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This was a tough call, because just a couple of days ago we had Tucker Carlson waxing eloquent about “replacement theory”, the profoundly racist white supremacist dogma that immigration is a tool being used by Democrats (and Jews, of course) to swamp the white race and make unfit brown people the ruling class, which is literally what the tiki torch crowd at Charlottesville was ranting about. This was a new low, even for Tucker, who usually looks like this on screen:

…a facial expression that John Oliver hilariously likened to that of a 13th Century farmer listening to an explanation of Bitcoin. The Rules Committee, however, disqualified Carlson because he’s not an elected member of Congress, and rules are rules. Then of course there’s Matt Gaetz and his underage sex trafficking hijinks, financed via payments that left an easily discerned electronic trail on Venmo, the “digital wallet” app – other things being equal, that’s gotta rate a Gomey, surely. But Matt receives only an honourable mention this time around, owing to a truly outstanding performance by Senator Tom Cotton(R)(Arkansas), who tweeted this last week:

Funny thing: in all my excoriation of Republicans in this space over the past few years, I’ve never trained the artillery on Cotton, I suppose because he just isn’t as much fun to rant about as more colourful peers like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, and he’s not as powerful as Mitch McConnell. Yet he’s the very personification of everything I despise about the GOP, a vile, bigoted, ignorant reactionary whose opinions, as expressed in countless appearances on Fox News, are invariably as offensive as they are stupid. Moreover, despite being about as charismatic as an expired can of creamed corn, he has dangerous Presidential aspirations, so he rates a little more attention than I’ve been giving him. This is he:

And yes, he’s just exactly what he looks like, and that is a stick up his ass.

Like his beloved Donald, from whom he obviously longs to grab the white nationalist authoritarian torch, his bad ideas and ugly policy prescriptions sometimes border on delusional. A while back, for example, he was advocating all out war with Iran, perhaps because as he sees it, America’s prior interventions in the Middle East have been such rip-roaring successes, and another conflict, this time with a nation of over 80 million people, would be just the thing about now. An ardent Trumpanista, he was one of the key players in the Republican effort to refuse recognition of Biden’s election victory, and tirelessly promotes the Big Lie of Democratic election fraud. Like all aspiring dictators he despises the free press, and once penned an open letter calling for the imprisonment of a couple of reporters for the NY Times, who broke a story about covert operations in Iraq. He is, apparently, the guy who put a bug in Trump’s ear about buying Greenland from Denmark. At the height of the protests ignited last summer by the killing of George Floyd, he wrote this op-ed, which the folks at the NY Times, desperate to appear fair and balanced to their conservative critics, and seemingly unperturbed by Cotton’s campaign to jail their own correspondents, saw fit to publish:

This featured the usual Republican lies and talking points, asserting that “left wing cadres” and Antifa insurgents were behind the spontaneous explosion of mass revulsion over yet another killing of an unarmed black man by white thugs in blue, and included sentiments like this:

But the rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.

And this:

The pace of looting and disorder may fluctuate from night to night, but it’s past time to support local law enforcement with federal authority. Some governors have mobilized the National Guard, yet others refuse, and in some cases the rioters still outnumber the police and Guard combined. In these circumstances, the Insurrection Act authorizes the president to employ the military “or any other means” in “cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws.”

…which was so wrong-headed, misleading, and inflammatory that it provoked a veritable shit storm among the paper’s liberal readership, of such vehemence that the editors felt compelled to publish a bashful apology, which began:

After publication, this essay met strong criticism from many readers (and many Times colleagues), prompting editors to review the piece and the editing process. Based on that review, we have concluded that the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.

Oh yeah? What do they know, huh Tom? See, the problem with America, as Cotton will explain to you with all the dourness he can muster, is that the liberal elites have so neutered the Republic that nobody even has the balls to shoot protesters any more, and worse, from a day-to-day operational perspective, the country puts far too few of its vast population of black and brown people nasty criminals behind bars, while letting those that are jailed get back out in alarming numbers. The miscreants complete their sentences, or get parole or something. Enough! More prisons! More incarceration! That’s what they need! Cage the bastards! For good! Lock ’em all up and keep ’em all on ice for life!

Not enough people in the slam you say, Tom? Hunh. This seems rather an odd way of looking at it, given what decades of draconian tough-on-crime laws and the War on Drugs have done to keep America’s penal system at peak capacity. As Tom could discover, with a Google search or two, there are several graphic methods to illustrate the actual situation. Here’s one – this is known as a “heat map”:

Or maybe you’d prefer a bar graph:

Here’s another one:

Here’s part of a list that compares absolute numbers, rather than relative incarceration rates (you can find the whole list here: https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Prisoners)

I could go on and on. I could fill a thick book with charts and graphs like these. The upshot is that no nation on Earth puts as many people in cages as the US, nor imprisons a greater percentage of its citizens. By all measures, America is the undisputed global champion of mass incarceration. Not even the bleakest, most totalitarian regimes on the planet can hold a candle to the land of the free, let alone any of the world’s other democracies. Even China, an authoritarian state with four times the population, has fewer prisoners, and an incarceration rate that’s about four times lower.** Yet the glee with which Americans throw people into their myriad five bar motels hasn’t done a thing to make them safer. All it’s done is blight the lives of millions, a disproportionate number of them people of colour, with far too many sent up the river for offences related to minor quantities of drugs.

So, for stating that “We have a major under-incarceration problem in America”, Tom Cotton takes the Gomey! He’s earned it! Come on up here Tom, you old rascal, and collect your trophy!

**Though you could argue that the number of prisoners is bound to be lower in a country that’s as likely to pop a cap in you as send you to the big house.

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