15. April 2019 · Categories: Analysis, Law, Politics

In 1991, William Lynn a minister in Alabama was murdered in his home. His wife was badly injured but survived. One of the two people convicted of murdering William Lynn was Christopher Price who is now on death row, scheduled for execution and the subject of a controversial decision by the Supreme Court. The controversy started when Price asked for an alternative method of execution.

The State of Alabama is claiming that Price missed the deadline for choosing to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia instead of the state’s default, three-chemical injection which can subject the inmate to excruciating pain.

A federal district court in Alabama halted the execution on Thursday, citing “new evidence”. Of course we don’t know what that evidence is yet but it seems at this point I can’t seen any other reason other than possible discrepancies in Alabama’s claim. It doesn’t help that on that same day at 9:00 PM, Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to overrule the district court order so they could proceed with the execution anyway. That’s when Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Beyers issued a request to stay the execution until after the court has a chance to meet in the morning and discuss the lower court decision before overruling it.

The New York Times reported today on that decision by the 5-member, conservative, Supreme Court majority to deny that request and green light the execution.

Maybe this all seems like a big fuss over something as trivial as whether or not a convicted murderer gets to choose the method in which he is executed. Or maybe this story is more about the deliberate choice the state is making to execute someone in the most painful way they can. If that’s case, this is a huge deal because we are talking about the line that separates civilized people from barbarians.

Here’s what the New York Times reported…

Justice Breyer’s dissent reflects that things have quickly gotten ugly at the court since the replacement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was a moderating force in capital cases, with the more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The divide between the two sides has hardened in recent weeks, with conservative justices growing increasingly frustrated over what they considered excessive delays in carrying out executions. The liberal justices have in turn accused the majority of reckless haste that could give rise to executions so painful as to amount to torture.

So, the conservative judges are basically saying they’re getting tired of these delays… Well… Is it not their JOB to deal with these things? If they can’t handle it or simply can’t be bothered then shouldn’t that mean it’s time for them to retire?

Or is this actually about vengeance? It turns out that the contention within the court itself was already enough to expire the Alabama death warrant, necessitating a re-issue and a new execution date, possibly delaying the execution by another 30 days. The reaction by some clearly exposes a vindictive streak in the community that I hope isn’t affecting the bench.

The article quotes Attorney General Steven T. Marshall following the event.

“Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice,” Attorney General Steven T. Marshall said. “They were, in effect, revictimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment.”

I realize that many people are inclined to focus on the crime but the perpetrator in this case HAS been removed from society and is in prison waiting to be executed. Does it really matter if the execution is delayed for a few hours, or days or even weeks? Do these delays really amount to a “revictimization”? I don’t think so and I find it disturbing that people are so ready to call a frustrated demand for vengeance a “revictimization”.

Of course this could all be solved very easily, Execute Price with nitrogen hypoxia. Done. The execution would not have been delayed and the courts would not have even been involved. But Alabama doesn’t want to execute him that way – Alabama wants to execute him the more painful way. That is the ONLY reason why it ever got to the courts.

Indeed, the concern the conservatives apparently don’t want to hear is nothing less than a founding principal of our western culture. Institutionalized in Common Law, adapted into the English Bill of Rights and again into the U.S. Constitution as part of the 8th Amendment, the idea that for centuries has been held as the line between barbarians and civil society… that a justice system not be allowed to inflict cruel and unusual punishment. There’s literally no valid reason to rush the execution if this civil right is still in question.

Yes, the court could have delayed the execution – (the inmate isn’t going anywhere). Yes, the court could have met in person to discuss the matter in a constitutional context. Yes, Alabama could have found another, less painful method of execution. None of these things would have reversed the conviction or cancelled the punishment, neither would they have been difficult to do or costly to afford. So exactly what excuse does that leave? Clearly, if the state is willing to take this to the Supreme Court *something* is functioning as a driving motivation. It’s sad to realize that the closest thing to a logical excuse for such haste is the type of vengeance so overtly pronounced in Attorney General Steven T. Marshall’s quote.

So this is where I really want to make some clear distinctions. A justice system can serve one of two purposes. It can enforce the law or it can satisfy the vindictive. Granted, some law-enforcing decisions can also be vengeance for some, but should vengeance ever be the primary motive, much less to the point of breaking the law?

It makes logical sense to execute those who have committed heinous crimes, especially if it’s been a pattern for them because of the risk they pose to society. But I think a civil society really needs to understand the magnitude of taking a human life. One such society might insure that every alternative be considered first, execution last. One such society might also understand the sobriety of the task and not to celebrate it, exploit it or be impetuous with it because you’re to old and tired to do your job as a Supreme Court Justice for a constitutional republic.

02. February 2019 · Categories: Politics · Tags: ,

Recently, a friend told me that things will get better… “They’re going to be rough for a while…” he said, but in the long run things will be better. I knew he was referring to the path that he thinks Trump has put us on… something I call the MAGA delusion. I don’t know what hard evidence he has to make this assessment, Honestly, I think he’s just hoping. His statement was so broad that there wasn’t really anything to grab, so I just nodded my head. It’s always good to hope. I could have asked for more detail on what he meant but I knew he would have picked from an endless list of stories in the expanding folklore of political rhetoric and I’m tired of chasing these stories down to the red herrings, misinterpretations and false claims that they so often prove to be.

In the meantime, back in Chicago, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just pushed the Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight for the first time since 1953. For those who don’t know, the Doomsday Clock is a symbol of scientific concern about the future of humanity. The closer the minute hand gets to midnight, the closer they think we are to our own demise as a species.

Of course, this clock is an abstract of collective opinion. An intentional consensus on risk and repercussion. So take it for what it is.

Now my friend has repeatedly stated that science is “just another religion” which of course makes it easy for him to marginalize, or even dismiss scientific concerns.

This is a fundamental difference between us. While he insists that scientists make claims about the truth, which I agree is a religious practice, I understand science to be a practice of approximation. So when a scientific theory is disrupted by new evidence, my friend qualifies that as a discredit… a case where the scientists claiming the truth were proven wrong, so why would we trust anything else they have to say? But from my perspective, viewing scientific theory as approximation, a disrupted theory is perfectly normal. It just means science is improving its approximation based on new discoveries, a sign that science it’s is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

So for me, navigating across an ocean of emotional rants, half-baked conclusions, ingrained prejudices, insults and rhetoric the collective voice of scientific concern is the closest thing we to a North Star. I guess that’s why I’m more concerned about Trump’s idiotic stunts with nuclear powers around the world and his spitefully destructive policies on the environment (two things which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cite as the major reasons for the most critical alarm they’ve issued in over 60 years) than I am about… immigration.

I just wish more of the people I share this planet with were better educated.

For two years I have been responding to enthusiastic ovations for Trump’s economic “policies” with the sobering reminder that there’s a significant latency between establishing economic policy and the effect it might have on the actual economy. The economy Trump keeps claiming credit for has far more to do with the policies set during Obama’s terms than anything Trump has actually done since then. Economic policies can’t change the economy in one presidential term anymore than a 600,000 tonne ship can stop on a dime. I really wish people would start understanding this. Because that misunderstanding drives politics and it opens up the opportunities for politicians like Trump to play the confidence game. I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned this to the same people and they never accept it. But sure enough, now that the economy has had a chance to digest Trump’s line-crossing policies, we can see it starting to choke. I expect the ovations will soon subside and I won’t feel so compelled to respond to them.

Of course, Trump’s assault on existing norms isn’t just limited to economic policy. What happens is that economic performance is so easy to measure, it makes it a popular focus for administrations riding on bull markets; in a sense saying, “look what WE can do!”. The media reacts to that and the economy becomes the fixture of focus. But there are much larger ships out there. One of which happens to be the environment. On this ship, policies can take decades to have their effects which makes it hard for any four-year administration to measure and claim credit for improvements so the concern turns into a fringe issue.

This is unfortunate for a short-sighted culture obsessed with immediate returns because the environment over-rules everything else, including the economy that ultimately depends on things like natural resources. If this ship is headed for disaster there won’t be anything a culture, realizing too late, can do to reverse its course before throwing everything else into chaos. The lesson we need to learn here is that if we wait to actually see the icebergs it will already be too late to avoid hitting them.

And this is where Trump has been a far greater threat to the entire human race than any of his followers are willing to consider – because it’s not just a matter of steering the ship through a roll-back of environmental regulations, it’s also the fact that Trump is intentionally taking down the radars and early-warning systems that we need to see far enough ahead to avoid disaster.

Two years ago after Trump took office, Scientific American published an exposé of some of his earliest assaults, including orders to the scientific community within the government to basically keep quiet. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under direct orders from Trump, e-mailed staff to inform them that they may no longer discuss agency research or departmental restrictions with anyone outside of the agency—including news media.

The USDA has also dictated that their in-house research office, the Agricultural Research Service, would no longer release any “public-facing documents” including but not limited to “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content.”

A year later, Time Magazine published an article on the condition of the EPA website, which until Trump came along functioned as a feature of government transparency and public education. It was a view of the iceberg fields we can’t see yet. But since Trump took control, mentions of climate change have been removed and language that so much as hints climate change has been tweaked to avoid the suggestion.

So, it’s hard for me not to ask the question… Why? Staying quiet about existing research doesn’t save any money, so why do it? Why would anyone intentionally blindfold the American people unless they intend to do something bad they don’t want people to see, such as risking the lives of millions if not billions of people for the sake of personal gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish more people understood that the U.S. Constitution is not the top-level law of the land. In fact, it doesn’t even apply to the people at all. The top-level law that applies to the people is a completely different set of rules called the U.S. Code. This enormous set of laws is established and enforced by the government and applies to the people. In other words, the U.S. Code contains laws that WE have to follow. The Constitution is the reverse… a minimal set of laws that the GOVERNMENT has to follow… Not the people… the government.

So when hate speech is shut down by a private school it is NOT a violation of the Constitution’s 1st Amendment, because a private school is NOT part of the government and therefore NOT obligated to the Constitution. Nor is it a violation of the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment when a restaurant insists on a “no firearms policy” because the restaurant is NOT part of the government either. Same thing for bakeries and flower shops that reserve a right to refuse service based on bigotry.

So… when people advocate smaller government and more privatization they are effectively advocating a weaker constitution by shifting matters into private hands with no obligation to the rights established in the Constitution. The oligarchs won’t tell you this because the oligarchs want better control over you without interference from the Constitution.

Just, something to think about

Some politicians have been suggesting that they can end birthright citizenship. Other’s say that would be a direct violation of the 14th amendment which says… “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the specific State wherein they reside.”

Trump has suggested that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is an escape clause based on the premise that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. I find this ironic because it’s the jurisdiction of the United States that determines their legal status in the first place.

 

Have a look at this ugly but viral meme…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve probably all seen this before… I know I have – enough to where I feel compelled to explain a few things for the sake of preserving our language and our national sanity…

First of all, let me just say that no one should be educating themselves with memes… This one in particular is a sock puppet denial of a traditional perspective. Which isn’t so much a problem in itself until you start using it to bash people who identify with the left because those people are using the traditional perspective not this viral nonsense.

The fact is, your teacher had it right (at least in the traditional sense) but they probably failed to explain it, so I’ll do that now. The big thing to note is that it’s not a question of how much government… It’s a question of how much representation. The sentiment on the left is that everyone should be represented, where on the right there is always a push to exclude people from representation. In fact, it’s the harsh exclusion of non-Aryan people that puts the Nazis on the hard right.

If you’re not so sure about this, here’s a fail-safe litmus test you can do with respect to a person’s attitude toward diversity. See how they feel about Jews, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, atheists, homosexuals, immigrants or transgenders, for instance. If a person’s politics feature any kind of resentment or repression toward any of these unfamiliar demographics, it’s almost a guarantee that they identify with the right. Go ahead and try it. It’s pretty easy and of course the amount of government has nothing to do with that. In fact it can be argued that Republicans have created more government than Democrats as indicated by the massive debts the government incurs under Republican management. And when it’s the people who identify with the right that are trying to pass laws to exclude gay people from marriage or empower law enforcement to coral immigrants, it’s hard to imagine them as advocates of little government and big freedom.

So, I suppose I need to address the fact that the Nazis were socialists. Fine, but lets also remember that during the end of the Weimar Republic when the Nazis were rising to power though a democratic process, every opposition party in Germany was also socialist, if not communist. Bear in mind, this was the 1930’s when socialism was extremely popular among the working classes. Even in the U.S. it was difficult for any political faction to gain any traction without some homage to socialism. So it’s dishonest (or ignorant) to cite socialism as a difference when it was much more of a constant. The more significant difference was indeed the militant repression of non-Aryan people and again, that’s what puts the Nazis clearly on the right.

Another point to make about this idiot meme is that the top part erroneously implies that the left is more “liberal” while the right is more “conservative”. The terms, “liberal” and “conservative” refer specifically to the attitudes regarding change, not ideology. Whether or not one side is more liberal or conservative than the other depends on context, which is why the alignment is different in so many other countries. Some political analysts are pointing out that in today’s context, at least in America, the Democrats are actually more conservative than what we are currently calling the alt-right. No where is this more obvious than the alt-right’s attack on Democrats for supposedly defending the “deep state”. In this context, the alt-right is the liberal, even radical side. We can also look back on history and find the first Republicans referred to themselves as “Radical Republicans”.

 

 

 

 

 

08. August 2018 · Categories: Noise, Politics

So, I read this argument that Hillary Clinton didn’t actually win the popular vote in 2016 because those 3 million extra votes she got all came from California, a state that supposedly allows and even encourages illegal immigrants to vote. Now, it takes a certain tenacity to cling to such an outrageous claim. But I did what I always try to do and investigated the matter on my own. It should be easy enough to figure out, right? I’m pretty sure that the immigrants who enter illegally KNOW they’ve broken a law, so there would have to be a very compelling reason for them to risk being caught just so they can cast a vote for the white lady. Something that compelling should be easy enough to see.

So, I started with California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla. His website makes it pretty clear that a voter would need either a California driver’s license, state ID or a Social Security number… But this is only enforced at registration, not at the polling place, unless an ID is NOT checked at registration time in which case, ID will be checked at the polling place… But this is only if the registration process that deferred verification was a first-time registration.

So… for the kind of people who insist Hillary was operating a child pornography ring under cover of a pizza parlor, this kind of loosey-goosey law leaves plenty of room for conspiracy theories. All anyone needs to do is point to the glaring fact that an ID isn’t required at the polling station except for the “first-time registration without ID” exception. That’s an easy headline. Still, if you really think the process through, you can see the integrity of the system.

Voters in California are registered and then notified which polling place to report to. So there is some control through that process, much like a bank sending a verification code to your phone and of course, your name won’t be on the list if you aren’t registered and even if you didn’t verify your identity when you registered, they can still check to see if you registered previously and if you didn’t, THEN the polling station needs to check; otherwise it can be assumed that you are a citizen due to the permanent nature of that status.

But… why not just check for ID at the polling station? Just as a safeguard? Well, because it’s kind of pointless when the majority of California voters mail in absentee ballots. So just maybe the registration process IS the right place to do all the vetting.

However… there is still that chance that someone finds out the name and Social Security number of someone else and votes before the real McCoy gets there. I believe both votes under the same identity would be disqualified, but I’m not sure. I found a website https://www.usa.gov that supports a chat agent. Cool, I’ll see if they can help me.

I asked if someone can vote if they use my name and social security number. They answered with…

Alexandria: We provide information on how to report voter fraud on the following link.
https://www.usa.gov/voting-laws#item-36047
4:40:53 PM

Alexandria: I hope the information I sent you helps. Do you have any more questions?
4:40:57 PM

Well, it didn’t really because a link to report voter fraud is only useful AFTER it happens. I was looking for the measures taken to PREVENT voter fraud. So, I thought I’d be a little more direct.

Me: I’m not a citizen… I’m just checking to see if I can slip in a vote. Apparently, I can as long as no one takes the time to report voter fraud.
4:42:02 PM

Alexandria: You cannot
4:43:00 PM

Alexandria: You can only be registered as a citizen
4:43:14 PM

Ugh… yes, I KNOW that… I’m not looking for the rules, I’m looking for the safeguards. So, sticking with the direct strategy…

Me: Again… what’s to stop me?
4:43:42 PM

Alexandria: We take all threats seriously. information about this chat session will be turned over to law enforcement authorities for further investigation.
4:43:48 PM

The agent has ended the chat

I didn’t get a chance to say anything more. I was literally cut off and left wondering if my name is now being passed around through law enforcement or worse. Maybe the direct strategy wasn’t such a bright idea, lol… I any case, I wasn’t able to find any safeguard against an illegal immigrant hijacking a citizen’s vote, but again, that would require the citizen that took the time to register to not be bothered with voting AND an illegal immigrant to have access to that citizen’s information AND risk being caught while committing fraud. Given these circumstances, 3 millions votes seems like a lot.

Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S.Constitution has proved to be a law, contrary to the actions of the most recent Republican presidents.

For instance, George W Bush suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus as applied to suspected terrorists picked up in various locations throughout the world. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:
2: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

So to remain “constitutional” the Bush Administration would have had to qualify the terrorist suspects as threats to public safety, which may have been an easy argument to make on the momentum of their “terrorists versus the world” narrative, but there was no clear recognition of any invasion or rebellion, which the Constitution makes very clear, is the context that matters.

But whether a president is constitutional or not seems to matter less to the Republican side of the increasing divide between Americans.

Today, we have another example as Trump continues to profit from his hotels, even encouraging foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotel in Washington DC. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:

8: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

So for Trump to remain “constitutional”, Congress will need to provide consent for Trump to profit from the foreign dignitaries that stay in his hotel. Until this happens, Trump will be exposed to the charge of violating the Constitution and indeed it appears the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia are doing just that.

The Trump Administration has appealed to the courts with the assertion that the profits come from an exchange of services provided and therefore cannot be counted as a “present”, “Emolument”, “office” or “title”. But while the profits are clearly not a present, or an office or a title, the question remains as to whether they qualify as an emolument.

The Trump Administration has approached the courts with the assertion that “emolument” means “gift”. Of course that would suggest redundancy in the language of the Constitution since another word for “gift” is “present” which is already included in the clause. But let’s break out the dictionary…

An emolument is defined by Webster-Merriam as:

1. the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites
2. archaic: advantage

The first definition is clearly not the equivalent of “gift” but rather a description of “returns”… which is another word for “profit”.

The second definition is as broad as they come… “advantage”. It can certainly be said that Trump gains economic advantage when foreign dignitaries choose to stay at his hotel… unless the hotel room and all it’s services are provided to such dignitaries free of charge and even then the question would remain, would Trump’s business gain advantages in the form of historic significance and/or reputation? Fortunately, we don’t have to split that hair because the foreign dignitaries did NOT get free service, the foreign states that sent their diplomats paid Trump’s business for services.

And just in case anyone gets pedantic about Merriam-Webster’s “archaic” qualifier, it must be understood that Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution WAS written over two centuries ago.

Indeed, In his opinion, Judge Peter Messitte of the US District Court of Maryland sided with Maryland and Washington, DC’s definition of emolument as an “advantage.”

We know by now that the Trump administration isn’t one to accept the opinions of others, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they appeal to a higher court but it would be a shock to Americans if the highest courts capitulate to what I’m just going to call a ridiculous notion that an emolument can only be defined as a gift.

One more thing to point out about this particular clause is the emphasis on breadth of meaning… If you look at the language, you will notice the repeated use of the word “ANY” and the phrase “ANY kind WHATEVER”. This is not the language of narrow specifics; this is the emphatic language of inclusion… “No advantages of ANY KIND!!!!”

This is further enforced by the very purpose of the clause… to prevent Presidents from being tempted with foreign provided motives which can arrive in many forms, hence the use of a broadly defined word like emolument.

Violating the Constitution worked out OK for Bush because no one stepped up to actually prosecute him; probably because doing so would have been be a political risk given how little the American people know about obscure legal terms cloaked in Latin and how consumed they were about the “threat of terrorism”.

In contrast, I don’t see how Trump’s violation can possibly be construed as a matter of public safety or anything other than a personal gain. Trump may have to rely on the cult-like obsessions of the rabid-right to come out of this one. As long as he continues to attack liberals he can score points with liberal-haters and so long as these liberal-haters come close to 25% of the American people, there is a gaming chance that Trump will stay on top… Maybe with a little help from the Russians.

25. July 2018 · Categories: Analysis, Politics



 

Back in 2013 I posted a short opinion on the IRS scandal that was making headlines at the time, basically pointing out how ridiculous it is to call it a scandal at all. My basic argument then was that if political groups were trying to cheat on their taxes by applying for shelters that the law specifically states are not for political groups then the IRS is just doing it’s job.

I was amazed at the fact that while everyone involved admitted this was happening, conservatives nevertheless tried to create the narrative that they were being unfairly victimized. The basis for this rhetoric was that more conservative groups were being cited than liberal groups, which sounds a lot like the kid who was caught stealing a bike coming up with the excuse that other kids do it too so why is HE being victimized and not them? It was fucking stupid and it didn’t stop there.

House Republicans actually wanted to press charges for unfair treatment. Nice precedence… while we’re at it, let’s give convicted felons the right to sue their prosecutors for catching them and not the others criminals that got away. And if that wasn’t enough, the rabid-right was already pushing for Obama’s impeachment, saying that he must have known about the “scandal”.

Anyway, since I posted that opinion several investigations into the IRS came up empty-handed. James Comey, who led the FBI investigation told Fox News in 2016 that no evidence so far warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the controversy, as it had not found any evidence of “enemy hunting. On October 23, 2015, the Justice Department declared that no criminal charges would be filed. This was later enforced by an exhaustive report from the Treasury Department in September 2017 that shows from 2004 to 2013 the IRS was scrutinizing groups on all sides of the political spectrum. It turns out that more conservative groups were being caught simply because more conservative groups were cheating. Go figure.

At the time, I thought this was finally put to bed, at least legally. I knew that socially, entrenched conservatives would continue to prop the illusion; something I’ve come to learn doesn’t depend on facts as much as it does manufactured outrage.

But then in October of 2017, the Trump Administration, in a show of unbelievable partisanship, actually agreed to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 400 of those cheating conservative groups who claimed to be discriminated against for an undisclosed amount described by plaintiffs’ counsel as “very substantial”. That’s our tax money by the way, being awarded to tax-cheaters. Trump also settled a second lawsuit brought by 41 additional tax-cheating conservative groups with an apology and an admission that subjecting them to “heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays” was wrongful. I noticed there are no lawsuits from liberal groups.

Seriously, I can’t even imagine a more obvious capitulation to crime. First break the law, then sue the government for catching you, then get awarded by a corrupt president. Welcome to right-wing politics, I guess.