GONZO’S WORLD: TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLING OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM – THE “BOGUS FOCUS” ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IS KEY TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE STRATEGY! — “Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/opinion/sunday/donald-trump-and-the-undoing-of-justice-reform.html

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

“In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America’s approach to criminal justice was changing fast — reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives. Red and blue states were putting in place smart, sensible reforms like reducing harsh sentencing laws, slashing prison populations and crime rates, and providing more resources for the thousands of people who are released every week.

President Obama’s record on the issue was far from perfect, but he and his first attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took several key steps: weakening racially discriminatory sentencing laws, shortening thousands of absurdly long drug sentences, and pulling back on the prosecution of low-level drug offenders and of federal marijuana offenses in states that have legalized it. This approach reflected state-level efforts and sent a message of encouragement to those still leery of reform.

Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of “American carnage,” of cities and towns gutted by crime — even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades. Things only got worse with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, along with Mr. Trump, appears to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election. Perhaps that’s why both men seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative.

Last February, Mr. Trump claimed that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Wrong: The national rate remains at an all-time low. It’s true that the 10.8 percent increase in murders between 2014 and 2015 was the largest one-year rise in more than four decades, but the total number of murders is still far below what it was in the early 1990s.

 

As bad as the dishonesty is the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have managed to engineer their backward worldview largely under the public’s radar, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents. Last May, Mr. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case — reversing a policy of Mr. Holder’s that had eased up on nonviolent drug offenders and others who fill the nation’s federal prisons. In January, Mr. Sessions rescinded another Obama-era policy that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. (Mr. Sessions has long insisted, contrary to all available evidence, that marijuana is “a dangerous drug” and “only slightly less awful” than heroin.)

These sorts of moves don’t get much attention, but as the report notes, they could end up increasing the federal prison population, which began to fall for the first time in decades under Mr. Obama.

The reversal of sensible criminal justice reform doesn’t stop there. Under Mr. Trump, the Justice Department has pulled back from his predecessor’s investigations of police abuse and misconduct; resumed the use of private, for-profit prisons; and stopped granting commutations to low-level drug offenders who have spent years or decades behind bars.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions, who as a senator was one of the most reliable roadblocks to long-overdue federal sentencing reform, is still throwing wrenches into the works as Congress inches toward a bipartisan deal. Mr. Sessions called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a sweeping bill that would reduce some mandatory-minimum sentences, and that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a “grave error.” That earned him a rebuke from the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, who pointed out that the attorney general is tasked with enforcing the laws, not writing them. “If General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley is no one’s idea of a justice reformer, but he supports the bill because, he said, it “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

So what has this administration done right? The list is short and uninspiring. In October, Mr. Trump declared the epidemic of opioid abuse a national emergency, which could be a good step toward addressing it — but he’s since done almost nothing to combat a crisis that killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Trump promised to “embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” It’s great if he really means that, but it’s hard to square his assurance with his own attorney general’s opposition to a bill that includes recidivism-reduction programs intended to achieve precisely this goal.

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

The rhetoric from the White House and the Justice Department has emboldened some state and local officials to talk tougher, even if just as ignorantly, about crime. The good news is that it’s not working as well anymore. In Virginia’s race for governor last fall, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, attacked his opponent, Ralph Northam, with ads blaming him for violence by the MS-13 gang.

It was a despicable stunt, its fearmongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign. Thankfully, Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Gillespie, another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum. In the era of Donald Trump, candidates of both parties should be proud to run as reformers — but particularly Democrats, who can cast the issue not only as a central component of a broader progressive agenda, but as yet another example of just how out of touch with the country Mr. Trump and his administration are.”

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I know it’s quoted above, but two paragraphs of this article deserve re-emphasis:

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

Gonzo consistently uses bogus statistics, fear-mongering, racial innuendo, and outright slurs of immigrants, including Dreamers, and their advocates to advance his White Nationalist agenda at Justice.

At the same time, he largely ignores or proposes laughably inadequate steps to address the real justice problems in America: Russian interference, the opioid crisis, uncontrolled gun violence (much of it involving mass shootings by disgruntled White Guys with assault-type weapons), overcrowded prisons, lack of an effective Federal community-based anti-gang effort in major cities, hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, grotesquely substandard conditions in civil immigration detention, and the uncontrolled backlogs and glaring denials of Due Process and fairness to migrants in our U.S. Immigration Court System.

How long can America go without a real Attorney General who acknowledges the rights of all people in America? How will we ever recover from the damage that Gonzo does every day he remains in the office for which he is so supremely unqualified?

PWS

02-19-18

 

WHAT DOES TRUMP HAVE IN COMMON WITH THE GAMBINO CRIME FAMILY OTHER THAN AUDACIOUS DISHONESTY AND A PENCHANT FOR FRAUD? — PERHAPS, MUELLER & CO ARE GOING TO “ROLL UP” THE TRUMPSTERS JUST THE WAY THEY DID THE GAMBINOS! – Will Rick Gates Be The Reincarnation of “Sammy The Bull?”

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/rick-gates-robert-mueller-donald-trump

Abigail Tracy writes in Vanity Fair:

“Even among some of Donald Trump’s allies, there is a sense of astonishment at the White House’s handling of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. “It’s like no one took down the Gambino family,” Steve BannontoldChris Whipple in a book adaptation the Hive published this week. “Mueller’s doing a roll-up just like he did with the Gambinos. [Paul] Manafort’s the caporegime, right? And [Rick] Gates is a made man!” Indeed, Mueller, who led the F.B.I. takedown of the infamous crime family in the early 1990s, famously cutting a deal with Sammy the Bull to flip on mob boss John Gotti, appears to be executing what some have called a “Gambino-style roll-up.” First, he flippedformer Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos; then, he turnedousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. Now, CNN reports, Mueller appears to be in the final stages of a plea deal with Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman and a longtime business associate of Manafort, who was indicted alongside him last fall.

The White House reportedly views Gates’s testimony as a threat to Manafort, and not to the president. “There’d be no anxiety here,” a White House official told CNN when asked about the possibility that Gates will cut a deal. The charges against the two, after all, had nothing do with Russian collusion; the 12 counts included failure to register as a foreign agent, false and misleading statements related to that registration, and seven counts of improper foreign financial reporting—all as part of a broader conspiracy to launder millions of dollars from their consulting work in Ukraine into the United States. Manafort has pleaded not guilty, and is fighting the charges. But Gates, who has also pleaded not guilty, has been grappling with financial troubles and difficulties with his legal team. According to CNN, he has been in plea negotiations with Mueller’s team of F.B.I. investigators for about a month, and has already given an interview in which he would have revealed any knowledge he might have of criminal activity that could be traded for leniency or immunity in sentencing.

What this means for the White House isn’t exactly clear. While Manafort’s reign as campaign chairman and Gates’s role as his deputy were short-lived, the duo oversaw a series of events and interactions that have come under intense scrutiny in the ongoing Justice Department probe. Manafort and Gates ran the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, during which Donald Trump Jr. held his infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. They were also on board during the Republican National Convention, where a number of Trump campaign officials and surrogates met with Russian officials and campaign officials altered the language of the official G.O.P. platform on Ukraine to be more sympathetic to Russian interests. While Manafort was replaced by Bannon after The New York Times alleged that handwritten ledgers showed millions in undisclosed cash payments designated for Manafort in Ukraine—a claim Manafort denies—Gates continued to work with the Trump campaign through the transition, and served as a senior official on Trump’s inaugural committee.”

For now, the most significant facts in the case remain under lock. Adam Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that the panel has discovered evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 campaign, as well as evidence of subsequent obstruction. “There is certainly an abundance of non-public information that we’ve gathered in the investigation,” Schiff toldreporters. Whether that information is actionable remains to be seen. According to the White House’s own budget request, the administration expects Mueller’s investigation to continue well into next year, despite repeated assurances from the president’s legal team that it was approaching a conclusion. If Gates has the goods, perhaps it will end sooner.

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No, the “Don of Con” isn’t “in the clear” as he incredibly asserts. In fact, it appears that the noose is slowly tightening. Exactly the kind of “dangling in the wind” to which The Don likes to subject those subordinates whom he suspects of disloyalty.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” And, there’s so much smoke surrounding The Don, his family, and his current and former associates right now that it’s a miracle nobody in the White House has succumbed to smoke inhalation.

PWS

02-17-18

GONZO’S WORLD: NOT LONG AGO, SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA) HELPED INFLICT THE RACIST, XENOPHOBE, WHITE NATIONALIST JEFF SESSIONS ON AMERICA AS THE MOST CLEARLY UNQUALIFIED ATTORNEY GENERAL IN HISTORY! – NOW, EVEN “CHUCKLES” HAS HAD ENOUGH OF “GONZOISM!” — Sorry, Chuckles, You Reap What You Sow!

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/14/grassley-sessions-criminal-justice-410735

Elana Schor reports for Politico:

Grassley rips Sessions for opposing criminal justice bill

‘When the president was going to fire him, I went to his defense,’ Grassley said in an interview.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley hit back hard at Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday after his former Senate colleague launched a preemptive strike on his criminal justice bill.

The legislation, which Grassley has worked on for more than two years, is expected to win committee approval Thursday. But it faces a tough climb to the Senate floor amid reluctance from GOP leaders and conservative resistance. Sessions, who opposed the reform effort during his time on the Judiciary panel, piled on Wednesday with a letter warning that the bipartisan proposal “risks putting the very worst criminals back into our communities.”

Grassley responded with a powerful brushback pitch to the attorney general.

“It’s Senator Sessions talking, not a person whose job it is to execute law, and quite frankly I’m very incensed,” he told POLITICO.

What Sessions’ letter “doesn’t recognize here,” Grassley added, “and why I’m incensed about it is, look at how hard it was for me to get him through committee in the United States Senate. And look at, when the president was going to fire him, I went to his defense.”

The Iowa Republican said “all kinds of” potentially polarizing Justice Department nominees who have proven “very difficult to get through the United States Senate” have also landed in his lap as chief of the influential Judiciary Committee.

“If he wanted to do this,” Grassley said of Sessions, “he should have done what people suggested to him before: resign from attorney general and run for the Senate in Alabama again. We’d have a Republican senator.”

Grassley was referring to the special election for the Senate seat Sessions vacated to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) ultimately won after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with minors against GOP nominee Roy Moore. Republican leaders considered asking Sessions to join the race as a write-in candidate in a bid to save the seat for their party. Sessions has also had a tumultuous time in the Trump administration, at one point reportedly offering his resignation.

The criminal justice bill, which Grassley negotiated alongside Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), counts co-sponsorship from 18 other senators, evenly distributed between the parties. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who supported the broader reform effort in the previous Congress, has shifted his focus this year to a narrower prison reform measure that he has said has a better chance of Trump signing into law.

But Grassley hasn’t abandoned the push to win floor time for the legislation, which would ease mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent offenders and end the required life sentence for some repeat drug offenders. Other elements of the proposal would create new mandatory minimum sentences for other categories of offense and bolster punishment for those convicted of trafficking in drugs containing the opioid fentanyl.

Grassley disputed Sessions’ characterization of the criminal justice reform bill in his Wednesday letter as bringing “potentially dire consequences” for efforts to fight the nationwide opioid epidemic.

“I agree with Sessions that mandatory minimums are important, and we don’t touch that,” the Iowan said.

Sessions’ critique of the legislation “makes it sound like these guys are going to be out on the streets as soon as the judge makes the decision,” Grassley added. “So he can have his strong position, and I can have my position that brings a little bit of fairness to it.”

Grassley also tweeted his frustration with Sessions Wednesday. Asked for a comment, a Justice Department spokeswoman said the letter from the attorney general would suffice.”

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The chickens come home to roost, Chuckles! Implied, if not actually stated by Grassley, is that Gonzo lied under oath about more than his Russian connections during his confirmation hearings.

Gonzo falsely claimed that he would leave the partisan role of the extreme rightist Senator from Alabama behind and recognize that the role of U.S. Attorney General involved fairly and impartially representing the diverse interests of all Americans. I actually gave him the “benefit of the doubt” on that one.

But, Gonzo quickly established beyond any reasonable doubt that he could not leave behind a lifetime of racism, xenophobia, White Nationalism, and lies. He continues to be the same “shill” for racist restrictionist hate groups that he always has been.

Yup, Chuckles! Gonzo’s disdain for bipartisanship, reasonable compromise, equal treatment, and sane delivery of justice runs deep. Perhaps you should have “done the right thing” during the confirmation process!

The good news: by the time Mueller gets through, Gonzo might well wish that he had eased off a little on Chuckles’s proposal to revise sentencing for “nonviolent” offenses — like perjury, obstruction of justice, or providing false or misleading information. He’ll have to hope that his mouthpiece  “Chuckie” Cooper can help him beat the rap for his “bad memory.”

PWS

02-15-18

ON SATURDAY, “COURTSIDE” & SLATE’S JEREMY STAHL GAVE YOU THE “REAL LOWDOWN” ON AAG RACHEL BRAND’S “FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE!” — Two Days Later, NBC News Confirms What We Already Said!

Here’s a link to the prior blog on immigrationcourtside.com:

https://wp.me/p8eeJm-26R

Here’s the NBC report by one of my favorite Washington reporters, Julia Edwards Ainsley:

http://nbcnews.to/2CfKuHi

Julia reports:

“WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said.

She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.

Sources: Brand left DOJ over fear of overseeing Russia probe 3:40

As far back as last fall, Brand had expressed to friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job, especially as many key positions under her jurisdiction had still not been filled with permanent, Senate-confirmed officials.

Four of the 13 divisions overseen by the associate attorney general remain unfilled, including the civil rights division and the civil division, over one year into the Trump administration.

While Brand has largely stayed out of the spotlight, public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by President Donald Trump worried Brand that Rosenstein’s job could be in danger.

Should Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter.

The Justice Department pushed back on NBC’s report.

“It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking. All of this is false and frankly ridiculous,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores.

Brand has had a long legal career that has spanned several administrations, including under Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush.

In announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Brand as “a lawyer’s lawyer,” noting that she graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked at the Supreme Court.

In the same statement, Brand said, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”

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Undoubtedly, the DOJ under Trump and Sessions has made some great strides in attacking the rule of law, undermining social justice, mal-administering the Immigration Courts, eroding the credibility of DOJ attorneys in court, and generally diminishing the quality and fairness of the justice system in the United States.

While those might give Rachel “bragging rights” over at Wal-Mart or in right-wing legal circles, I don’t see that they are anything to “write home about.”  Hopefully, at some point in the future, having served as a politico in the Trump/Sessions DOJ will become a “career killer” for any future Government appointments.

But, in today’s topsy-turvy legal-political climate, it’s still a shrewd “self-preservation” move on Brand’s part. And, she’s somewhat less likely to be stomping on anyone’s civil rights over at Wal-Mart (although you never know when an opportunity to dump on the civil rights of the  LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, women, the poor, or to promote religious intelerance might present itself in a corporate setting).

Looking forward to more DOJ reporting from the super-talented Julia! I’ve missed her on the “immigration beat!”

PWS

02-12-18

 

 

 

JUSTIN GEORGE @ VICE – HOW TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE TRASHING AMERICA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM!

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbpnkb/trump-has-already-demolished-obamas-criminal-justice-legacy

George writes:

“This story was published in partnership with the Marshall Project.

On criminal justice, Donald J. Trump’s predecessor was a late-blooming activist. By the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, his administration had exhorted prosecutors to stop measuring success by the number of defendants sent away for the maximum, taken a hands-off approach to states legalizing marijuana and urged local courts not to punish the poor with confiscatory fines and fees. His Justice Department intervened in cities where communities had lost trust in their police.

In less than a year, President Trump demolished Obama’s legacy.



In its place, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has framed his mission as restoring the “rule of law”, which often means stiffening the spines and limiting the discretion of prosecutors, judges and law officers. And under President Trump’s “America first” mandate, being tough on crime is inextricably tied to being tough on immigration.

“I think all roads in Trump’s rhetoric and Sessions’s rhetoric sort of lead to immigration,” said Ames Grawert, an attorney in the left-leaning Brennan Center’s Justice Program who has been studying the administration’s ideology. “I think that’s going to make it even harder for people trying to advance criminal justice reform because that’s bound up in the president’s mind, in the attorney general’s mind, as an issue that they feel very, very passionately on—restricting immigration of all sorts.”

Here are nine ways Trump has transformed the landscape of criminal justice, just one tumultuous year into his presidency.

He changed the tone

Words matter, and Trump’s words were a loud, often racially charged departure from the reformist talk of being “smart on crime” and making police “guardians, not warriors.” His response to a New York City terrorist truck attack last year reflects the new tone:

“We… have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said. “They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be—who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice—much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”

The president’s rhetoric seemed to trickle down. Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, adopted what many call “Trumpism” during his fall campaign, vilifying Democrat Ralph Northam as being soft on crime. His ads accused Democrats of restoring the voting rights of a child pornography collector—targeting one man out of the 168,000 former felons who had had their voting rights restored.

In a hotly contested Alabama senate race, Trump accused the Democrat—a prosecutor who had won convictions against two Klansmen who helped plot the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls—of being “soft on crime.”

While both of the Republicans lost, prisoner advocates worry the discourse has re-sparked irrational fears and will spook conservatives who have in recent years joined the reform movement. And Trump has not limited his target set to Democrats. He has attacked members of his own party, like Arizona senator Jeff Flake, as “weak on crime and border.”

He wants to keep the “mass” in mass incarceration

Of all the moves Sessions made in 2017, none brought as much consternation from all sides of the political spectrum—from the Koch brothers and Rand Paul to the ACLU and Cory Booker—as this: He revoked the Obama-era instruction to federal prosecutors to be more flexible in charging low-level, nonviolent offenders. Under this policy, federal prosecutions had declined for five consecutive years and, in 2016, were at their lowest level in nearly two decades, according to the Pew Research Center.

Sessions ordered prosecutors to seek the maximum punishment available, prompting widespread fear of a return to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the federal prisons filled with drug offenders. In what it is calling a budget cut, the Bureau of Prisons has also ordered the closure of several halfway houses, which can extend the length of time soon-to-be released prisoners are spending behind bars.

The administration has also cast doubt on the prospect of legislation aimed at reducing mandatory-minimum sentences and encouraging diversion to drug treatment and mental health care. Governors and advocates who boast of success at reducing state prison populations—notably in red states—met with the president and son-in-law Jared Kushner on January 11 to plead for similar measures in the federal system, but the discussion was largely confined to rehabilitating the incarcerated rather than incarcerating fewer people in the first place. While sentencing reform seems to be fading, there appears to be progress toward a Kushner-led crusade that calls on churches and private businesses to mentor prisoners upon release and help them find jobs and housing. Trump may also look to cut regulations such as licensing requirements that prohibit applicants with felony records from some lines of work.

He made immigration synonymous with crime

Perhaps the most consistent theme of his young administration is that immigrants, especially immigrants of color, are a danger. From the Mexican “rapists” to the “shithole countries” of the third world, the president has played to a base that believes—evidence to the contrary—that immigrants bring crime and displace American workers.

Deportation orders have surged. The Department of Justice said in early December that total orders of removal and voluntary departures were up 34 percent compared with the same time in 2016. Actual removals have not kept pace—in fact, they were at their lowest level since 2006, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University—but it is clear the Trump administration is ramping up ways to deport undocumented immigrants.

The declared ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was met with wide consternation from Republicans and Democrats, and is being fought out in courts and bipartisan political negotiations. Trump has given mixed signals as to whether the DACA recipients, brought into the US illegally as children, get to stay, and at what political price. But in the meantime he has ordered an end to protection of refugees from Haiti (at least 60,000) and El Salvador (at least 200,000) who were granted temporary legal status under a bill signed by the first President Bush. And just the other day Sessions limited the power of immigration judges to close complicated cases, a move that could lead to thousands more deportations.

The immigrants-as-menace meme recurs in the argument over “sanctuary cities,” where officials have declined to help in the roundup of the undocumented. Sessions has threatened to withhold federal policing funds from uncooperative venues, so far unsuccessfully.”

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Read the rest of the article at the link.

Ah, the “New American Gulag!”

PWS

01-23-18

GONZO’S WORLD: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DIVERSE “NATION OF IMMIGRANTS” ANOINTS A COMMITTED XENOPHOBE AS ITS CHIEF LAW OFFICER? – Gonzo Is Deconstructing Our System Of Justice, One Day At A Time!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/while-eyes-are-on-russia-sessions-dramatically-reshapes-the-justice-department/2017/11/24/dd52d66a-b8dd-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.6b27aa9221e3

“For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia.

But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.

From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Nov. 14. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.

Supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.

. . . .

In meetings with top Justice Department officials about terrorist suspects, Sessions often has a particular question: Where is the person from? When officials tell him a suspect was born and lives in the United States, he typically has a follow-up: To what country does his family trace its lineage?

While there are reasons to want to know that information, some officials familiar with the inquiries said the questions struck them as revealing that Sessions harbors an innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The Attorney General asks lots of relevant questions in these classified briefings.”

Sessions, unlike past attorneys general, has been especially aggressive on immigration. He served as the public face of the administration’s rolling back of a program that granted a reprieve from deportation to people who had come here without documentation as children, and he directed federal prosecutors to make illegal-immigration cases a higher priority. The attorney general has long held the view that the United States should even reduce the number of those immigrating here legally.

In an interview with Breitbart News in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke favorably of a 1924 law that excluded all immigrants from Asia and set strict caps on others.

“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said. “We then assimilated through 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”

Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration who now works as chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Sessions seems to harbor an “unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration.”

“On issue after issue, it’s very easy to see what his worldview is of what this country is and who belongs in this country,” she said, adding that his view is “distinctly anti-immigrant.”

Those on the other side of the aisle, however, say they welcome the changes Sessions has made at the Justice Department.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for moderating levels of immigration, said she would give the attorney general an “A-plus” for his work in the area, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges and his focus on the MS-13 gang.

“He was able to hit the ground running because he has so much expertise already in immigration enforcement and related public safety issues and the constitutional issues, so he’s accomplished a lot in a very short time,” Vaughan said.”

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Read the compete article, which deals with much more than immigration, at the link.

Immigrants, refugees, immigration advocates, and career civil servants involved in immigration at the DOJ seems to be “star-crossed.” After decades of relative indifference to the importance of immigration, an Attorney General finally shows up  who makes it his highest priority.

Only problem is that he’s a committed xenophobe and White Nationalist whose largely false and exaggerated narrative on immigration comes right from the alt-right restrictionist playbook and harks back to the Jim Crow era of the American South — only this time with Hispanics and Muslims as the primary targets.

In any “normal” American business, obsession with tracing back lineage of someone’s family would be prima facie evidence of prohibited “national origins discrimination.” But, for Gonzo, it’s just another day at the office.

Notwithstanding his less than stellar performances before Congress and that he’s fallen off Trump’s “A-Team” (notwithstanding probably doing more to deconstruct the Constitution and “Good Government” than any other cabinet officer), he’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon. So the damage will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. It’s not like Senator Liz Warren and others didn’t try to warn America about this dude!

Meanwhile, perhaps not to be outdone, over at the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proceeding to deconstruct the Career Foreign Service and reduce the Stated Department and our Diplomatic Corps to “administrative roadkill.” You can read about that debacle in this NY Times article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/us/politics/state-department-tillerson.html

PWS

11-26-17

 

GONZO’S WORLD: “MINISTRY OF INJUSTICE” — How Gonzo Is Successfully Draining Justice From The Department Of Justice

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/jeff-sessions-slowly-surely-undoing-america-s-criminal-justice-progress-ncna823126

James Braxton Peterson reports for NBC News:

“The Russia investigation may be undercutting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ credibility, but it has not undermined his efforts to take the U.S. Justice Department back in time.

The time Sessions wants to go back to features an unforgiving system of mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color in a legal structure too often stacked against them.

To do this, the attorney general has issued a slew of policy rollbacks — unfortunate for a Justice Department that was only incrementally making progress toward equal justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

In this sense, Sessions’ Justice Department might be the most effective unit of the Trump administration. If Trumpism’s goal is, at least in, part to destroy the progress achieved under the Obama administration, Sessions’ scorecard so far outstrips his GOP colleagues in the Cabinet and former colleagues in the Senate.

In March, for example, the nation’s top law enforcement officer visited St. Louis, next-door to Ferguson, ground zero for the Black Lives Matter movement. Sessions was in St. Louis talking about crime initiatives but also seeming to criticize one of the most useful tools for documenting police brutality: civilian cell phone videos. The choice of venue could not have been a coincidence. By focusing on “targeted police killings,” he deflected attention from the challenges now confronting law enforcement.

In fact, Sessions has had little to say on how the Justice Department might address matters of police brutality, much less on the matter of Black Lives Mattering. Instead, he has mostly showcased President Donald Trump’s belief that strong policing and incarceration are key to maintaining law and civil order.

. . . .

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts. Because the statistics are well known: Whites and blacks use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, and African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. Yet law enforcement records are remarkably different for each demographic. According to Human Rights Watch: “Black adults are more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white adults to be arrested for drug possession. In 2014, Black adults accounted for just 14 percent of those who used drugs in the previous year but close to a third of those arrested for drug possession.” In many states, a felony conviction also means losing the right to vote.

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts.

Sessions looks eager to re-open the “war on drugs” — or, more appropriately, the war on poor people who use drugs. No available metric on this decades-long war shows any significant success in limiting access to drugs in the United States or in reducing addiction to controlled substances.

What the “war on drugs” has been good at is: stigmatizing poor people afflicted with the disease of addiction; profiling black and brown folks and arresting them at rates exponentially greater than their white counterparts; and creating revenue streams for the Prison Industrial Complex.

. . . .

Sessions’ success will be key if Trump wants to make good on his law-and-order promises.

Sadly, it is working. The Justice Department is slowly transforming into an injustice department right before our eyes.

Mass incarceration, its impact on families and communities and the often racially biased ways in which its policies operate is still one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. It’s a shame that, in the era of Trump, we are unable to effectively address the challenges we face.

James Braxton Peterson is the author of three books, including “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners.”

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Read Peterson’s full article at the link.

Peterson doesn’t even get into Gonzo’s brazen attacks on justice for Latinos, immigrants, Dreamers, refugees, LGBTQ individuals, so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” lawyers, reporters, Federal Judges, critics of the Administration, forensic science, private property, or users of legalized marijuana. And, he only mentions in passing Gonzo’s disingenuous statements on Russia and his lackadaisical handling of the real threats Russia poses to our national security. Grim as Peterson’s article is, it actually substantially understates the true carnage that Gonzo is inflicting on our Constitution and our system of justice. It could turn out to be irreparable!

Senator Liz Warren was right!

PWS

11-24-17

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

*************************************************

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

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.”

*****************************************

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.”

***********************************************

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

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

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