GREETINGS FROM BABEL: Did Williams know whereof she spoke?


Part 4—Charles Blow didn't ask:
Did Ashley Williams, age 23, know what she was talking about?

We ask for an obvious reason. A few weeks back, Williams interrupted Candidate Clinton at a campaign event, making a statement which struck us as rather odd.

In last Monday's New York Times,
Charles Blow wrote a column about this interruption. His column seemed to be straight outta Babelstan. It left us asking such questions as these:

Did Ashley Williams have any idea what she was talking about? We'll get more specific, based on the nature of Williams' remarks:

How much does Ashley Williams know about the 1994 crime bill? About that bill's effects on the nation's (very high) incarceration rate?

Does Williams know who voted for that bill? Against it? How much does she know about the specific contents of the bill? How much does she know about the social conditions surrounding its enactment—more specifically, about prevailing crime rates in the early 1990s?

Most specifically, these questions came to mind:

Why does Williams seem to think that Hillary Clinton has called her a super-predator? How much does she know about the context in which that term gained currency when she was two years old? How much does she know about the one speech in which Clinton used that term on one lone single occasion?

We ask these questions for a reason, and Williams' age is involved. In his silly subservient column, Blow referred to Williams as a "young graduate student."

At age 23, Williams isn't super-young. But we will say this:

We ourselves turned 23 in December 1970. At that time, we weren't gigantically well versed on the politics and sociology of 1948 and 1950, when we ourselves were one to three years old.

When she interrupted Candidate Clinton, Williams referred to a bill which was signed into law in 1994. She also referred to a speech Clinton made in 1996. We hope it doesn't seem condescending to make a fairly obvious point:

Most people who are 23 don't know a great deal about events which happened when they were one. How much does Williams, age 23, know about that crime bill? About that one lone speech, which took place when she was three?

How much does Williams actually know about the 1994 bill which fueled her interruption? This seems like a blindingly obvious question.

Charles Blow didn't ask! We'll suggest that his silence is a marker of a Babel-rich era.

Blow is paid by the New York Times to pretend to be a journalist. By tradition, a journalist would have wondered why Ashley Williams offered this peculiar remark when she took it upon herself to interrupt a campaign event:

“I’m not a super predator, Hillary Clinton.”

Why in the world did Williams say that? It didn't occur to Blow to ask! Instead, he took that statement by Williams and used it as the headline for his column.

At no point did Blow try to explain why Williams would have made that statement. At no point did he try to explain the way in which that statement even makes sense.

A journalist would have taken those steps, but journalism is dying fast in the ever-expanding empire of Creeping Babelstan. Instead of asking those obvious questions, Blow got busy apologizing to Williams for his own failures in the past twenty years.

Or something! Here's where the pundit went after quoting Williams:
BLOW (2/29/16): Williams: “I’m not a super predator, Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton, obviously caught off guard, struggles to find an appropriate response as Williams continues to pressure her and the crowd begins to grumble, “That’s inappropriate,” and the Secret Service closes in on Williams.

Then Clinton says something about answering for her statement and mass incarceration in general that left me flabbergasted:

“You know what, nobody’s ever asked me before. You’re the first person to ask me, and I’m happy to address it, but you are the first person to ask me, dear.”

Could this be true? How was this possible? How is it that of all the black audiences she has been before in the interceding two decades, and all the black relationships she has cultivated, no one person ever asked her what this young graduate student was asking?

In that moment, I knew that the people of my generation had failed the people of Williams’s. Her whole life has borne the bruises of what was done, largely by Democrats, when I was the age she is now.

[In an interview, Williams] said she has grown up knowing families and whole communities devastated by vanishing black people, swept away into a criminal justice system that pathologized their very personage.
That night, Williams forced a reckoning.
Are the highlighted statements true? To state the obvious, those accusations are extremely significant. That said, to what extent are they true?

More specifically:

Is it true that Williams' whole life "has borne the bruises of what was done, largely by Democrats, when [Blow] was the age she is now?"

To state the obvious, that's an extremely significant claim—but to what extent is it true? More specifically, to what extent has Williams's whole life "borne the bruises of what was done" by the 1994 crime bill? To what extent has Williams "grown up knowing families and whole communities" who were "devastated by" that bill?

To what extent did that 1994 crime bill create the effects Blow describes? To what extent did that bill produce "families and whole communities devastated by vanishing black people, swept away into a criminal justice system that pathologized their very personage?"

To state the obvious, Blow was presenting an extremely serious set of charges. To what extent were his highly dramatic charges actually true?

Blow made no attempt to answer that obvious question! He merely accepted the statements in question as true, then began to flay himself, and his whole generation, for not having directed such accusations at Candidate Clinton sooner.

For today, we have one more question:

Does something about that presentation perhaps not quite make sense? This is why we ask that:

Twenty-two years have passed since that 1994 crime bill was passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by Bill Clinton. (Twenty years have passed since Hillary Clinton used the term "super predator" one time, in one lone single speech.)

Twenty-two years have passed since that bill was passed. If that bill actually had the effects described in that passage, does it make really make sense to think that no one in Blow's whole generation would have mentioned this fact to Clinton by now?

Crackers, please! To state a blindingly obvious point, people in Blow's generation actually have mentioned "mass incarceration." In some cases, people have done so at great length.

To name one well-known name, Michelle Alexander wrote an entire book on the subject, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book appeared in early 2010.

It's true! You haven't seen Alexander on our corporate pseudo-liberal channel, where Blow has often cavorted and played, dreaming up facts, with the likes of Lawrence O'Donnell. Presumably, the corporate suits don't want to depress the folks with such gruesome, depressing topics. Rachel and the other stars have happily played along with that and a million other decisions—with decisions which disappear the needs and the interests of this nation's black kids, except on the rare occasions when someone gets shot.

Alexander wrote an aggressive book. It has largely gone undiscussed by our corporate stars, who much prefer reading worthless polls while mugging, snarking and clowning. This leaves our basic question unanswered:

To what extent are Blow's extremely aggressive claims actually true? To what extent did that 1994 crime bill produce the effects he described?

That's a very important question; as a pseudo-journalist, Blow didn't attempt to address it. Nor did he make any attempt to introduce some obvious context, the type of context we listed in last Friday's report.

Blow didn't mention the gruesome crime rates which helped define the age in which that bill was passed. He didn't mention the many "families and whole communities" who were being "devastated," at that time, by the horrible crimes which created those horrific crime rates.

Many people were being killed. Blow didn't stoop to recall this.

Blow forgot to mention something else. He seemed to say that the "devastation" Williams has known was created "largely by Democrats."

He named exactly one such person; he named Hillary Clinton. If he's talking about the 1994 crime bill, he forgot to say that the Democrats in question included two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus!

Why would two-thirds of the CBC vote for a bill like that? Because Blow kept forgetting to mention key facts, his readers didn't have to worry their vapid little New York Times heads with such obvious questions.

Blow also didn't trouble his readers with another buzzkill fact—the 1994 crime bill seems to have had very little effect on the nation's incarceration rate! What does Williams say about that? Did Blow even bother to ask?

One week ago, that column by Blow came straight from a particular region in Creeping Babelstan. When we liberals pleasure ourselves in such ways, we are begging—begging; begging!—for the joys of a President Trump.

Journalistically speaking, Blow's readers were handed a big pile of crap in last Monday's column. Later that day, along came the latest embarrassment from The House of Josh, an enterprise found in a different province of Our Own Modern Babelstan.

Tomorrow: "A very good column," he said


  1. Conservative news is different from main stream news. In some ways, conservative news is less accurate. But, it's more accurate in reporting the high crime rate among blacks. (With a correspondingly high victim rate among blacks.)

    Conservative news informs its readers when a perp is black. Liberal news hides that fact as much as it can. As a result, Blow can respectfully quote Williams claiming that the "criminal justice system...pathologized their very personage." OTOH conservatives know that blacks are disproportionately in prison because blacks commit disproportionately more crimes.

    1. Reporting the race of a person accused of a crime is bad journalistic practice. As demonstrated in empirical studies, the inclusion of race creates the stereotype that African Americans are more likely to be perpetrators and less likely to be victims of crimes. It creates the fear of African Americans that leads to them being shot disproportionately more often. Further, the race of a crime suspect is irrelevant to the facts of the case -- it has no news value beyond stigmatizing an entire group of people with the actions of a few.

      While it might be true that blacks commit disproportionately more crimes (especially given their disproportionate poverty and lower education and higher unemployment, it might also be true that blacks are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, disproportionately prosecuted (due to lack of access to legal representation and inability to make plea deals) and disproportionately convicted (due to prevailing stereotypes and fear among largely white juries). In that case, the racism in the justice system, not the tendency to commit more crimes, may be responsible for their crime rates. Anyone taking an introductory sociology course in college would know that -- but David is an actuary, so he probably stayed off of that side of campus (assuming he went to college).

      David supposedly understands that correlation is not causation, but he makes that reasoning error nearly every day that he comments here. We do not know the directionality of the stats he presents today (as he did yesterday). Are these people in jail because blacks commit more crimes or because they are assumed to be guilty because they are black? Or might there be third variables involved, related to poverty, access to representation, and other factors biasing the justice system? David doesn't know but he claims that conservatives are sure about all this. For myself, I think omniscience belongs to God not David and certainly not Trump and the rest of the conservative bully boys.

    2. " ... the race of a crime suspect is irrelevant to the facts of the case ...."

      Au contraire, it is the most important fact to David in Cal and his ilk, since it validates their predetermined conclusions.

    3. Anon at 11:14 conveniently ignores the COUNTLESS LIVES SAVED thanks to public information about which US neighborhoods have among the highest murder rates in the developed world and which demographic is responsible for that. The former residents of Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, etc. are very sorry for inflicting white flight on these downtrodden folk but AT LEAST THEY AIN'T DEAD.

    4. Anon 11:14 -- you make some good points. Here are my responses:
      1. The racial difference in crime reporting is extreme. E.g., suppose a group of seventeen white thugs kidnapped a 19-year old black girl, doused her with gasoline and and burned her alive. Such a case would get national attention, and deservedly so. Yet, you probably never heard of the actual case where the races were reversed.

      That's just one example. If you have a strong stomach and you want to be better informed, read "White Girl Bleed a Lot" by Colin Flaherty.

      2. You are correct, in principle, that the large number of black inmates might be caused by racial discrimination in law enforcement, rather than a difference in crime rate. However, this has been studied. Racial discrimination in law enforcement would be illegal. Several cases have looked for such discrimination and not found it.

      3. I completely agree with you that it's unfair to stigmatize all blacks for the crimes committed by some. Middle class blacks are no different from middle class whites. It's the black underclass that commits so much crime.

      4. Policies must be based on reality in order to be effective. I remember when Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty. Fifty years and trillions of dollars later, we haven't won that war. One reason is that the government automatically re-defines the Poverty Level, so that there will always be lots of people below that level. But, part of the reason is that some anti-poverty policies haven't worked or have even made things worse. Policies need to reflect the reality of life in the inner city, or they won't work.

      Anon 1:11 -- you're partly right to point to White Flight. But, more precisely what's been occurring is Middle Class Flight. Families that can afford to move out of high crime neighborhoods do so, whether these families are black, white, Asian, etc.

    5. "It's the black underclass that commits so much crime."
      Ha ha ha ha.
      The rich commit the crimes that matter. How many people lost their jobs when the rich crashed the world's economy through fraud? A hell of a lot more than those who lost their job do to a car break-in.

      Of course, these can't REALLY be compared for a couple of reasons that instantly spring to mind.
      1) The black underclass that commits crime is charged and imprisoned. One can't say the same about the thugs who crashed the world's economy so badly, the (terrible, useless, wasteful, good-for-nothing) federal government had to bail them out.
      2) DavidinCal and his fellow travelers would NEVER use their broad brushes to paint all members of the perpetrator's race or economic class as undesirables in the case of the Wall Street/ Banking fraud.

      That's how we KNOW it's race and class with the DavidinCal's of the world. There is no consistency in how they treat members of the criminal classes. Only some groups get a pass.

    6. Jac*ass @ 6:04 PM :

      You cite to Doug Giles and Colin Flaherty to support your warped perspective? Other than circle-jerking with like-minded cyphers, who do you think that you're going to persuade with this sh*t?

      The extent of your bigoted ignorance is incomparable.

  2. Hillary is promising to declassify the X-files:

    "While Donald Trump continues to promise a wall between the US and Mexico, Hillary Clinton is thinking about a different kind of alien: if elected she will release classified UFO files, her campaign manager revealed.

    As the Clinton campaign passed through Las Vegas last month, campaign manager John Podesta told KLAS-TV Politics NOW that he has persuaded the Democratic candidate to open up the long-closed documents for the US public."

  3. Ashley Williams plays an important role: that of people who have no accomplishments to stand on except to accuse others of racism. Then when they can't find any racism they have to make it up. This has always been around, but the behavior has exploded during Obama's 2nd term in office.

    1. Blogger waves the bloody shirt and - VOILA! - David in Cal, 1:11 and 1:16 weigh in. I'm sure there will be more soon. I hear VDARE is off early today.

  4. How does Bob Somerby know Hillary Clinton used the term super-predator only once? How does Bob Somerby know which questions Charles Blow did and did not ask? Why does Somerby claim Williams seems to think that Hillary Clinton has called her a super-predator? Does Bob Somerby know what other people seem to think? He doesn't say. Why does Somerby label statements Blow attributes to Williams as claims made by Blow? Do gruesome crime rates define the 1990's? Does Somerby make any effort to show they did or that the 1994 crime bill in any way addressed those crime rates? Does Bob Somerby tell you what Bill and Hillary Clinton have said recently about that crime bill, their current feelings about it?

    1. He does a search on the term. Her speeches and statements are part of databases.

      Williams said "I am not a superpredator". That implies she has been called one. Since she addressed her complaint to Clinton, she is implying that Clinton has called her one.

      Somerby did describe the crime rates in the 1990's a few days ago. Maybe you were absent. Most of us do know what Hillary Clinton has said about the 1994 crime bill during her campaign. She has been asked about it many times.

      It is to your credit that you are asking questions when you do not understand something. More people should do that. However, the answers to most of your questions are available with a bit more effort than you have expended.

    2. "He does a search on the term." ??? How do you know that? Does he make that explanation? I didn't see it.

      I do know he wrote, "You haven't seen Alexander on our corporate pseudo-liberal channel," without doing a search, because if he had searched he would know the statement is false.

    3. At 3:09 wrote:

      1) "Williams said "I am not a superpredator". That implies she has been called one. Since she addressed her complaint to Clinton, she is implying that Clinton has called her one."

      2) "It is to your credit that you are asking questions when you do not understand something."

      1) Explains what you think, not what
      Bob Somerby thinks, which he never bothered to explain. You state Williams implied two different things then in 2) you state something for a fact about my asking questions. I did not say I did not understand something, nor did I imply it. I asked questions because Somerby asked a series of questions that could just as easily be raised about his work.

      Your error about me could be as great as your possible error about what Williams "implied" she had been called and who she "implied" called her that. You don't imply you act on assumptions, you demonstrably do. And you can be quite wrong.

    4. In answering for Bob Somerby @ 3:09 wrote:
      "Somerby did describe the crime rates in the 1990's a few days ago."

      I asked "Do gruesome crime rates define the 1990's? Does Somerby make any effort to show they did or that the 1994 crime bill in any way addressed those crime rates?"

      Somerby stated the number of one crime, murders, in two cities over a 5 year period. Is that one crime in two cities a sufficient description of national crime rates in the country and that the "gruesome rate" defined the whole decade?

      I recall Somerby labasting a reporter for a piece on the few women elected to city office in Los Angeles because he did not report how many women were also elected to federal office from California as a whole.
      I recall Somerby last September lambasting reports of murder rates going up because national statistics were not used.

      One crime report for five years from two cities does not make a crime rate nor define a decade.

    5. So, you admit that you're just being a troublemaker.

    6. No. I admit I am showing the true believers that Bob does, once again, exactly what he criticizes others for doing while he is issuing his critique. And you, of course, are showing why I used the term "true believers."

    7. So, you do admit you're just being a troublemaker.

    8. No. I am showing the correlation between Howler readership and subsequent repetitive commentary.

  5. I don't believe this has been demonstrated. Large numbers of poor white people also live in neighborhoods with high lead exposure. Lead can explain the higher crime rates occurring for all people, but I don't believe it explains the differences between black and white crime rates. To establish this, you need to show a differential exposure to lead for black people. Kevin Drum hasn't done that.

  6. Bernie thinks being black is synonymous with being poor and that white people cannot be poor. Black people aren't voting for him because he doesn't understand racism distinct from economic inequality.

    I'm not voting for him because he doesn't understand sexism either. The way he interrupts Clinton with endless hand raising and nonverbal antics grates on any woman who has tried to be heard in a male environment. He wouldn't be doing that if he had a competent advisor on his team -- what does it say that he has no one helping him that way?

    1. I hope that just bothers you, and not Clinton.
      If she gets bothered by something so petty, she's not ready for the big chair.
      BTW, you sound like Kasich the way you speak about women.

    2. It's entirely possible that it does bother Clinton, and she chooses to ignore it precisely because she would get reactions like yours. And because she is focusing on Sanders' words, which are more important.

      In most environments, outside of presidential debates, non-verbal interruptions like the kind he is doing are not petty. They are actions that seek to distract, derail, minimize, and condescend.

    3. @7:01, Bernie's finger wagging and shushing will bother most women, regardless of politics. It doesn't matter why he does it. It is a big mistake. It's as bad as when Bush gave Merkel the shoulder rub. So incredibly tone deaf. How can he call himself a liberal and not get that?

    4. Bernie's debate posture toward women reminds me of Bob's dismissive attitude and language toward women writers.

    5. Yes, and Somerby is running for office so we must be very concerned about his attitude toward women writers and not care at all about Bernie's sexism because...?

    6. Who is excusing Bernie? Looks like someone is looking to excuse another nasty misogynistic codger if you ask me.

    7. All the Bernie supporters are working overtime to pretend Bernie is just being his lovable self when he wags his finger at Clinton, constantly tries to interrupt her statements with nonverbal mugging and even tells her to shut up. Just read the comments at any of the pro-Sanders sites.

      No one thinks feminism means letting women be exempt from criticism, except you.

      With Bernie, it is HOW he goes about addressing Clinton's statements. It is the nonverbal behavior that stinks -- his unwillingness to hear and address the content of her remarks. His belief that aggressiveness cannot be tolerated when a candidate is female. His bullying -- which is just as obnoxious when it comes from Bernie as when Trump tries to shut up others.

    8. "His belief that aggressiveness cannot be tolerated when a candidate is female."

      What does this even mean?
      HRC can't be aggressive, because she's a female candidate?
      Bernie can't be aggressive, because HRC is a female candidate?
      Explain this, because it makes zero sense sitting in the midst of that paragraph.

    9. "In most environments, outside of presidential debates, non-verbal interruptions like the kind he is doing are not petty."

      So, outside of Presidential debates this is a problem.
      This just in, this was during a Presidential debate.

      Reminds me of the old George Carlin joke about "the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world." "If it's undisputed, WTF are they fighting about?"

  7. A Facebook claim cycling among my friends says a devious Hillary called our children superpreditors" back in the 90s.

    I looked up the words in question and found that HRC actually spoke about gangs and how they could take over kids lives and eventually make them into uncaring superpreditors. But she did not even mention "children".

    Frankly, some of the Bernie supporters can lie like right wingers. Bob is right...Some of our liberal brethren are rather devious.

    1. Thanks for bringing Bernie supporters to heel.

  8. Q: To what extent did the 1994 crime bill create the conditions Blow described?


    In his last day in office, Clinton told Rolling Stone he regretted mandatory minimum sentencing.

    According to the Adult Correctional Facility Census, cited by Prison Policy Institute ("Overview: trends in the crime control industry"):

    In 1991, the number of people in private prisons was under 30,000. By 2001, it was over 120,000.

    1. Kevin Drum has looked at the facts recently.

      ************************************* 1995, when the crime bill took effect, state and federal policies had long since been committed to mass incarceration. Between 1978 and 1995 the prison population had already increased by more than 250 percent. Between 1995 and its peak in 2009, it increased only another 40 percent—and even that was due almost entirely to policies already in place. LINK

    2. Someone who knows the facts better than Drum recently admitted:

      ["Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday disavowed part of the anti-crime legislation that he long considered one of his top accomplishments, concluding that it went too far in sending even minor criminals to prison “for way too long.”
      “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” Mr. Clinton said. “And I want to admit it.”
      “But in that bill, there were longer sentences,” Mr. Clinton told the N.A.A.C.P. gathering in Philadelphia. “And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend. And that was overdone. We were wrong about that.”"]

    3. Anon. @ 5:12

      Blow did not describe conditions. Bob said he did.


      "Contract prisons are secure institutions operated by private corporations. The majority of BOP inmates in private prisons are sentenced criminal aliens who may be deported upon completion of their sentence."

    4. Okay. The 4x increase in private prisons under Clinton is just criminal aliens, not important people.

  9. Did Ashley Williams, age 23 and proudly queer, have more influence on a Presidential campaign through a few minutes of activism than Bob Somerby has had in 18 years of self described futile blogging?

    1. No, she just made a fool of herself.

    2. Really? Then why did her effort lead to Clinton disavowing and all but apologizing for the very terms she used in a 1996 speech?

      Somerby, as a long time liberal blogging pioneer could not even get Rachel Maddow, much less a Presidential candidate, to respond to an inquiry in 2008 by his blog.

    3. You're wrong, she did have more influence. Here I am today, still reminiscing this as a reason to get people to vote for Trump.

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