What is ‘stop-and-frisk’ — and why does President Trump want it to happen in Chicago?

Leave a comment

President Donald Trump said at a police conference on Monday that Chicago should implement a “stop-and-frisk” law to help cut down on crime.

“The crime spree has a terrible blight on that city, and we will do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Florida, according to ABC. “It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it. Stop and frisk.”

But just what is the law — and why do some see it as racist?

And why do others see it as just being tough on crime?

What is stop-and-frisk?

Stop-and-frisk describes a divisive policy in New York City that allowed officers to stop anyone they believed “committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor” if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” The Washington Post wrote.

Some other states have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require people who are detained by police to identify themselves if an officer has reasonable suspicion that they were involved in a crime.

But the law in New York City, first implemented in 1999, gained nationwide attention — and Trump hailed the city as proof that the policy can cut down on crime.

“Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City had a very strong program of ‘stop and frisk,’ and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country,” Trump said Monday, according to ABC. “And I think the safest big city in the country. So it works.”

In New York City, more than 500,000 people were stopped each year from 2008 to 2012 — with more than 5 million stopped since 2002, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

So, did it work in New York City?

It depends on whom you ask, and what you define as “work.”

Supporters of the law will tell you that the stop-and-frisk policy can help take guns off the streets. As reported by Forbes, the New York Police Department said the policy led to the recovery of 770 guns in 2011 alone. That meant a gun was found 1.9 percent of the time during a stop.

And the following year, 715 guns were found in New York City because of the policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. As noted by the outlet, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 18 percent of all guns seized in 2012 in New York City were found during a stop-and-frisk session.

Data also show violent crimes and murders decreased along with the implementation of stop-and-frisk in New York City, according to The Washington Post.

Critics point out that the rate of crime and murder remained level even after a federal judge ruled the city’s specific stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013, according to The Washington Post.

But Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator, argued in The Wall Street Journal that “proactive policing” under the law led to a decrease of murders by nearly 80 percent.

What are the critiques of stop-and-frisk?

Many point to apparent racial profiling in who gets stopped.

In 2011, for example, 685,724 people were stop-and-frisked, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Of those people, 88 percent were found to be innocent. Overall, just 9 percent of those stopped were white, while 53 percent were black and 34 were Hispanic. The 2010 census reported that 33 percent of New York City residents are white, while 26 percent are black and another 26 percent are Hispanic.

Black people make up a majority of those stopped for every year there is data, while white people barely make up 10 percent of those stopped on average. In a report, Jeffrey Fagan, from Columbia Law School, examined police data on stop-and-frisk and found that race has a “marginal influence” on who gets stopped — even when accounting for “the social and economic characteristics” of the area.

Fagan also said there is little evidence that the policy helped prevent crime or reduce murders.

“Anyone who says we know this is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up,” Fagan told The Washington Post in an interview.

Why was New York City’s stop-and-frisk law ruled unconstitutional?

For the same reason as Fagan’s concerns.

Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the law violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, and that the practice was “racially discriminatory” because of the disproportionate numbers of people of color stopped by police because of it, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

After her ruling, the number of police stops of people of color dropped to 18,449 in 2015 — even though that number was just more than 160,000 in 2013, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union.

This is a 96 percent decrease from the height in 2011 of more than 600,000 stops,” Scheindlin wrote in the National Black Law Journal in 2016. “And what has happened with crime statistics in the meantime? They have remained steady!

“The enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley,” she continued.

By Josh Magness/MiamiHerald
Posted by The NON-Conformist
Advertisements

Here’s What Congress Was Doing While You Were Watching the Kavanaugh Circus The passage of tax reform 2.0 blows a huge hole in the budget, and a much-touted opioid bill might just make the crisis worse.

Leave a comment

While much attention was diverted by the political circus surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday and Friday, Congress passed a massive spending bill and another round of tax cuts that will combine to blow an even bigger hole in the federal budget. Lawmakers also found time to pass a bill restricting Americans’ access to prescription painkillers, something that’s likely to force people who are dependent on or addicted to opioids (a distinction seemingly lost on legislators) to seek out more dangerous alternatives.

Let’s start with the spending: Friday’s passage of the House Republican’s so-called Tax Reform 2.0 proposal will likely get heavy rotation in campaign ads over the next five weeks, even though the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. The bill does several things, but the key part of the proposal is the permanent extension of the individual and corporate income tax rate cuts enacted last year. Those lower rates are set to expire after 2025—reverting to their previous levels—but Republicans have been aiming for a permanent extension since before the final votes were cast on last year’s tax bill.

If Republicans still cared about deficits, Tax Reform 2.0 would be a non-starter. Having last year’s tax cuts expire in the middle of the next decade was a maneuver (or a gimmick, if you prefer) designed to limit the impact of tax reform on future deficits and the national debt.

Unsurprisingly, then, extending those tax cuts will add to the deficit. According to an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan number-crunching agency within Congress, the bill will add $631 billion to the deficit over a decade. While the JCT says an extension of the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow by about 0.5 percent in the years immediately after 2025, additional revenue from that growth will cancel out a mere $86 billion of the tax cut’s impact on the deficit. Other analyses of the bill by the left-leaning Tax Policy Center and the right-leaning Tax Foundation make similar estimates about the long-term effect on revenue.

The bottom line? Even when accounting for increased economic growth, Tax Reform 2.0 comes with a price tag of more than $500 billion added to the deficit—an amount future taxpayers will have to cover.

The bill is not without its charms. A proposal to created so-called universal savings accounts would allow Americans to create tax-advantaged savings accounts where they could stash up to $5,000 annually without having to deal with all the restrictions and limitations that come with similarly structured 401(k) and IRA plans now. Encouraging savings—especially savings that are partially sheltered from the tax man—would be a positive step that helps families plan for the future.

But if you needed further evidence that Congress doesn’t give a damn about planning for the country’s future, look no further than the passage this week, in both houses, of a $853 billion spending bill. About $600 million of the spending is directed towards the Pentagon—boosting the military budget to levels not seen since the height of the Iraq War.

The bill is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk. He must sign it before October 1 to avoid a government shutdown, which might be complicated by the lack of funding for his border wall.

The spending bill has raised the ire of the few fiscally conservative Republicans who sit in Congress. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) encouraged Trump not to sign the bill and blasted his fellow lawmakers for being “far worse than the politicians they once derided.”

Justin Amash

This gigantic, wasteful, pathetic spending bill passed the House and Senate. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump said, “I will never sign another bill like this again,” about the last bill like this, the omnibus. He’ll now be put to the test.

$850 BILLION of spending in one year in one bill—and Republican leaders have been bragging to everyone about this massive spending increase. Vote is TODAY. The same Republicans who used to blast GWB’s spendthrift GOP have become far worse than the politicians they once derided.

While the Kavanaugh hearings devolved into partisan acrimony, Congress was also serving up reminders of what happens when nearly everyone agrees. The Tax Reform 2.0 vote went mostly party line, but spending an obscene amount of money was, once again, a bipartisan affair in both the House and Senate.

So, too, was the passage of the Support for Patients and Communities Act, a much-touted bipartisan effort to address the opioid crisis in the most congressional of ways: by throwing money and more prohibition at the problem.

The final version of the bill, which passed the House 393-8 on Friday and now heads to the Senate, will spend about $8 billion on state-run opioid treatment centers and research into non-opioid pain killers. It also beefed up border security in the name of stopping the importation of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other lab-made drugs.

But the bill may unintentionally increase demand for fentanyl and other drugs used by opioid addicts who can’t get a legal fix. Several provisions in the proposal would restrict access to prescription painkillers; other aspects of the legislation would increase penalties for drug manufacturers and doctors deemed to have over-sold and over-prescribed opioids.

As J.J. Rich, a policy analyst for the Reason Foundation (which publishes this blog) notes in the November issue of Reason, previous crackdowns on prescription drugs have actually made the opioid crisis worse.

“It’s clear that the black market has claimed the economy ceded by restrictions on the legal market,” Rich notes, citing Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that pain reliever abuse rates have been flat since 2002. “When government restricts access to something people want, it drives demand to the black market. In this case, as opioids have become increasingly difficult to obtain legally in the last decade, users have switched to “diverted” prescription medications and illicit alternatives, including heroin. And just as Prohibition pushed bootleggers to switch from beer to potent bathtub gin, traffickers are increasingly adulterating their narcotics with potent synthetic opioids such as sufentanil—a substance that can be up to 500 times stronger than morphine.”

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Peter Schiff: The Latest Jobs Report Was Anything But Strong

Leave a comment

The August jobs report came out last Friday. Mike Maharrey offered a little bit of analysis during the Friday Gold Wrap podcast, saying he was skeptical that the actual employment situation is as great as the mainstream seems to think. Peter Schiff offered a more in-depth breakdown of the employment report in his latest podcast, saying it was “anything but strong.”

The headline number was the 201,000 jobs employers added last month. That came in above expectations, and as Peter noted, people tend to get excited when the number pushes north of 200K.

“For an economy the size of the United States, this is really not a lot of jobs, even if we were creating 200,000 jobs a month.”

Peter said that lost in all the breathless reporting about that August number was the fact that the labor department revised the previous two months downward. It came to a net loss of 50,000 jobs. Analysts took 10,000 jobs away from the July number and 40,000 off the June estimate.

“So, it was a weaker report than probably what everybody was looking for, yet it was spun positive by the media because the current month was better than estimates.”

And when you look at the types of jobs the economy is generating, the picture becomes even less impressive. Not only did the labor department revise down the number of manufacturing jobs created in July, the economy actually lost manufacturing jobs in August, according to the report.

“So, we actually fired people in the month of August from manufacturing. So much for the manufacturing revolution. So much for how the tariffs are working and we’re bringing our jobs back and American manufacturers are bringing back the jobs. Three thousand pink slips sent out in the month of August. So, this is bad news. If you’re trying to hang your hat on the revival of American industry, of American manufacturing, we lost 3,000 jobs.”

Peter also looked at the labor participation rate. It was at 62.9 in July and had been ticking up. People in the Trump administration were even saying, “See, people are coming in off the sidelines.” Well, in the latest report, labor force participation came in at 62.7. The payroll-to-population ratio also dropped from 60.5 to 60.3.

This means fewer people are in the workforce. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.9%, but more people simply dropped out of the labor force.

“So, had people not left the labor force then the unemployment rate might have gone up, because maybe some of the people who left the labor force, well, now they’re no longer looking for jobs because they’re no longer part of the labor force. And so if you’re not in the labor force, you can’t be unemployed even though you’re not working.”

The gain in average hourly earnings got the most attention from the mainstream. It came in at 0.4 – higher than expected. The year-over-year number also came in higher than expected at 2.9%.

“Is a 2.9% year-over-year gain in wages really indicative of a strong economy, or is it indicative of inflation? See, I think it’s the latter. I think it’s inflation that is the reason wages are going up. Remember, wages are prices. They’re the price that you pay to hire labor. So, the price of labor is wages… The price of goods and the price of labor are both affected by inflation. So, because we have all this inflation, prices are rising. They’re rising for goods and they’re rising for labor.”

Peter noted the CPI is currently at 2.9%, exactly the same as the growth in hourly wages. And he said he thinks the real cost of living is rising far faster than 2.9%.

“If all you’ve done with your increased wages is keep pace with higher prices, there’s nothing to brag about.”

Peter went on to talk about how the markets reacted to the jobs report. Of course, it continued to buoy expectations that the Fed will keep pushing forward with interest rate hikes. That made Peter wonder what investors are smoking. You’ll want to listen to the rest of the podcast to get his breakdown of what all of this really means for the markets. One thing he pointed out is that people should be buying gold.

“Gold is an inflation hedge! It’s the absence of inflation that might be bad for gold. As inflation rears its ugly head, that makes gold look prettier and prettier. So, people should be buying gold when the inflation numbers are higher. Now, eventually, they will, once people realize no matter how hot the inflation fire burns, the Fed’s not going to put it out.”

By SchiffGold

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Myth of Job Creation

Leave a comment

This is an old article but a relevant one.

The headlines from the last presidential debate focused on President Obama challenging Mitt Romney on issue after issue. There was a less noticed, but no less remarkable, moment when Mr. Obama agreed with Mr. Romney on something — and both were entirely wrong.

The exchange began with a question about the offshoring of American jobs. Part of Mr. Obama’s answer was that federal investments in education, science and research would help to ensure that companies invest and hire in the United States. Mr. Romney interrupted. “Government does not create jobs,” he said. “Government does not create jobs.”

It was a decidedly crabbed response to a seemingly uncontroversial observation, and yet Mr. Obama took the bait. He said his political opponents had long harped on “this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.” He went on to praise free enterprise and to say that government’s role is to create the conditions for everyone to have a fair shot at success.

So, they agree. Government does not create jobs.

Except that it does, millions of them — including teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, astronauts, epidemiologists, antiterrorism agents, park rangers, diplomats, governors (Mr. Romney’s old job) and congressmen (like Paul Ryan).

First, the basics. At last count, government at all levels — federal, state and local — employed 22 million Americans, with the largest segment working in public education. Is that too many? No. Since the late 1980s, the number of public-sector workers has averaged about 7.3 for every 100 people. With the loss of 569,000 government jobs since June 2009, that ratio now stands at about 7 per 100.

Public-sector job loss means trouble for everyone. Government jobs are crucial to education, public health and safety, environmental protection, defense, homeland security and myriad other functions that the private sector cannot fulfill. They are also critical for private-sector job growth in two fundamental ways. First, the government gets its supplies from private-sector companies, which is why Republican senators like John McCain have been frantically warning about the dire effects on job creation if Congress moves ahead with planned military spending cuts. (Republicans insisted upon the cuts as part of their ill-advised showdown over the debt ceiling.) Second, government spending on supplies and salaries reverberates strongly through the economy, increasing demand and with it, employment.

That means the economy suffers when government cuts back. A report by the Economic Policy Institute examined the effect of recent cutbacks at the state and local level — including direct loss of government jobs and indirect loss of suppliers’ jobs; the jobs that should have been added to keep up with population growth; and the reduction in purchasing power from other cutbacks. If not for state and local budget austerity, the report found, the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs today, half of which would be in the private sector.

The government does not create jobs? It most certainly does. And at this time of state budgetary hardship, a dose of federal fiscal aid to states and localities could create more jobs, in both the public and private sectors.

From NYT Opinion

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Abolish the Supreme Court

Leave a comment

Supreme Court without Anthony KennedySupreme Court without Anthony Kennedy (Photo: Screen capture

The Supreme Court as we know it is an abomination, and this is a rare issue on which Americans from across the ideological spectrum should agree.

Whether you believe that liberal, robed tyrants have jammed gay rights and abortion and all manner of social ills down the throats of the American people, or you’re outraged by this conservative Court purposefully killing campaign finance laws and gutting the Voting Rights Act, the fact that five unelected individuals with lifetime gigs that insulate them from both popular and elite opinion can veto democratically enacted legislation should be intolerable.

But the problem with this creaky, increasingly illegitimate institution goes far deeper than that, as the farcical confirmation process we’re living through with Brett Kavanaugh illustrates quite clearly. What really distorts the purpose and fairness of the Court is that it’s become ever more explicitly partisan.

As historian Jill Lepore wrote for The New York Times this week, the Constitution “was understood by its framers as a machine, a precisely constructed instrument whose measures — its separation of powers, its checks and balances — were mechanical devices, as intricate as the gears of a clock, designed to thwart tyrants, mobs and demagogues, and to prevent the forming of factions.”

“Factions,” as they were known in the 18th century, are called political parties today. We have two branches of government — Congress and the presidency — that are inherently political and unavoidably partisan. In theory, the judicial branch should be a neutral arbiter of the disputes that arise between the federal government and the states, and among the co-equal branches of government. These disputes should be adjudicated by the best, most nimble legal minds in the country rather than by justices whose judicial opinions are easily predicted by their ideological and partisan leanings.

If the system were working as designed, Brett Kavanaugh would not be a nominee. Before he lied to Congress, and years before Christine Blasey Ford came forward to allege that he attempted to rape her in the 1980s, Kavanaugh was, as Mike Tomasky wrote for The Daily Beast, “a certain kind of lawyer. He was a very political, partisan, and ideological lawyer. He was, in fact, a political operative with a J.D. degree.” As an example, Tomasky details how Kavanaugh, when he was working for Ken Starr, “spent time and taxpayer dollars engaging in political vendettas and chasing down conspiracy theories.” Peddling nonsense about Hillary Clinton having had an affair with Vince Foster, a White House aide who committed suicide and then became an object of fascination within the fever swamps of the right, should be disqualifying for such a powerful and exalted intellectual position.

We’re now suffering through Potemkin hearings in which Senators act as if everyone doesn’t know exactly how Justice Kavanaugh would rule on the issues of the day. Back in July, Charlie Savage reported for The New York Times that Kavanaugh “spent the past dozen years embracing the philosophy of the conservative legal movement as he assembled a record on the powerful federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit… on issues as diverse as abortion and gun rights to disputes over national-security policies and business regulations, Judge Kavanaugh emphasized textual limitations while frequently favoring corporations over regulators, and the government over individuals claiming rights violations.”

While a polarized, insulated Court should be intolerable for people on both the right and the left, it’s especially problematic for progressives. Republicans have lost the popular vote for president in six of the past seven contests. They know they face demographic headwinds with an increasingly diverse electorate, and as a result, they’ve put an almost manic emphasis on controlling the Court. Conservative legal groups have spent tens of millions of dollars shaping the federal judiciary; Mitch McConnell held Antonin Scalia’s seat open for over a year to keep Barack Obama from appointing a successor.

Some on the left have urged Democrats to respond to that egregious theft by packing the courts if and when they regain power. The Constitution allows it, but doing so risks an endless tit-for-tat scenario, with Republicans responding in kind whenever the pendulum swings back their way.

Term limits are probably the most frequently discussed reform for the Court. But while killing lifetime appointments is necessary, it’s also insufficient. If Justices served for, say, 10-year terms, it would lower the stakes somewhat, and perhaps usher in some comity in the process, but it wouldn’t get to the core issue of selecting justices for their ideological commitment rather than the quality of their jurisprudence or legal scholarship. (Term limits are also Constitutionally questionable, although there are potential work-arounds for that issue.)

The time has come to seriously consider the possibility of scrapping the Supreme Court as we know it, and replacing it with a different structure entirely. As those who advocate packing the courts point out, the Constitution doesn’t spell out how many justices sit on the bench. Why not create a Court with, say, 30 of the top legal thinkers in the country, from which nine or 11 or whatever number are randomly drawn to hear each case? That would diminish the power of each individual on the court, and make different groups of justices with a wider range of experience engage one another’s arguments. And we should have them serve staggered, eight- or ten-year terms, so there’s a constant flow of fresh blood and fresh thinking to the Court, and a president can’t luck into reshaping the judiciary for decades to come just because he or she happens to be in office when a couple of Justices die or can no longer soldier on.

Just as importantly, we need to take the selection process out of the hands of the major parties. The Constitution says the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” justices to the highest court, and that vague division of power leaves a lot of room for innovation. We might create a large, bipartisan Senate panel made up of top legal experts – law profs, retired judges – to screen potential nominees for the quality of their scholarship and past decisions, while weeding out mediocre or unoriginal thinkers and ideological hacks, and then have the president pick judges from the cream of the crop.

In any event, we should not view the anti-democratic arrangement we have now as natural or beneficial just because it’s been with us for hundreds of years. The election of

Trump has called into question all manner of issues that had been considered settled in the United States – from the virtues of capitalism to the benefits of international trade to the value of the unwritten norms that had long been honored on Capitol Hill.

Brett Kavanaugh’s demonstrably partisan background and the circus now surrounding his confirmation illustrate that it’s past time that we take a serious shot at ridding ourselves of this iteration of the Supreme Court and replacing it with a body that fulfills the purpose for which it was originally intended.

By Joshua Holland/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Republican Approach to Voter Fraud: Lie They use the fallacy of rampant cheating at the polls to make it harder for people to vote.

Leave a comment

He was a proud Korean War veteran. He was also black and lived in Texas. That meant that by 2013, Floyd Carrier, 86, was a prime target for the state’s voter suppression campaign, even though he was “Army strong.”
In an election that year, when he handed his Department of Veterans Affairs card to the registrar, he was turned away. No matter that he had used that ID for more than 50 years without a problem. Texas had recently passed a burdensome and unnecessary law that required voters to show a state-approved ID with a photo. His card didn’t have one.
The North Koreans couldn’t break Mr. Carrier, but voter suppression did. “I wasn’t a citizen no more,” he told a reporter last year. “I wasn’t.”
Voters across the country are now realizing that they, too, have crossed into the twilight zone: citizens of America without full citizenship rights. The right to vote is central to American democracy. “It’s preservative of all rights,” as the Supreme Court said in its 1886 ruling in Yick Wo v. Hopkins. But chipping away at access to that right has been a central electoral strategy for Republicans.

Anthony Settles, a Texas retiree, had been repeatedly blocked from the ballot box because his mother changed his last name when he was a teenager, and that 50-year-old paperwork was lost in what he described as a “bureaucratic nightmare.” After spending months looking for the wayward document, and then trying to get certified by the name he has used for more than half a century, he knew, beyond all doubt, that he had been targeted.

“The intent of this law is to suppress the vote,” Mr. Settles told a Washington Post reporter in 2016. “I feel like I’m not wanted in this state.”

That was the point. Demoralize people. Strip away their voting rights. Debase their citizenship. Dilute the diversity of voters until the electorate becomes homogeneous. Lie and say it’s because of voter fraud. But most important, do all of this in the name of saving democracy.

Rampant voter fraud does not exist. There is no epidemic of illegal voting. But the lie is so mesmerizing, it takes off like a wildfire, so that the irrational fear that someone might vote who shouldn’t means that hundreds of thousands who should can’t cast ballots, in part because of the increase in voter ID laws across the country in recent years.

The best way to understand the lie is to understand how it began: on Election Day in 2000. What happened then affects who will show up to vote in less than two months, and how confident they’ll feel when they get to the polls.

Florida’s electoral malfeasance in the 2000 vote is infamous. But that election in St. Louis was also a disaster, and it taught the Republicans an important lesson: Block people of color from polling places by any means necessary. And it showed them, point by point, how to create a voter suppression road map that is paying dividends today.

The St. Louis Board of Elections had purged some 50,000 names from the voter rolls, primarily in key Democratic precincts. And it had failed to notify the people who had just been stripped of their vote, as the law required.

So when those voters showed up to cast their ballots, they were told they were no longer registered. Besieged precinct workers couldn’t get through on the jammed phone lines to check much of anything. Some opted to send frustrated would-be voters downtown to the Board of Elections office to resolve the issue there.

This combination of poor record keeping and ill-prepared officials meant that hours and hours dissolved as the clock on Election Day wound down. When the polls were about to close, the lobby was still packed with people waiting to cast their ballots.

Democrats filed for an injunction to keep precincts open to accommodate voters who had been caught in the Board of Elections runaround. A circuit court judge agreed and ordered the polls to stay open for a few more hours.

Republicans were not having it. Senator Christopher Bond said the voting extension “represents the biggest fraud on the voters in this state and nation that we have ever seen.” Others made the case that this was just a Democratic maneuver that would result in hundreds of fraudulent votes.

Republicans filed an appeal to close the polls. A state appeals court obliged. Shortly after the circuit court’s decision, the doors slammed shut on hundreds of people waiting in lines to vote.

Then things got worse.

Missouri Republicans twisted this clear case of election board wrongdoing into a torrent of accusations against the Democrats and the overwhelmingly black residents of St. Louis. Missouri’s Republican secretary of state, Matt Blunt, called the effort to keep the polls open an attempt “to create bedlam so that election fraud could be perpetrated.” Senator Bond went further: It was a “brazen” and “shocking” effort to commit voter fraud.

It was, of course, nothing of the sort. Instead, it was an illegitimate purge of approximately 49,589 eligible voters by the Board of Elections. It was also sloppy record-keeping and bureaucratic malfeasance. But, for the Republicans, that was not the point. Rather, it was about fine-tuning a voter suppression master plan. They learned three key lessons from the bungled election.

The first lesson was that demographics were not destiny. The voting-age population was becoming less white and more African-American, Latino and Asian. In 1992, nonwhite voters made up 13 percent of the American electorate. By 2012 that figure had risen to 28 percent. That growing share of the electorate favored the Democrats. A poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in the late 1980s found that only one in two black Republicans thought his party cared about problems facing the black community. In the 2000 presidential election, nine in 10 black voters, 62 percent of Hispanic voters and just over half of all Asian voters backed Al Gore.

Fullstory by Carol Anderson/NYT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Here’s How the Consitution Actually Defines ‘Treason’ President Trump tweeted “TREASON?” in an apparent reference to an op-ed’s author.

Leave a comment

In the furor over the anonymous New York Times op-ed by a Trump administration “senior official,” the word “treason” has been used by a variety of people.

President Trump tweeted “TREASON?” in an apparent reference to the op-ed’s author. Trump’s supporters have likewise used the word in attacks on the author – and the newspaper for printing it.

Trump’s opponents have likewise bandied the word about by saying that the op-ed was not “treasonous.” Instead, they say that Trump himself is guilty of “treason” by trying to obstruct the investigation into the claimed Russian interference in the 2016 election. Earlier this year, Trump opponents also claimed he committed treason at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As a constitutional scholar, I’d like to remind people there is a precise definition of “treason” set forth in the Constitution. None of the recent charges of treason remotely fit that definition. The claims that one side or the other have committed treason are ignorant of the law.

Nothing Worse

Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the Constitution. It is a heinous crime, the worst crime that can be committed by an American citizen. It is a betrayal of the nation and of values embodied in the American constitutional system.

It can be punished by death.

When the framers defined “treason” in Article III, Section 3, they were determined to avoid the use of “treason” as it had been used in English law to punish opponents of the king.

In English law, “treason” meant acts of disloyalty to the king. A person convicted of “treason” was not only executed, but all of his property was “attained” – or confiscated by the government.

This was not the way the crime of treason would operate in the United States, which was founded by those who had rebelled against the British king. The framers of the constitution made sure of that.

Here’s how the framers defined treason:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

So, the crime of treason can only be committed by an American citizen during time of war with a foreign enemy.

The last convictions for treason took place in the wake of World War II. They included the conviction of an American citizen known as “Axis Sally” for broadcasting demoralizing propaganda to Allied forces in Europe from a radio station in Germany during World War II.

The constitutional provision also imposes stringent requirements for a conviction of treason:

“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

By requiring this type of direct evidence, the framers minimized the danger of an innocent person being convicted, and prevented the possibility of a charge of treason being brought by a single person.

Third, there can be no punishment of anyone other than the person convicted of treason:

“The Congress shall have the Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”

Ignoring the U.S. Constitution

Let’s review. In the American constitutional system, the crime of treason is specifically defined in the Constitution to be limited to acts aiding the enemy in time of war. It can only be proven by the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act. And the punishment cannot extend beyond the person convicted of treason.

For anyone from the president on down to accuse any person of “treason” for any other action – no matter how egregious and no matter how harmful to the interests of the United States that action may be – is just plain wrong.

Worse yet, it flagrantly ignores what the framers were trying to accomplish with their narrow and precise definition of treason and the safeguards surrounding any conviction for that crime.

The Constitution means what it says. Nothing else can be treason.The Conversation

By Robert A. Sedler/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: