Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Mississippi Constitutional Coup of 1890 - Disenfranchising the Black Majority

Reminiscing about Morton Stavis - a mentor of mine - I came across his brilliant history of the virtually complete disenfranchisement of Black voters in Mississippi via the 1890 Constitutional coup.Black people were a majority of the population in the state - and of the voters.  They were soon reduced to 5% by means such as the poll tax and locally administered tests of comprehension of the U.S. Constitution!  

In WILLIAMS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, 170 U.S. 213 (1898) the United States Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Henry Williams.  He challenged the fairness of his trial because black people had been excluded from the voting rolls of Mississippi by the Constitution of 1890 which was not put to a vote because at the time Black voters were a substantial majority.  The next election began promptly with 92% of Black voters disenfranchised. The U.S. Supreme Court saw no problem because the Constitution was non-racial on its face.  Everyone had to pay a poll tax, everyone had to "be able to read any section of the constitution, or he shall be able to understand the same" and everyone had to be free of  the taint of a criminal conviction.

The defendant Williams argued:
Section 244 of the constitution requires that the applicant for registration, after January, 1892, shall be able to read any section of the constitution, or he shall be able to understand the same (being any section of the organic law), or give a reasonable interpretation thereof. Now, we submit that these provisions vest in the administrative officers the full power, under section 242, to ask all sorts of vain, impertinent questions; and it is with that officer to say whether the questions relate to the applicant's right to vote. This officer can reject whomsoever he chooses, and register whomsoever he chooses, for he is vested by the constitution with that power. Under section 244 it is left with the administrative officer to determine whether the applicant reads, understands, or interprets the section of the constitution designated. The officer is the sole judge of the examination of the applicant, and, even though the applicant be qualified, it is left with the officer to so determine; and the said officer can refuse him registration.'
 The U.S.Supreme Court was unperturbed.  They saw no evidence that those who selected jurors discriminated on the basis of race.  And the  bar on voters who had been convicted of crime also left them unperturbed.  The Court relied on and quotes at length the Mississippi Supreme Court  in Ratliff v. Beale, 74 Miss. 247, 20 So. 865, 867-68 (1896)
'By reason of its previous condition of servitude and dependencies, this [Negro] race had acquired or accentuated certain peculiarities of habit, of temperament, and of character, which clearly distinguished it as a race from the whites; a patient, docile people, but careless, landless, migratory within narrow limits, without forethought, and its criminal members given to furtive offenses, rather than the robust crimes of the whites. Restrained by the federal constitution from discriminating against the negro race, the convention discriminates against its characteristics, and the offenses to which its criminal members are prone.' 
The U.S. Supreme Court explains:
But nothing tangible can be deduced from this. If weakness were to be taken advantage of, it was to be done 'within the field of permissible action under the limitations imposed by the federal constitution,' and the means of it were the alleged characteristics of the negro race, not the administration of the law by officers of the state. Besides, the operation of the [Mississippi] constitution and laws is not limited by their language or effects to one race. They reach weak and vicious white men as well as weak and vicious black men, and whatever is sinister in their intention, if anything, can be prevented by both races by the exertion of that duty which voluntarily pays taxes and refrains from crime.
Thus prompted to read Ratliff I found this remarkable historical analysis, a shameless tale of disenfranchisement of the majority - the Black majority in the state:
Our unhappy state had passed in rapid succession from civil war through a period of military occupancy, followed by another, in which the control of public affairs had passed to a recently enfranchised race, unfitted by educational experience for the responsibility thrust upon it. This was succeeded by a semimilitary, semicivil uprising, under which the white race, inferior in number, but superior in spirit, in governmental instinct, and in intelligence, was restored to power. 
The anomaly was then presented of a government whose distinctive characteristic was that it rested upon the will of the majority, being controlled and administered by a minority of those entitled under its organic law to exercise the electoral franchise. The habitual disregard of one law not only brings it finally into contempt, but tends to weaken respect for all other laws. The most dangerous and insidious form in which this evil can exist is that which manifests itself in the disregard of public rather than private right, for not only are the consequences more widely diffused, and less rapidly eradicated, but, because no particular right of individuals is directly involved, resistance is less prompt, and the evil progresses to dangerous proportions before its existence is noted. 
Not only was the question of the franchise a most difficult one for solution by reason of its nature, but there was added to its treatment the limitations upon state action imposed by the amendments to the federal constitution. The difficulty, as all men knew, arose from racial differences. The federal constitution prohibited the adoption of any laws under which a discrimination should be made by reason of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.It would too much extend the volume of this opinion to enter upon a review and examination in detail of all the provisions of our recent constitution in which the subject of the electoral franchise, and its cognate one of the selection of governmental agencies, is dealt with. We deal with so much only as is necessary to a determination of the question involved. He who reads the constitution of 1869 and that of 1890 will have his attention arrested by the marked difference in the number and character of the provisions upon the franchise, and the selection of the chief magistrate of the state. The constitution of 1869, in its single article on the franchise (section 2, art. 7), provided simply that
 “all male inhabitants of this state, except idiots and insane persons and Indians not taxed, citizens of the United States, or naturalized, 21 years old and upward, who have resided in this state for six months and in the county one month next preceding the day of election at which said inhabitant offers to vote, and who are duly registered according to the requirements of section 3 of this article, and who are not disqualified by reason of any crime, are declared to be duly-qualified electors.” 
The governor and other state and county officers were under this constitution selected by popular election. The corresponding article in the constitution of 1890 (section 241) is as follows:
“Every male inhabitant of the state, except idiots, insane persons, and Indians not taxed, who is a citizen of the United States, 21 years and upwards, who has resided in the state for two years and one year in the election district, or in the incorporated town or city in which he offers to vote, and who is duly registered as provided in this article, and who has never been convicted of bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy, and who has paid on or before the first day of February of the year of which he shall offer to vote, all taxes which may have been legally required of him, and which he has had an opportunity of paying according to law for the two preceding years, and who shall produce to the officers holding the election satisfactory evidence that he has paid said taxes, is declared to be a qualified elector; but every minister of the gospel in charge of an organized church shall be entitled to vote after six months' residence in the election district if otherwise qualified.”

Why Israel Cannot Ignore the World Any Longer – Forward.com

How the drop in oil prices plays out vis a vis Israel comes late in thearticle, so click through and read it. - gwc
Why Israel Cannot Ignore the World Any Longer – Forward.com
by J.J. Goldberg
"It was in April 1955, at Israel’s seventh independence day celebration, that founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion issued perhaps his most famous dictum: The Jewish state’s future, he said, depended “not on what the goyim say” — that is, the nations of the world — “but on what the Jews do.” If that was ever true — and Ben-Gurion was far too canny to believe his own rhetoric — it certainly hasn’t held up.
In today’s interconnected world there are no independent players. Nations need each other for markets, credit, landing rights, raw materials, spare parts and countless other exchanges. They’re vulnerable to each others’ germs, material shortages, migratory pressures and cyber-punks. A bad wheat crop in Russia can spark a revolution in Tunisia and topple a regime in Egypt. Heading into 2015, Israel and the Jewish communities around the world will be buffeted by forces that are beyond their control and essentially have nothing to do with them — yet will shape their destiny in unique and profound ways. The biggest of these forces is the price of oil.
 Over the past six months the price of crude oil has undergone one of its most traumatic adjustments in decades. From $114 per barrel last June, it’s fallen nearly in half to $59 per barrel in mid-December. It’s given a huge lift to the American economy, while sending the Russian ruble into a tailspin. It’s also wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy, which was already reeling from sanctions. ***The basic cause is global oversupply. *** Normally, oversupply and falling prices are a cue for OPEC to cut production. But Saudi Arabia, which dominates OPEC as the world’s largest producer, has kept the taps open and let the price keep dropping. Experts say that’ s because the Saudis are alarmed at their declining share of the American market. They’re hoping a year or so of rock-bottom prices will drive some American shale producers out of business. Besides, cutting production has backfired on them in the past, reducing market share that they never regained.
 And yet, the damage to Russia and Iran has been so dramatic that many observers around the world — including some senior politicians and respected pundits — are convinced the Saudis are colluding with Washington to drive the price down, in order to bring Russia and Iran to their knees. Both are under sanctions already, Russia because of its Ukraine mischief, Iran because of its nuclear project.
Add to that the collusion of Russia and Iran in keeping the murderous Assad regime afloat in Syria, and Washington and Riyadh have every reason to want to cripple the two rogues by jamming their oil revenues. It almost doesn’t matter that it’s not true.
 The biggest winner from the oil glut is President Obama. Between the humming U.S. economy, the Russian collapse and signs of new Iranian flexibility on the nuclear front, the president enters 2015 with more political feathers in his cap than he’s had in months, if not years."

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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Other Blue Nation (Must Read)

How a progressive Democrat suburban NY cop sees it. From Talking Points Memo.   -gwc
The Other Blue Nation (Must Read):
“Whites, Staten Islanders, and Republicans” may be a minority of New Yorkers, but that’s a good description of a large but shrinking bloc of the NYPD. (51% white as of June 2014) A police force that reflects the face of the city it protects can only be a good thing, in my opinion (see Ferguson, for example). But, like the aging white Republicans who rail against what they perceive as an interloper in the White House, some old school cops may fear the loss of their former Boys’ Club and mourn the disappearance of a department that looked like them. The siege mentality that animates the Tea Party national is alive and moving in Law Enforcement, which even under normal circumstances perceives the world as “us against them” - Police Officers, while in the Academy, are often advised that they will lose some friends, and find that their circle of friends will be more and more made up of others in the field. I came across this posting tonight, purportedly from an NYPD officer, and though I cannot vouch for its source, I have to say that every sentiment expressed rings true to me, although I don’t share them. It is worth a read. The closing of ranks when the Brotherhood is threatened is palpable.
I’ve been accused of being racist by African-American civilians just because of the color of my uniform. In one instance by an African-American ex-NYPD officer at a domestic incident. He spent 15 minutes interrupting me and claiming I was "only treating him that way" because he was black, while in reality I was treating him as I would any other person, based on his actions. I have close friends on the force, white, who are in interracial marriages, and on more than one occasion where they are accused of racism will pull out their wallet and show the accuser a picture of their wife and children. Are there cops with racist views? Of course. Do cops go out intending to kill people? No. They go out on patrol intending to come home to their families. I read recently that there are about 25 million interactions each year between the police and citizens in New York City. Statistically, bad things will happen. We can do our best to train and equip and sensitize officers to the community, but they are human, and not infallible. Nobody wants a bad actor in the ranks, it makes everyone’s job harder. We’re happy to see them go when they are found out.
Sharpton is anathema to the NYPD since the 1987 Tawana Brawley debacle and his habit of showing in front of cop’s suburban residences in protest after they were involved in shootings, even before his recent rhetoric. De Blasio’s close association with Sharpton during his campaign and subsequently sets a very bad precedent for his relations with the police. Sharpton is absolute poison to cops. A cop who was assigned to the detail at the 1991 rally where Sharpton was stabbed in assassination attempt, and had a hand in saving his life, told me it counts it as one of the mistakes of his career. That’s the feeling, and de Blasio’s association with Sharpton, while perhaps wise in the broader political sense, does him no good with the rank and file of the police department.
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NYPD Police Officer Speaks Out - WayneDupree.com

How one New York cop sees the situation: I'm the good guy - but people hate me.  For no apparent reason.  The bad guys have won. The implication is it must be...race? Snobbery? 
EXCLUSIVE: NYPD Police Officer Speaks Out - WayneDupree.com:
"When I was a kid I’d see my dad come home with his gun and shield, and I was beyond intrigued. He was not only my hero, but the city’s.  I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a cop. Just like my dad and my older brother. I didn’t know what the pay or the benefits were, I just wanted to help people.  Fast forward 20+ years and here I am. Except I’m no ones hero, actually I’m the enemy.
It wasn’t until I graduated the academy and went out on the street I realized, wow, where the fuck am I? Dead bodies, homicides, drugs, guns. At first it was fun. A cat and mouse game. I get the bad guy off the street and it saves the city.  As the years progressed and the neighborhoods I worked in got worse, slowly that bad guy I hunted transitioned. He was no longer a guy with a gun in his baggy pants, he was me. I was hated.  By every single person I encountered. No matter what I did."

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Access to Gmail Is Blocked in China After Months of Disruption - NYTimes.com

The Chinese CP is so paranoid that makes me wonder if they are as strong as they appear to be.  - GWC

Access to Gmail Is Blocked in China After Months of Disruption - NYTimes.com

BEIJING — The Chinese government appears to have blocked the ability of people in China to gain access to Google’s email service through third-party email clients, which many Chinese and foreigners had been relying on to use their Gmail accounts after an earlier blocking effort by officials, according to Internet analysts and users in China.

The blocking began last Friday and has ignited anger and frustration among many Internet users in China. Data from Google shows traffic to Gmail dropping to zero from Chinese servers.

The new step in blocking Gmail has consequences that go well beyond making it difficult for users to access personal emails. Some foreign companies use Gmail as their corporate email service, for example. Now, the companies will have to ensure that their employees have software known as VPNs, or virtual private networks, to access Gmail.
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Forgotten Gordon Parks photos of segregation era

NYTimes: ‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation http://nyti.ms/1wldd2F

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rage Against the Common Core - NYTimes.com

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has embraced high stakes testing and married it to the Common Core standards.  That was a mistake and his force it down their throats approach has created a real crisis for the movement to set consistent and high national standards.  - gwc
Rage Against the Common Core - NYTimes.com
by David L. Kirp  // U.C. Berkeley

It’s no simple task to figure out what schools ought to teach and how best to teach it — how to link talented teachers with engaged students and a challenging curriculum. Turning around the great gray battleship of American public education is even harder. It requires creating new course materials, devising and field-testing new exams and, because these tests are designed to be taken online, closing the digital divide. It means retraining teachers, reorienting classrooms and explaining to anxious parents why these changes are worthwhile.

Had the public schools been given breathing room, with a moratorium on high-stakes testing that prominent educators urged, resistance to the Common Core would most likely have been less fierce. But in states where the opposition is passionate and powerful, it will take a herculean effort to get the standards back on track.
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Should cops who turned backs on Mayor DeBlasio be disciplined?

I think that the answer is Yes.  For an Officer in uniform to turn his back on Mayor DeBlasio as he officiated at a funeral is a violation of discipline and protocol.  The act detracts from the official public ceremony honoring the memory and service of P.O. Rafael Ramos - a man murdered in the line of duty. - gwc

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy - NYTimes.com

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy - NYTimes.com - The Editorial Board

by George Conk
The most frequently appearing Supreme Court advocates come from a narrow circle.  From the usual elite law schools come former law clerks - outstanding students recommended by prestigious professors and selected by Justices who graduated from Yale and Harvard.  They join law firms that value that credential which is highly salable to their clients who angle to get their cases heard by the high court.
But is it really a case of buying the "best lawyers" as the Times editorializes?  Or is the key to their success that these advocates for corporate clients are preaching to the choir?

Arthur Kinoy
William Kunstler
My mentors - the founders of the Center for Constitutional rights Arthur Kinoy, William Kunstler, and Morton Stavis - were not the best lawyers money could buy.  They mostly worked without fee. To reverse a century of disenfranchising Black voters.  For Congressman Adam Clayton Powell - the Harlem legislator barred from taking his seat in the House until victory in Powell v. McCormack (1968). For  Pun Plamondon - a fringe ultra-leader whose case was the vehicle for the landmark wiretap case U.S. v. U.S. District Court (1972).  For SCEF the left-wing group whose prosecution led to Dombrowski v. Pfister (1974) - the landmark First Amendment decision allowing courts to enjoin bad faith criminal prosecutions of civil rights workers.
Morton Stavis
Like today's Supreme Court advocates they were preaching to the choir.  But their choir was dedicated to vindicating the rights of Black people and those who advocated on their behalf. It is today called the Warren Court.  Do we lack today lawyers who have the spirit of Kunstler, Kinoy and Stavis?  Or do we lack a Supreme Court majority that wants to hear them?

The Best Lawyers Money Can Buy - NYTimes.com
by the Editorial Board

The United States Supreme Court decides cases involving the nation’s most pressing legal issues, affecting the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Americans — and yet so much about its functioning is shrouded in mystique and exclusivity. The court’s front doorsare locked and its vast “public” plaza is off-limits to protesters. Alone among the branches of government, it refuses to televise its proceedings, even though its gallery can seat only 250 members of the public.

As a new report by Reuters shows, this exclusivity extends even to the types of cases the court agrees to hear.

The justices accept about 75 of the 10,000 petitions they get each year. And of that already minuscule fraction, a stunning proportion is argued by an extremely small and well-connected group of lawyers. All of these lawyers — among the top litigators in the country — have argued often before the court and almost all of them work mainly for corporate clients. Many have clerked for the justices, know them personally and socialize with them.

Those are the central findings of The Echo Chamber, a comprehensive analysis of about 10,300 petitions filed by private attorneys between 2004 and 2012. Reuters found that the lawyer’s name on the brief was among the strongest predictors of whether the justices would take a case.

While the 66 lawyers Reuters identified represented less than one half of 1 percent of all lawyers who petitioned the court during that period, they were involved in 43 percent of the cases the justices heard.

That elite cohort is as homogeneous as it is powerful: 63 of the 66 lawyers were white, 58 were men, and 51 worked for firms with primarily corporate clients.

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BP appeals rejection of removing spill claims leader - Houston Chronicle

Patrick Juneau
Administrator of the Court-supervised
BP oil spill fund
Is a federal court-appointed Administrator subject to the Code of Conduct of United State Judges? the judicial disqualification statute 28 U.S.C.455?  the RPC's? And, in any event, was BP misled by Patrick Juneau?

BP appeals rejection of removing spill claims leader - Houston Chronicle
by Janet McConnaughey//AP December 24, 2014

 "NEW ORLEANS - BP is asking the federal appeals court in New Orleans to kick out the administrator of damage settlement claims from its 2010 oil spill. A 75-page brief submitted this week to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals contends, among other things, that Patrick Juneau had secretly drafted court papers filed against BP before he was appointed claims administrator.
BP asks the court to overturn U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's November decision rejecting the oil giant's arguments. "BP presented the District Court with extensive, recently uncovered evidence that Mr. Juneau actively advocated against BP's interests and litigated against BP in this very case as part of his work for the state of Louisiana in 2010 and 2011," BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement released Wednesday. "That work is a clear and serious conflict of interest - one that Mr. Juneau failed to disclose properly and that disqualifies him from serving as Claims Administrator."
Barbier's ruling said that before his appointment, the Lafayette attorney told BP and at least six of its attorneys that he had been a state consultant about the spill."
BP Motion to Remove Juneau as Administrator - September 2014

Order of November 11, 2014 denying motion to remove Juneau

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Picard fees top $1B in Madoff fraud recovery cases

A reasonable fee?

You Know What's Cool? A Billion Dollars,' Part II | Compliance Week
by Bruce Carton | December 24, 2014

 "A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars." -- Sean Parker, The Social Network

Irving Picard
In 2009, when Irving Picard and his law firm, Baker & Hostetler, had been working as trustee on the Madoff case for less than a year, I observed that the firm had already been awarded total attorneys' fees of $37.5 million from SIPC with "no end in sight." Not a bad start for Picard, who Baker & Hostetler hired as a lateral partner in December 2008 after he was appointed to handle the Madoff matter.

 By 2012, however, it had become clear that these early attorneys' fees of $37.5 million were little more than a rounding error for what had already come and what was on the way. In May 2012, DealBook reported that Picard's efforts had generated $554 million in legal and other fees, and that Picard estimated that his fees would reach $1 billion by 2014. That's billion--with a "B."

Now, as 2014 comes to a close, the most recent round of fee requests in the Madoff case confirm that Picard's legal and professional fees have, in fact, smashed through the $1 billion mark this year. Bloomberg reports that in a November 2014 court filing, Picard stated that the trustee's total fees for liquidating the Madoff firm and distributing the over $10 billion in assets recovered to date have now hit the ten-digit mark.

On the trustee's website, Picard reported this week that as of December 22, 2014, his team has recovered or entered into agreements to recover approximately $10.499 billion--all of which will be distributed to Madoff victims (Picard's fees are paid separately by SIPC). To date, the trustee reported, it has distributed approximately $6.139 to victims. Picard also recently sought court approval to distribute another $322 million.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'You Know What's Cool? A Billion Dollars,' Part II | Compliance Week

A reasonable fee?
'You Know What's Cool? A Billion Dollars,' Part II | Compliance Week:
"Bruce Carton | December 24, 2014 "A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars." -- Sean Parker, The Social Network   In 2009, when Irving Picard and his law firm, Baker & Hostetler, had been working as trustee on the Madoff case for less than a year, I observed that the firm had already been awarded total attorneys' fees of $37.5 million from SIPC with "no end in sight." Not a bad start for Picard, who Baker & Hostetler hired as a lateral partner in December 2008 after he was appointed to handle the Madoff matter.   By 2012, however, it had become clear that these early attorneys' fees of $37.5 million were little more than a rounding error for what had already come and what was on the way. In May 2012, DealBook reported that Picard's efforts had generated $554 million in legal and other fees, and that Picard estimated that his fees would reach $1 billion by 2014. That's billion--with a "B."   Now, as 2014 comes to a close, the most recent round of fee requests in the Madoff case confirm that Picard's legal and professional fees have, in fact, smashed through the $1 billion mark this year. Bloomberg reports that in a November 2014 court filing, Picard stated that the trustee's total fees for liquidating the Madoff firm and distributing the over $10 billion in assets recovered to date have now hit the ten-digit mark.  
 On the trustee's website, Picard reported this week that as of December 22, 2014, his team has recovered or entered into agreements to recover approximately $10.499 billion--all of which will be distributed to Madoff victims (Picard's fees are paid separately by SIPC). To date, the trustee reported, it has distributed approximately $6.139 to victims. PIcard also recently sought court approval to distribute another $322 million. "

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Obama Surpasses Predecessors for Getting Judges Confirmed

Gavel Grab » Obama Surpasses Predecessors for Getting Judges Confirmed
by Peter Hardin December 23rd, 2014
 President Obama has completed six years in the White House with a success rate in winning confirmation of judges that exceeds that of his predecessors at a corresponding point. Obama’s judicial confirmation rate is 92 percent, compared to 89 percent for President Clinton and 84 percent for President Bush, according to scholar Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution. 
 The Senate confirmed 89 judges this year, and many analysts have been quick to assign that success rate to the chamber’s changing its filibuster rules in November 2013. The change has meant that most judicial nominees require only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than an effective supermajority of 60 votes, for confirmation. 
Wheeler has been less willing than many to accept this reasoning. He explains: “[B]ecause B follows A doesn’t necessarily mean A caused B. Most of those 96 confirmations after November 21, 2013, were by voice vote or with only a few nay votes. Only 15 of the 96 votes fell below 60 yeas, suggesting (we certainly can’t be sure) that the great majority of the 2014 confirmations would have occurred even under the old rule.” 
 He adds, “Most likely, the main cause was Majority Leader Harry Reid’s determination to use the floor time necessary to get as many confirmations as possible before Democrats lost their Senate majority.” His analysis was entitled, “Record Lame Duck Confirmations Pad Obama’s Improving Judicial Record.”"

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Quote of the Day: "That Could Have Been Any One of Us" | Mother Jones

Quote of the Day: "That Could Have Been Any One of Us" | Mother Jones:
From Michelle Conlin of Reuters, who interviewed 25 active-duty and retired black NYPD police officers, nearly all of whom said they themselves had been treated harshly by fellow cops when they were out of uniform:
At an ale house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last week, a group of black police officers from across the city gathered for the beer and chicken wing special. They discussed how the officers involved in the Garner incident could have tried harder to talk down an upset Garner, or sprayed mace in his face, or forced him to the ground without using a chokehold. They all agreed his death was avoidable.
Said one officer from the 106th Precinct in Queens,“That could have been any one of us.”
It shouldn't be too hard to hold two thoughts in our minds at once. Thought #1: Police officers have an inherently tough and violent job. Split-second decisions about the use of force come with the territory. Ditto for decisions about who to stop and who to keep an eye on. This makes individual mistakes inevitable, but as a group, police officers deserve our support and respect regardless.
Thought #2: That support shouldn't be blind. Conlin reports that in her group of 25 black police officers, 24 said they had received rough treatment from other cops. "The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them."
Respect for the police is one of the foundation stones of a decent and orderly society. But police work as a profession is inherently coercive, and police officers have tremendous amounts of sometimes unaccountable power over the rest of us. Thus, it's equally a foundation stone of a decent and free society to maintain vigilant oversight of professions like this, and to deal vigorously with the kinds of systemic problems that the routine exercise of power and authority make unavoidable. Belief in the latter does not exclude belief in the former.
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Grimm Admits to Concealing Over $900,000 in Gross Income and Lying Under Oath While a Member of Congress

Press Releases
I assume that John Boehner knows that Michael Grimm must be expelled if he does not resign as a Member of Congress.  An insight that the voters of Staten Island unfortunately demonstrated they lack. - gwc
United States Congressman Michael Grimm Pleads Guilty To Causing The Filing Of A False And Fraudulent Tax Return:
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

shameless to the end
former FBI Agent Michael Grimm
Grimm Admits to Concealing Over $900,000 in Gross Income and Lying Under Oath While a Member of Congress
for immediate release: Office of the United States Attorney - Eastern District of New York

 Earlier today, United States Congressman Michael Grimm pleaded guilty at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, to aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return. Since 2011, Grimm has served as a member of the United States House of Representatives representing New York’s 11th Congressional District, which includes the borough of Staten Island and parts of the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City.
When sentenced, Grimm faces a prison term of up to three years. In connection with his guilty plea, Grimm also agreed to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF). Today’s guilty plea proceeding took place before the Honorable Pamela K. Chen, United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York.
 The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office, and Richard Weber, Chief, IRS- Criminal Investigation..
 “With today’s guilty plea, Michael Grimm has admitted that while running his business he chose lies and deception over honest dealings with federal and state authorities as well as his own employees. In addition to pleading guilty to causing the filing of a false tax return for his restaurant, Grimm has signed a statement admitting to the conduct underlying every charge filed against him.

Michael Grimm has now publicly admitted that he hired unauthorized workers whom he paid “off the books” in cash, took deliberate steps to obstruct the federal and state governments from collecting taxes he properly owed, cheated New York State out of workers’ compensation insurance premiums, caused numerous false business and personal tax returns to be filed for several years, and lied under oath to cover up his crimes. He will now be held to account for all of his actions that led to those charges,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch.

“This guilty plea makes clear that we and our partners in the FBI and the IRS will vigorously investigate and prosecute fraud wherever we find it, and that no one is above the law.”
Ms. Lynch expressed her appreciation to the Public Integrity Section of Department of Justice, the Northern Criminal Enforcement Section of the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, the New York State Insurance Fund, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and the New York State Department of Labor for their assistance in the investigation.
 FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos stated, “As an elected official, Grimm was responsible for deciding how taxpayers' money should be spent, yet he chose not to pay his fair share of taxes while operating his business. Adding insult to injury, while serving as a Member of Congress, Grimm lied under oath in an effort to conceal his criminal activity. The public expects their elected officials at all levels of government to behave honorably, or at a minimum, lawfully. As his guilty plea demonstrates, Grimm put self-interest above public service.”"

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Jameis Winston Hearing Reveals Accuser’s Words, and Florida State’s Complicity - NYTimes.com

"I remember being raped" said the victim.  She consented by "moaning" said Florida State University superstar Jameis Wilson.  that was enough for Major Harding - former Chief Justice of Florida - to clear the quarterback. On to the big game.

Appalling.  I remember seeing a video of Jameis Wilson standing in a crowd shouting "F* her right in the pussy", apparently some sort of "joke" that was going around earlier this year.  For that he was  suspended half a game! by the outraged Florida State University educational authorities.

Football is king.

Transcript of Winston Hearing Reveals Accuser’s Words, and Florida State’s Complicity - NYTimes.com
by Juliet Macur

Some things from that night two years ago, she says she remembers with astounding clarity.

“I remember being raped,” she said.

“I remember pleading with him to stop clearly.”

“I remember one of his friends telling him to stop and saying, ‘She is saying no clearly.’ ”

She remembers being carried from a bedroom into a bathroom by the man she says raped her. She remembers that he locked the door behind him, and she remembers how he held her down while, she said, “I tried to struggle and resist him.”

“I remember those thing as clearly as they were in 2012,” she said.

These words are from the woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in December 2012. Earlier this month she told her story to a former judge at Winston’s student conduct hearing — a hearing that wound up clearing Winston of breaking any of the university’s rules.

In clearing Winston, Major B. Harding, the former Florida Supreme Court chief justice who presided over the hearing, said that the evidence was “insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Blame Game Over NYPD Deaths Has to end - Washington Post Editorial Board

The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far - The Washington Post
by the Editorial Board

"The [two] officers [Ramos and Liu] are being mourned and celebrated in New York and across the country, as they should be. But their deaths also have been improperly used in a political debate. Republican politicians, such as former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and police union leaders in Baltimore and New York have blamed the killings on people protesting police tactics after civilians were killed by officers in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island andelsewhere....those who have protested the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others bear no responsibility for the twisted mind and crimes of Mr. Brinsley, who committed suicide after killing the two officers. On the contrary: It is in the long-term interest of the police, as well as of the communities they serve, to shape reforms that might reduce the incidence of police violence while still valuing officers’ safety and fighting crime.

As Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president and a former police captain, told the Times, “Calling for reform is not a call for harm of police officers.”

Not so many years ago, everyone seemed to be celebrating the “broken-windows” method of policing, which held that refusing to tolerate small infractions such as graffiti would reduce the incidence of more serious crime, too. Now protesters are calling for less aggressive enforcement of misdemeanor offenses, which they say sweeps too many poor, minority men into the criminal justice system. Finding the right balance won’t be easy. It’s made more difficult by inflammatory, unsupported rhetoric like that of Mr. Giuliani."

Monday, December 22, 2014

NYPD Shooting: Blue Lives Matter - The Atlantic

The tragic truth is that in this tragedy - a Black madman seizing on the headlines to murder two policemen- many find justification for their preference: the police stop, frisk, arrest, and when necessary shoot who they must.  And those people are mostly Black because that is who the bad guys usually are, as Rudy Giuliani bluntly says.  To me there is a word for it: prejudice.  Of course it is on East 189 Street not East 89 Street that your iPhone 6 is most likely to be snatched.  The point is not that purse snatchers should not be arrested.  It is the presumption of Black criminality that pervades and burdens the lives of Black people in America.  - gwc
NYPD Shooting: Blue Lives Matter - The Atlantic
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The reactions to the murders of two New York police officers this weekend have been mostly uniform in their outrage. There was the predictable gamesmanship exhibited in some quarters, but all agree that the killing of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos merits particular censure. This is understandable. The killing of police officers is not only the destruction of life but an attack on democracy itself. We do not live in a military dictatorship, and police officers are not the representatives of an autarch, nor the enforcers of law handed down by decree. The police are representatives of a state that derives its powers from the people. Thus the strong reaction we have seen to Saturday's murders is wholly expected and entirely appropriate.
For activists and protesters radicalized by the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, this weekend's killing may seem to pose a great obstacle. In fact, it merely points to the monumental task in front of them. The response to Garner's death, particularly, seemed to offer some hope. But the very fact that this opening originated in the most extreme case—the on-camera choking of a man for a minor offense—points to the shaky ground on which such hope took root. It was only a matter of time before some criminal shot a police officer in New York. If that's all it takes to turn Americans away from police reform, the efforts were likely doomed from the start.
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Officers’ Killer Took Aim at New York City of Today - NYTimes.com

The City and the Police Department have changed a great deal in the past forty years.  Giuliani, Pataki, and the ex-con Bernard Kerik, not so much.  The great New York City reporter Jim Dwyer reflects. - gwc
Officers’ Killer Took Aim at New York City of Today - NYTimes.com
by Jim Dwyer
On Saturday, a gunman shot his ex-girlfriend near Baltimore, then came to Brooklyn and opened fire into a police car parked on Tompkins Avenue.
Inside were Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, one a Chinese-American, the other a New Yorker of Puerto Rican origin.
Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini, who were killed in an ambush in 1971.
The killer was shooting at the New York City of 2014.
If you happen to walk the Macombs Dam Bridge, which crosses the Harlem River between the Bronx and Manhattan near 155th Street, you may notice a staircase that drops down to the street on the Manhattan side. Nearby are the Colonial Park Houses.
On a May night in 1971, two police officers, Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones, were killed in an ambush there, shot in the back multiple times as they returned to their car after answering a call. It is said that the staircase was used by a lookout for the killers, and as a getaway route.
An eighth-grade classmate of mine lived in those houses, and he called off plans for me to come by in the days after the shooting. His father said it was not safe.
Once or twice a year I walk across that bridge while coming home from Yankee Stadium and pass those stairs, and from the peaceful summer nights of 2014 think back to that moment and that world, more than four decades ago. That same week, two police officers guarding the home of the Manhattan district attorney were attacked with a machine gun; they survived critical injuries. Eight months later, two other officers, Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie, were assassinated as they patrolled the Lower East Side, gunned down from behind.

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Rep. Michael Grimm to Plead Guilty to Tax Charge - NYTimes.com

Congressman Michael K. Grimm (R-Staten Island)
Update: Grimm defiant even at time of guilty plea

The most disturbing aspect of this story is not that Michael Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent parlayed his tough guy persona into a seat in Congress.  It is that  he was re-elected by the voters of Staten Island after he was indicted for tax fraud and showed himself to be a thug when he threatened to throw an inquiring reporter off the balcony of the Capitol rotunda and "break him like a boy".  His non-apology was that he "got his Italian up" - slandering his own tribe to defend himself.  
I wonder who will follow him.  - gwc
Rep. Michael Grimm to Plead Guilty to Tax Charge - NYTimes.com

by William K. Rashbaum

Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican from Staten Island who was easily re-elected to his third term in Congress last month despite a pending federal indictment, has agreed to plead guilty to a single felony charge of tax fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

A former Marine and agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who first ran for office as a law-and-order corruption fighter, Mr. Grimm, 44, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday for a plea hearing, according to the docket sheet in his case, which provides no further detail. His trial was scheduled to start Feb. 2.

A guilty plea by the congressman, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, would almost certainly put him under tremendous pressure to resign. One of his lawyers, Stuart N. Kaplan, said in an email that he could confirm only that there was “a change of plea hearing” scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr. Grimm was charged in a 20-count indictment in April after an investigation by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the Internal Revenue Service and the F.B.I. focused on accusations of campaign finance fraud and other improprieties. The indictment charged him with underreporting wages and revenue while he ran a fast-food restaurant called Healthalicious on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He ran the business after the F.B.I. and before serving in Congress.

Mr. Grimm is expected to plead guilty to a single count of aiding or assisting in the preparation of a false or fraudulent tax return, said one person with knowledge of the matter, who, like the two others, spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been announced. If he does plead guilty, he will most likely face 24 to 30 months in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Pamela K. Chen of United States District Court. His lawyers can also seek a lesser sentence, including one with no jail time.

A guilty plea by the combative congressman, who in a televised encounter in the gallery of the Capitol rotunda this year threatened to throw a reporter off the balcony, would bring an end to the exhaustive four-year inquiry that Mr. Grimm has contended was rooted in politics and old grudges.
Continue reading the main story

Michael Grimm Overcomes Democrats’ Campaign to Capture His Congressional SeatNOV. 4, 2014

Under Indictment, Grimm Fights to Keep His Congressional SeatOCT. 14, 2014

Staten Island Congressman Facing Trial Says Charges Are PoliticalOCT. 7, 2014

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Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses - Editorial NYTimes.com

The Times editorial highlights John Yoo (now a Berkeley law prof) and Jay Bybee (now a 9th Circuit appeals court judge) as ones who should be investigated for criminal responsibility for the Justice Department legal memoranda they drafted providing justification for "enhanced interrogation techniques" - torture methods denounced by the recent Senate Select Committee report.  - gwc

Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses - NYTimes.com
by the Editorial Board
***The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch are to give Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. a letter Monday calling for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate what appears increasingly to be “a vast criminal conspiracy, under color of law, to commit torture and other serious crimes.”
[A]ny credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who orderedthe destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”

Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.'via Blog this'

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Obama, the Least Lame President? - NYTimes.com

Obama, the Least Lame President? - NYTimes.com
by Ian Ayres and John FabianWitt

HISTORIANS rate presidents by every conceivable quality.One survey of presidential scholars rates presidents along no fewer than 20 dimensions, from best luck (Washington) and best imagination (Theodore Roosevelt) to best intelligence (Jefferson) and best handling of Congress (Lyndon B. Johnson). And of course, there’s the ultimate prize: Best president, a distinction Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt have traded back and forth since at least the first modern survey, in 1948.

What about least lame duck? President Obama is making a run for the title. Since the midterm elections, in his first month and a half as a lame duck, Mr. Obama has taken dramatic action on immigration, climate change and now, normalizing relations with Cuba.
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A Big Safety Net and Strong Job Market Can Coexist. Just Ask Scandinavia. - NYTimes.com

Let's get this straight: American voters are wrong.  High taxes, high wages, and high employment go together.  Security makes us free - not lazy and dependent.  Check out the graphs.  They are dramatic.  MORE PEOPLE WORK in high welfare, high tax countries. - gwc
A Big Safety Net and Strong Job Market Can Coexist. Just Ask Scandinavia. - NYTimes.com
by Neil Irwin
It is a simple idea supported by both economic theory and most people’s intuition: If welfare benefits are generous and taxes high, fewer people will work. Why bother being industrious, after all, if you can get a check from the government for sitting around — and if your choice to work means that much of your income will end up in the tax collectors’ coffers?

Here’s the rub, though: The idea may be backward.

Some of the highest employment rates in the advanced world are in places with the highest taxes and most generous welfare systems, namely Scandinavian countries. The United States and many other nations with relatively low taxes and a smaller social safety net actually have substantially lower rates of employment.'via Blog this'

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Torture - the lawyers' role

Torture by the CIA is back in the news thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program.  The role of lawyers is a worthwhile topic for a term paper or more.
CIA Director John Brennan declared "abhorrent" certain `unauthorized' acts.  But it is the "authorized" ones that are the cause of much concern.  The "torture memos"  were authored by the Justice Department's Office of Legislative Counsel -particularly by Berkeley law professor John Yoo.  They were subjected to withering criticism in many places - particularly at the blog Balkinization.  Some, like former Attorney General and federal judge Michael Mukasey continue to defend the measures,
Some in Congress - John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler (a Fordham Law grad) referred  Yoo to state attorney discipline authorities.  An internal DOJ report found that Yoo and Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) had committed"intentional misconduct" but the final DOJ action held that there was no "unambiguous" standard governing Yoo and Bybee's work at Justice.  The matter therefore was not referred to state authorities for discipline.

Judge in Maryland Locks Up Youths and Rules Their Lives - NYTimes.com

Herman C. Dawson "tough love" Maryland judge
Judge in Maryland Locks Up Youths and Rules Their Lives - NYTimes.com
by Erica Goode
[The general trend is to lower incarceration and charging of juveniles - because crime rates are down and Americans are coming to realize that it is a national disgrace that we incarcerate people at a rate far in excess of the rest of the world.  Mainly Black and Latin men.  But some "tough guys" are holdouts.]
Judge Herman C. Dawson is an example. Presiding in Courtroom D-15 of the mammoth county courthouse here over cases that range from shoplifting to armed robbery, he has won a reputation as a jurist who brooks no excuses and involves himself deeply in the lives of the teenagers who come before him.

Raised by a single mother in the segregated South, he subscribes to a “tough love” philosophy that venerates hard work, education and personal responsibility as the antidotes to poverty, negative peer pressure, chaotic parenting and other forces that can tip children into delinquency.
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Employers, HSAs and the ACA | xpostfactoid

ACA Subsidy By Income Family Of Four Chart
Lawyers are employers. Paying the employee's health insurance has been tax advantaged - it is untaxed for the employee and deductible for the employer. I used to show my employees their total compensation package.  Base salary for support staff was about $40,000(10-15 years ago). So deductibility was helpful. The ACA subsidies help a lot at that level. (See Financial Samurai HERE) But if you do what we did - "reward" with higher pay those who had coverage through a spouse it gets complicated. Andrew Sprung explains.  - gwc
Employers, HSAs and the ACA | xpostfactoid
by Andrew Sprung
Jay Hancock at Kaiser Health News reports that significant numbers of small businesses may stop offering health insurance to their employees, sending them instead to the ACA exchanges. This could be a good thing for employees who earn little enough to qualify for strong ACA subsidies -- win-win for employer and employee at the federal government's expense.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, small employers in 2014 paid an average of nearly $5,000 for solo coverage and a bit more $10,000 for a family premium. What if an employer wants to compensate employees for dropping a benefit that constitutes such a large share of their compensation?  There's a problem with straight salary increases: they reduce employees' ACA subsidies and so give a portion of the extra income back. At healthinsurance.orgI examine three scenarios in which a pay hike worth about 70% of a typical employer premium contribution triggers subsidy reductions ranging roughly from about 25-- 80%.

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