|It sounded like a throwaway line. Toward the end of a four-hour Senate hearing on gun violence last week, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president of over two decades, took a break from extolling the virtues of assault rifles and waded briefly into new territory: criminal justice reform. "We've supported prison building," LaPierre said. Then he hammered California for releasing tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders per a Supreme Court order—what he'd previously termed "the largest prison break in American history."
But California's overflowing prisons, which the Supreme Court had deemed "cruel and unusual punishment" in 2011 because of squalid conditions, were partly a product of the NRA's creation. Starting in 1992, as part of a now-defunct program called CrimeStrike, the NRA spent millions of dollars pushing a slate of supposedly anti-crime measures across the country that kept America's prisons full—and built new ones to meet the demand. CrimeStrike's legacy is everywhere these days.
CrimeStrike arose out of necessity. The NRA had come into its own as a political power during the Reagan era, but by the early 1990s, it was strapped for cash. The organization ran up a $9 million deficit in 1991 and was on pace for a $30 million shortfall in 1992, even as it was preparing to go to the mattresses over assault weapons and background checks. The NRA needed a shot in the arm.
LaPierre launched CrimeStrike that spring with $2 million in seed money from the parent organization and a simple platform: mandatory minimums, harsher parole standards, adult sentences for juveniles, and, critically, more prisons. "Our prisons are overcrowded. Our bail laws are atrocious. We'll be the bad guy," he announced. [...]
By the late 1990s, after attempting to block the Violence Against Women Act (over a provision that would have disarmed abusive spouses) and fighting to curtail prison weightlifting programs, CrimeStrike had outlived its usefulness and was quietly phased out. But its accomplishments had been literally set in stone. Thanks to stricter sentencing guidelines and increased capacity, the United States was locking up more people than at any point in its history, and for longer. Even as violent crime dropped across the country, incarceration rates continued to increase. [...]
If you're hoping for some good reading from key activist writers on a crucial topic, the Keystone XL Pipeline blogathon this week would be a good place to look. You can read an introduction to it in Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse's post here.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—Medical Error, Liability, and Murtha:
|An element of healthcare reform, one in which Democrats have acquiesced to Republican demands, is brought into sharper focus this week. The death of Rep. John Murtha, from complication from gallbladder surgery highlights a complex issue that Republicans have framed in terms of "junk lawsuits," but reformers think of it in terms of preventable medical errors. […]
What the tort reformers won't tell you is the extent to which medical liability has improved patient safety, including the establishment of organizations like Leapfrog Group. You'll hear all about the complaints of doctors complaining of having to perform "defensive medicine," and often justifiably so. There are additional costs to the system when doctors end up ordering unnecessary tests and procedures. But there are other means of addressing those issues, including a greater reliance on evidence-based care. Removing medical liability--already aminor contributor to out-of-control system costs--would likely come at a high cost for patient safety.
Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."