detriment of those who were.
Scott de B.
It pushes the price higher, but what does that have to do with the profits? The profit margin on a cheap item can easily be more than the profit margin on an expensive item.
Cigarettes are far cheaper than drugs, yet Philip Morris managed a $1.5 billion quarterly profit last year.
@DougJ: Thanks. While we’re sharing Rochester insider references, did you see that the hardest working woman in TV wants to legalize it:
@Scott de B.: My point is that prohibition drives the price higher, to the point where getting shot is just business risks.
We need to learn from Portugal and Spain. Decriminalize all drugs and allow legal home growing and non-profit transfer of cannabis.
@p.a.: This is a very good point [ahem, I hope I understood it properly]. The picketers are not doing their community [whatever that is] any favors by bitching that some things were said that were true and newsworthy. The things should have been said, just not stopped there to leave the “it doesn’t matter, these people aren’t you, you won’t get shot, move along, nothing to see here” implication hanging. They need to add more true things to the true things, to provide some non-dehumanizing context. A LOT of non-dehumanizing, big picture context, hopefully, again, true. That would be great, and it would be the only way to do it. Not talking about it is not the way. It’s really never the way. And it’s patronizing as hell.
Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle
The newspapers suck. You know why? Because they don’t address the causes. Why are the inner cities often such crappy places? No jobs, dammit!! Why do people start dealing drugs often times? Because of the money involved and people can’t find a decent job. But how many newspapers talk about that? Or the racism of the real estate industry. Ever wonder why some neighborhood seem to segregated?
I hate to point this out, but drugs are a fucking problem. Not the war on drugs, but drugs themselves. People who use coke, and meth, and heroin do not lead normal lives by day and keep it in their homes at night. Pot is less problematic and the argument for legalization is stronger, but there are still tons of people who waste their lives smoking pot.
I really don’t understand the liberal fantasy of drug legalization. It’s as glibertarian as anything Megan McCardle says about the economy.
“If we just legalize it, the problems will go away!”
“Didn’t you see the third season of The Wire?”
“You know that’s a scripted TV show, right?”
Look, if you want to legalize stuff, you have to find a way to deal with and mitigate all the negative consequences that would flow from legalization. I never see that discussed when liberals start mouthing off about the evils of the war on drugs.
I’m not trying to call names here. I consider myself a liberal, but I hate it when people don’t engage with reality.
Hugin & Munin
superking: show me on the doll where the leglization advocate touched you.
Gin & Tonic
@superking: This. I’ve been known to use an illegal drug or two somewhere in a prior life, and I’ve read both the liberal decriminalization arguments and The Economist’s similar opinion from a different angle, and I think, OK, aging hippies or urban hipsters having a joint or two instead of a bourbon or two, fine. But how exactly do you legalize (and then deal with) meth?
You could legalize hard drugs here like they’re legalized in the Netherlands and Switzerland and Denmark.
The only problem is most Americans aren’t Dutch or Swiss or Danes. Most Americans are actually the fucksticks who’ve made NASCAR one of our top sports, elected Republican after Republican to office, and have some of the highest rates of domestic abuse and gun crime in the world.
Sure, we could legalize that shit just like it’s legalized there. But it’s easy to explain why we really can’t afford to do this here.
For just a second, imagine what the country would be like if Rush Limbaugh, Eric Cantor, the Palin family and the teatards were all on meth and crack. They’re bad enough on whatever the hell it is they’re on now, without giving them stuff that scrambles their brain chemistry toward the violent & paranoid side.
I rest my case.
Not to get all libertarian on you, but why is this the government’s problem. There are tons of people who waste their lives drinking too much or eating too much or watching too much TV or surfing the web. I don’t mind the government encouraging people to avoid these activities to lead healthier lifestyles, but I don’t want it telling me that I can’t do these things for my own good.
Gin & Tonic
Sorta OT, but my pedantic BS for the day: can we get away from using “a number”, as in “a number of other communities”? One is a number, so is a thousand, so is 18 bajillion. Some other communities, many other communities, hundreds of other communities, very few other communities, “a number” says nothing at all about scale.
@superking: Just what drug problems are solved by throwing users in jail?
I’m coming from a counseling background here: addicts don’t really have problems with drugs.
They have problems. That they try to solve with drugs.
Blaming the drugs is the blind path so many go down; and it’s why we still have a drug problem. Because if you get someone off heroin, they smoke like chimneys and drink more. Get them off drink, and they switch to coffee. If they get heart palpitations and have to leave coffee, they take up gambling.
It’s not the substance; it’s the situation.
How do I know that’s true? If it really was the drug itself; everyone who had a tooth extraction or a broken leg or kidney stones or criminy! anything and got a prescription would then get “hooked.” Instead, normal people take the painkillers and bitch about the tummy problems and the mental fog and then go on with their life.
It’s when your life sucks that such things seem better.
Scott de B.
Still not sure what you’re getting at. BMW prices are high, but we don’t have BMW dealers shooting at each other.
Drug dealing is attractive not because it is super lucrative (it can be, but only for the few at the top), nor because of the generous benefits, but because of the attractions of wielding power and working for those who possess wealth and prestige. Not to mention that there are few opportunities in the ghetto for promising careers.
Legalizing drugs won’t solve the problem of high-crime in inner cities any more than repealing Prohibition got rid of the Mob.
@Scott de B.: If drugs were legal, why would they shoot each other over “territory” when you can get it at the Seven Eleven?
When it’s illegal, whatever it is, you charge a high price and the customer can’t go to the cops. That’s why we still have a Mafia… people still want to take drugs and sleep with other people and gamble, and most of that is illegal.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s simple economics.
Very, very thoughtful post.
@Gin & Tonic:
You don’t necessarily do so.
Some of the comments here seem to assume that there’s a binary decision: entirely legalize, or keep the criminal penalties we have now.
The most rational system would be one of harm reduction. Many drugs you’d make entirely legal (well, at least marijuana). Meth, I’m not sure, but IIRC the folks who have studied the issue say it’s a hard case.
@WereBear: They will shoot each other over the shelf space at the 7-11. Or are we assuming that with legalization, the current drug distribution networks will incorporate, do market research and product testing and behave like any other consumer product company. All those people whose job it is to get the product to market currently will simply become salesmen and back office support staff.
Construction is a very legal business, from what I can tell. It was also a very good source of revenue for the mob. At any time, the people who bought insurance from the mafia could have switched to Allstate and called the police. I wonder why more people didn’t do that?
@liberal: Yes. But who does meth?
It’s not like amphetamines haven’t been around; they gave them away in WWII, and in high school in the ’70’s, it was already known that “speed kills.”
You do meth when you’re a rural dropout just laid off from the only job you could get, which is gutting dead chickens by hand.
You do meth when you live in Mom’s basement, and she’s got health issues but is too young for Medicare to kick in. She might make it.
You do meth when everyone your age is looking at a second divorce and some of the kids have already gone to foster care.
It’s not that meth is so great. It’s that the alternatives are so sucky. Or they’d be picking up the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan for doing meth.
And they don’t.
Tim in SF
That’s fucking retarded.
You know what I never see discussed by advocates of expansive prohibition? Metrics for success on their STUPID, INEFFECTIVE drug war.
You know why people like you never bring up metrics of success? Because your war is an UTTER FAILURE.
Admit it and let’s end it and move on.
I realize you are being sarcastic, but yes; that’s what corporate American would do. And then it’s at least subject to regulation; as much as any white collar crime is.
Tim in SF
It’s their body. If they fuck up their life, who cares? It’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. I don’t want to pay for enforcement anymore. It’s a fucking endless money pit and it’s not doing one damn bit of good.
Rush Limbaugh already is hooked on prescription drugs; he got his housekeeper in trouble over it. But he got away with it… because he’s rich, and can choose his drug, and can do whatever he wants.
Geez, pick a better example.
“good neighborhoods” are not immune to drugs nor are they immune to drug-related violence nor are they immune to news stories about drug-related violence, so where’s the problem?
On the topic of drugs and enforcement, I would be remiss if I did not offer an input. The discussion of how to “battle” drugs almost always runs immediately down some form of militant control and combat based mime.
It is unfortunate that the vast number of studies that have been conducted to determine the efficacy of a variety of tactics and strategies has been thrown into the memory hole. The most conservative available has shown a ratio of 10:1 of rehab:enforcement, while most find it to be in the neighborhood of 20:1. E.G.
A few studies on the legalization question have been available and most have positive results. E.G.
Therefore one would expect the course of action for the rationally minded to consider treatment and legal loosening of drug enforcement with mandatory minimums a step in a meaningful direction.
Making marijuana legal makes sense since it generally seems to be about as dangerous as alcohol (and with about the same proportion of people who develop an addiction problem with it).
Legalizing heroin and other opiates, or amphetamines like meth, not such a great idea. But that is an area where a huge increase in treatment options could help. A lot of people end up bogged down in an addiction because they can’t afford treatment or can’t get into a treatment center. AA at least has a group in every town, but for other drugs, not so much.
I’m not so sure about this–Buffalo is my hometown and I spent years and years in my 20’s hanging out in the Chippewa nightclub district, and I also went to Buffalo Public High Schools. Here’s the deal–it’s not that the Buffalo news was being racist, etc, etc, but they were pretty tone deaf, especially with what’s going on in that neighborhood. To state it plainly–there’s a lot of racial conflict surrounding the business district there, especially now that the patrons do not include as many of the young, white professionals and suburban whites they cherished. The fact is, the paper’s story in some ways read as though they were assuring white readers that the victims were of an element that were likely to die this way, and that random violence would be unlikely (however, see related stories in the Buffalo News about such random violence in that area). Many people see City Grill, and the Chippewa district as being one of the jewels of the city’s revivial in that area–Chippewa was known for one thing before the 90’s: prostitution, and the growth of business down there really was astonishing. That town has been going to hell for awhile, and just check out the whole Bass Pro business saga to see how desperate Buffalo is for any infusion of money. At any rate, I don’t think the paper is without some blame here, or at least enough for a mere 75 people to be ticked. They were tone deaf, and there really was a sense that this all had to be glossed and wrapped up quickly–the police arrested, charged, and then freed a guy within a 24 hour window for goodness sake, for exactly the same reason that drives the story you referred to–he had a criminal record and had just been released from jail. Yep, the guy did bad things in the past–he was also completely innocent.
I read the editor’s defense, and he sounds like a cockslap. You always know an “apology” is insincere when the apologist says something like “Shall we burn newspapers or should we move the conversation forward?” After examining his conscience, the editor comes up with three brainfarts, of which two of them are irrelevant (putting the story on the front page and waiting a day or two). Here’s the first one:
I’m sure this paper publishes the criminal records of every crime victim, white or black, as a matter of course. They’re just pieces of the puzzle, and the readers have a right to know if that rape victim once had a DWI or that murdered 7-11 clerk once got busted for pot.
Mistermix is right: this is the paper reassuring its readers that it was those people who got murdered, and there’s nothing to get too upset about.
Yes, exactly. I certainly can empathize with the ‘don’t throw more coals on the fire’ point of view, but in the presence of any kind of pathology, I don’t see denial as any kind of viable tactic. You have to start with the facts as best as they can be ascertained.
And as for drugs laws in the US, it seems to me the largest single group of addicts is law enforcement itself. The money and material funneled to them (which simply serves to maintain criminals in their monopoly distribution system) is immense. The only hope for rational reform (legalization and gvt. financed detox-on request) is to cut off the pipeline. You’ll never convince the Bible-thumpers to change, but breaking the drug$/enforcement nexus may be possible. Not easy, but possible. It might actually cost some jobs, but there may just be lots of cops out there who would rather fight real crime rather than hassle potheads
Gin & Tonic
@Mark S.: I’m more inclined to cut the paper some slack. I don’t live in Buffalo, but have friends who do. It’s not a huge nor a terribly violent city. Eight people shot, four of them dead, is a very big deal. *Some* context, IMO, is necessary: was it some guy who lived in Mom’s basement going postal because he was fired from that bar, was it a psychotic wacko mowing down complete strangers, was it a wife-beater taking out his ex and a bunch of her friends, was it an argument gone bad among people who knew each other (or knew of each other) and had a criminal history? It’s not comparable to a murdered 7-11 clerk with an old DWI, one of the murdered people had served time for running down four people with her car after some fight. So those people doesn’t necessarily mean something about skin color or employment history per se; it can mean people who are accustomed to settling disputes with guns. How many of your friends or acquaintances have served time for running people down with their car? It *can* legitimately reassure most people who read the story that if they don’t hang around with people who run other people down with their car to close out a bar fight, then they are less likely to get shot outside a bar.
And this is a tangent on the drug issue, too: who’s more dangerous; someone who’s a drug user, or someone who is used to settling even minor disputes with guns or knives or cars?
With mandatory sentencing, the person caught with pot gets MORE than the person who shot someone for what they played on the jukebox.
And I think that’s stupid.
I am going to defend the right of the Buffalo paper to publish what it did because I would’ve had the same reaction: move on, nothing to see here.
I can say this because I used to live in one of those all Black neighborhoods (West Side Chicago), which would mirror what has been described in the paper’s articles. Yes, there are law-abiding, hard working people in these neighborhoods. However, they are overwhelmed and out numbered by the cycle of violence, drugs and broken families that have marked my former hood for the past half decade.
I for one will not blame the ‘white government’ or other boogey men of perceived racism because I believe this is a personal responsibility issue. The blame lies with those that choose to remain or allow such violence to happen and do nothing.
Dork: Check the birth announcements. You’ll see quite a number with no baby daddy.
@Scott de B.: Back when prohibition ended, there were still quite a few lucrative things left like gambling and the drug trade. Since then the lottery and casinos are legal, and if we legalize pot, that pretty much ends the trade in anything that most people could want. What’s left is small and already claimed with no real chance to expand. The remaining drugs combined don’t add up to pot, and have really bad sideffects that don’t lend themselves to growing demand. Indeed, from what I have read the only reason a lot of hard drug users use hard drugs is because harder drugs clear out of the system too fast to be detected in drug tests. Legalize weed, and a lot of users will switch to pot instead. Prostitution is mostly a male-only endeavor, and not even all men, so there’s little room for expansion there either.
So the Mob will shrink and fight over what little slivers of opportunity are left.
@Gin & Tonic:
I’m saying they should wait until more facts come out before publishing the victims’ criminal records. For example, in your first three hypotheticals
these peoples’ past crimes are completely irrelevant.
My guess from these facts is that the murderer was probably after one or two of these people and the rest were unlucky to be there. If that is the case, the unlucky ones’ criminal records aren’t relevant and they’ve been dragged through the mud for no reason.
@Suffern Ace: With legalization, the old drug networks will disperse. As long as someone just needed a gun, a corner, and a duffle bag, anyone could play. There was no competition from people who had the capital to buy/build a secure building and hire staff to check id. Who can comply with demands for licensing and insurance and can install an expensive security system. Who can also afford to spend thousands or millions buying up in bulk and then being able to package and prepare it in mass quantities. No dealer can deal with that sort of thing unless they have a relatively clean record and have stashed away enough cash for a rainy day.
I live in a city with a high crime rate, which seems to correspond to a high poverty rate. It’s also a city where something like 90% of African American babies are born to unwed mothers. A majority of those mother’s don’t have a high school diploma. Our city school system dropout rate is approaching 75% in a school system that is over 90% African American and almost 40% of them are living below the poverty line.
Studies have repeatedly shown that the biggest ticket to a life of poverty is becoming an unwed mother before the age of 21 and/or dropping out of high school. It happens here every day and has led to generational poverty. Yes, lack of jobs is a problem, but much of that is caused by our uneducated workforce. There are only so many jobs that the primary skill involved is the ability to say “Would you like fries with that?”.
Drugs are a problem in the inner city (and the suburbs as well) and can contribute to the problem, but I don’t think that they are the primary cause. I’d go more with the breakdown of the nuclear family and lack of education, which limits opportunity, as a more of the cause.
What an odd statement in an odd and ultimately patronizing and condescending post.
There is absolutely nothing in the background story that suggests that any of the shooting victims had been involved in anything that directly or indirectly was connected with the shooting. There is nothing that suggests that they even knew the shooter.
Instead, there is only the strange claim that they were living a violent lifestyle which somehow magically explains how they got shot.
But one of the people profiled had been arrested in 2003, and had only a “minor brush with the law” in 2006. So, what is the freakin’ statute of limitations on a “bad lifestyle?”
And another of the victims, who did not have any criminal record at all, had lived in Texas since 2006. His crime apparently was celebrating his wedding anniversary while being black.
And is this supposed lifestyle anything like the equally bogus “gay lifestyle” that conservatives use to rationalize marginalization and discrimination of gay people?
The bottom line appears to be that if you are black (and possibly Latino) and have ever lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood, you may be more at risk to be shot and killed simply because you may know, have known or live near violent people, no matter what you do or have done or where you go or what you do to try to escape it.
The only purpose of the background story seems to be to reassure white people (aka “law abiding citizens), to remind them that they are safe as they go about their business and live their lives. Black people? Not so much.
The gun crime background thing in the story is even crazier. Some of the shooting victims had been convicted of firearms possession. If they had been white, tea baggers and other vermin would have been crawling out of the woodwork to protest the fact that their Second Amendment Rights had been violated.
Contrast this with California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in her recent debate with Barbara Boxer calling for an end to any ban on assault rifles, and even crazier, saying that that she supports individuals on the no-fly list being able to carry guns onto aircraft. Presumably only as long as they are white.
I have issues with Baltimore
This might be slightly askew of this post’s point, but replace “Buffalo” with “Baltimore” and you get something similar. Here in Baltimore the City Paper has a feature called Murder Ink where they retell the story of each murder over the past seven days. It’s a sad reminder of all the murders that go unnoticed by the media here every day as well as how demographically polarized those murders are. As long as you’re not black, male, and between 18-40 years old, the chances of you getting murdered are pretty slim. But when it does happen, like it did a few weeks ago, it makes front page news and a great wailing and gnashing of teeth rises up to the heavens. Everything else, “hey man, The Wire takes place here, so what do you expect?”
Oh, and this insanity:
How bout nobody have fucking guns on the airplane? But barring that, what the hell? That may be the most insane thing I’ve ever heard a politician argue for. I’m tired of these motherfuckin’ guns on this motherfuckin’ plane!
While Portugal’s plan has had a number of positive effects, it’s not clear that it has reduced crime because penalties for trafficking remain:
The biggest impact of Portugal’s new policy involved heroin and HIV related cases, not marijuana: “Instead, about 45 percent of the 100,000 heroin addicts Portugal’s Health Ministry recorded in 2000 had by 2008 decided to at least try to quit the habit, without the threat of jail time. And the number of new HIV cases among users fell from 2,508 in the year 2000 to 220 cases in 2008, Alun Jones, a spokesman for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told AOL News. ”
The Netherlands is considering reimposing bans on drugs since drug tourism has also brought in more drug crime.
I tend to favor legalizing marijuana, but don’t see that decriminalization of all drugs will solve all our problems.
Decriminalization is only half the story. Decriminalization allows the users to have small penalties but provides no legal way to supply. Legalization makes for both legal supply and sale and possession, which takes the underworld completely out of it. But in order to completely legalize, we will also have to deal with the International Treaty on Drugs that binds nations worldwide into a regime of criminalization. Once that is done, each nation will be able to have its own drug policy consistent with science and local tradition.
Unwed motherhood is also because the men are unemployed and locked up. Men don’t marry unless they have jobs and a stable income. Unless there is a stable pool of men who are marriageable, then no marriage can occur. So women decide to go ahead and have kids with whatever men are available at the time to have them.
But the same policies that have outsourced jobs away from America first outsourced them away from urban areas with their easy mass transit. When the jobs moved out beyond the busline, it became far more difficult to get and keep jobs for inner city residents-jobs that didn’t require a four-year degree and that paid a living wage.
I agree with you, but it’s not the case that we’re throwing tons of users into prison for long periods of time. I know this because I come from a legal background. The people who get tossed into prison for drugs are dealers, almost uniformly.
Someone who gets picked up with a small amount of drugs for personal use–any kind, meth, heroine, coke–they may spend a couple weeks in their county jail, but they’re not getting thrown in with murderers and rapists at the state pen. UNLESS, they did something else.
I’m not denying that people who have drug problems have fucked up lives. That is, in fact, my essential argument. Look, let’s say we legalize drugs and they’re regulated like alcohol. Are things going to be better? Some people won’t get arrested for possession, but as you point out, they’re still going to have all the same problems they already had. And they’re still going to try to solve those problems with drugs.
Now, you might say if they don’t have drugs, they’ll drink, or if they don’t drink, they’ll smoke, or if they don’t smoke, they’ll drink coffee. But alcohol is the only one of those that has a social cost even in the same ballpark as meth, crack, and heroine. And what we’re talking about is creating a world in which meth, crack, and heroine as just as legal and accessible as alcohol. So, we haven’t made any ground, have we?
While I don’t think drug laws have a strong deterrent effect, legalizing everything doesn’t really make things better without additional work.
If you want to help end poverty, correct parenting, and feed everyone, then I’ll help legalize drugs. But legalizing drugs, as you point out, doesn’t address the root issues.
I was in the area reading about this that week – and immediately said That was disgusting coverage by The Buffalo News.
Blame the victim is disgusting – “How dare they all go to a party in downtown Buffalo – they deserved to be shot.” Same idiot mentality as those that say that rape victims “were asking for it.”
Funny I didn’t hear anything like that said about the CT Beverage Distributorship shooting. Did we read about any criminal history and speeding tickets for those victims?
All Crime is horrible – and the blame should only ever be directed at the Criminal who did the shooting, etc.
Race relations still not getting very far – when we have to read crap like this.
Eric Sevareid, in his autobiography “Not So Wild A Dream,” wrote of being a cub reporter on a city daily, and covering that kind of crime.
Certain crimes were referred to, in the lexicon of his newsroom, “Nigger deals.” If a crime was nigger deal, nobody cared. The paper just published the date and place of the thing and let it go at that. Sevaraeid learned that they just did not give much space to nigger deals.
Nothing much has changed in the 70 years since. Has it?
For those of you too young to have memories or actual thoughts, Sevareid was an associate of, and peer of, Edward R. Murrow, another of that great lost class of American journalists.
From a personal perspective, I can imagine at least 5 Buffalo-area college presidents freaking out a little bit over that particular summer shootout in the city. My kid just started at UB last week. His North Campus location is pretty far away from the crime scene, but there are several thousand of us parents who are involved with Buffalo for the first time.
We live just outside Rochester, so we have long been aware of our own city’s high rate of murder per capita. I think we beat out NYC at least one year, recently. On the other hand, like mistermix says, most of that crime is concentrated in our city’s poorest neighborhoods. Some suburban people shiver at any thought of going downtown. Scary people will shoot me! It’s not really an accurate picture.
In Rochester, suburban white people can get shot if they go looking for drugs in poor neighborhoods where there are not many other white people. Black city kids get shot just hanging out on a porch, or leaving a store, or walking home from school, or riding a bike. Black women get shot or knifed in the middle of a street.
At least once a week, we see some black pastor in the city burying a parishioner and asking for an end to the violence. I don’t really need the newspaper to tell me the context; ninety percent of the time I already know.
I feel terrible for people trying to live their lives in neighborhoods where guns are the way to solve a problem. I didn’t read the Buffalo stories about the shootings, but four dead counts as “mass murder” doesn’t it? I fear the day when 4 dead is just an average body count. When it’s not even a story until we hit double digits.
Buffalo and Rochester have too many of the same problems. Both cities are conveniently located on I-90 for anybody transporting guns or drugs or whatever. We should stop wasting so much time and effort and money interdicting pot and do more to prevent the gunplay and meth. And free up more beds for drug rehab.
Some damn jobs would sure fucking help.
Sorry, the victims’ lives are none of your business. Fucking suburban racists. Go obsess on your own neighbor’s dysfunctions if that’s what turns you on.
Gin & Tonic
I can’t be so categorical. If a victim’s name was Castellano, and he was shot and killed exiting an expensive steakhouse, would his arrest record and employment history be nobody’s business?
This, sadly, is what advocates of sensible policy are up against. Will legalization “solve all our problems?” If it can’t be proven that it will, obviously we can’t try it.
Drug warriors are seldom prepared to answer the question: “Has prohibition solved all our problems?”
Sure it is. The amount of dishonesty on display in this thread is a clue that a certain amount of dishonesty is necessary to make the opposing case. Take, for example, “Did we read about any criminal history and speeding tickets for those victims?”
Speeding tickets? Speeding tickets!? One of the victims ran four people over, deliberately, with her car, and this clown thinks that the problem is how fast she was going?
Sure. It could be racism. This being America, racism almost certainly plays a role. Nevertheless, that people just aren’t all that surprised when those who live by the sword die by the sword.
I get why people are upset. It’s several sad stories all rolled up into one big sad ball. But it seems to me there’s a difference between “eight model citizens minding their own business gunned down outside a restaurant” and “a bunch of career violent offenders plus a luckless bystander or two gunned down outside a place where career criminals hang out,” and it’s not an outrage when a newspaper provides that context.
RE: I tend to favor legalizing marijuana, but don’t see that decriminalization of all drugs will solve all our problems.
I didn’t get into a big thing about drugs in this post because it is a side issue to the idiotic, noxious notion that the supposed criminal background of the shooting victims mentioned here are in any way relevant to their assault.
But when people want to legalize all drugs, I ask that they make a case for it that can be debated and tested, but don’t offer “why not just try it” or empty philosophical arguments or simplistic, tired libertarian rehash.
Fair enough. But let’s at least start by agreeing that neither prohibition nor ending prohibition is going to solve all our problems. Either way, we’re going to have problems.
As for “legalizing all drugs,” I figure it’s sensible to start with just marijuana. The stuff is comparatively harmless, not obviously worse than alcohol. The trade provides a tremendous amount of money for violent criminal gangs, and we’d probably be a lot better off if that money was going to legitimate businesses. (In much the same way that we’re better off with Seagrams making much of the money that the Capone mob used to earn.) We’d also save a fortune that we’re currently spending on interdiction, money that could surely be spent in more productive ways.
So please forgive me if I sense yet another straw man here. First we had to knock down “legalization isn’t worth trying unless it’s going to completely solve all our drug problems.” And now it seems we’re falling back on “if you want to legalize marijuana, you’re going to have to defend legalizing absolutely everything.”
I’m conservative at heart, so let’s move slowly here. Let’s just legalize pot first, and see how that goes, before we move on to meth. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe when we legalize pot, the streets will be overrun with machete-wielding reefer addicts, and we’ll all long for the days of prohibition. It could happen, I suppose, and if it does then we go ahead and give prohibition another shot.
I suspect that it won’t, though. Further, I suspect that drug warriors know that it won’t, and fear legalization for exactly that reason.
Why are you making shit up and creating obviously false comparisons? You create some phony vision of “model citizens” vs career criminals. And why is it that luckless bystanders can’t also be model citizens in your eyes. The site of the shooting was a downtown eatery. Where are you getting that this is a place where career criminals hang out?
Really? How much money?
Wouldn’t legalization allow gangs to become “legitimate” businesses?
The mob made their money on distribution and retailing, not manufacture. They bought (or stole) liquor from legal distilleries in Canada and elsewhere. Commercial marijuana cultivation is not widely legal anywhere.
Seagrams prospered during Prohibition, and a number of “legitimate” business people who profited from dealing with the mob were little more than criminals with a patina of social class. Alcohol Prohibition has some weaknesses when used to discuss marijuana legalization.
I agree with you here.
Gin & Tonic
It might allow it, but would they succeed? The Zetas may out-match the Mexican federal police, but do you think they’d stand a chance against Monsanto or Philip Morris?
Um. I’d make that “many,” rather than “the vast majority.”
I’m a good liberal and a Radley Balko acolyte on the issue of militarization of the war on drugs. But I’ve also worked as an EMT in Big City USA for 15 years.
“Many” is a fair statement. My job takes me into some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country (made famous by reference in gangsta rap rhymes), with graffiti and trash and burned out cars in the street, and dealers standing their corners in the mid-afternoon and glaring at the fire engine as it pulls up for a medical call, and then sometimes you open the door on neat little apartments with the sweetest people and pictures of grandkids on the wall. Scenes and situations and people that will break your heart.
But witnessing serious crimes (including murder) and failing to come forward or even give a statement when approached does not constitute “law abiding.” My personal Big City is an infamous liberal one, and there are well-funded outreach programs run by good people to protect those who cooperate with law enforcement, and move them out of these neighborhoods. But they are very seldom used.
I wouldn’t “blame” honest people in these neighborhoods, who refuse to confront crime at risk to themselves, just like I wouldn’t “blame” the sober, codependent enabler in an alcoholic relationship. But its not entirely unfair of suburban folk to write off collateral damage in these neighborhoods with “well, that figures.”
One of the great moral crimes of media figures like Limbaugh and Beck is that by spraying their crypto-racist bullshit all over the popular culture, they reinforce the sense in those nice people in the neat apartment with the pictures of the grandkids that it’s Us against Them, and they’re better off siding passively with the gangsters.
Sorry mistermix but I’m not even sure what the point of OP was, I just read about 2/3 and had to vent.
Commish +4 (starting weekend early, i wish in a better mood)
From R’ing TFA.
@Gin & Tonic:
RE: Wouldn’t legalization allow gangs to become “legitimate” businesses?
Yeah, I do. Again, it’s always useful to ask how many of today’s legitimate business people were yesterday’s bootleggers and criminals.
Now I’m confused. Are you suggesting that it’s a BAD thing when criminals go legit?
To be clear, my problem with drug gangs isn’t that they’re selling drugs. My problem is that they employ violence, often against innocents. I’m not sitting around being bitter that Seagrams is in the same racket that Al Capone was in, but moving even more and better product. I’m just happy that they aren’t using gunmen to compete for market share.
Gin & Tonic
@Brachiator: So 25 years from now, when weed has been decriminalized for 20 years, and the children of today’s gang members are floating an IPO in Zeta Agricultural and Recreational Products, hoping to compete with Monsanto’s Hemp Division (which holds a patent on the seeds of three of the five most popular varieties of weed at that point, BTW), and all the combat is among $800/hr lawyers in Savile Row suits so that the people in Ciudad Juarez can drive to the grocery store without being shot, you will be objecting to the Zetas’ ill-gotten gains or sordid history?
RE: Where are you getting that this is a place where career criminals hang out?
No, you’re making things up and applying your own spin, particularly the “career criminals” and that the place where the shootings occurred was a criminal hang out.
No, I’m saying that sometimes criminals go legit, sometimes they simply buy respectability. The second option very much appeals to some conservatives, for whom the appearance of respectability is far more important than substance.
Here you evade the point that during Prohibition, companies like Seagrams were partners with Capone. Capone did the killing while others maintained their facade of respectability.
Here is a nugget in favor of marijuana legalization. If you are in a business that reaps huge revenues, but cannot use banks or the other advantages of legal commerce (law and police) to protect you, then violence is a rational alternative.
Fair enough. I don’t think that’s an important point, so I’d say I was ignoring it rather than evading it.
Can you elaborate an why you think it’s important? It’s not obvious to me. Am I supposed to hold a grudge against the modern incarnations of corporations that did business with prohibition-era criminals?
The only important point I can see here is that diring prohibition, everyone who wanted booze got it, and the profits funded violent crime. Nowadays, everyone who wants booze gets it, and the profits go to shareholders to do with what they will. This way seems better, and it seems likely that we could get similar happy results from legalizing pot.
Alan in SF
Thank you, oh great progressive President and your Congress-controling party, for continuing the war on drugs unabated, and at the same time making it easier for people to carry guns in more places. Particular shout-out to Diane Feinstein, for her extraordinary efforts to keep pot criminalized, and for her uber-liberal companion Barbara Boxer for joining her.
Are you surprised, Alan?
Obama didn’t campaign on ending the drug war. He didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, escalating the war in Afghanistan, ending torture, and passing health care reform.
I’m not 100% happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m very nearly 100% unsurprised.
If you legalize drugs, expect it to thin out the herd.
Most crime is related to alcohol. Liquor stores are frequent targets of robbery. Alcohol is also related to family breakup, domestic abuse, and of course, drunk driving.
K T Cat
The advantage of legalizing drugs is that you could do so and still be thought of as “cool” and “hip” and “edgy”. It certainly beats recommending a return to traditional morality. That’s for squares even if the loss of it correlates strongly with every social pathology we have.
It’s better to be hip than effective.
TO: mistermix, et al.
….violence that is in large part a side-effect of drug prohibition. — mistermix
You may think that, however, drugs is just ONE head on this classic Hydra. It was ‘booze’ back in the Roaring 20s. But the end of prohibition didn’t mean the end of the Mafia, or any other organized crime.
It’ll be ‘prostitution’ or ‘protection’, which are already in place. It’s just that the drugs are more lucrative….for the moment.
A root-cause analysis will show that the problem isn’t the ‘drugs’, the ‘booze’, the ‘babes’ or any other thing. The root-cause is a desire for illicit power.
So, legalizing drugs isn’t going to SOLVE the problem. It’s like that old saw in computer programming….
Solving the problem, changes the problem.
Hope that helps….but I suspect it won’t.
[Poverty is not the root cause of crime.]
I don’t see why we couldn’t legalize all drugs for a year and see what happens. If deaths skyrocket, we lock it down again and muddle through with the status quo. If deaths go down and taxes ease because of less crowding in the jails, great. It’s no skin off my nose one way or the other.
I’d be okay with legalizing drugs if we stopped paying any welfare, Medicaid, or unemployment benefits to people who use them…
I’m sick to death of being drug-tested for every part-tome job and yet seeing crackheads and tweakers collecting checks paid from my taxes for sitting on their arses getting high… And then going to the hospital and getting “free” medical care because their drug use severely injured them…
The “War On Drugs” is being fought like the the “War On Poverty”, the “War On Illegal Immigration” and the “War On Lying Sacks In Congress”… And the dishonesty involved in all of them by both parties is rather disheartening
K T Cat
Thanks for posting these links and the link to the map. It was quite enlightening. In the end, I would suggest that the original story was indeed racist. Dig this bit:
What does being African-American have to do with anything? A far more important statistical marker is the marital status of their parents. That marker is key regardless of race or even what Western nation you’re talking about. British statistics have proven that conclusively.
Instead, they talk about race and you talk about legalizing drugs. That makes sense, I guess. No one ever got pegged as uncool for talking about race.
Having enough brain cells to rub two together without puking out crap like that would also help. Does that eructation pass for critical thought in your neighborhood? In mine it qualifies you to ask if I want fries with that..
Drugs are a problem. Crime is a problem. Education is a problem. But the biggest problem is the lynch mobs who write the rules for what can be said and what can’t be said — and the organizations who kneel to them.
People like Rush Limbaugh and Eric Cantor don’t rush out and buy some substance that alters thinking/feeling just because it becomes legal…..like another poster mentioned, if you legalize everything, people will find something to fight and kill about……… it could be about getting ‘dissed’ or ‘whatchu lookin’ at’ or any number of stupid reasons……drug laws, gun laws, arent’ the problem……………….. stupid useless people are and always will be stupid and useless
This is not about drugs, it is about members of an irresponsible culture picketing for less accountability. That is madness. Dr. King is turning over in his grave as too many people in this country are trying to hide from their character, the very aspect that he said we SHOULD be judged by.
Ha ha, someguy, you should write for SNL, God knows they could use the help.
“You could legalize hard drugs here like they’re legalized in the Netherlands and Switzerland and Denmark.”
They are finally seeing the incredible wisdom in that decision and are changing their laws.
“Most Americans are actually the fucksticks who’ve made NASCAR one of our top sports, elected Republican after Republican to office, and have some of the highest rates of domestic abuse and gun crime in the world.”
Which easily explains the election of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, etc. Funny how the “highest rates of domestic abuse and gun crime” actually happen in other than Republican/conservative areas of the nation. Quick, someguy, name the NASCAR champion from last year! Top sport, really? I’m sure, though, you could name the Superbowl and World Series champions from last year. Perhaps even the NHL Stanley Cup winner.
“For just a second, imagine what the country would be like if Rush Limbaugh, Eric Cantor, the Palin family and the teatards were all on meth and crack.”
It would probably be just like it is now, except all the criminal politicians would have R’s after their names instead of D’s.
I rest YOUR case.
What parent would want their child to be a drug addict, say heroin, living only for their next hit, even if the drug were legal and paid for by the govt.
This is why drugs are keep illegal.
People with no children don’t get it.
The problem is, African American Culture is crap. Except for its very positive contribution to American Music, everything else about it is negative!
Or is it a sad fact that the Buffalo News is failing to give the people what they want and need: context, in the form of clear explication that the minority violence Buffalo that is in large part the result of decades of multi-generational fatherlessness in America’s Black communities?
Drugs re just as illegal on Sutton Place, in Chestnut Hill, and throughout whatever the best neighborhood in Buffalo is called.
Drugs and their illegality aren’t the cause, they are the mechanism.
Three generations of being married to the welfare department- with the resulting detachment from the productive economy, cultural separation and third day of the month horizon are the cause. Young human men have drives to trade, to build, to strive. The drugs trade is the best profession that boys from the project ever see anyone they know do!
(And, Someguy, odds are that if any of the people involved in this crime ever voted, it was D all the way.)
There was absolutely NO REASON to have to apologize for the original report. Aren’t we all just sick and tired of the black community blaming everyone else for the behavior in their community.
The solution is 1) take advantage of a free education, 2) do not have children out of wedlock, 3) get married.
Children, black or white who are raised in homes with a mother and father DO NOT END UP IN JAIL.
The one criteria that all White and Black Prison Inmates share with each other – 85% of them grew up in a “home” without a father. So bleeding heart white folks and excuse-making black citizens STEP UP and tell the truth.
It is the BEHAVIOR of the underclasses which leads to their sorry outlook in life.
Puzzled by the ignorant
why is it assumed that legalizing drugs will cause people who don’t do drugs to start doing them? I think it would be a good idea to get the drugs out of the hands of organized crime and out of the hands of our children, who find it far easier to get now than they would if it was kept behind the counter of a drug/alcohol store.
Rush and Palin on meth? Why wouldn’t they be on ‘meth’ right now if they wanted it? Just because something is legal or illegal doesn’t determine if I will use it. Beer is legal, but I don’t drink. I could if I wanted to, but I don’t. Pot is illegal, but I don’t smoke it. You think I would go buy a pound of Pot and ‘spark’ one up if it became legal tomorrow? Why do you think that? Is it because YOU would?
What they should be writing about is how the corruption of the criminal George W. Bush and his fellow criminal Republicans have played a huge role in the deterioration of minority communities, which has in turn led to more and more crime by increasing desperate people. After all, when you see 8 years of Bush starting illegal wars in order to cull the minority populations of the world, with the side benefit of ridding America of hundreds of poor, minority men and women who join the military because they can’t find any other work, why would anyone feel they had to follow the law when the President doesn’t, by starting to illegal wars to benefit Big Oil, Haliburton, and Wall Street. It is appalling that the newspaper felt it best to run the angle that the victims deserved it when they were nothing more than victims of the Bush Administration.
Uh, drug prohibition? Drug Prohibition made them do these crimes?
Consider the race. Consider the culture. Consider … the death penalty instead of parole.
@superking: Your last sentence confused me…
Fine superking, here’s how you deal with the “all the negative consequences” of drug usage. YOU LET THE JUNKIES DIE WHEN THEY OVERDOSE! What? You thought I was gonna tell you a story about fluffy kittens and unicorns that run around pissing rainbows?
Drugs like coke, meth and heroin are bad, no crap. What makes you think I wanna to spend any of my money on taking care of someone that is gonna be a drain on society any more than I wanna pay for prohibition?
I’m sure that Junkie McCrackhead’s mom or sister of kid is gonna miss them somethin’ fierce, but that’s life. Stupidity should be painful, and self-correctin’. Life is hard; you get used to it or you get out. If their families and friends wanna put them up at a rehab center and then deal with helping them, fine.
As for mitigation, sometimes a person’s only reason for existence is to serve as a bad example for others.
It is not drug related violence. The only drug statistically related to violence is alcohol.
It is Prohibition Related Violence.
Once you get the thinking correct – what to do becomes obvious.
(And, Someguy, odds are that if any of the people involved in this crime ever voted, it was D all the way.)
It is a vice. Malum prohibitum turns it into a crime. Legally. However, morally the use of substances to excess is a vice. It does no direct harm to others. Most of the harm generated is caused by prohibition.
Oh so snarky with the Republican-bashing straw men.
Does anyone actually believe that further gun bans would have prevented any of these felons (who are already prevented from legally possessing weapons in all 50 states) from getting guns?
IE, individuals predisposed to committing MURDER are likely to be deterred by a few more marginal laws banning their favorite tools?
While its more than likely that none of the individuals involved in this incident would be DIRECTLY helped by decreasing tax rates (since none of them are paying income taxes anyway), tax breaks probably **WOULD** help “inner city” by increasing overall job supply and employment. .
Wow, that’s profound!
So you mean to tell me that if you’re involved in the drug trade and have a felony conviction, you’re more likely to be robbed, or assaulted? Who would have thought?
Oh wait a second, I’m not actually a Christian, but I think I have heard something like that before:
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
The drug prohibition doesn’t force anyone to break the law, but it DOES provide tremendous economic incentive for individuals to do so. You can make laws against drugs, or rescind them, but you’re not going to bend the rules of economics! If there is a way to make a profit at a trade (and in particular a HUGE profit), individuals will try to expolit it.
Marijuana, for example, would be no more expensive than, say, cinnamon sticks, if it weren’t banned. There would be no gun-enforced illegal trade in weed, with associated corruption of border patrol and other associated pathology if it weren’t illegal.
As a secondary thing, if you create laws that go against popular demand (eg for marijuana), suddenly you’re creating a large number of law-breakers (eg all the marijuana smokers).
All that said, bad laws against soft drugs don’t de-legitimize good laws against murder, assault, and illegal weapons possession.
NASCAR fans, gun-culture people and Republican voters are not the ones comitting the so-called “gun crime.” That’s all critters, all the time. In fact, those critters are the best reason for the rest of us to “cling” to our guns, as Effendi Obama put it.
some other guy
@Gin & Tonic:
If drugs were legalized now, meth would cease to be a problem in just a few weeks. The only reason anyone starts up with meth is that those relatively safe pharmaceutical amphetamines that were used for years are impossible to get now. Speed was a problem, but not like meth is.
Just like bathtub gin and (most) backwoods whiskey disappeared when prohibition was ended, I expect most of the worst drugs to fall out of use once the safer alternatives are available again. It won’t be paradise, but it would be lower social cost than we have today.
But the article about the protest was interesting.
The News waited until after the burials, and people protested the ‘timing’. Should the article have been run before the dead were buried? Would that have been somehow ‘more sensitive’?
The reporters acted sympathetic to get the story, then ran the article they wanted. Like that never happens anywhere else?
Or maybe the protesters just thought that having the uncomfortable truth appear in print was ‘insensitive’.
The protesters are morons.
TO: anon, et al.
RE: Too Funny
And too close to the reality of the situation, too.
Probably because cinnamon is a good treatment for adulthood-onset diabetes. Although the AMA and the FDA, let alone the ‘drug’ companies, don’t care to let that information out.
How do I know this?
…..first two don’t count.
[The greatest problems in life seem to involve surviving the ‘birth day’ gifts you get from your parents.]
P.S…. It’s all in the genes, ya know……
drugs are a side-issue diversion. the real problem is the rotten-to-the-core ‘values’ of the black community. listen to any rap song blaring out of their radios…listen to the conversations of pre-teens on the corner…listen to the older apologists who accept crime and the dole as a way of life. until there is a reality-based acceptance of responsibility for their own short-comings, the ‘bad neighborhoods’ will only get worse.
The rules to avoid being murdered (in order influence on likelihood of becoming a victim):
1) Don’t be a criminal or be involved with those who are. (appx. 75% of murder victims have significant criminal records)
2) Don’t do illegal drugs or be involved with those who do. (appx. 70% of murder victims have long histories of illegal drug use)
3) Don’t get into abusive relationships – zero tolerance of ANY abuse (i.e. verbal).
(appx. 30% of murder victims are killed by abusive relationship partners, generally long-term partners)
4) Don’t spend any more time in the “bad part of town” than necessary, and remain alert and focused when there.
(appx. 5% of murder victims are just “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Yes, there is a fair degree of overlap here, on all 4 subjects)
Follow those 4 rules, and you are more likely to be struck by lightning than be murdered.