Another Week Off

 Posted by at 6:39 am  Politics
Jan 202018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage. These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that. Even though there are many more which I can’t include. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

But I’ll have to give them another week off. I have been having such problems with browsers this week I have run out of time just trying to keep up routine. I think I have one now that will work, but it will require more setup time than I have to give today.

I don’t want to leave my friends here high and dry altogether though. I want to address the imminent State of the Union word salad.

Many Congressional Dems are already planning to boycott this non-event. Here are short statement from just two, made available by CREDO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREDO is suggesting that all Democrats in Congress should boycott the SotU, and I won’t fight with anyone who agrees and chooses to encourage their own representation to boycott. But there is one Congresswoman who, it seems to me, has come up with the perfect alternative to a boycott.

Rep. Dingell invites wife of deported Michigan dad as her State of the Union guest

When Donald Trump looks out over the audience of his State of the Union address at the end of this month, he’ll see the face of Cindy Garcia, an American whose life and family has been torn apart due to his cruel mass deportation policies:

Rep. Debbie Dingell has invited the wife of Jorge Garcia, 39-year-old father deported to Mexico after living in US for 30 years, as her guest for State of the Union.

 

If you’re going to go, that’s how you should do it, all right.

That’s almost all I have, but as probably everyone knows, Colorado will elect a new Governor this year, and I am trying to learn about all the Democratic candidates, one of whom is Jared Polis. He copied his whole mailing list on an open letter to his daughter, which I will quote without comment on this day of the Second National Women’s March, since it’s self-explanatory:

Cora,

It’s already been one year — and almost a third of your life so far! — since we participated in the big Women’s March in Washington D.C. I’m excited to have the opportunity to march with you again this year in Denver!

I know at the age of three, you’re only just beginning to sense the importance of the fellowship we shared with millions of civic activists around the country last year, and that we will share again tomorrow. And while I’m sad that the first President you will know is not only an unacceptable role model but in many ways a representative of the past that we thought we’d left behind, I am heartened by how our community is responding and resisting.

I hope that as you grow up, you look back on these marches the same way I look back on the equal rights and anti-war rallies I attended with your grandparents when I was a kid. I hope tomorrow’s march helps open the door for you to a lifetime of joining with others to fight for a better, kinder, more equal world.

For all the great things about the world you were born into, there is still a lot of work to do. We still live in a state where a woman earns 81 cents to a man’s dollar. We still live in a nation where a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is under attack. We still live in a place where sexual harassment and assault happen, and people blame the victim.
I entered public office because I believe in the power of public policy, changing the laws to reflect our values and create a better future. But policy is not the only thing that matters. Many of the problems we face today will not be solved through legislation or by politicians. They’ll be solved by people from all walks of life coming together to break stereotypes, break cultural barriers, and break glass ceilings.

That’s why we marched last year. That’s why we’re planning on marching tomorrow.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty of this moment in our history, there are reasons for hope all around you. From Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks to Dolores Huerta, to Colorado’s own Florence Sabin, we’re inspired by the strong women before you that have paved the path toward equality and justice. I’m proud you can look to your own family including your “Gramma” Susan Polis Schutz, who shattered the societal norms of her time to become a successful business woman and bestselling poet, even if she does feed you ice cream when she’s not supposed to.

This is just the start for you. I look forward to you living your life and building the future you desire. Hopefully the glass ceilings will be shattered by the time you get there. But if not bring a hammer.

Love,

Dad

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE

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Everyday Erinyes #108

 Posted by at 9:11 am  Politics
Jan 132018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

I wrote last week about impersonation trolls and how “well” they are doing – for Nazis.  But it turns out that impersonation trolls are not JUST for Nazis.  Corporations are doing them too.

I know, I know, the line between corporations and Nazis is a pretty thin one, especially what with Citizens United and all.  But it seems to me that the goal of Nazis is to steal freedom, and lives, and livelihood from certain individuals, and when this involves stealing money, that’s just a fringe benefit.  Whereas with corporations, it’s just the opposite – the goal is to steal money (they are not so particular as to from whom), and any loss of life, or livelihood, or freedom is just a fringe benefit.

So we have a regime which wants generally to limit or eliminate regulations – you know, regulations, the things that keep us safe and keep our playing ground kinda sorta halfway level.  And, we have a bunch of wealthy corporations that just want to get wealthier, and those darned regulations are expensive to comply with.  Stir into the mix a sprinkling of people who know how to hack, and what do you get?  You get –

Hundreds of thousands of comments, purportedly made by Americans, have come in over the electronic transom to at least five different federal agencies calling for an end to Obama-era consumer protections and other regulations that impede profits, a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal found. Except, the people who supposedly sent these comments never did.

Further,

“The Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission,” it continued. “The Journal’s findings were cited by calls from Congress to delay the repeal of the FCC’s net-neutrality rule.”

Well, we know what happened to that.

Posting a fraudulent comment on a Federal website is a felony, and the departments who have been defrauded will remove such comments when notified.  But most agencies make it a bit difficult to check the authenticity of comments independently.  Only a few, for instance, publish the email address with the comment.  And I find that reasonable.  When I post a comment, or sign a petition or a letter sponsored by an organization, I don’t mind the agency having my email address, nor do I have a problem with the organization having my email address (that’s probably how I found out about the petition.)  But I really don’t want my email posted by my name on the agency website – for exactly this reason.

I would, however, want my email address provided to any government attorney who is investigating comment fraud – and that’s just what is NOT happening.

The day before the FCC vote in late November, the Verge reported, “A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.”

At that time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, had been stonewalled by the FCC for six months in his office’s efforts to investigate the falsified public comments. (Verge first reported the fake comments in May 2017.)

I would certainly have trusted Eric Schneiderman with my email address (which, I suspect, is exactly why Ajit Pai wouldn’t.)   And we did hear a little bit about this, at the last minute, before the FCC threw us to the wolves – but it all happened pretty fast.  And it was just the tip of the iceberg anyway, as you see from the agencies we KNOW were targeted..

Furthermore, the impersonating software was able to insert subtle differences in the messages so that they would not be dismissed as identical.  It was even able to insert some phony comments on the side opposite the side that was being pushed!  Not so many as to distract from its main point, though.  Just enough to make unsuspecting agencies think there was an actual dialogue and real interest – on issues where there wasn’t.  Probably surprising no one, those whose identities were used without their permission were just as furious if they agreed with the comment as they were if they didn’t.

If you have a subscription to the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, you can read the full report – it’s linked from AlterNet.  (I don’t.)

But there’s one thing missing from it:

[T]hey didn’t explore the most obvious question: who is behind these moves? While there is likely to be more than one answer and one culprit, only one category of special interest has the means and motives to thwart government regulators: that’s the targeted industries, professional trade association and lobbyists and the biggest corporate players.

Instead the Journal’s investigative reports leave readers with small-scale indignation and not the bigger pattern that private sector interests have found a new way to steal and use personal data for their bottom-line battles with government.

Yes, other things happened last week.  But many of them we know about, thanks to TC and Sam and Stephen and Rachel and all the others.  And I think this is important enough to stand alone and receive the attention of all three Furies (and all their nameless sisters – you never know – there could be thousands – even millions.)

AlectoMegaeraTisiphone – it’s a deceptively simple problem.  Corporations have plenty of money to produce huge fakes (which make them more money).  Regulators do not have the resources (money, but also adequate staffing, adequate training, adequate time) to tear them down.  And, even if they did, the corporations would just have the Republicans steamroll over them.  So  it all comes down to getting them out.

We are trying our best to have candidates everywhere – and to get out the vote everywhere – and to deliver our true message well enough to get more people involved everywhere.  But – help us.  Please.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #107

 Posted by at 10:47 am  Politics
Jan 062018
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

Some truly terrible things have happened or become public this week, but tough to keep resisting when a story is so awful it sends you to pray at the porcelain altar.  So I won’t go into any detail about the woman in Russia who died this week of internal injuries after surviving for two years in a coma induced by the violent rape.  That may be the kind of incident that makes us feel life would be a lot better if there were more women running things  But let’s not get carried away:  the wrong women in power are just as bad as men, often worse.

For instance, let’s hope God tells Michele Bachman in no uncertain terms NOT to run for the Republican nomination for Senate.  But she is far from the only nut-job-ette out there, I’m sorry to say.  Take Arkansas (please, with apologies to Lenny Bruce).

In Arkansas, a – person – named Jan Morgan has been drumming up support from the right wing – the far right wing – looking toward the May Republican primary for Governor.  Here is how she, according to her website, think the state should keep people safe:

Crime has continued to rise in parts of the state. We must ensure we have the resources to protect the public.  This means prioritizing funding for our prisons, courts, and law enforcement over welfare programs and non-essential functions of government. We cannot fail on keeping our people safe. That is one of the primary purposes of state government.

She also supports gun rights and cutting taxes, and opposes Sharia law.  You can see that in the video at Mother Jones (click through) if you can stand to watch.  One of her objections to the current Republican Governor, Asa Hutchinson, is that he failed to sign a bill which would have outlawed Sharia Law in Arkansas’s court system.  Part of me wishes that he had signed it – if only we had the resources to challenge all the things that Fox Evangelicals want the law to say which are just like Sharia.  But we don’t.  We have bigger things to resist.

Alecto, would it be asking too much of you to monitor all the women candidates for public office and try to weed out the nut jobs?  Not that the male candidate bench isn’t also hip deep in nut jobs, but that really is too big to ask you.

And then there’s Twitter.  It has become a major harassment tool.  Among others, white nationalists and Nazi trolls love to play there.  Twitter has suspended many white nationalists, and decertified leaders of the “alt right,” but there is more work to do.

Yair Rosenberg was, according to the Anti Defamation League, the second most harassed Jesish journalist on Twitter during the 2016 election cycle.  That cycle is over, but the harassment of Rosenberg is not.  He decided to help do something about it.

And so last November, in the wake of Trump’s victory, I decided to turn the tables on them. My target? Impersonator trolls.

You probably haven’t heard of these trolls, but that is precisely why they are so pernicious. These bigots are not content to harass Jews and other minorities on Twitter; they seek to assume their identities and then defame them.

How does an impersonator troll work?  Well, he (or she) creates a new account that like the person they target, get and use the person’s own avatar, and then get into Twitter conversations and say things which – let’s just say the victim would never say – to make the victim look bad.

What would you think if suddenly TomCat started talking like Roy Moore, just to take a far out example?  PRetty scary?  Well, Rosenberg got assistance to create a bot to smoke them out.

Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion. Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims.

The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing.”

So guess who got banned?

You got it.  The bot.  The Nazis won.  Why???

This month, Twitter suspended the bot again, and this time refused to revive it. The company’s justifications were both entirely accurate and utterly absurd. “A large number of people have blocked you in response to high volumes of untargeted, unsolicited, or duplicative content or engagements from your account,” we were informed. This was true; Impostor Buster had been blocked by many neo-Nazis. “A large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.” Yes, by neo-Nazis. “You send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions.” Yes, to neo-Nazis.

The real threat, apparently, was not these trolls — who today continue to roam the platform unchallenged — but our effort to combat them.

Megaera, maybe you would look into this?

Finally, it is, I fear, time for more news on the 2020 Census and what the current regime is doing to destroy it.

Civil rights advocates have raised alarms because the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Census to include a question about citizenship in its 2020 national survey. But the way the Trump administration has framed this request also shows it’s poised to make proof of citizenship the latest voter suppression tool.

As many civil rights groups have noted, asking immigrant families to disclose undocumented relatives will push people to evade Census takers or simply lie, causing an undercount and diverting federal funds away from locales with immigrant populations.

I feel pretty confident in saying there has NEVER been a question about citizenship on the Census “short form.”  One of the rights groups contesting this only went back to 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was enacted, to prove there has not been one since then – but I can’t imagine there having been one at ANY time before that.

Alabama already requires citizens to produce paper proof of citizenship when they register to vote in state elections, as do a handful of others.  But Federal voter registration is set up so that “every person who registers must declare they are a citizen and that their signature is a sworn legal oath.”

Republicans are interested in proof of citizenship to vote because they have noticed who is least likely to have it – minorities, the poor, the elderly, married women who changed their name upon marriage.  As many as a third of voting-age women may not have proof of citizenship that reflects their current name.

Speaking as a married woman who uses her married name, I can prove my citizenship, I think.  I cannot do it with a single document.  I have a contemporary copy of my birth certificate (a copy from 1945).  I think I have my first Social Security card in my maiden name – but, if I don’t, it’s on my DD214 with my maiden name.  I have my original marriage certificate, and I have my current Social Security card, showing the same number that was attached to me in my maiden name.  I have no idea whether THIS Department of Justice would accept that collection of documents.  I had a passport once, but I fear it’s been lost – and, in any case, it was in my maiden name too.

The Catch-22 here is that I believe if we VOTE in a new Congress we can win this.  But we need to be able to vote.  It might not hurt for all of us to check our files and be sure we have whatever documents we need in order to satisfy Big Brother.  Now.  Additionally, all our GOTV efforts need to address this issue in the communities they are working in.

Tisiphone, please educate and assist all our campaign staff and all our volunteers to be aware how important this is … including that we may need additional campaign funds to help people get their documents.  It seems to me like a poor use of campaign funds – but it might well turn out to be an extremely good investment.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #106

 Posted by at 3:01 pm  Politics
Dec 292017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

I know we have a number of people who follow Politics Plus who have backgrounds in health care.  I’m not sure how many are still active, or how many of those work with surgical patients or chemotherapy patients or any other specialty that works with intravenous fluid delivery.  So this may or may not be news to you.  It was news to me.  Let me start with a quote from a Tweet:

My wife’s nurse had to stand for 30 mins & administer a drug slowly through a syringe because there are almost no IV bags in the continental U.S. anymore. See, they were all manufactured in a Puerto Rican factory which still isn’t fixed. Meanwhile that stupid swollen prick golfs  11:09 AM – Dec 28, 2017

The firm, owned by Baxter, also manufactures surgical equipment and other medical supplies.  The FDA understands the problem, but under this regime has very limited power indeed.  Here, from an FDA press release of 11/17:

Most significantly to date, hospitals across the country are reporting shortages of IV fluids, particularly sodium chloride 0.9% injection bags – a type of saline bag. Saline IV fluids, which are used to inject drugs intravenously in hospital and outpatient settings, have been intermittently in shortage dating back to 2014. However, despite our best efforts, the situation in Puerto Rico has greatly exacerbated this supply issue. The FDA understands the concerns and impact of the ongoing shortages of IV solutions. These products have been on the list of approximately 90 medical products (which includes biologics, devices and drugs) that the FDA has been monitoring since the storm hit, and the FDA is actively working to address the shortage. Among the steps the FDA is taking, in conjunction with manufacturers of these products:
•temporarily allowing the importation of IV saline products from facilities outside of the U.S.;
•encouraging the expansion of production at existing facilities to meet shortfalls; and
•expediting our review of new product applications that will help address this shortage.

“[T]emporarily allowing the importation of IV saline products” and “expediting the review of new roduct applications” both make me nervious with regard to the products to be used meeting existing Federal standards.  I am not a huge fan of the FDA in many ways, but “meeting existing Federal standards” still has to be more desirable than “falling below existing Federal standards.”  If you click through to the article and read the comments, you will learn some things about the uses of IVs which you may not have known unless you actually work with them.  This is truly scary.

Alecto, once again I am giving you an assignment that has so many things slipping through the cracks that you may feel scattered.  But I believe you can handle it.

And another problem involving the Orange Regime is rearing its ugly head.  I will just let John Soltz, an Iraqi War veteran and the founder of VoteVets, explain it clerly and concisely:

Every summer, hundreds of veterans head to Bristol Bay, Alaska to earn a living as commercial fishermen.

It’s not easy work and it separates them from their families — again — but in this tough economy it pays well and takes care of things back home.

A few years ago, we ran a massive campaign mobilizing support for these veterans when a Canadian Company attempted to build a mine to extract gold beneath the fishery.

And we won. The Environmental Protection Agency found that the damaged caused by Pebble Mine would be “irreversible” and results in the “complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering and fragmentation of streams, wetlands and other aquatic resources.”

Well, now there’s a new man at the head of the EPA, and after Scott Pruitt met with the head of the Pebble Mine project, he ordered the regulations be scrapped and that the mining company could begin acquiring permits.

VoteVets has started a petition on this, and I hope it will be widely signed and shared.  But I’m confident other action will be needed as well.  Megaera, can you be sure to keep us up to speed on what else we can do?

Finally, I know I have written before about the practice by municipalities of giving one-way bus tickets to the homeless.  If I recall correctly, the last time was about a homeless person in Nevada who was given a ticket to Los Angeles, which was no more able to support the person’s mental health issues than Nevada was, and in some ways less.  But, in fact, many places have been doing this, some for as long as thirty years.

Now, the Guardian has published a new report just on this practice, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now has published an interview with the editor responsible for this report.  Some interesting trends have emerged … and some of these were probably predictable.

Fact:  Most people who are homeless in any given city are actually from that city.  The myth of homeless people being drawn to certain cities by weather or services is just that – a myth.

Fact:  The cities which have and administer these programs have pretty much zero idea of whether their own programs are actually working.  “[F]or instance, for a 5-year period, between 2010 and 2015, when the city offered thousands of people bus tickets and thousands of people left the city, the city could only provide us records showing that it had been able to follow up with only three of those people to find out if their situation at the other end had improved.”

Fact:  Many of the tickets are given out through shelters, and acceptance of the ticket bans the recipient from ever receiving services from the shelter in the future.  And many people who accept tickets are not aware of that condition.  (Not all shelters do this, of course.  The one in Key WEst, FL, however, is notorious for it.)

I can’t help feeling that the lack of good data on this subject is because people don’t WANT to know – they just don’t want to see homeless people.  Anything that takes the homeless away from their sight is fine with them.  Tisiphone, what would you suggest?

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #105

 Posted by at 8:15 am  Politics
Dec 162017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

Heaven knows there are petty little things I could be including here, like the 11-year-old black girl who was arrested and handcuffed by police who had a warrant for a 40-year-old white woman (yes, you read that right, and I am not making it up).  Or like the woman in Walnut Creek who raised a stink in Starbucks because two other patrons were “speaking Oriental” (did you know that was a language?  I didn’t.  Ummmm… I still don’t.)  But, instead, I want to bring up good old Core Civic.

Core Civic, you may remember, is the new (in 2016) name for what used to be Corrections Corporation of America.  In other words, private prisons.  well, private prison corporations have been seeing some handwriting on the wall for a while.  The push to legalize marijuana is gaining steam, and the more states it is legal in, the more the prison populations in those states will go down.  The other big private prison provider, GEO Group, has been expanding to non-prison services such as ankle monitors, halfway houses, substance abuse treatment, and the like.

But several years ago, both competitors changed their status on paper so that both are now real estate companies – technically, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  This has allowed them

to score a massive tax break. In 2015 alone, the corporations used their REIT status and other avenues to avoid a combined $113 million in federal income taxes.

But Core Civic is taking their REIT status beyond paper and into the real world.

In September, the publicly traded corporation that owns and operates prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and halfway houses bought properties in North Carolina and Georgia that are leased to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA).

In their words, the deals are part of a plan to make “additional investment via acquisition in mission-critical government real estate asset classes outside of our traditional correctional detention residential reentry facilities.”

In other words, CoreCivic wants to be a landlord of all types of government buildings.

And

They’ve almost got Kansas convinced to let them build and maintain a new prison that they can lease to the public, despite it being the more expensive way to go(emphasis mine)

I see this as a move from completely despicable theft of public funds into plain old ordinary graft.  Some might say that is less malignant – but every public dollar that goes to them is one less to be spent on actual governing, and actually providing what our communities really need.  One more dollar that goes into killing people instead of keeping people alive.

Alecto, it would seem to me to make sense to start in Kansas, if indeed it can be done cheaper without them.  A state reduced to selling sex toys to supplement the budget doesn’t need to be throwing money around.  On the other hand, a state that dumb may never listen.  You know your job and do it well, I won’t try to micromanage.

The New Mexico Political Report frequently concerns itself with matters of New Mexico polirics.  But, when it takes on national issues, it takes them on well.  A case in point is an article this week regarding mandatory federal sentencing, derived from work by ProPublica.

During Ronald Reagan’s first term (I’ll bet you all see red lights already),

Congress identified what it said was a grave threat to the American promise of equal justice for all: Federal judges were giving wildly different punishments to defendants who had committed the same crimes.

In 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission, with bipartisan support we could only dream of today.  The commission set firm sentencing rules (called “guidelines”) for every Federal offense.

In 1989, the case Mistretta v U.S. came before the Supreme Court.  Mistretta and the government both petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari before judgment, and the Court took the case.  The issue was: Was Congress’s creation of a United States Sentencing Commission (with the power to establish binding sentencing “guidelines”) constitutional?

This was the Rehnquist court.  Thurgood Marshall was still alive,  Sandra Day O’Connor was on this Court.  Justice (Harry) Blackmun gave the opinion for the majority.

The Court held that, as society increases in complexity, Congress must delegate authority “under broad general directives.” The broad delegation of power to the Commission was undoubtedly “sufficiently specific and detailed to meet constitutional requirements.”

The only dissenter was Antonin Scalia.

If Scalia was right, as new evidence suggests he MAY have been, it will of course have been for the wrong reasons.

Mistretta was a momentous decision, but it’s now clear the high court relied on evidence that was flimsy and even flat-out wrong.

The Court used one study based on two reports from the early seventies.  The two reports appear to have been riddled with errors.  “Average” sentences cited for a district in which there had only been one case of the kind supposedly being “averaged.”  Other averages computed with mathematical errors.

The existence of the commission led to sentencing increases caused by fewer defendants being granted probaton.  And the creation of sentencing “enhancements” (think the opposite of “mitigation”) also increased sentences.

In the ten years since 1984, when the Commission was created, and 1995, the Federal prison population went from just over 40,000 to over 100,000 – an increase of 150%.

It also hasn’t helped that once Congress had created the Commission, and the Court had decided it was Constitutional, Congress failed to leave it alone to do its job.  It was Congress which made the punishments for crack cocaine convictions a hundred times more severe than those for powder cocaine.  The Commission more than once tried without success to get Congress to back off.

Megaera and Tisiphone, I fear we have gotten ourselves into an imposssible position.  We desperately need sentencing reform – we need it at all levels of our multiple judicial systems.  But I also admit the thought of giving any more power to judges who are now being appointed scares the bejeebus out of me.  I won’t even try to tell you what to do.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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Everyday Erinyes #104

 Posted by at 6:21 pm  Politics
Dec 082017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can’t include.  As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”

So, we’ve talked before here about deported veterans (“deported veterans” – doesn’t that just physically hurt to read or say?)  But we haven’t talked about, because I didn’t realize it could happen until I received an email this week, deporting people who are essentially active duty military.

Among those who watched the smoke rise from the World Trade Center into a perfect blue sky on 9/11[/2001] were an Army Reserve officer on the cliffs at West Point and a 7-year-old undocumented immigrant on the street in Queens.

The officer, Major Margaret Stock, wondered if the attacks might have been prevented if only the military had enough personnel fluent in foreign lamguages, such as those spoken by the plotters.  So she started designing and creating the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI).  It would offer expedited citizenship to immigrants speaking certain critical languages.  It would also make the same offer to physicians, nurses, and dentists (of which the military has been pitifully short for a long, long time.)  The point was to make sure, in Major Stock’s words, “we have enough people to protect the country.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which began in June 2012, opened the pool for MAVNI to these immigrants, better known as “DREAMers.”  When his mother heard about the program on TV, it was 2016, and the seven-year-old boy from Queens was now 21.  He was immediately interested.  His native language (Punjabi) qualified him, and he passed the language test fluently.  He signed the contract, and he took the oath.

“I, Harminder Saini, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Saini was now a soldier.  The only thing missing was his background check.

But the Army had tripled the number of background checks for MAVNI without hiring enough checkers to actually do them.

Saini is now 23 – still prepared to ship out at a moment’s notice.  He’s been reading from a list that James Mattis gave to a TV interviewer, and going to the gym a lot to stay fit.

But in September, Saini and hundreds of other waiting MAVNI DREAMers learned

…that the president to whom they were all sworn to obey had revoked DACA. The termination was to take effect in six months, at which time the MAVNI DREAMers who were not yet in basic training and on the way to naturalization would be in jeopardy of being deported from the country they had sworn to protect.

Back in September, there was some talk about a bipartisan effort led by Lindsay Graham and Dick Durbin to retore the DREAM program by act of Congress.  But so many things seem to have gotten in the way since them … has anyone heard anything lately?

Certainly there’s at least one Congressman, I am thinking particularly of a certain dentist from Arizona (who incidentally never served himself) who will gladly torpedo any such effort if he can.

Congress also has characters such Rep. Paul Gosar, a former “Arizona Dentist of the Year” who has proposed legislation barring what he calls “DACA aliens” from serving in the military. Gosar himself has never served, though the armed services have long suffered a shortage of dentists, as MANVI seeks to address.

“I agree with @POTUS that it’s time to get rid of #DACA!” Gosar tweeted on September 5, making sure to append a DDS to his name.

Tell you what, Dear Furies, how about you, Alecto, go after Durbin and Graham and – well, the old saying it put a flea in their ears, but I am thinking more in terms of putting a bee where the sun doesn’t shine, to really get them moving on this.  Megaera and Tisiphone, you get hold of Gosar, and find out who the rest are, both in the House and in the Senate, who feel this way (we all know these people are big on feeling, since they don’t think at all), and – apply some compulsory re-education.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 HERE.

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