Eugene Robinson Live

Aug 20, 2013

Chat with Post columnist Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news.

It seems pretty obvious that those cheerleading for stop and frisk are the people who will never be subjected to it, nor will any of their children or anyone else in their circle. It is odd that they simply cannot understand that subjecting every person of color to these sorts of police state searches has a negative effect on the community. It's like our use of drones abroad making more people mad at us.

Hello, everyone. No prelude today -- sorry for running late. This question has to do with today's column, which cheered the judge's decision mandating changes in NYC's stop and frisk program. This is my point precisely -- that if this kind of policing is useful and valid, it should be practiced in all kinds of communities, not just communities of color.

In your column today, "... but I'm willing to accept the premise that an active police presence can deter criminals. My problem is that African Americans and Hispanics are being singled out disproportionately for these arbitrary searches." How do you propose to remedy this? I can only see two choices, either reduce the police presence in the areas where the crime actually takes place or start spending resources in areas that aren't a problem. Which would you choose?

I would spend resources in "areas that aren't a problem," which to Mayor Bloomberg seems to translate as "white neighborhoods." Figures for 12 percent show that of minorities stopped and frisked, 2 percent were discovered to have weapons of some sort. Of the (too-few) whites who were stopped and frisked, 4 percent had weapons. This suggests to me that more emphasis in some non-problem neighborhoods might reveal a problem.

Don't you think that stop and frisk protects the law abiding citizens of black neighborhoods? It seems to me that stop and frisk would make the neighborhoods safer and should be welcome. Stop protecting the criminals.

I thought my column was quite clear. If stop anmd frisk works, and if it doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment on searach and seizure, then by all means do it. But don't just do it to blacks and Hispanics.

Okay, so the numbers do point out the problem, but why not talk about the locations where the searches are made? If no whites are in those areas, then they are not part of the statistics. If they turn out to be the part of the population carrying most of the illegal weapons, then go where that group hangs out to find more illegal weapons.

The thing is, Mayor Bloomberg keeps talking about stop and frisk as a way to get weapons off the street. Last year, more than 500,000 stops yielded abouot 700 weapons. I'll bet that you could assign officers pretty much randomly to various parts of the city and they'd come up with that many guns. If, on the other hand, stop and frisk is really about establishing a police presence and keeping order, I think there are better ways to do that than hassling kids on their way home from school. If you choose to go the hassle route, then at least do it fairly.

I don't understand why the administration is not pushing back harder on the vague, scary references to Obamacare. Every time someone says they want to repeal or defund Obamacare, there should be an immediate response -- do you really want to make it legal for insurance companies to discriminate based on health history? Do you really want to kick young adults off their parents' plans? Do you really want insurance companies to charge more for overhead and profit? And if so, do you want people who received refunds from their insurance companies to send the checks back? Maybe they are waiting for the right moment, but the passivity is bizarre to me. Seems like it's time to push on the repeal Obamacare dead-enders -- it should put specifics to the ACA just as we need to prepare people to sign up for the exchanges. What are they waiting for?

Beats me. Maybe the administration is listening...

With all this talk about black men being arrested more than whites don't you think it would be better for black men to avoid criminal behavior and then eventually they would stop being targeted. I don't see the police targeting the Amish, and don't say it is because they are not black. Why don't black men start setting the example on crime free living? Eventually everyone including the police would say, " black men just don't commit crimes, he is innocent." Your argument sounds like you want to have black men continue to commit crimes becuase that is fair.

Huh? Really? In 2013? In 9 out of 10 stops, police don't find evidence of any violation of any law, not even enough to write a ticket for jaywalking. In only 2 percent of stops do they find a weapon of any kind. What do you want the other 98 percent to do?

DC has not engaged in stop and frisk. However that have highlighted high crime areas with police activities that border on infringing on the 4th Amendment. They turned a whole section into a restricted zone where they searched any cars who tried to come into it. It worked and the murders in the area dropped. In high violence areas, police need to take stronger actions. But random searches without a sniff of probable cause are unacceptable.

I agree. I remember when DC police turned Trinidad into a sort of little Green Zone, with checkpoints and all, and it might have been pushing the Fourth Amendment but I think there's reason to believe it was effective. Figures from New York show, however, that even when police stop and frisk people in wealthy white neighborhoods, it's African Americans and Hispanics who are the targets. The most popular reason cited is "furtive movements." So if you're black or brown, and if you're in New York, try hard to avoid giving off that furtive vibe.

Do it to whites at gun shows. Who knows how many of them are illegally carrying concealed weapons, or have illegally bought weapons. BTW, I'm white.

I do believe that expanding the population of those deemed frisk-eligible would lead police to be more discerning.

Hi Eugene, why is it that on morning joe you tend to agree with him on most of his opinions? It seems to me and a lot of other people that what ever President Obama says no one agrees with it. I get so sick and tried of this. So now what is going to happen with Ted Cruz citizenship that he so strongly opposed the president.

I try to be clear, in my column and on the tube, about when I agree with President Obama and when I don't. As for Ted Cruz, I gather he's renouncing his Canadian citizenship. I'd suggest he wait a bit, so that when his campaign to defund Obamacare falls flat he can go up north and try to defund the Canadian health service.

Not surprisingly, The Daily Show had a great item on NYC's stop and frisk law. Point being that if you really want to go to the neighborhood with sheer magnitude of 'crime/theft', that would be Wall Street, where the unregulated bankers and brokers can defraud the investing public without scrutiny. Very funny piece! And profiling would mean white guys in suits wiht slicked back hair. Heh.

Yes, a very funny piece. Also, there's another dimension. Imagine two guys -- a Latino maintenance man in Brooklyn and a white Wall Street trader. Imagine that each decides to discreetly toke on a joint on his way home after a long day. One has a much greater risk of being stopped, frisked, and turned into a criminal justice statistic than the other.

Most stories I see on ACA are negative, that businesses are cutting back hours and premiums are going up (with the exception of California for some reason). Objectively, as of right now do you think Obamacare s working? Is my observation off base?

California is, what, about 12 percent of the country, in terms of population, so that's a pretty big exception. The parts of Obamacare that are fully in effect -- letting parents keep their adult kids on their policies through 26, for example -- seem to me to be working just fine. As for the rest, let's see what happens when the rest of the law comes into force. One big question is how many healthy young people will sign up for insurance.

It makes my skin crawl to think that anybody wants to empower government agents to be able to stop and search a person without a warrant and without an arrest. It is very similar to the Obama asking the Supreme Court to allow searching of cell phones without a warrant or collecting the telephone data of everyone without a warrant. The 4th amendment is pretty clear.

I always thought it was pretty clear, and it seems to me to apply to the massive trove of phone data the government has compiled. The courts give police a lot of latitude, but clearly a too-aggressive stop/frisk program would be problematic. That's what Judge Scheindlin found.

As a life-long supporter of Democratic candidates and policies, I could never have imagined the horror of watching President Obama deploy and defend the mechanisms of a police state. Secret surveillance of every American citizen, arresting and prosecuting journalists and whistle-blowers, forcing down and searching the airplane of Bolivian President Evo Morales and now the 9-hour detention and shakedown of the domestic partner of journalist Glen Greenwald. What is motivating President Obama to follow such a path? If things are that bad in the world, do we not deserve to know the truth? Many thanks, Sad, disgusted and frightened in Fairfax.

I've been loud and clear on my opposition to the surveillance and my outrage that it was approved by secret judges on a secret court issuing secret rulings based on secret interpretations of the law and the Constitution. Outrageous, in my view. And I've blasted the administration's chilling pursuit of whistleblowers and journalists. That said, I need to correct a couple of things you say. From all indications, Obama had nothing to do with the detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport. That seems to have been the Brits' decision -- and we learned yesterday that the British government also forced the Guardian newspaper to destroy hard drives containing the Snowden data (although the paper has the information elsewhere, offshore). Also, I've not seen any confirmation that Morales' plane was denied airspace on instructions from Washington. 

I too have been puzzled why the administration has been so silent and for so long on the benefits of the Affordable Health Care Act. The only problem I have with it is that it didn't go far enough. Instead, the administration seems to act like it is something to be ashamed of. I read an article today in the Texas Tribune quoting Ted Cruz as saying he fears people will become addicted to Obamacare like sugar and another that he is renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Do you think he plans a presidential run? If so, I bet Donald Trump and the other birthers would be silent on whether he is a legitimate candidate.

Sure looks to me like he's running. Since he was acually born on foreign soil -- as opposed to President Obama, who wasn't -- there will be a few hard-core birthers who contend he is not eligible to be president. I predict that all the situational birthers (those just looking for excuses to delegitimize Obama) will be silent.

I have to say I'm in total agreement about the failure to sell the Affordable Care Act. It is my biggest disappointment in the Obama presidency. Yes, I mean that seriously. It's the law of the land now, and there should be regular spot informational notes on TV about what has happened so far, what will happen and when. Whenever misinformation is presented, it should be quickly and widely rebutted. Any idea how I as a citizen could effectively press Washington to get with it?

You just did.

The one issue I have with ACA is even if it is a disaster (premiums explode, care decreases, etc.), how does it get reversed? Once a program like that is created, it's impossible to take away.

I really don't think any of that will happen. In fact, I think the opposite is much more likely. But no big new government program is ever perfect right out of the gate. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- they all had to be tweaked as problems emerged. Congress ought to be working with the president to ensure that the law works, rather than trying to sabotage it.

Was Ted Cruz born under Canada's health plan, which so many American right-wingers revile?

And if he feels a bit under the weather, he can hop up to Toronto for a free socialist checkup.

She's clearly the frontrunner. Why jump into the political fray so early? I'm a democrat that does not wish to see her run, but her decision to go into the abyss early confuses me. Why not be a statesman for a while?

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I haven't seen anything I would consider jumping into the fray. Sec'y Clinton is keeping her options open. And why shouldn't she?

RNC chair Reince Priebus is threatening to pull Republican debates from NBC and CNN if they air films re Hillary. Do networks really even want to run such debates? They seem like money-losers to me, with the absence of commercials. And would a GOP debate really attract that many viewers? Methinks NBC xcould make more money with a couple extra hours of "America's Got Talent" or "The Voice."

Networks do want to host debates, if only for the prestige. Priebus knows full well that NBC Entertainment is separate from NBC News and that CNN has every right to do a news documentary. He also knows that one reliable way to get a rise out of the Republican base is to pick a fight with the lib'rul mainstream media.


And that's all from this representative of the lib'rul mainstream media for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks for a lively hour, and I'll see you again next week!

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Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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