GONZO’S WORLD: HOMOPHOBIC AG ATTACKS LGBTQ COMMUNITY WITH BOGUS LEGAL MEMO STRIPPING TRANSGENDER INDIVIDUALS OF CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/jeff-sessions-just-reversed-a-policy-that-protects

Dominic Holden reports for BuzzFeed News:

“US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys.

Sessions’ directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”

It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.

“Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”

But Sharon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now an attorney for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, countered that Sessions’ is ignoring a widespread trend in federal courts.

“It’s ironic for them to say this is law, and not policy,” McGowan told BuzzFeed News. “The memo is devoid of discussion of the way case law has been developing in this area for the last few years. It demonstrates that this memo is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were.”

“The sessions DOJ is trying to roll back the clock and pretend that the progress of the last decade hasnt’ happened,” she added. “The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”

“The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
The memo reflects the Justice Department’s aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions, who reversed an Obama-era policy that protects transgender students after a few weeks in office. Last month, Sessions filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn’t protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes.

At issue in the latest policy is how broadly the government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not address LGBT rights directly. Rather, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent agency that enforces civil rights law in the workplace, and a growing body of federal court decisions have found sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping — and that Title VII therefore bans anti-transgender discrimination as well.

Embracing that trend, former attorney general Eric Holder under President Obama announced the Justice Department would take that position as well, issuing a memo in 2014 that said, “I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

But Sessions said in his latest policy that he “withdraws the December 15, 2014, memorandum,” and adds his narrower view that the law only covers discrimination between “men and women.”

“The Department of Justice will take that position in all pending and future matters (except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential future review),” Sessions writes.

Sessions adds: “The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections.”

Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, explained the decision to issue the memo, telling BuzzFeed News, “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action. This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

McGowan, from Lambda Legal, counters, “The memo is so weak that analysis is so thin, that it will courts will recognize it for what it is — a raw political document and not sound legal analysis that should be given any weight by them.”

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Virulent homophobia has always been a key element of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Agenda.” Check out this report from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate about how when serving as Alabama’s Attorney General Gonzo attempted to use an Alabama statute that had been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge to both publicly demean LGBTQ students and stomp on their First Amendment rights. (So much for the disingenuous BS speech that Gonzo delivered on Free Speech at Georgetown Law last week.)  Here’s what happened:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech at Georgetown University Law Center in which he argued that “freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack.” As my colleague Dahlia Lithwick explained, the attorney general said this in “a room full of prescreened students who asked him prescreened questions while political demonstrators outside were penned off in ‘free speech zones.’ ” Ensconced in a safe space of his own, Sessions blasted the notion that speech can be “hurtful,” criticizing administrators and students for their “crackdown” on “speech they may have disagreed with.”

Mark Joseph Stern
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.

Sessions’ hypocrisy on speech issues is not a new development. In 1996, the then–attorney general of Alabama used the full power of his office to try to shut down an LGBTQ conference at the University of Alabama. Sessions took his battle to court, asking a federal judge to let him block the conference altogether—or, at the very least, silence students who wished to discuss LGBTQ issues. He ultimately failed, but his campaign reveals a great deal about his highly selective view of free expression. Sessions claims to support freedom for “offensive” speech, but when speech offends him, he is all too happy to play the censor.

When Sessions served as Alabama attorney general, the state still criminalized sodomy. A 1992 law, Alabama Education Code Section 16-1-28, also barred public universities from funding, recognizing, or supporting any group “that fosters or promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited by” the sodomy statute, either “directly or indirectly.” The law also forbade schools from allowing such organizations to use public facilities. Sessions’ predecessor, Jimmy Evans, had interpreted the statute to effectively outlaw the discussion or promotion of gay rights on public campuses, with that prohibition even extending to AIDS awareness campaigns.

In 1995, the University of South Alabama’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued in federal court to block Section 16-1-28. That summer, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that, under the First Amendment, public universities may not deny access to facilities or funding for student organizations on the basis of their viewpoints. This decision, the GLBA asserted, rendered Section 16-1-28 unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson agreed, holding the law to be invalid in a January 1996 ruling.

This decision was excellent news for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The GLBA had planned to host the Fifth Annual Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Conference of the Southeastern United States in February 1996. Sessions, by now attorney general, was trying his hardest to shut it down.

“University officials say they’re going to try to obey the law,” Sessions said at the time, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported in December of last year. “I don’t see how it can be done without canceling this conference. I remain hopeful that if the administration does not act, the board of trustees will.” Sessions didn’t give up even after Judge Thompson struck down the law. “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” he said.

In a last-ditch effort, Sessions returned to Thompson’s court and asked permission to ban the conference. “The State of Alabama,” he explained in court filings, “will experience irreparable harm by funding a conference and activities in violation of state law.” Failing a total ban, Sessions implored Thompson to let him censor any discussion of “safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Sessions claimed that, by talking about LGBTQ issues, conference attendees were essentially conspiring to promote criminal activity, and Alabama should not be obligated to support their criminality. Predictably, Thompson rejected Sessions’ arguments, writing that the attorney general was endeavoring to violate students’ free speech rights. Sessions then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously ruled against Alabama. The conference went on as planned.

Cathy Lopez Wessell, a lead organizer and spokeswoman for the conference, told me Sessions’ intervention “was incredibly stressful. We got threatening phone calls. We were attacked from all sides.” She continued, “We were the abomination of the month. I didn’t feel safe in the world for a while. I started to internalize some of the judgment leveled at our group. I thought, there must be something deeply wrong with you if you need to be silenced.”

Lopez Wessell explained that Sessions’ campaign against the conference registered as a broader attack on LGBTQ students.

“If we can’t talk, do we have a right to exist?” Lopez Wessell asked. “If our speech is so dangerous that it needs to be stopped, then are we dangerous? We weren’t promoting any particular activity; we just wanted to talk—about our experiences, about our existence.”

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Denying the humanity as well as the human rights of those he is biased against is a staple of the Gonzo Apocalypto agenda. Just look at his constant attempts to tie all members of the Hispanic ethnic community to crime, drugs, and gangs (even though all credible studies show that immigrants or all types have markedly lower crime rates than native-born U.S. citizens) and his false and gratuitous attempts to tie “Dreamers” to crime, terrorism, and loss of jobs!

There is no more certain way of knowing that a DOJ “legal” memo is all policy and no law than the statement: “This is a conclusion of law, not policy.“ In other words, “Don’t you dare accuse me of doing what I’m actually doing!”

Since assuming the office of Attorney General for which he is so spectacularly unqualified, here’s a list of the folks whose rights or humanity Sessions has attacked or disparaged:

Hispanics

African Americans

LGBTQ Individuals

Dreamers

Immigrants

Refugees

Asylum Seekers

Poor People

Undocumented Migrants

Women

Muslims

Civil Rights Protesters

Black Athletes

City Officials Seeking To Foster Community Law Enforcement

Prisoners

Immigration Detainees

Forensic Scientists

State Governors Who Disagree With Him

Federal Judges Who Find Trump Policies Illegal

State & Federal Judges Who Object To Migrants Being Arrested At Their Courts

Convicts

Liberal Students & College Administrators

Anti-Facists

Anti-Hate-Group Activists

Reporters

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

President Obama

Whistleblowers (a/k/a “Leakers” in “Gonzopeak”)

DOJ Career Attorneys

I’m sure I’ve left a few out.  Feel free to send me additions. The list just keeps getting longer all the time.

The only group that appears to be “A-OK” with Gonzo is “White straight Christian male Republican ultra rightists.”

Liz was right!

PWS

10-05-17

 

 

 

 

 

SURPRISE! – GONZO LIES: “2017 is on pace for the second-lowest crime rate since 1990 — and near-record low murders” — Sessions Fabricates “Crime Wave” To Support White Nationalist Anti-Hispanic, Anti-Black Political Narrative! –“It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/09/06/2017-is-on-pace-to-have-the-second-lowest-crime-rate-since-1990-and-near-record-low-murders/?utm_term=.d5c197d6052e

Philip Bump reports in the Washington Post:

“At his swearing-in as the nation’s top law enforcement official in February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions picked up a thread that had run throughout Donald Trump’s campaign for president: America is experiencing an alarming crime wave.

“We have a crime problem,” Sessions said. “I wish the rise that we are seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”

Preliminary analysis of crime data from the nation’s 30 largest cities released by the Brennan Center for Justice on Wednesday suggests that it isn’t. According to the center’s overview of crime and murder data, 2017 is on pace to have the second-lowest violent crime rate of any year since 1990.

From the report:

  • The overall crime rate is projected to drop by 1.8 percent to the second-lowest point since 1990.
  • The violent crime rate is projected to fall by 0.6 percent, also to the second-lowest point in over 25 years. (The lowest rate was in 2014.) “This result,” the report’s authors write, “is driven primarily by stabilization in Chicago and declines in Washington, D.C., two large cities that experienced increases in violence in recent years.”
  • The murder rate is projected to be down 2.5 percent, on-par with the rate in 2009.

Explore the center’s data for each of the country’s largest cities.

While there was indeed a national uptick in violent crime and murder during 2015 and 2016, one of the underrecognized drivers of those shifts was the sharp increase in killings in two cities, Chicago and Baltimore, which combined made up more than half of the increase in murders in large cities from 2014 to 2017. This year, the number of murders in Chicago alone is expected to drop 2.4 percent. But it’s declines in New York, Houston and Detroit that are driving the overall decrease.

Inimai Chettiar, director of the justice program at the center, told The Post that the analysis suggested two things.

“First, the long-term trend toward safer cities isn’t going anywhere,” Chettiar said over email. “The evidence conclusively shows there is currently no national crime wave. Second, short-term fluctuations in crime are often driven by local factors.”

There are several cities that reinforce that point. The murder rate in Charlotte, doubled over the first half of 2017, for example, even as it fell sharply in other places.

Chettiar addressed Sessions’s concerns directly.

“Our data leads us to believe that the upticks in 2015 and 2016 were likely short-term fluctuations,” she wrote, noting that “not enough research has been done to identify the exact catalyst.”

The center, which is a part of the New York University School of Law, shared its report with Ronal Serpas, a former New Orleans police superintendent who now co-chairs an organization focused on reducing incarceration rates.

“In contrast to what we have been hearing from the president and attorney general, this new data from police departments shows that all measures of crime and murder are in decline this year,” Serpas said in a statement provided to The Post. “It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder.” Both Serpas and Chettiar noted that in places where violent crime had increased the Trump administration’s focus was best placed on that crime — as opposed to immigration violations, for example.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands waiting during a meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in March. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As the Trump campaign and then the Trump presidency cited localized increases as examples of the crime threat that Trump pledged to solve, independent observers frequently noted that, despite the uptick in crime in recent years, overall levels were still near recent lows following the sharp drop of the last 20 years. The Brennan Center’s analysis suggests that this trend will continue, leading the administration to a no-doubt vexing problem:

Is it too soon to claim credit?

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I’ve noted many times before that Session’s disingenuous, xenophobic, White Nationalist focus on immigration enforcement actually makes the country less safe from crime. This report confirms that.

Moreover, with his “morbid fixation” on spreading a false narrative on immigration, Sessions has abandoned the real law enforcement functions of the DOJ, particularly in the areas of civil rights, voting rights, police brutality, prison reform, protection of the LGBTQ community, right-wing hate groups, domestic violence, and effectively combatting gangs, drug cartels, and human traffickers. As I’ve noted before, the latter three groups have been energized and empowered by Sessions’s focus on janitors, maids, gardeners, Dreamers and other “collaterals” — even dissing legal immigrants ands implicitly U.S. citizens of ethnic and immigrant heritage — rather than working on nuanced solutions to real law enforcement problems. By sowing unnecessary fear, mistrust, and terror among law-abiding productive members of migrant communities, he has basically “green-lighted” them as targets for crime, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and gang recruitment. Ironically, this is a scenario I heard many times from individuals seeking refuge from third world countries: “I can’t go to the police because they won’t help and might even abuse or arrest me with impunity.”

Sessions is destroying the hard work of of community policing in ethnic communities in many cities throughout the U.S. One reason that many jurisdictions abandoned the “Safe Communities” program pushed by the Obama Administration is because they found it was a misnomer: busting undocumented workers and minor offenders actually did not make communities “safer.” Rather than learning from history, Sessions is doubling down on past failures. “Irresponsible” might be too kind a word to describe the Trump-Sessions White Nationalist legal agenda.

PWS

09-09-17

PETULA DVORAK IN WASHPOST: DISHONEST LEADERS SOW “FALSE FEARS” WHILE IGNORING REAL THREATS!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/what-happens-when-a-presidency-runs-on-fakefears-real-fears-are-ignored/2017/09/07/83ead004-93d1-11e7-8754-d478688d23b4_story.html

Dvorak writes:

Fake fear is our new leader.

Washington’s new ruling class is not governing with compassion, common sense, measured research, knowledge of history or the future. Theirs is a doctrine of fake fears. And these same people also have a problem with things we should actually be afraid of.

Let me explain.

Fake Fear: The “bad hombres” President Donald Trump talked about during the campaign last year begot this week’s DACA repeal thing. Trump wants us to be afraid of these immigrants, and he’s ready to trash the lives of more than 800,000 Americans looking for a path to legal residency by killing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The truth is that these immigrants, brought here as children by their parents, “have lower incarceration rates than native-born Americans of the same age and education level,” according to a report issued last week by the nonpartisan CATO Institute.

Real Fear: Hurricanes. You know them — from Katrina to Harvey to Irma — millions of people and billions of dollars tell you hurricanes devastate lives, cities and industries.

But Trump refuses to fear them. Earlier this year, he proposed a budget that slashed about $667 million for the disaster preparedness programs run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That budget also proposed $6 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which helps rebuild homes and hospitals.

The fake fear administration also killed a post-Katrina rule requiring building projects eligible for federal funding to take such measures as elevating structures in flood zones away from the reach of rising water before they get government cash. And they did this just in time for hurricane season.

But hey, the $108 billion in damage and the 1,800 lives lost in Hurricane Katrina must not mean much when it your moral compass is fake fear.

Fake fear: The apparent crime wave that Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps warning Americans about.

“We have a crime problem,” Sessions said in February. “I wish the rise that we are seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”

But the facts say otherwise.

This year is on pace to have the second-lowest violent crime rate of any year since 1990, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice this week that analyzed statistics from the nation’s 30 largest cities.

Real fear: Though we’ve seen more and more horrifying videos of civilians being shot by police officers, we still have little comprehensive data that shows how often this happens and how agencies can prevent these tragedies.

“What we really need to know is how many times police shoot people, not just how many of those people die,” David A. Klinger, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis who studies police use of force, told The Washington Post earlier this summer.

The Post began compiling this information in 2015, relying on local news, social media and our own reporting.

This is a real fear for real people. This is true whether you’re a black man, such as beloved cafeteria worker Philando Castile, who was doing nothing wrong when he was killed in Minnesota last year by a nervous police officer. And it’s true if you’re a white woman, like nurse Alex Wubbels, who was seen in a viral video last week being roughed up and arrested by a Utah detective for simply doing her job. The fake fear people seem to have little interest in addressing this problem.

The FBI’s weak, self-reporting system that has been the only way to track this was called “embarrassing and ridiculous” by fired FBI director James B. Comey.

Fake fear: Muslims in America. Trump’s attempts at a travel ban, fulfilling his campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” have reinforced a growing and misplaced Islamophobia throughout our country. We’ve seen the fake-fear sentiment in workplaces, in small-town councils trying to mess with mosques that have been peaceful and unnoticed for years, and I even saw it one of my sons’ sports teams this summer.

The truth is, from 2008 to 2016, right-wing extremists carried out twice as many terrorist attacks on U.S. soil than Islamist extremists, according to a recent report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal.

Real Fear: White supremacists in America. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin that said white supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement.”

They issued this statement just a couple months before the protests in Charlottesville, where an avowed Nazi sympathizer was arrested after a car drove into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. There is no mistaking that was real.

We deserve real care and real concern from our leaders when it comes to real fears. There’s no shortage of them.

Let’s start by calling out #FakeFears when we see them. Washington is full of those these days, too.

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Dvorak succinctly captures what White Nationalist governance and propaganda is all about: fear, loathing, lies. Too cowardly to address real problems because that might offend the “White Nationalist base” that put and keeps them in power.

PWS

09-08-17

BATTLE BREWING AT JUSTICE? — DEA PUSHES BACK AGAINST SESSIONS’S FALSE NARRATIVES ON MARIJUANA, MS-13!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-at-odds-with-dea-on-marijuana-research-ms-13/2017/08/15/ffa12cd4-7eb9-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.77af31733d0e

Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett

report in the Washington Post:

“The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has effectively blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana to use in research, one of a number of areas in which the anti-drug agency is at odds with the Trump administration, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said.

A year ago, the DEA began accepting applications to grow more marijuana for research, and as of this month it had 25 proposals to consider. But DEA officials said they need the Justice Department’s approval to move forward. So far, the department has not been willing to provide it.

“They’re sitting on it,” said one law enforcement official familiar with the matter. “They just will not act on these things.”

As a result, said one senior DEA official, “the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations.’’

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said the agency “has always been in favor of enhanced research for controlled substances such as marijuana.’’

. . . .

The standoff is the latest example of the nation’s premier narcotics enforcement agency finding itself in disagreement with the new administration. While President Trump and Sessions have vowed a crackdown on drugs and violent crime, DEA officials have publicly and privately questioned some of the administration’s statements and goals.

Late last month, acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in an email to staff members that Trump had “condoned police misconduct” in remarking to officers on Long Island that they need not protect suspects’ heads when putting them into police vehicles. The acting administrator said he was writing his employees “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.” After public criticism, White House officials said the president was joking.

DEA officials say Sessions and his Justice Department have pressed the agency for action specifically on MS-13 despite warnings from Rosenberg and others at the DEA that the gang, which draws Central American teenagers for most of its recruits, is not one of the biggest players when it comes to distributing and selling narcotics.

Mexican cartels, DEA officials have warned, will use any gang to sell their drugs, and DEA leaders have directed those in their field offices to focus on the biggest threat in their particular geographic area. In many parts of the country, MS-13 simply does not pose a major criminal or drug-dealing threat compared with other groups, these officials said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could face professional consequences for candidly describing the internal disputes.

“Mexican cartels, Mexican transnational organizations are the greatest criminal threat to the United States,” Payne, the DEA spokesman, said. “There’s no other group currently positioned to challenge them. Whenever drug investigations that we do involve MS-13, we respond, but right now the No. 1 drug threat in the U.S. is the Mexican cartels.’’

. . . .”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Just another example of how Sessions’s personal and political agenda has little to do with effective law enforcement. Wonder how long these folks in DEA will be around before Sessions orders a “purge” and installs his minions?

PWS

08-16-17

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: Sessions Wants To Reinstitute DARE — PROBLEM: At Best It Was An Ineffective Waste Of Money, But It Might Also Have ENCOURAGED Drug Use!

Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:”Speaking at a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) conference this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the past work of the famous anti-drug program, saying it saved lives:

I believe that DARE was instrumental to our success by educating children on the dangers of drug use. I firmly believe that you have saved lives. And I want to say thank you for that. Whenever I ask adults around age 30 about prevention, they always mention the DARE program. Your efforts work. Lives and futures are saved.

Sessions may believe that the program saved lives, but decades of evidence-based research, including some conducted by the Justice Department he now heads, has shown the program to be ineffective — and it might even make the drug problem worse.

. . . .

Eventually, the program was in place in up to 75 percent of the nations school districts, by DARE’s own count. At its height, the group boasted an eight-figure budget, with much of that money coming from government sources. Individual state affiliates raised millions more.

But with success came scrutiny. Public health researchers started looking for evidence that the program was meeting its goals of reducing teen drug use. The first wave of studies, published in the early 1990s, didn’t find any.

“The effectiveness of DARE in altering students’ drug use behavior has yet to be established,” concluded a University of Illinois at Chicago study in 1991.

Other research arrived at similar conclusions. In 1994, the Research Triangle Institute, funded in part by the Justice Department, conducted a meta-analysis of all the existing research on DARE. Its conclusion was withering: DARE had little to no impact on rates of teen drug use.

“DARE’s limited influence on adolescent drug use behavior contrasts with the program’s popularity and prevalence,” the authors wrote. “An important implication is that DARE could be taking the place of other, more beneficial drug use curricula that adolescents could be receiving.”

The Justice Department was so incensed by this unexpected finding that it refused to publish the study, according to contemporaneous news reports. “I don’t get it,” DARE’s executive director at the time said of the RTI study’s findings. “It’s like kicking Santa Claus to me. We’re as pure as the driven snow.”

But the kicking had only just begun. More studies showing similar findings trickled out in the 1990s. One study even suggested that DARE students were more likely than their peers to experiment with drugs and alcohol. The authors of that study chalked that up to a possible boomerang effect: “an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead.” Telling a certain type of kid that he shouldn’t do drugs may simply result in him trying drugs out of spite.

By 2003, the former General Accounting Office launched its own DARE study to see if the Justice Department was getting a decent return on its DARE investment. The conclusion? “No significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE” and those who didn’t.

The GAO report was the beginning of the end of DARE as most of us knew it. Funding started to dry up: In 2002, before the GAO report, DARE had an annual budget of over $10 million. By 2012, that figure had shrunk to $3.5 million.

By the late 2000s, DARE was faced with a choice: change or die. They opted for the former. The group decided to cautiously embrace evidence-based research after decades of antagonism toward it. The most significant change was the adoption of a new curriculum, titled “keepin’ it REAL.”

Cringe-worthy title aside, some of the research on this program to date suggests it actually works. It was commended in the recent Surgeon General’s Report on drug addiction for demonstrating efficacy at preventing substance use. The secret? “It’s not an anti-drug program,” a co-developer of the new curriculum told Scientific American in 2014. “It’s about things like being honest and safe and responsible.”

If it almost seems like DARE isn’t really an anti-drug group anymore, that’s because it isn’t. The group explicitly spells out this new reality in its tax filings. Prior to 2009, DARE stated on its 990 IRS filings that its missionwas “to implement and support drug abuse resistance education and crime prevention programs in the USA.”

Post-2009, its mission is to simply “teach students good decision making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.”

Not everyone in the public health community is convinced the new DARE is any better than the old DARE. A peer-reviewed study published last yearfound that the specific versions of the keepin’ it REAL curriculum used by DARE haven’t been tested for efficacy.

“The systematic review revealed major shortfalls in the evidence basis for the KiR D.A.R.E. programme,” that study’s authors conclude. “Without empirical evidence, we cannot conclusively confirm or deny the effectiveness of the programme. However, we can conclude that the evidence basis for the D.A.R.E. version of KiR is weak, and that there is substantial reason to believe that KiR D.A.R.E. may not be suited for nationwide implementation.”

There’s no doubt, however, that DARE is currently making an effort to adopt more of an evidence-based approach than in prior years, when the program’s practices were largely driven by the belief that they were “pure as the driven snow.” This brings us back to the central irony of Jeff Sessions’s remarks on Tuesday, when he yearned for a return to the DARE of “the 1980s and the 1990s.”

Decades of research are unequivocal: The DARE of yesteryear didn’t work, and it may have actually made the drug problem worse. Instead of embracing DARE’s new evidence-based practices, Sessions offered up a return to the bad old days of drug policy, when decisions were driven by gut feeling and political expediency.

We already know how that story ended: billions of dollars spent, millions of people imprisoned and stronger, cheaper drugs. DARE is already trying to turn the page on the harsh and ineffective drug policies of the past. At the moment, it appears the Justice Department is trying to revive them.”

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Leave it to “Gonzo-Apocalypto” to think of new ways to turn back the clock, create controversy, and waste taxpayer money, while actually making a bad situation even worse!

But, hey, if your lifetime dream is to build more prisons and fill them up with Americans, and your approach to drug abuse is basically enforcement oriented, then running an ineffective program that might actually increase drug abuse could result in more arrests, more convictions, more prisoners, and more prisons. And, maybe some of your political cronies in the private prison industry could also reap benefits. So, I suppose in “Gonzo’s World” is makes a certain amount of sense.

PWS

07-13-17

FORMER DEPUTY AG SALLY YATES SLAMS SESSIONS’S “GONZO APOCALYPTO” PLAN TO TURN AMERICA INTO “INCARCERATION NATION!”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sally-yates-jeff-sessions_us_594eb52ee4b02734df2ac45b

According to this article from HuffPost:

“Sessions has long been a staunch conservative on crime. He once supported legislation in his home state of Alabama that would have required the death penalty for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for marijuana, which is now legalized in a number of states. Before the 2016 election, there was bipartisan agreement from groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Koch Industries, and on Capitol Hill about the need to pursue criminal justice reform. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to advance it.

Yates defended the work of Obama’s Justice Department, saying by allowing prosecutors to use their discretion on sentencing for low-level offenses, officials could dedicate resources to prosecuting the most dangerous individuals.

“Under Smart on Crime, the Justice Department took a more targeted approach, reserving the harshest of those penalties for the most violent and significant drug traffickers and encouraging prosecutors to use their discretion not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for lower-level, nonviolent offenders,” she wrote. “While there is always room to debate the most effective approach to criminal justice, that debate should be based on facts, not fear.”

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Fear and loathing are, of course, key ingredients of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Program.” Let’s see, in Tudor England they publicly hanged, mostly poor, folks for minor crimes; traitors were drawn and quartered; and the upper classes were beheaded for political, offenses, real or imagined. So, given the obvious deterrent effect, crime should have largely disappeared from the Anglo-Saxon heritage. No real historical record that even the most grisly and gruesome punishments had any real deterrent effect, not to mention that justice was often more or less arbitrary and imposed by an entrenched upper class. But, learning from history, or even knowing much about it, is hardly a Trump Administration specialty.

And, the opposite of “Smart” on Crime would be . . . ?

PWS

06-26-17

Welcome To Jeff Sessions’s America — In 1957 Sessions Was 10 Years Old And His White Christian Fellow Alabamans Were Busy Perverting The “Rule Of Law” To Deny Their African American Fellow Citizens Constitutional Rights, Fundamental Justice, & Human Dignity!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-white-cop-dies-and-a-young-black-man-spends-years-in-jail-for-a-crime-he-didnt-do/2017/06/16/d771059e-4706-11e7-a196-a1bb629f64cb_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-arts%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.a94b2ba61075

Colbert I. king writes in the Washington Post:

“How is it possible in a country that prides itself on having a Bill of Rights, expresses reverence for due process and touts equal protection that a 17-year-old can be arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death, and then spend 13 years being shuttled among death row cellblocks in disgusting jails and prisons with his case under appeal, all for a crime he didn’t commit?

The answer contains some simple prerequisites: He had to be black, live in the Jim Crow South and be accused of committing, as one deputy sheriff put it, a “supreme offense, on the same level of a white woman being raped by a black man” — that is, the murder of a white police officer.

Teenager Caliph Washington, a native of Bessemer, Ala., was on the receiving end of all three conditions. And as such, Washington became a sure-fire candidate to suffer the kind of tyrannical law enforcement and rotten jurisprudence that Southern justice reserved for blacks of any age.

In “He Calls Me by Lightning,” S. Jonathan Bass, a professor at Alabama’s Samford University and a son of Bessemer parents, resurrects the life of Washington, who died in 2001 finally out of prison — but with charges still hanging over his head.

 

Bass, however, does more than tell Washington’s tale, as Washington’s widow, Christine, had asked him to do in a phone call. Bass dives deeply into the Bessemer society of 1957 where Washington was accused of shooting white police officer James “Cowboy” Clark on an empty dead-end street near a row of run-down houses on unpaved Exeter Alley.

Bessemer-style justice cannot be known, let alone understood, however, without learning about that neo-hardscrabble town 13 miles southwest of Birmingham.

Bessemer served as home to a sizable black majority, an entrenched white power structure and an all-white police department, consisting at the time of a “ragtag crew of poorly paid, ill-trained, and hot-tempered individuals” who earned less than Bessemer’s street and sanitation workers.

Bessemer was a town with its own quaint racial customs, such as forcing black men to “walk in the middle of the downtown streets, not on the sidewalks, after dark — presumably to keep them from any close contact with white women.”

 

Bessemer was a town where in 1944 the police forced black prisoners to participate in an Independence Day watermelon run. White citizens reportedly cheered as firefighters blasted the inmates with high-pressure hoses to make the race more challenging. Winners, it is said, received reduced sentences and the watermelons.

It was in that town that Caliph Washington was born in 1939, the same year of my birth in Washington, D.C.

Bessemer’s racial climate was no different the year Washington was accused of killing Cowboy Clark. The town’s prevailing attitude on race was captured at the time in a pamphlet distributed by a segregationist group, the Bessemer Citizens’ Council. Black Christians, the white citizens’ council said, should remain content with being “our brothers in Christ without also wanting to become our brothers-in-law.”

If ever there was a place to not get caught “driving while black” — which is what Washington was doing on that fateful night in July 1957 — it was Bessemer. And that night’s hazard appeared in the form of Clark and his partner, Thurman Avery, who were cruising the streets in their patrol car looking for whiskey bootleggers.”

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Read the rest of King’s op-ed at the link.

So, when you hear Sessions and his White Nationalist buddies like Bannon, Miller, Kobach, and Pence extolling the virtues of a small Federal Government (except for the migrant-bashing mechanisms) state control of voting, civil rights, police conduct, gender fairness, environmental regulations, labor relations, filling the prisons with maximum sentences, a new war on drugs, etc., it’s just clever code for “let’s make sure that white-dominated state and local governments can keep blacks, hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities from achieving power, equality, and a fair share of the pie.” After all, if you believe, as these guys do, that true democracy can be a bad thing if it means diversity and power sharing, then you’re going to abuse the legal and political systems any way you can to maintain your hold on power.

And, of course, right-wing pontificating about the “rule of law” means  nothing other than selective application of some laws to the disadvantage of minorities, immigrants, and often women. You can see how selective Sessions’s commitment to the rule of law is when he withdraws DOJ participation in voting rights cases in the face of strong evidence of racial gerrymandering, withdraws support from protections for LGBT individuals, supports imprisonment in substandard prisons, targets legal marijuana, and “green lights” troubled police departments to prioritize aggressive law enforcement over the protection of minority citizens’ rights. Ethics laws, in particular, seems to be far removed from the Sessions/Trump concept of “Rule of Law.” And, sadly, this is only the beginning of the Trump Administration’s assault on our Constitution, our fundamental values, and the “real” “Rule of Law.”

PWS

06-18-17

POLITICS: Dems Fail Again To Make A Dent — GOP Wins Montana House Seat N/W/S Candidate’s Pending Assault Charge!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/us/montana-special-election.html?emc=edit_nn_20170526&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1

The NY Times reports:

“BOZEMAN, Mont. — Greg Gianforte, a wealthy Montana Republican who was charged with assaulting a reporter on Wednesday, nonetheless won the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives on Thursday, according to The Associated Press, in a special election held up as a test of the country’s political climate.

Mr. Gianforte, 56, was widely seen as a favorite to win against Rob Quist, a Democrat and country music singer. But he seemed to imperil his own candidacy in the final hours of the race after he manhandled a journalist for The Guardian.

Addressing the altercation for the first time late Thursday night, Mr. Gianforte apologized to the Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, by name, acknowledged he “made a mistake” and vowed to the state’s voters that he would not embarrass them again.

“You deserve a congressman who stays out of the limelight and just gets the job done,” he said to a group of supporters at a hotel in Bozeman, who repeatedly yelled out that they forgave him.

Voters here shrugged off the episode and handed Republicans a convincing victory. Mr. Gianforte took slightly more than 50 percent of the vote to about 44 percent for Mr. Quist. (President Trump won Montana by about 20 percentage points.) Mr. Gianforte’s success underscored the limitations of the Democrats’ strategy of highlighting the House’s health insurance overhaul and relying on liberal anger toward the president, at least in red-leaning states.”

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Forget all the Trump hoopla, public opinion polls, marches, demonstrations, town halls,  court cases, Russia, and the GOP’s cruelty, deception, and proven inability to govern. None of it appears to make any difference to the folks who count: voters!

There is no reason to believe that if the national election were held today, the results would be any different from November 2016: a GOP win at all levels.

Dems need 1) some dynamic leadership (sorely lacking since the departure of Obama from the national scene), and 2) a program that appeals to voters, at least some of whom pulled the lever for Trump.

The 2016 mistake was running a campaign based almost entirely on the strategy that Trump and the GOP would “self-destruct.” Didn’t work then, and it’s not working now.

How are Democrats, in the few areas of the country they control, improving things for the majority of folks, where the GOP isn’t? How could this be extended to “red areas?” How can immigrants actually create better economic opportunities for folks in red states and rural areas? Democrats need real life results, not just “wonkie” charts, statistics, and articles. How are Democrats going to get the message to folks who get their news from Fox, Breitbart, and their local GOP Representative’s newsletter?

Unless somebody is thinking creatively about the foregoing issues, it’s going to be a long four (or eight) years for Democrats and our country.

PWS

05-26-16

 

 

Fox, Breitbart, and

 

State & Local Prosecutors “Just Say No” To Gonzo-Apocalypto’s Retrograde Agenda!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/05/19/prosecutors-are-pushing-back-against-sessions-order-to-pursue-most-severe-penalties/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_sessions-penalties-920pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.47be355726b2

Lindsey Bever reports in the Washington Post:

“A week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and follow mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, a bipartisan group of prosecutors at the state and local level is expressing concern.

Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors have signed an open letter, which was released Friday by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network working with newly elected prosecutors. The prosecutors say that even though they do not have to answer Sessions’s call, the U.S. Attorney General’s directive “marks an unnecessary and unfortunate return to past ‘tough on crime’ practices” that will do more harm than good in their communities.

“What you’re seeing in this letter is a different wind of change that’s blowing through the criminal justice field,” said Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution.

“There does seem at the federal level to be a return to the tough-on-crime, seek-the-maximum-sentence, charge-and-pursue-whatever-you-can-prove approach,” Krinsky said. But, she added, at a local level, some believe “there are costs that flow from prosecuting and sentencing and incarcerating anyone and everyone who crosses the line of the law, and we need to be more selective and smarter in how we promote both the safety and the health of our communities.”

Signers of the letter include Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and Karl Racine, attorney general of the District of Columbia.

The prosecutors say that there are no real benefits to Sessions’s May 10 directive, but they noted “significant costs.”

The letter states:

The increased use of mandatory minimum sentences will necessarily expand the federal prison population and inflate federal spending on incarceration. There is a human cost as well. Instead of providing people who commit low-level drug offenses or who are struggling with mental illness with treatment, support and rehabilitation programs, the policy will subject them to decades of incarceration. In essence, the Attorney General has reinvigorated the failed “war on drugs,” which is why groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute to Right on Crime have all criticized the newly announced policy.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, a bipartisan group of Senators, led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is also pushing back against Sessions’s prosecution policies.

 

PWS

05-19-17

Willie To Jeffie: “You Need To Toke Up, Dude!” — Challenges AG To Take A Hit Before Targeting Weed!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/willie-nelson-jeff-sessions_us_591d4534e4b034684b0960d9

Ed Mazza reports in HuffPost:

“Country music legend Willie Nelson has some advice for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Nelson, a longtime advocate for legal pot, told Rolling Stone:

“I wonder if he’s tried both of them. I don’t think you can really make a statement like that unless you tried it all. So I’d like to suggest to Jeff to try it and then let me know later if he thinks he’s still telling the truth!”
The 84-year-old County Music Hall of Famer has his own brand of marijuana, Willie’s Reserve, for sale where it’s legal and often speaks highly of his own personal experiences with the drug.

Rolling Stone asked if there’s been a downside to his own habit.

“I haven’t run into any yet,” he said. “I guess if you go somewhere where it’s illegal, that’s a pretty good downside.”

Police have arrested the singer several times for marijuana-related offenses.”

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Don’t think this will be happening anytime soon!

PWS

05-19-17

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Slams Sessions On Sentencing!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/15/opinions/sessions-is-wrong-rand-paul-opinion/index.html

Sen. Rand Paul writes in an op-ed for CNN:

“The attorney general on Friday made an unfortunate announcement that will impact the lives of millions of Americans: he issued new instructions for prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable offenses, “those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

Rand Paul

Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities. Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Obama, issued guidelines to U.S. Attorneys that they should refrain from seeking long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
I agreed with him then and still do. In fact, I’m the author of a bipartisan bill with Senator Leahy to change the law on this matter. Until we pass that bill, though, the discretion on enforcement — and the lives of many young drug offenders — lies with the current attorney general
The attorney general’s new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system. We should be treating our nation’s drug epidemic for what it is — a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy.
And make no mistake, the lives of many drug offenders are ruined the day they receive that long sentence the attorney general wants them to have.
If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago.
Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting, primarily because of the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.
The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times likelier to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates. The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.
Why are the arrest rates so lopsided? Because it is easier to go into urban areas and make arrests than suburban areas. Arrest statistics matter when cities apply for federal grants. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that it’s easier to round up, arrest, and convict poor kids than it is to convict rich kids.
. . . .
Each case should be judged on its own merits. Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening.
Mandatory minimum sentencing has done little to address the very real problem of drug abuse while also doing great damage by destroying so many lives, and most Americans now realize it.
Proposition 47 recently passed in California, and it has spurred a cultural change in the way nonviolent drug offenders are treated, resulting in more than 13,000 fewer prisoners and a savings of $150 million, according to a Stanford Law School study.
Pew Research found that 67% of Americans want drug offenders to get treatment, not prison, and over 60% want an end to mandatory minimum sentences.
I urge the attorney general to reconsider his recent action. But even more importantly, I urge my colleagues to consider bipartisan legislation to fix this problem in the law where it should be handled. Congress can end this injustice, and I look forward to leading this fight for justice.”
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Finally, the ever divisive Jeff “Gonzo-Apocalypto” Sessions is doing something to unite Americans —  his “return to the failed policies of the past” on drugs is uniting Democrats and Republicans in bipartisan opposition.
PWS
05-16-17

“This Is The Trump Era” — Jeff Sessions Visits S. Border — Announces New Emphasis On Immigration Crimes — Although Majority of Feds’ Prosecutions Already Immigraton-Related, Enough Is Never Enough! — “Incarceration Nation” Coming! Sessions Also Seeks 125 New U.S. Immigration Judges Over Next 2 Years — Sessions “Disses” Forensic Science At DOJ!

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sessions-lays-out-tough-policy-on-undocumented-who-commit-crimes-1491930183

Aruna Viswanatha reports in the WSJ:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally, and promised to add 125 immigration judges in the next two years to address a backlog of immigration cases.

The moves are part of the administration’s efforts to deter illegal immigration and is meant to target gangs and smugglers, though non-violent migrants could also face more severe prosecutions.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Mr. Sessions instructed prosecutors to make a series of immigration offenses “higher priorities,” including transporting or harboring illegal immigrants, illegally entering or reentering the country, or assaulting immigration enforcement agents.

In remarks to border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona on Tuesday, Mr. Sessions spoke in stark terms about the threat he said illegal immigration poses.

“We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens,” Mr. Sessions said, according to the text of his prepared remarks. “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Mr. Sessions said.

Former prosecutors said they didn’t expect the memo to dramatically impact U.S. attorneys offices along the southern border, which already bring thousands of such cases each year. They said it could impact those further inland, which haven’t historically focused on immigration violations.

In the fiscal year that ended in September 2016, 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions involved immigration-related offenses, according to Justice Department data analyzed by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

. . . .

Immigration advocates said they worried that the memo and tone set by the administration was describing a closer link between criminal behavior and immigration than statistics show.

“We are seeing an over-emphasis on prosecuting, at the federal level, immigration, illegal entry and reentry cases, and far less paid to criminal violations that implicate public safety,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.”

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On April 8, 2017, Sari Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on how Sessions’s enthusiastic plans to reinstitute the largely discredited “war on drugs” is likely to “jack up” Federal Prison populations:

“Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.
“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last month. “It will destroy your life.”

Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).”

. . . .

Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.

The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing and made retroactive the law that reduced the large disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.

But then people such as Sessions and Cook spoke up. The longtime Republican senator from Alabama became a leading opponent, citing the spike in crime in several cities.

“Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing,” said Sessions, one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the legislation. “It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill . . . to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prison.”
Cook testified that it was the “wrong time to weaken the last tools available to federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents.”

After GOP lawmakers became nervous about passing legislation that might seem soft on crime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”

Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.

And he quickly appointed Cook to be a senior official on the attorney general’s task force on crime reduction and public safety, which was created following a Trump executive order to address what the president has called “American carnage.”

“If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook’s appointment was a fire hose,” said Ring, of FAMM. “There simply aren’t enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook’s vision for America.”

. . . .

Sessions’s aides stress that the attorney general does not want to completely upend every aspect of criminal justice policy.

“We are not just sweeping away everything that has come before us.” said Robyn Thiemann, the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, who is working with Cook and has been at the Justice Department for nearly 20 years. “The attorney general recognizes that there is good work out there.”

Still, Sessions’s remarks on the road reveal his continued fascination with an earlier era of crime fighting.

In the speech in Richmond, he said, “Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”

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Not surprisingly, Sessions’s actions prompted a spate of critical commentary, the theme of which was the failure of the past “war on drugs” and “Just say no to Jeff Sessions.” You can search them on the internet, but here is a representative example, an excerpt from a posting by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph in “Health Care Musings:”

“We Can’t Just Say No
Posted on April 9, 2017 by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph
Three decades ago, Nancy Reagan launched her famous anti-drug campaign when she told American citizens, “Say yes to your life. And when it comes to alcohol and drugs, just say no.” 1 Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the former First Lady’s legacy in a speech to Virginia law enforcement when he said, “ I think we have too much tolerance for drug use– psychologically, politically, morally. We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’”2 As our nation is confronted on a daily basis with the tragic effects of the opioid epidemic, it is important that we understand just how dangerous it is to suggest that we return to the ‘just say no’ approach.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘just say no’ curriculum became the dominant drug education program nationwide in the form of DARE.3 The DARE program– Drug Abuse Resistance Education– was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles police chief in collaboration with a physician, Dr. Ruth Rich. The pair adapted a drug education curriculum that was in the development process at University of Southern California in order to create a program that would be taught by police officers and would teach students to resist the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. With the backdrop of the War on Drugs that had continued from the Nixon presidency into the Reagan era, DARE grew quickly. Communities understandably wanted to prevent their children from using alcohol and drugs. The program was soon being used in 75% of schools nationwide and had a multimillion dollar budget.3 In fact, I would bet that many of you reading this are DARE graduates. I certainly am.

It did not take long for there to be research showing that the ‘just say no’ approach used in DARE was not working. By the early 1990s there were multiple studies showing that DARE had no effect on its graduates choices regarding alcohol and drug use.4 The decision to ignore the research about DARE culminated when the National Institute of Justice evaluated the program in 1994, concluded that it was ineffective, and proceeded to not publish this finding. In the 10 years that followed, DARE was subjected to evaluation by the Department of Education, the U.S Surgeon General’s Office, and the Government Accountability Office.4 The combined effect of these evaluations was the eventual transformation of DARE into an evidence-based curriculum, Keepin’ It REAL, which was released in 2011.5 But this only happened after billions of dollars were spent on a program that did not work and millions of students received inadequate drug education.

And yet, here we are again. The top law enforcement officer in our nation is suggesting that we go back to the days where elementary and middle school students were told that all they needed to do was ‘just say no.’”

Read the complete post here:

https://sites.tufts.edu/cmph357/author/rjosep06/

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Finally, just yesterday, on April 10, 2017, Spenser S. Hsu reported in the Washington Post that Sessions was “canning” the “National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013” as a consultant to the DOJ on proper forensic standards.

In plain terms, in Session’s haste to rack up more criminal convictions and appear “tough on crime,” the quality of the evidence or the actual guilt or innocence of those charged becomes merely “collateral damage” in the “war on crime.”

Here’s a portion of what Hsu had to say:

“Several commission members who have worked in criminal courts and supported the input of independent scientists said the department risks retreating into insularity and repeating past mistakes, saying that no matter how well-intentioned, prosecutors lack scientists’ objectivity and training.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York, the only federal judge on the commission, said, “It is unrealistic to expect that truly objective, scientifically sound standards for the use of forensic science . . . can be arrived at by entities centered solely within the Department of Justice.”

In suspending reviews of past testimony and the development of standards for future reporting, “the department has literally decided to suspend the search for the truth,” said Peter S. Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has reported that nearly half of 349 DNA exonerations involved misapplications of forensic science. “As a consequence innocent people will languish in prison or, God forbid, could be executed,” he said.

However, the National District Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors, applauded the end of the commission and called for it to be replaced by an Office of Forensic Science inside the Justice Department. Disagreements between crime lab practitioners and defense community representatives on the commission had reduced it to “a think tank,” yielding few accomplishments and wasted tax dollars, the association said.

The commission was created after critical reports by the National Academy of Sciences about a dearth of standards and funding for crime labs, examiners and researchers, problems it partly traced to law enforcement control over the system.

Although examiners had long claimed to be able to match pattern evidence — such as with firearms or bite marks — to a source with “absolute” or “scientific” certainty, only DNA analysis had been validated through statistical research, scientists reported.

In one case, the FBI lab in 2005 abandoned its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked. In 2015, the department and bureau reported that nearly every examiner in an elite hair-analysis unit gave scientifically flawed or overstated testimony in 90 percent of cases for two decades before 2000.

The cases include 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.”

Here is a link to the full article by Hsu: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sessions-orders-justice-dept-to-end-forensic-science-commission-suspend-review-policy/2017/04/10/2dada0ca-1c96-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?utm_term=.97b814db4eac&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

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I “get” that some of the advocacy groups quoted in these articles could be considered “interested parties” and/or “soft on crime” in the world of hard-core prosecutors. But, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the Koch brothers “soft on crime?” Come on, man!

Capitalist theory says that as long as there is a nearly insatiable “market” in the United States for illegal drugs, and a nearly inexhaustible “supply” abroad, there is going to be drug-related crime. Harsher sentences might increase risks and therefore “jack up market prices” for “consumers” of “product,” while creating “new job opportunities” for “middlemen” who will have to take (and be compensated for) more risks and invest in more expensive business practices (such as bribery, or manipulation of the legal system) to get the product “to market.”

But, you can bet that until we deal with the “end causes” in a constructive manner, neither drug trafficking nor trafficking in undocumented individuals is likely to change much in the long run.

Indeed, authorities have been cutting off heads, hands, feet, and other appendages, drawing and quartering, hanging, crucifying, shooting, gassing, injecting, racking, mutilating, imprisoning in dungeons, transporting, banishing, and working to death those who have committed crimes, both serious and not so serious, for centuries. But, strangely, such harsh practices, while certainly diminishing the humanity of those who inflict them, have had little historical effect on crime. The most obvious effects have been more dead and damaged individuals, overcrowded prisons, and angry disaffected families.

125 new U.S. Immigration Judges should be good news for the beleaguered U.S. Immigration Courts. But, even assuming that Congress goes along, at the glacial pace the DOJ and EOIR have been hiring Immigration Judges over the past two Administrations, it could take all four years of Trump’s current term to get them on board and actually deciding cases.

More bad news: Added to the approximately 375 Immigration Judges currently authorized (but, only about 319 actually on the bench), that would bring the total to 500 Immigration Judges. Working at the current 750 completions/year (50% above the “optimum” of 500 completions/year) the currently authorized 375 Immigration Judges could complete fewer than 300,000 cases/year consistent with due process — barely enough to keep up with historic receipts, let alone the “enhanced enforcement” promised by the Trump Administration. They would not have to capacity to address the current “backlog” of approximately 550,000 cases.

If receipts remained “flat,” the 125 “new” Immigration Judges contemplated by AG Sessions could go to work on on the backlog. But, it would take them about 6 years to wipe out the 550,000 case existing backlog.

PWS

04/11/17