Monday, October 26, 2020

Breaking the Law Like it's Going Out of Style

 


When Mike Pompeo makes up his mind to break the law, he does it safe in the knowledge that he's going to get away with it:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is under investigation for potentially violating a federal law that forbids federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or while inside federal buildings over his address to the Republican convention in August.

The Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, launched a probe into Pompeo's speech to the Republican National Convention while on a taxpayer funded trip to Jerusalem on August 25, according to two House Democrats. 

It is the second investigation into potential Hatch Act violations that the OSC has opened into Pompeo, whose use of resources and decision-making at the State Department, along with his wife's, have triggered a series of investigations by the agency's inspector general.

"Our offices have confirmed that the Office of Special Counsel has launched a probe into potential Hatch Act violations tied to Secretary Pompeo's speech to the Republican National Convention," Rep. Ellot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations, wrote in a joint statement.

"This information comes on the heels of reporting that OSC is also looking into Secretary Pompeo's stated commitment to rush out more of Hillary Clinton's emails by Election Day and as the Secretary has misused State Department resources on his speech tour of swing states," the Democrats said.

Given the fact that Trump's last attempt at diplomacy resulted in being impeached, it's not outside the realm of possibility to conclude that no one has any idea what Pompeo actually does with his time. It could be that he is working on diplomatic matters and international relations. Or, what seems more likely, he's lining his pockets and forcing his staff to take care of his wife's inability to do anything for herself.

In any event, America is less safe with a corrupt, incompetent Secretary of State at the helm, especially one who doesn't believe in following the law.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pope Francis and Gay Rights

 


Pope Francis is out to change minds and change hearts:

In a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

The remarks came amid a portion of the documentary that reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT. 

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.

After those remarks, and in comments likely to spark controversy among Catholics, Pope Francis weighed in directly on the issue of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”

This is a stunning development, and it is important to see how this affects Catholics world wide. It should not be seen solely as a rebuke of what is going on with the United States Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett nor should it be seen as another attack on Trump. But it helps! 

Friday, October 16, 2020

No One Should Die in Jail

 


Reuters has an incredible story out today about the staggeringly high number of people who are dying in jail while awaiting trial:

The U.S. government collects detailed data on who’s dying in which jails around the country – but won’t let anyone see it. So, Reuters conducted its own tally of fatalities in America’s biggest jails, pinpointing where suicide, botched healthcare and bad jailkeeping are claiming lives in a system with scant oversight.

They tell the story of a man who was jailed and then left untreated for the injuries he suffered while in custody. Harvey Hill died after being held on a misdemeanor charge that would have brought him no time in prison and would have fined him no more than $500.

Hill’s is one of 7,571 inmate deaths Reuters documented in an unprecedented examination of mortality in more than 500 U.S. jails from 2008 to 2019. Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held.

Unlike state and federal prisons, which hold people convicted of serious crimes, jails are locally run lockups meant to detain people awaiting arraignment or trial, or those serving short sentences. The toll of jail inmates who die without a case resolution subverts a fundamental tenet of the U.S. criminal justice system: innocent until proven guilty.

We have a serious problem here and it's time to wake up to the fact that we need serious reform of the judicial system as well as the way we handle people who are awaiting trial.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Modern Policing is a Shakedown Racket


There is no need for this, other than to extract revenue from poor people. This is how local governments "raise taxes" without actually making rich people pay their fair share.

About 30 minutes east of Atlanta lies a small city led by a female mayor and an all-women council. The police chief is a Black woman, as is the municipal judge and the court solicitor.
The City of Pine Lake, Georgia, prides itself as a liberal oasis in an otherwise conservative-leaning state, a community that backed Stacey Abrams' 2018 gubernatorial campaign and has a history of gay or lesbian city council members. But there's a not-so-progressive reality in Pine Lake as well — systemic racism in the way the city has brought in revenue. 
Though the city has fewer than 800 people, the police department writes hundreds of traffic tickets every year along Rockbridge Road — a stretch of county road that skirts the edge of town — and court documents reveal that a vast majority of tickets are issued to Black drivers from the surrounding county and other cities. Black residents in the area say this stems from aggressive policing tactics that date back many years and still linger today.
The mayor and police chief disagree, and say it's simply a matter of who's frequenting Rockbridge.
"It is true that the majority of tickets are given to people of color," Mayor Melanie Hammet told CBS News. "The demographic reality is that a majority of those driving through Pine Lake are people of color."

If a municipality has revenue or cash flow problems, the solution is never to raise money through a bonding bill or an increase on property taxes. The police are not there for public safety. They are there to confiscate money from poor people and tie them up in a vicious cycle of fines, fees, mandatory court appearances, warrants, and arrests. 

This is the bullshit that pollutes our existence right now. Think of the untold numbers of people in America right now that have a bench warrant or an unpaid fine hanging over their heads because they went a little too fast through a contrived speed trap in the middle of nowhere. All the stress and pain and anxiety created by these traps built into our unfair legal system are constantly ruining the lives of people we don't give a second thought.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

 


I find this to be a game-changing accusation, one worthy of figuring out. The implications of Trump being positive for COVID-19 and then exposing himself to other people is bad enough. We are at a point where he is hospitalized and his doctors and his handlers are frantically correcting one another, trying to establish a narrative that has no credibility. None of them are credible at all.

Trump exposed himself to his political opponent. He endangered Joe Biden's life as well as the lives of everyone around him. He exposed his own family to COVID-19. That's not just his erstwhile wife and his adult children and their spouses. He exposed his own juvenile son and his grandchildren to COVID-19 as well. He exposed everyone who works to keep him safe and secure and well fed and comfortable.

What a fucking disgrace.

There are reports that Trump's secret service detail is angry. For what has to be the first time in over 20 years, the protective detail around the president is not leaking information and betraying the trust instilled in them. Look at the parade of disgraceful agents, beginning with Dan Bongino. Where are they when it is long past time to start talking about how unfit for office Trump really is and why have they been silent for so long.

The entire Executive Branch is a betrayal of the American idea. All of the cabinet officers must get together and decide whether or not they are going to put the Constitution first or their own short-term interests. There is no reason to even consider keeping Trump in office. They should meet, they should vote on whether or not to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump, and they should let Mike Pence be president until January 20, 2021. We already know that if there's a free and fair election, Joe Biden is going to win anyway.

Why continue with this debacle?