Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tough on crime the Tim way

I always get a chill up my spine whenever crime becomes a top issue in any campaign - because it's always discussed on the right-wing media's terms. They've tried to kablammo the whole notion that you can be a progressive populist and still be tough on crime.

Remember, we're fighting against people who think chewing bubble gum should be a crime. I swear I am not making this up. They support the dictatorship in Singapore that has criminalized precisely that.

But the political left has a better record at fighting crime than the political right. Team Tyranny has gimmicks like "3 strikes" laws, mandatory minimums, and "broken windows" policing that aren't effective. But our side favors a progressive approach in which criminal penalties increase or decrease based on the crime's severity. For instance, I support tough prison terms for sending out computer viruses - but I don't know any Tea Party members who support this. I support stiff punishments for big banks and debt collectors that make harassing phone calls - but right-wing members of Congress are trying to make it easier for debt collectors to make harassing calls. I also support making it easier for individuals to collect in small claims lawsuits.

I support strong penalties for child abusers, while the Far Right keeps trying to hide behind religion as a pretext for abusing children.

The ineffectiveness of the right-wing "broken windows" methods that excuse major crimes while harshly punishing minor offenses is borne out by statistics. The rate of serious crime in the United States skyrocketed during the 1990s and 2000s when right-wing policies were most widely honored. Only later did the crime rate go back down - but this improvement has been seen primarily in big cities that have more progressive leadership.

Why do we need to make the media start discussing crime on our terms? I have been a crime victim lately. The home invasions of 2009 and 2010 were a product of right-wing tolerance of crime. It ended when a duo who lived nearby was caught for a different burglary. Authorities said they were suspects in about 75 local burglaries, but they were only charged for the one they were caught for, because officials let them off easy if they took a plea bargain. Now I've been the victim of another break-in - in which someone stole my ATM card. I have no idea how they broke in without me discovering it right away, but I think I know who did it and why. Still, a motive is not a justification.

A burglary is far more serious than a mere theft of a small amount of money, because it shatters the sense of privacy we have a right to enjoy. I intend to see the culprit prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, judging by what happened after the earlier incidents, the law isn't very tough on burglars. I've been punished more severely for writing on the sidewalk with chalk during an Occupy protest than most burglars are.

Also missing is my Speedway convenience store reward card. Ahem. Ahem, ahem, ahem. Not like I used it much, but there's some significance there.

What is the suspected motive for the latest crime? I think it was so the burglar could get money to buy drugs. I'm not interested in throwing the book at every drug addict - unless of course they commit real crimes to support their habit. The War on Drugs is as much of a failure as other "hang 'em high" policies. But if we're serious about halting drug-related crime, why don't we go after Contraband Central? I'm talking about the Tea Party - which supports itself in part by selling heroin. Ironically, the Tea Party are the most vocal supporters of right-wing crime-fighting methods that have been proven failures.

Crime should be discussed on progressive terms - or not at all. The truth needs to be said: We're tough on crime - but fair. The Evil Empire is not.