Sometimes, we need to speak evil’s name

Jesse Walker in Reason: I’d love to live in a world where crime coverage stresses the ordinary over the unusual, one where people aren’t trained to confuse the country’s most grotesque events with threats they’re at a real risk of encountering. I’d love to live in a world where cruelty isn’t rewarded with fame, one where reporters can explore what makes a killer tick without turning him into a celebrity in the process. But I know damn well that the grotesque stuff is interesting, that it frequently speaks to larger concerns, and that people — including me — are bound to discuss it.

In the case of the killer in Roanoke, Virginia, the murderer’s manifesto describes his assault as revenge for the Charleston church massacre, and that makes this a development in a larger story people are already discussing. And even if the Charleston angle turns out to be a ripped-from-the-headlines excuse tacked onto a grudge-driven workplace slaying, the fact will remain that these murders happened live on television and were also recorded by the shooter himself, who then posted his footage to Facebook and Twitter while he was on the run. Elements of that have happened before — we’ve had violent deaths on TV, we’ve had criminals taping their misdeeds — but the full package is new, and it feels like a psychotic science-fiction story. That alone guarantees that people are going to talk about this.

Donald Trump’s critics are outraged, not PC

Andrew Rosenthal in the New York Times: It came as no surprise this week that Donald Trump put on a mock Chinese accent and spoke in broken English to criticize the leaders of China and (more to the point) President Obama for even talking to them.

Mr. Trump has made a kind of performance art out of sprinkling his public utterances with racist and sexist nonsense and then talking about his supposed impatience with “political correctness” to bat away those who criticize his behavior.

Mr. Trump is just like countless others who resent being called to account for intolerance and discrimination. He has twisted the meaning of the term “political correctness” to belittle his critics, of course, but also to excuse his habit of attacking people for their gender, national origin, language and even body size by suggesting that criticizing him is, in its own way, unfair treatment.

This argument is rooted in the culture of white outrage, which in turn is based on the idea that efforts to win equal rights for minorities, women, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and others have somehow resulted in discrimination against white people, or rather white men.

Be smart on crime, not just tough

Lance Lemmonds in the American Spectator: Conservatives who, since at least the Nixon administration, have worn with pride the badge of “tough on crime” are beginning to realize that tough doesn’t necessarily mean the same as being “smart on crime.”

Just as the private sector has embraced the mantra of “working smarter, not harder,” it’s time for federal and state officials to acknowledge the need for a smarter and more cost-effective criminal justice system.

Reducing life-without-parole sentences is one of several planks in the Coalition for Public Safety’s nonpartisan campaign for fair sentencing and fair chances, the overall goal of which is aimed at reducing the nation’s burgeoning jail and prison populations and breaking down the barriers to successful re-entry into society.

The coalition supporting the fair sentencing and fair chances campaign believes that we can dramatically reduce the enormous amount of money — currently $80 billion — that American taxpayers spend annually on incarceration in the state and federal jail and prison systems — and do so without jeopardizing public safety. That coalition includes the conservative groups Americans for Tax Reform, Faith & Freedom Coalition and FreedomWorks.

Clearly, something needs to be done when, since 1980, the federal prison population has increased nearly tenfold and the state prison population has quadrupled.

More than 1 percent of all U.S. adults are now behind bars, by far the highest rate of any nation in the world.

We must seize this unique opportunity for progress to make the justice system smarter, fairer, and more effective.

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