Category Archives: Law

Demagogue Joe Arpaio Announces Senate Run in Arizona

Can we please banish really old, racist men from running for office?

Libergirl

Image: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Joe Arpaio, the polarizing 85-year-old immigration hard-liner pardoned by President Trump after a conviction for criminal contempt, announced on Tuesday that he is running in Arizona for the United States Senate.

The move by Mr. Arpaio, who just six months ago faced a jail sentence before he was pardoned, upended the race to replace Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who abandoned his 2018 re-election campaign after coming under criticism from Mr. Trump.

The contenders for the seat include Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat, and Kelli Ward, a conservative Republican and former state senator who aligns herself with Mr. Trump. Mr. Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, lost his own re-election bid for that post in 2016 to Paul Penzone, a Democrat and Phoenix police officer.

“I got a little disturbed about how some people in the Senate were treating the president,” Mr. Arpaio said in a telephone interview, explaining the motivations for his decision. “I think I can bring some new blood to Washington.”

More from The New York Times

Posted by Libergirl

 

Advertisements

Power, Race and Money: Why Jeff Sessions Loves Pot Prohibition

The announcement by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money.

Financially, of course, the Republican party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry”and of Pot Prohibition.

The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and all the other operatives whose livelihood depends on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions cannabis customers.

Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense.

Then there’s the power.

As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality give police the ability to bust whoever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state.

In fact, Pot Prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican Regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts and beyond.

The key is disenfranchisement.

Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principle focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has an Hispanic twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population.

While promoting films like “Reefer Madness” to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace.

But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities, and depriving them of the vote.

In 1972 his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against Prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Governor Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign.

Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed Drugs to be America’s most serious problem.

His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote.

Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have since been busted. And independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41,000,000. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the US could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead.

Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Hispanic communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Hispanic communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right.

Sessions occasionally make absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage it has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable.

Pot Prohibition has worked wonders for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections and fatten its pockets.

Anyone that says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke.

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The GOP Tax Bill Rammed Through Congress on Tuesday Paves the Way to Defund and Dismantle Federal Government Financial experts call it unworkable—and that’s what many Republicans want.

As the GOP tax bill raced through both chambers of Congress Tuesday, hurtling like a runaway train toward President Trump’s desk, Americans should see this GOP effort for what it is in the sweep of history—the Republican dismantling of federal government.

The tax bill’s specifics, with almost all of the benefits going to the very rich, confirm that the GOP’s lock on federal power is as bad as many predicted before the 2016 election. But the tax bill is also Republicans’ opening move to defund government—apart from national security, the military, infrastructure, and corporate welfare.

“The United States Senate should be doing more than providing 83 percent of the benefits in a tax bill to the top 1 percent,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said during the Senate debate Tuesday. “We cannot go home unless we address the very serious crises facing the working families and the middle class of this country.”

Sanders cited a long list of ignored crises—including some intentionally created by President Trump and the red-run Congress—that show the GOP is bent on destroying social safety nets. That unfinished business includes legalizing 800,000 Dreamers, or young people raised here who are the sons and daughters of non-citizens; funding community health centers that serve 27 million people; funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program serving 9 million children; real disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; fixing a multi-employer pension fund that has 1.5 million retirees at risk of losing 60 percent of their anticipated income; reforming student loan debt for 40 million people; addressing a nationwide opioid epidemic; filling 30,000 vacancies in the Veterans Administration; and funding the Social Security Administration (in 2016, 10,000 people with disabilities died while awaiting review of their benefit applications).

“And on and on it goes,” Sanders said, without citing specifics from the tax bill, such as how its cost, triggering past legislation controlling spending, will cut Medicare’s budget by 4 percent. (Congress still has to pass a 2018 federal budget, which envisions cuts to social welfare programs, science and the environment.)

The thread that ties together this willful neglect is simple. Republicans want to devolve government back to the local level. That’s been the political right’s rallying cry ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security in the 1930s and Lyndon B. Johnson created the Great Society’s health safety nets in the 1960s.

The tax bill gives the GOP a way to do this. Most everybody knows the bill’s fiscal benefits accrue to the already rich. But the tax bill has also been called unworkable by academics specializing in tax law.

On Tuesday, before the House passed it, business reporters noted the bill was moving so fast that the IRS would not be able to implement it when it goes into effect. For example, employers won’t know how much to withhold from January payrolls. That “puts the onus on workers to make adjustments later in the year if too much or too little of their money is being withheld,” Patricia Cohen wrote in the New York Times.

The New Yorker’s John Cassady noted the bill is likely to bring in less revenue than projected, because it will launch an avalanche of new loopholes to exploit.

“What isn’t yet fully appreciated is how porous and potentially unstable the rest of the tax code will be after the bill is passed,” he wrote. “With a corporate rate of just 20 percent, and a big new break for proprietors of unincorporated businesses and certain types of partnerships, the new code will contain enormous incentives for tax-driven restructurings, creative accounting, and outright fraud. Every tax adviser and scammer in the country will be looking for ways to reclassify regular salary income.”

Cassady noted these contortions are destined to undercut federal revenues, which many Republicans welcome as an avenue to shrinking the federal government.

“The shortfall in tax revenues could be enormous. Perhaps that is what Republicans want to happen,” Cassady said. “Undoubtedly, there are some in the Party who would like to see the tax base decimated, the I.R.S. crippled, and the federal government forced to slash spending on domestic programs, particularly entitlement programs. But, for anybody who believes in a properly functioning government, a rational, clearly defined tax system is essential. The Republican reform doesn’t meet that standard.”

But today’s Republican leadership doesn’t want a functioning government outside the security state, military and infrastructure that buoys corporate America.

It’s hard to know what they are thinking as one looks ahead to the 2018 elections. If the GOP doesn’t want to talk about character—which seems to be the ascendant issue, as seen by Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama and the widespread backlash against male predatory sexual behavior, driven by suburban women who are voting in droves this year—then all the Republicans can point to is their tax bill. While the GOP’s opponents will emphasize intentionally widening inequality, don’t be surprised if Republicans recast their only major legislative achievement in 2017 as a victory against the phantom enemy they love to hate: big government.

Unfortunately, as Sanders pointed out on the Senate floor Tuesday, millions of Americans are getting hurt and are going to be hurt by this needless legislation and similar moves that are sure to follow.

By Steven Rosenfeld/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Justices Alito and Gorsuch Clash Over Cell Phones, Privacy, and Property Rights Oral arguments in Carpenter v. U.S. reveal a division between two conservative justices

It’s common to think of the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of liberal vs. conservative decisions, liberal vs. conservative doctrines, and liberal vs. conservative justices. But in the recent oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States, one of the biggest disagreements occurred between two of the Court’s conservative members, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

At issue in Carpenter v. U.S. is whether federal law enforcement officials violated the Fourth Amendment by acquiring the cell phone records of a suspected armed robber, Timothy Carpenter, without first obtaining a search warrant for those records. Thanks to the information they obtained, federal investigators were able to trace back Carpenter’s whereabouts during the time periods when several of his alleged crimes were committed, placing him in the vicinity of those crimes. That information was used against Carpenter in court.

The government insists that this warrantless search did not violate Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment rights because, in the words of the Supreme Court’s 1979 ruling in Smith v. Maryland, “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” In other words, Carpenter has no Fourth Amendment right to privacy in his cell phone records because he voluntarily used his cell phone, thus voluntarily disclosing his location to the various cell phone towers that handled his calls.

Throughout the November 29 oral arguments, Justice Alito was perhaps the most supportive of the government’s position and the most critical of Carpenter’s arguments. Justice Gorsuch, on the other hand, seemed extremely skeptical of the government’s stance. Gorsuch even suggested at one point that the government’s position was at odds with the “original understanding of the Constitution”—not exactly a compliment, since Gorsuch is a self-professed originalist.

But the real clash occurred after Gorsuch asked Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben to set aside the “third party” aspect of the debate and focus instead on whether the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches of a person’s “papers and effects” should apply to the sort of digital information at issue here.

“Let’s say I have a property right” in my cell phone records, Gorsuch began. “Wouldn’t that” make the government’s actions “a search of my paper or effect under the property-based approach” to the Fourth Amendment?

Dreeben thought not. “It’s not your paper or effect,” he said. “The problem with your hypothetical,” he told Gorsuch, “is that it creates a property interest out of transfers of information.”

Gorsuch tried again. “Under my hypothetical, you have a property right in this information.” So, “would it be a search of my paper or effect” for the government to obtain the information, he asked the deputy solicitor general. “Yes or no.”

“I am not sure,” Dreeben replied. “And the reason that I am not sure is there has never been a property right recognized in information that’s conveyed to a business of this character.” In fact, Dreeben went on to add, “it’s a property right that resembles no property right that’s existed.”

At this point, Justice Alito entered the conversation. His intervention can best be described as throwing a lifeline to Dreeben while at the same time trying to quash Gorsuch’s entire line of questioning.

“Yeah, Mr. Dreeben, along those lines,” Alito said, “I was trying to think of an example of a situation in which a person would have a property right in information that the person doesn’t ask a third party to create, the person can’t force the third party to create it or gather it. The person can’t prevent the company from gathering it. The person can’t force the company to destroy it. The person can’t prevent the company from destroying it.”

Dreeben followed Alito’s lead. “Justice Alito, those are a lot of good reasons on why this should not be recognized as a property interest,” he promptly replied. “I can’t think of anything that would be characterized as a property interest with those traits. And it would be a—really a watershed change in the law to treat transferred information as property.”

But Gorsuch would not be deterred by Alito. Doesn’t the Stored Communications Act, Gorsuch asked, “declare this customer proprietary information?” Are you saying “the government can acknowledge a property right but then strip it of any Fourth Amendment protection? Is that the government’s position?”

While Dreeben was still responding to that query, Alito stepped back in again with an answer of his own. “Mr. Dreeben,” Alito said, “I would read the—the—the phrase ‘customer proprietary information’ to mean that it is proprietary to the cell phone company and, is therefore, not to the customer. It’s customer information, but it’s proprietary information about the cell phone company because, if you got that information in the aggregate, you could tell a lot about the company’s operation.”

In short, Gorsuch proffered a property rights argument that might allow Carpenter to win the case, and Alito came out swinging hard against it.

We’ll find out later this term whether the two conservative justices continue their disagreement via written opinion.

By Damon Root/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump to shrink Utah monuments, riling tribes and environmentalists

U.S. President Donald Trump announced big cuts to Utah’s sprawling wilderness national monuments on Monday, angering tribes and environmental groups that want to keep the areas off limits to development.

Image result for utah national monuments bears ear

Unlike national parks that can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the century-old Antiquities Act, a law meant to protect sacred sites, artifacts and historical objects.

More from Reuters

Posted by Libergirl

US police covertly spy on innocent citizens with military hardware – report

US police covertly spy on innocent citizens with military hardware - reportFiILE PHOTO. © Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Dozens of police departments across the US are using special devices to track suspects without warrants. However, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers also capture data from regular people on the street.

The technology, which was developed for the military, mimics cell phone towers and tricks phones into routing signals through them. This allows police to a track suspect’s location. The machines even allow police to get the location of a phone without the user making a call or sending a text. The most common of these devices is called a “StingRay.”

Such devices can also collect the phone numbers a person has been calling and texting and even intercept the content of communications.

At least 72 state and local law enforcement departments in 24 states and 13 federal agencies use the devices, according to a new report from AP. The report notes that further details are hard to come by because the departments that use IMSI catchers must take the unusual step of signing non-disclosure agreements overseen by the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman told the news agency that the agreements, which regularly involve the defense contractor that makes the machines, are intended to prevent the release of sensitive law enforcement information to the general public. Last year, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report that found the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security had spent a combined $95 million on 434 cell-site simulators between 2010 and 2014.

Civil liberties unions such as the NYCLU say the devices are extremely invasive because they operate in such a wide range, around two city blocks, that they don’t just grab up the target’s data but also information from other people in the area.

READ MORE: Stingray tracking of cellphones unconstitutional without a warrant – US court

Law enforcement agencies have also gone to great lengths to conceal StingRay usage, in some instances even offering plea deals rather than divulging details on the machine.

In several states, courts are beginning to grapple with the issue. Earlier this month, a Brooklyn judge ruled that the police need an eavesdropping warrant to use a StingRay. In September, a federal court ruled use of the device without a warrant violated the US Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.

In the weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a white board with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.

Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Mr. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard M. Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Mr. Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor.

Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.

More from The New York Times

Posted by Libergirl, who says who cares about his tweeting…this is what is going on that will effect all of us.