Category Archives: Legal

Robert Mueller Is Not a Superhero

Robert Mueller, testifying before Congress in 2013. Credit Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

For many people, it’s up to Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to settle the question of “collusion” in the 2016 election. A clean, clear, nonpartisan legal finding would be the most acceptable possible outcome. If he uncovers a crime by the president, Congress would be justified in pursuing an impeachment inquiry.

So it should not matter that the House Intelligence Committee has abruptly ended its “investigation,” declining to compel testimony from key uncooperative witnesses or subpoena relevant records. In the words of one commentator, we need only “wait for Mueller.”

But this view is wrong, a confusion of constitutional roles and responsibilities. Mr. Mueller has one job, and Congress has another. The potential offense that each is investigating might go by the same shorthand — “collusion” — but it is not the same.

What counts as evidence, and how it is weighed and debated, is by necessity different in the two proceedings. Confusion over this point has major practical consequences for how long the nation must await a full and clear resolution of the question of Russian interference in the election, and any role Mr. Trump and his campaign played in it.

The problem seems to start with anxiety about impeachment as too “political” a process — especially in a hyperpartisan environment. That it is political in character is undeniable, but the founders thought of the politics of impeachment as being of the highest order, concerned with the protection of the constitutional system from serious executive misconduct. As James Madison told the Congress, a powerful presidency carried with it a high danger of abuse of office, and the remedy of impeachment was available “at all times.”

Legal and constitutional concerns require clarity about the nature and relevant evidence of misconduct. On the legal side, Mr. Mueller may be headed toward a theory of collusion, potentially implicating the president and others, in the form of a “conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
There are particular requirements for making such a case, as well as predictable defenses. Lawyers will disagree, for example, over the legal import of what the president, as candidate or president, has publicly said about Russia — his open appeal to the Russian government to locate and publish the emails of Hillary Clinton or his repeated references to the fact of Russian electoral intervention as a “hoax.”
Do these actions constitute affirmative acts in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy, subjecting Mr. Trump to “accomplice liability”? The courts would decide.

But these actions are undoubtedly relevant to any potential impeachment inquiry. What the president publicly stated and tweeted takes on greater significance in light of the revelation that his campaign representatives — as we learned in the memo from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee — were told that Russians could disseminate emails stolen from Mrs. Clinton. In addressing collusion with Russia, Congress must decide whether this president should retain office if the facts establish that he entered into some form of political alliance with Russia and then came to office in debt to a foreign power while determined to obstruct a public accounting. Congress has the obligation to make this determination regardless of whether Mr. Trump may be guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy.

That requires a constitutional judgment. Answering strictly legal questions in a potential trial does not resolve the issue of the president’s accountability under the Constitution. Congress’s inquiry can and should be informed by an unfettered special counsel investigation, but it cannot depend on it.

Furthermore, narrowing impeachable offenses to include only violations of law may lead to a constitutional dead end. In opinions issued in 1973 and 2000, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has taken the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted while in office. If Mr. Mueller concludes that the president engaged in criminal conduct but follows O.L.C. opinions in declining to indict him, the president’s legal responsibility will not be adjudicated as long as he occupies the White House. On what basis would Congress then proceed to oust him from office under the legalistic conception of the impeachment power?

Many people assume that the special counsel will report to Congress on the evidence against the president. But the special counsel regulations, unlike the now defunct independent counsel statute, do not clearly mandate or authorize any such report from either the counsel or the deputy attorney general. Congress may be more likely to learn about Mr. Mueller’s work from publicly filed indictments and plea agreements.

And Congress cannot rely on the Mueller record alone. Even if Congress made impeachment a legal rather than political process, a president will be quick to argue that he is entitled to a fair adjudication of any criminal charge.

Moreover, the timetables for the two processes are not the same. Congress cannot responsibly defer its task for as long as it may take for lawyers to clash and courts to rule.

A Congress that was serious about meeting its responsibility would neither shirk nor rush a judgment about a president’s impeachable offenses. The House would structure an investigative and deliberative process that it would explain in clear terms to the public. As in 1974 in the Nixon impeachment process, the House Judiciary Committee would review and publish the best constitutional learning on what presidential misconduct rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It would proceed in the same spirit as its predecessor did when the 1974 committee said that “what is said here does not reflect any prejudgment” of the allegations but is “intended to be a review of the precedents and available interpretive materials, seeking general principles to guide the committee.” The Committee would then move to the investigative phase.

As in the Watergate case, the congressional inquiry would run parallel to the legal process, each benefiting from the other even as Congress took steps as necessary to avoid compromising the criminal investigation. It’s not difficult to imagine a new Mueller indictment spurring the Congress to action. While the special counsel may conclude that he cannot indict the president, the nature of charges against close aides and relatives could support the initiation of an impeachment inquiry. Even in this case, Congress’s task is to carry on its own investigation and to arrive at an independent judgment about whether the president should remain in officeIn the end, some may hope that delegating Congress’s responsibility to the legal process will unite the public around the outcome. They will be disappointed. The independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton rallied Democrats against impeachment as much as any other aspect of his defense. Mr. Mueller has already had strong tastes of these attacks.

When the Trump-Russia matters comes to a conclusion, we will learn how well “the system” addressed an extraordinary challenge. A crucial measure of its success or failure will be its adherence to constitutional process on a correct understanding of institutional responsibility. It is up to Congress — evidently not this one, maybe the next — to show that it can rise to the occasion.

By Bob Bauer/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist


The NRA Can Only Be Stopped at the Ballot Box

Have the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School changed the game? In the wake of the Parkland massacre that killed 17 children and educators, there’s no question the students have changed the national conversation. Survivors of this mass shooting have called “B.S.” on empty Republican pieties – rejecting “thoughts and prayers” and demanding that lawmakers take action to protect children’s lives from guns, instead of protecting their political futures from the wrath of the National Rifle Association.


But Republican lawmakers have so far acted as if nothing has changed. As Parkland survivors looked on in tears, the Florida House this week voted against even debating legislation to curb assault rifles – and then had the audacity to vote to declare porn a threat to public health. President Trump, meanwhile, has decided to champion NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre’s reckless proposal to arm teachers at school.

More from Rolling Stone

Posted by Libergirl


Rubio Defends NRA Ties, Says ‘Genie’s Out Of The Bottle’ On AR-15s

During a tense interview aired Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) again rejected many Floridians’ criticism that certain gun control laws would have prevented Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

He also defended his ties to the National Rifle Association, and blamed congressional inaction regarding such mass shootings on “people just mov[ing] on.”

Rubio hasn’t personally attempted to address mass shootings through legislation, he said, because “we don’t fully understand everything that could’ve been done to prevent this.”

Much of the mourning following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, which left 17 dead and more injured, transformed with surprising speed into passionate political advocacy. And, perhaps aside from President Donald Trump, more of that passion has been directed at Rubio, a large beneficiary of the gun lobby’s support, than anyone else.

“I see this reported, it’s unfair, I’ve never said we can’t do anything,” Rubio said, repeating a point he made on the Senate floor Thursday. He added: “What I have said is that the proposals out there would not have prevented it, and that’s a fact.”

More from TPM

Posted by Libergirl


The Super Bowl, Brought To You By Taxpayers The National Football League is propped up by a wide range of public subsidies.

When the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles meet Sunday for the Super Bowl, they’ll play inside the newly completed U.S. Bank Stadium near downtown Minneapolis. The $1.1 billion stadium was built with almost $500 million from state and local taxpayers, with the city paying an additional $7.5 million each year for operations and maintenance.

Taxpayers got soaked again when the National Football League (NFL) picked Minneapolis to host this year’s Super Bowl. The city had to negotiate against the NFL’s 153 pages of specifications, which include 35,000 free parking spaces within one mile of the stadium, shouldering the cost of providing police and emergency services, and priority over all other city snow removal in case of a major storm.

No matter who wins the Super Bowl, the 2017-2018 football season will be remembered for headlines about off-field issues, from how it treats concussed players to whether those players stand or kneel for the national anthem. Yet public subsidies for the sport and its annual championship game are often glossed over. That should change.

People who care about the NFL’s role in society—and taxpayers who care where their money is spent—should question the generous government support lavished on the NFL and its teams. Money that is spent on football stadiums could instead provide safer neighborhoods, better schools, improved infrastructure, or enhanced access to health care in their local communities.

The NFL and team owners often shakedown taxpayers by threatening to relocate a beloved team. By design, these threats create bidding wars between municipalities fighting over limited franchises. Faced with the threat of being remembered as the hapless losers who cost a city its beloved hometown team, mayors, city councils, governors and state legislatures all too often respond by offering lucrative “inducement payments.” That’s exactly what happened in Minnesota, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell personally warned state lawmakers in 2012 that the Vikings could skip town if the team didn’t get a new stadium.

More recently, an enormous taxpayer-funded bribe convinced the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. The city promised $750 million, paid for by a hotel room tax increase of 0.88 percent, towards an ultra-luxury $1.9 billion stadium. The Raiders’ former owner, the late Al Davis virtually wrote the NFL’s playbook on extorting money from local communities. In 1980, Davis was refused public funding to renovate the Oakland Coliseum, so he moved the Raiders to Los Angeles two years later. In 1995, Oakland coaxed the Raiders back north with $200 million in taxpayer money for stadium renovations. But in 2015, Davis’ son threatened to move the team again unless the city paid for a new stadium.

In an attempt to prevent a repeat of history, Oakland and the state of California offered the Davis family 55 acres of land adjacent to the Raiders’ current stadium to be developed as a stadium and mixed-use retail and residential property. They also offered to invest heavily in transit links to make that property development more valuable, including improvements to mass transit highways, and parking. In the end, the offer could not match the $750 million in cash offered by Las Vegas.

For two decades after the Raiders departed, the NFL held the threat of a move to Los Angeles over many cities, extracting massive subsidies. Voters in San Diego eventually rejected a 2016 ballot measure to pay $1.15 billion for a new $1.8 billion stadium with a staggering 4 percent hotel occupancy tax. In response, the Chargers announced that they were moving to LA. The City of San Diego had already paid $68 million to renovate the Chargers’ football stadium in 1997, and was spending an additional $5-7 million each year for repairs and to subsidize operating costs.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “I know [Chargers owner] Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego.” Forbes estimates that the Spanos Family is worth $2.4 billion, which should raise questions about whether they actually did “do everything they could.”

In Los Angeles, the Chargers will share a new home with the Los Angeles Rams, which relocated from St. Louis despite the offer of $400 million in public financing towards a $1.1 billion riverfront stadium.

Paradoxically, the NFL used threats of relocation to Los Angeles to extract millions of dollars in subsidies from taxpayers elsewhere, but the new Chargers-Rams stadium will involve no direct tax funding. However, the City of Inglewood will ultimately pay an estimated $60 million as reimbursement for the development of roadwork, utilities and public parks on the site of the new stadium. In addition, the city will also reimburse costs of security, medical services, and shuttles to off-site parking during stadium events, which are estimated at about $8 million a year.

While damage to local pride when a team leaves is salient in places like Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis, the damage to local economies is even worse when mercenary teams stay. When the Atlanta Falcons suggested they might fly away, Atlanta not only gave them $200 million towards the cost of their $1.2 billion stadium, but also pledged an ongoing revenue stream: the proceeds of a 2.75 percent tax on hotel rooms for a full 30 years, with no cap on how much money that could be over time. The total bill is expected to be about $700 million. Public funding also accounted for $444 million of the $1.2 billion cost of the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, and $620 million of the $720 million cost of the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

Subsidies often don’t end once the stadium is built. Over the past decade, local taxpayers paid $263 million towards the $388 million renovation of the Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium and $30 million towards $125 million in renovations and upgrades at the Brown’s FirstEnergy Stadium, plus an additional $47 million for 10 years of repairs and upkeep. In 2013, the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium received $87 million of taxpayer subsidies to renovate. In exchange for that gift, the Panthers agreed to be “tethered” to Charlotte for 10 years, with a 6 year “hard tether” involving harsh financial penalties if the team moved sooner. No surprise, with that hard tether expiring in 2019, the NFL has already started the conversation around the Panthers’ next home.

Cincinnati stands out as a particularly stark example of the ongoing costs of taxpayer-funded stadiums. In 2000, Hamilton County paid $425 million of the $450 million cost for the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium. The County has since paid an additional $168 million towards maintenance and operating costs. The team doesn’t even pay for utilities. A clause in the stadium contract promises that if 14 other NFL stadiums have a particular feature—like luxury box seats, or a holographic scoreboard—Hamilton County taxpayers must pay for Paul Brown Stadium to have the same amenity.

The stadium deal has been a financial disaster for the county. In 2011, 16.4 percent of Hamilton County’s expenditures were related to the Bengals’ stadium. That is money that could have been spent on police, schools, roads, hospitals, parks, trash collection, and other city services. Inevitably, the Bengals have already started talking about leaving Cincinnati when their stadium lease ends in 2026.

Glendale, Arizona, finds itself in a similar bind. Local taxpayers paid $308 million towards the $455 million cost of The University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Today, 40 percent of the city’s budget goes towards retiring stadium debt. Glendale, meanwhile, has trouble hiring police officers and EMTs.

When cities borrow to build stadiums, the interest on those municipal bonds is deductible on investor’s federal income taxes. What is intended as a federal subsidy for local development of long-term infrastructure instead becomes a massive taxpayer gift for team owners. A study from the Brookings Institution showed that since 1990, tax-free municipal bonds have funded 36 NFL stadiums, costing federal taxpayers $1.1 billion, and that federal taxpayers spent a further 2.1 billion to subsidize tax-free municipal bond issuances for other professional sports stadiums.

Outrage over this is a growing bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike should be disgusted by this corporate welfare that diverts tax money from needed services and taxpayers. In 2017, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) introduced a bill to remove the municipal bond interest deduction for professional sports stadiums; this measure was part of initial GOP tax reform proposals, but was not included in the final law.

One common justification given for the public financing of stadiums is that they create jobs. Construction and food service workers unions claimed that the new Las Vegas stadium would create 25,000 temporary construction jobs and 14,000 permanent service jobs in the Las Vegas area.

But decades of academic studies consistently find no discernible positive relationship between sports facilities and local economic development, income growth, or job creation. In a 2006 survey of economists by Robert Whaples, 85 percent of economists polled agreed that public funding for professional sports stadiums was a bad idea. In their paper, Sports, Jobs, and Taxes, Stanford University economics professor Roger Noll and Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist find miniscule or negative economic benefits for every stadium they studied. The late University of Maryland Baltimore County economics professor Dennis Coates co-authored a paper with West Virginia University economics professor Brad Humphreys examining every city with an NFL, NHL NBA, MLB, or MLS franchise and found no positive impact on any area’s economic economy, and actually found harm to the per-capita income of many cities.

NFL owners have far too much power over their local communities, and the primary cause is clear. Since the NFL merged with the American Football League in 1966, the NFL has had federal permission to flaunt anti-trust laws that apply to almost every other industry. Like any other cartel, the NFL maximizes profits by keeping the number of franchises artificially low. With fewer franchises than there are major cities in the US, the NFL can force cities and states into a never-ending cycle of moving and threatening to move, and profit off the response.

By David Back & Brandon Kirsch/Reason
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Jesuits, slave descendants consider how Georgetown can make amends

The 1838 sale of 272 enslaved people wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, observers say, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit. 

Jessica Tilson walks on soggy grass between the gravestones, rattling off names from her family tree, a thin black sweater the only barrier between her and the cold that came with a once-in-a-decade snowfall. She keeps the interwoven branches of her family in her head, along with a map of who’s buried in the unmarked parts of the Catholic cemetery in tiny Maringouin, La., – a rural town surrounded by sugar cane fields, bayous, and giant oaks.
Among those she honors by cleaning their graves is Cornelius “Neily” Hawkins, her great, great, great, great grandfather. Neily was about 13 when slave traders forced him onto a ship in Maryland and transported him to the West Oak plantation, where the sugar industry thrived through labor extracted by brutality.
The Jesuits who ran Georgetown University and plantations in Maryland had sold him, along with 271 others – including his brothers and sisters, his parents, and his grandfather, Isaac Hawkins, born just a few years before America gained its independence.

That 1838 sale wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest, and some Jesuits opposed it at the time, despite their mounting debts. The names of the men, women, and children transported to various parts of Louisiana were recorded, and they have since become known as the GU272.
Now, Jesuit leaders are coming here for the first time – and Ms. Tilson hopes they will visit such sacred spots and hear the stories she’s unburied.
For many who hail from Maringouin (“mosquito” in French) and other parts of Louisiana, this December meeting will be their first opportunity to talk with representatives of the religious order that enslaved and sold their ancestors.
It’s another step in a reckoning that’s been unfurling in slow motion. For nearly two years, the connections between the 272 and several thousand living descendants have been emerging, impelling new relationships and debates about how best to address the modern-day legacies of slavery.
Unlike other historic American universities that held slaves and have since shed their religious identities, Georgetown “had to deal with the moral component of it, the way that it actually challenged Georgetown’s identity as a Catholic institution … committed to the Jesuit sense of social justice,” says Craig Steven Wilder, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Ebony and Ivy,” a book on universities and slavery.
“The human dimensions of the story” are unavoidable, Professor Wilder says, because “descendants of the sale of 1838 have put an extraordinary human face on these historical facts.”
Those descendants hold a diverse array of ideas about what should happen next – everything from modest requests to memorialize forgotten sites in Louisiana to a hope for a $1 billion foundation to address racial disparities, assist descendants with education, and support racial reconciliation.
“Although slavery in the United Sates ended many years ago, there has been a continuum of racial oppression…, and we have to heal those racial tensions in order for this country to move forward,” says Karran Harper Royal, the New Orleans-based executive director of the GU272 Descendants Association, one of several organized groups.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and descendants are arriving at the modest rectangular parish hall next to Maringouin’s Immaculate Heart of Mary church. Many of the 272 maintained a Catholic identity despite years in which they were deprived access to priests, in violation of the terms of the 1838 sale.
Those ancestors “believed in God despite everything ungodly around them. I’m still humbled by that kind of faith,” says descendant Lee Baker, before the meeting that he helped organize gets under way. He needed resilience – which he now sees runs in the family – when he helped integrate Catholic institutions in the 1960s. Now he teaches at a Catholic high school near New Orleans.
One tall man saunters in wearing crisp denim overalls, another a three-piece-suit, until about 80 people are assembled in metal folding chairs. A table covered with a white cloth is set up in the front, where the Jesuits will sit.
For the older generations, especially, slavery isn’t something people talk about much here. But today’s conversation has been 179 years in the making.
Georgetown’s dependence on enslaved African and American families wasn’t a secret. But a few years ago, student journalists, activists, and a working group appointed by the university started questioning why people such as the Rev. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., Georgetown’s president in the early 1800s, were still honored on campus buildings despite their role organizing the 1838 sale.
Alumnus Richard Cellini became curious about what happened to the 272. When he heard that they had all died of fever in Louisiana, his incredulity led him to search in Google and quickly connect with a descendant. Later he started the nonprofit Georgetown Memory Project to assist with genealogical research.
The family trees have blossomed as people analyze DNA and dig into archives. So far, nearly 6,000 direct descendants (living and deceased) have been identified out of what could eventually rise to 15,000, Mr. Cellini estimates.

Last spring, Tilson and several other descendants attended a ceremony at Georgetown to replace Reverand Mulledy’s name with Isaac Hawkins on a now-residential building. President John DeGioia and representative Jesuits offered apologies during a “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope.”
These were some of the steps recommended by a working group the university had appointed before they knew any descendants.
Now, several descendants are attending Georgetown, which has offered “legacy” admissions preferences.
Many descendants say they are grateful for what’s happened so far, but that it’s time for the process to become less Georgetown-centric and more inclusive of their voices.
It’s still unclear whether these large institutions will be willing to hold themselves accountable in ways that go beyond symbolism, that actually involve shifts in power dynamics or substantial monetary investments.
The next step is “talking about reparation,” says Adam Rothman, a history professor at Georgetown who served on the working group. “What would be an adequate gesture of repair? That’s a lot of what people are debating.”
It has often seemed like the Jesuits wanted “to have their act of contrition, skip right over penance, and go straight to forgiveness,” says Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association, who attended the Georgetown ceremonies, as well as a morning meeting with the Jesuits in New Orleans on this same December day that they’ll be visiting Maringouin.
She wants the outcome of talks to be action that benefits people beyond those who can attend Georgetown, but she also points out the irony that her two children now there will graduate with debt, despite financial aid, while Georgetown students once had tuition subsidized by the enslaved.
“My hashtag is #OurTuitionHasBeenPaid … with the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors,” Ms. Thomas says.
So far, institutions have been “reluctant to put dollar amounts on their acknowledgment of a debt,” Wilder, of MIT, says. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit.

The Maringouin meeting has just gotten under way when Tilson scurries in. A single mother of two, she fits her visits to Maringouin in between shifts at two grocery stores in Baton Rouge, where she recently finished her bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the historically black Southern University and A&M College.
After Mr. Baker, the descendant, offers an opening prayer, the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, stands to introduce himself.
Of his Jesuit predecessors who both baptized and claimed ownership of slaves, he asks, “How is it that they received the same sacraments, prayed the same prayers,… and failed to see themselves as equal before God?”
The room is quiet as he continues solemnly, “I am sorry to you, the descendants, but I also say before God … that as Jesuits, we have greatly sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do…. I come [here] to understand what are the next steps in reconciliation, what are the next steps in healing this gaping wound.”
Tilson leans against the wall, in jeans and a Georgetown sweatshirt, recording with her pink cell phone.
The Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., provincial of the Maryland Province Jesuits offers apologies as well, adding, “Healing … is about concrete actions…. We want to explore with you what would be the most meaningful way … to be part of things that can create new life and new opportunities for people.”
For the next hour, local residents and those who have traveled from as far as Ohio and California rise to share their thoughts.
Some focus on the joy of discovering new family ties and answers to questions that always puzzled them: Why didn’t their families speak French or cook Creole?
Others offer specific ideas for how the Jesuits can make a difference.
Tilson strides up front and places a mason jar filled with black soil on the table, a dark blue ribbon tied around its neck, explaining that it is from Georgetown.
“What I would like for the Jesuits to do is to take the soil … and go to West Oak and give our ancestors a proper burial…. The ones who died before the church was built … we don’t know where they at,” she says, her voice rising in pitch as the emotions rush out. “They could have been thrown in holes over there, they have alligators back there…. So you guys owe our ancestors a proper burial.”
Fathers Hussey and Kesicki look up at her with compassion. They’re taking notes and holding off on responding until the end.

Other speakers bring up broader needs in descendant communities – prenatal care, assistance with college expenses. Among Maringouin’s roughly 1,000 residents (the majority descendants) the per capita income is $15,000.
“I feel like this is going forward and then two steps back. We are out here. We are looking for something to happen,” says Matthew Mims, a local aspiring dentist who recently graduated from college. He’s not the only one for whom patience with ceremonies and conversations is wearing thin.
But this is an opportunity for descendants to ask something not only of the Jesuits, but also of the large extended family seated before them. It’s a chance to challenge the institutionalized racism that slavery and Jim Crow left in their wake.
This is an area where notorious slave traders are still honored in whites-only cemeteries, where families still hold memories of lynchings.
Michelle Harrington, who long ago moved away, says she’s disappointed that in the church, blacks still sit on one side and whites on the other. “Sit on the other side,” she pleads. “Make somebody uncomfortable. We cannot be enslaved any longer.”
One of the last speakers to step forward is Johnnie Pace, tall with silver hair, glasses, and a black jacket. He’s married to a descendant of Isaac Hawkins, and shares how warmly he was welcomed at Georgetown during a recent unannounced visit.
“Granted, we can’t change history…. But we can change the future and we can change today. I am 74 years old,” he says, pausing and pounding his fist to hold back tears. “I never thought that I would live to see the descendants of slaves, the descendants of slaveholders, come together in love.”
Kesicki and Hussey stand and respond, briefly but earnestly, to what they’ve heard. They share how they’ve hired archivists to ensure that more church records are made accessible online, how they want to spread awareness of this important story.
They assure the group that they will follow up soon about setting up a process for further dialogue.
While there will be no official ceremony today, they do pay a visit to the cemetery with Tilson and a few others after the meeting. She points out the small, broken headstone of Lucy Ann Scott, her great, great, great, great aunt who was sold in 1838 and was buried near the graves of Tilson’s own sister and son. Maybe they could supply a new headstone for Lucy, she suggests.
Standing on the grave of another relative sold in 1838, she barely takes a breath, sharing as much as she can fit in before twilight. Hussey shakes his head and smiles. “Astounding,” he says.
In the years leading up to 1838, “Y’all supposed to send us back to Liberia, but y’all didn’t,” Tilson says without a hint of bitterness.
In the distance, a train rumbles by. It’s slow, like the building up of trust.
The air grows colder by the minute and Kesicki and Hussey head out before darkness engulfs the rural roads.
“I’m happy because I got an opportunity to show them what happened,” Tilson says. “That child you sent to Maringouin, this is their spot – this is their resting spot.”

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo/ChristianScienceMonitor

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The GOP Has a Stranglehold on America’s Election Map That Will Go On for Years The one exception is Pennsylvania, where Democrats could gain a few House seats.

In one of the most important political developments of our time, top state and federal courts across America are rejecting extreme redistricting, or gerrymandering, which is an insidious form of political segregation.

After the 2010 Census, GOP leaders drew maps sorting their state’s most reliable voters into congressional and state legislative districts. Political consultants, mostly Republicans, segregated reliable voters by race and party affiliation. Cynically, they created these maps to ensure that GOP candidates would get winning margins and supermajority rule in otherwise purple states.

Extreme gerrymandering has been the foremost reason Republicans have had a U.S. House majority this decade. It’s why the GOP has had legislative monopolies in numerous states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio, where after gaining a lock on political power, they imposed a catalog of right-wing policies.

But as 2018 begins, there have been a series of state and federal court rulings in redistricting cases that are akin to referees throwing the flag for dirty play. Segregating voters by race is already illegal, while sorting voters by party affiliation is increasingly being ruled illegal. The open question, as the Supreme Court will rule later this spring on partisan gerrymandering, is, will the 2018 midterm elections be widely affected? Or will the 2020 election cycle be the soonest that new and more equitable political maps will emerge?

Right now, it doesn’t appear Democrats will gain much of a boost in 2018’s elections. Dems need 24 more seats to retake the House. In short, most of the legal fights will not be resolved in time to get new maps into play before the 2018 season is underway.

“The actual marginal partisan seat gain/loss isn’t the frame I’d choose to describe what’s going on (though I certainly understand why it’s a frame others adopt),” Justin Levitt, an election law and redistricting expert at Loyola Law School, wrote in an email. “To use a sports analogy, there may be reasons for an in-game penalty/fine/suspension structure for flagrant fouls that are worthwhile even if they don’t meaningfully change the in-game win probability, and that are certainly worthwhile even if they don’t actually change the final win/loss result.”

In other words—with the possible exception of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts—the gerrymander cases and rulings are more likely to be a persistent reminder in the court of public opinion, though not legal opinion, that the GOP will pursue any tactic to win elections, as opposed to being a gamechanger in 2018’s swing states.

“I think that at this point, the only congressional map likely to get redrawn in time for the 2018 elections is Pennsylvania—and I think it’s very likely to be redrawn for 2018,” Levitt said. “There’s an infinitesimal chance in Maryland [the only case where Democrats abused the process], and North Carolina, and also Texas, that the maps are redrawn for 2018… but by delaying the resolution of the cases, the Supreme Court essentially punted to 2020.”


This week, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled that its 18 House districts (13 are held by the GOP) are a partisan gerrymander that “clearly, plainly and palpably” violate the state’s constitution. Two weeks earlier, a federal appeals court reaffirmed that North Carolina’s 13 House districts are also a hyper-partisan gerrymander (10 are held by the GOP). That ruling was quickly appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which delayed it from being implemented. The High Court’s action means the state’s pro-GOP political map (redrawn and then rejected by the appeals court) will remain in place for 2018.

“Yup,” Levitt said. “It’s likely that the existing 2016 ‘remedial’ maps will be the maps for the 2018 elections.”

The Court has reviewed more gerrymandering cases in recent years than it has in decades. These began with segregating voters by race, which is illegal. The Court ruled the GOP had created illegal maps in North Carolina, Texas and Alabama using voters’ race to “crack and pack” districts. The justices ordered the states to redo their maps. The Republicans did, but barely changed the resulting representation, prompting more litigation from Democrats crying foul.

Extreme partisan redistricting is a new issue before the Court. Starting with a Wisconsin case heard last fall, it has been considering what is a fair way to measure extreme partisanship. A legal team headed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, came up with measuring “wasted votes.” While Chief Justice John Roberts openly ridiculed that modeling, there was speculation that the Court will issue a standard to measure excessive partisanship. That’s because it also took a GOP appeal over Maryland’s Democratic-led gerrymander of one House seat, suggesting it will chasten both parties.

What sets Pennsylvania apart is that its state Supreme Court ruled against the GOP based on the state constitution. As Levitt explained, the separation of state and federal oversight of elections has deep precedents. The U.S. Constitution says the states are to oversee elections. That won’t stop the GOP from appealing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, which includes an expedited timetable to redraw maps in time for its 2018 primaries. But it does make it unlikely the Supreme Court will step in.

Levitt believes the GOP will try to block Pennsylvania. “I expect them to ask the Supreme Court for a stay, and then I expect them to ask the Supreme Court for cert [to take the appeal]. From their perspective, there’s no downside in the attempt. … I think it’s exceedingly unlikely to work. I know the political consequences aren’t quite as stark, but Supreme Court intervention in the Pennsylvania state case would actually be a bigger legal grenade than Bush v. Gore” [the 2000 Supreme Court ruling that stopped a presidential recount in Florida, making George W. Bush president].

Levitt said that every state legislature could quickly redraw their U.S. House and state districts, if they had the political will.

“How long does it take a motivated legislature? Each legislature generally has a bunch of maps in their back pocket. If a decision doesn’t seriously cabin [restrict] their authority, they could turn out a new map in 24 hours,” he said. “If a decision did seriously cabin their authority, taking them by surprise, that’d take longer—but if a legislature were so motivated, there’s no question that they could be working on a variety of scenarios now, to have several contingency plans, one of which they’d be able to put in place the day after a ruling.”

But that would mean ceding power, which Levitt said partisans are loath to do.

“The legislature is motivated to do exactly the opposite,” he said. “Delaying is absolutely a partisan tactic by the legislatures in question. And though I don’t think this is why they ruled as they did, the Supreme Court’s decisions to press pause (to stay the drawing of new maps, or to decline to expedite some of the other cases, or to take Maryland, and hold Wisconsin for Maryland, which is almost certainly what will happen) has a bunch of impacts, including partisan ones.”

These delays mean we will not see many new political maps emerge in 2018.

“I think that delay has already happened,” Levitt said. “I think the chances of relief in 2018 are slim for everything other than Pennsylvania. It’s not just the general election; it’s the filing deadline for the primary, followed by the primary, followed by the general election—and courts hate messing with the timing of those elections. It’s also that the legislature usually gets first crack at a relief map, and then there’s a fight about that map (witness North Carolina).”

“That’s all part of the reason why the Pennsylvania state court order has things on such a tight pace,” he continued. “They gave the Pennsylvania legislature three weeks to draw a new map, and essentially said that they’d make up their mind about that map, or implement their own, four days after receiving it. That’s lightning pace, and the reason for the lightning pace is to align the new map more or less with the primary election schedule that’s already in place.”

By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed

someone sounds like an “apologist” for theirs or others wrongdoing or wrong language…just saying

Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.

It has become not a descriptive term for a person who believes in the superiority of one race over another, but a term of malice and libel — almost beyond refutation, as the words “communist” or “communist sympathizer” were in the 1950s.

Moreover, the accuser somehow covers himself in an immunity of superiority. If I call you a racist, I probably will not be called one. And, finally, having chosen the ultimate epithet, I have dodged the obligation to converse or build.

If Donald Trump is called a racist for saying some nations are “shithole countries,” does that help pass a “Dreamers” bill to keep gifted young people in this nation — people who have something to give the United States and are undocumented only because they were brought here by their parents illegally?

That’s the goal, is it not? To save the Dreamers? That’s what the White House meeting last week was about. It’s what the whole week was about, until we went down the “racist” rabbit hole.

We were having an immigration debate. To the president, it is a reasonable goal, and one that most Americans would agree upon, to want to naturalize more people based on “merit.” We want more people who can contribute to our culture and economy, and they tend to come from stable nations.

If the president had used the world “hellhole” instead, would that have been racist?

If he had used the word “failed states,” would that have been racist?

But there are nations that are hellholes in this world. And there are failed states. It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places and that we want some of the best people from the best places, many of which are inhabited by people of color. That’s not racism, it is reason.

Yes, we should take in unskilled refugees. We also want more Indian Ph.D.s and engineers.

If Sen. Dick Durbin wants to disagree about placing merit at the center of our immigration policies, if he wants to take an unlimited number of unemployed and unemployable people because, after all, that’s what most Poles and Irish were called in the 1900s, let him say that. And let Mr. Durbin and the president debate two concepts of American immigration policy honorably and finally find a middle ground where there is agreement and common purpose.

But, when we have a chance to reform the immigration system, and save the Dreamers, and find common ground, let us not get distracted by another cudgel to use against the president. Calling the president a racist helps no one — it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.

Did the president use a crudity in a private meeting? He says he did not. No one who was there has said he did on the record. But if he did, so what? So what? America today is a sadly crass place where many of us use vulgar, corrosive language we ought not use in private and work conversations. How many of us would like to see and share a transcript of everything we have said in private conversations or at work?

And how many presidents have said crass things in the Oval Office in private meetings? Think of Kennedy, Clinton and Nixon, to name three.

If the president is wrong on immigration — on merit, on finding a balance between skilled and unskilled immigrants, on chain migration, on the lottery — let his opponents defeat him on these points, and not by calling him a racist. If he is to be removed from office, let the voters do it based on his total performance — temperament as well as accomplishment — in 2020. Simply calling him an agent of the Russians, a nutcase or a racist is a cowardly way to fight.

We need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof. For if every person who speaks inelegantly, or from a position of privilege, or ignorance, or expresses an idea we dislike, or happens to be a white male, is a racist, the term is devoid of meaning.

We have to stop calling each other names in this country and battle each other with ideas and issues, not slanders.

Posted by The NON-Conformist