Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

The Failure of Our Founding Fathers

Given the indictments yesterday, it may look like justice will be served in the Trump-Russian investigation. However, there is a lot going on in American politics today that our Founding Fathers did not count on. In the first place, they did not count on the fact that America may have elected an entire crime family to occupy the White House. They also did not count on a media conglomerate dictating what an entire political party does.

It seems that the Framers of our Constitution believed that the President would be a person of upright moral integrity, thus they gave him the power of the pardon. Keep in mind that even Richard Nixon did not pardon his co-conspirators. But Donald Trump can and will pardon everybody involved in this Russian scandal. Even though lying to the FBI is a federal offense, Trump can pardon anyone for it. Even treason against the United States can be pardoned by the President.

Trump can and will pardon everyone involved in order to keep this investigation from touching him. And if Trump is found guilty of treason, Mike Pence can pardon him. If Mike Pence is also found guilty of collusion, President Paul Ryan can pardon him also—and get on with his main agenda of cutting taxes for the rich.

It seems that we are going to need a few more Constitutional Amendments after the Trump administration, but we are not going to get them. The Framers of our Constitution most likely believed that a political party would put country over party, but that is not today’s Republican Party. We may never get the laws and amendments that we need to guard against this happening again. We are going to have to hope that America will never be stupid enough to again elect a crime boss to the oval office.

It is already clear that Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, taking foreign money while in office, but the Republicans are looking the other way. At some point, we may have to consider that the entire Republican Party is in collusion with Trump—allowing him to commit treason, so they can get their agenda passed.

There is currently no law requiring a President, or presidential candidate, from releasing his (or her) tax returns, but all presidents and candidates in the modern age have done so. Until Trump. What is he hiding? We may never know. Hopefully, Mueller knows though.

But keep in mind, that Trump can still have Mueller fired. Fox ‘news’ is already laying the groundwork for such firing. Given that Trump supporters only watch Fox ‘news’—they will think that the firing is entirely justified.

Sorry about the bad news, especially on a day where it looks hopeful that Robert Mueller will get to the bottom of this. But the fact remains that eventually no one will be punished, even if we know that they are guilty.  The only good news may be that some of these crimes can be prosecuted at the state level, where the presidential pardon cannot reach.

By the way, the media conglomerate who is dictating the agenda of one political party? If you didn’t already guess—Fox ‘news’. But that is fodder for an upcoming blog.

 

A Brief History of Race and Politics: from the KKK to Donald Trump

If we want to understand how we got to this point in American politics we should remind ourselves of some basic history and not deny the facts.

Yes, it was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who freed the slaves. The North won the Civil War and the South still hasn’t gotten over it. From 1864 to 1964 the majority of the White South voted Democrat. Southern Democrats were not liberal in any sense of the term– but they were anti-Republican. Their resentment over the Civil War has lasted more than a hundred years. And their battle cry has always been “the South will rise again”.

The White South’s alliance with the Democratic Party, however, began to shift in 1964. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to Bill Moyers and said, “we may have just signed the South over to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes”. And from 1964 to 1984 – the White South turned Red. Barry Goldwater ran against the Civil Rights Act; Richard Nixon ran his famous “Southern Strategy”; and Ronald Reagan perfected that strategy. By 1984 there were very few White Southern Democrats left– they had all become Republicans.

Today’s Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln; they are the party of anti-Lincoln. They are the party of The South. If you look at a map of the Red States and the Blue States it basically still traces the Mason-Dixon line of the Civil War. There are few exceptions.

This is not to say that all Republicans are racist. But the party has aligned itself with the racially motivated elements of the South – they have accepted them in order to maintain a conservative majority. The Republican Party has, in effect, become a ‘white power’ movement. Republicans in The House of Representatives are 98% white and 95% male. And Fox ‘news’ is already pushing for a “white turnout” in the upcoming presidential election.

“Rapists and Criminals”

The Ku Klux Klan rose up after the Civil War claiming that the newly freed black slaves were criminals who were raping white women. Their stated aim was to protect “Southern Heritage”. Their underlying aim was, of course, racism. They were America’s first and foremost terrorist organization. They are still alive today. They just don’t always were white robes.

Remember Donald Trump’s announcement speech. When he came down that “golden elevator” from on high, the first thing that he said is that Mexicans are “rapists and criminals”. And he was going to “build a wall” to keep them out. Next he went after the Muslims– calling for a ban of all Muslim immigrants to this country. He immediately shot up to number one in the Republican primary.

We have seen this happen before. And not just in our country. We should keep in mind that Adolf Hitler’s campaign slogan was “Make Germany Great Again”. The same thing that Hitler said about “the Jews”– Trump says about Mexicans and Muslims.

This is not to say that all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. They have unmasked the most insidious elements of the Republican Party. They are once again speaking out– they hate “politically correct” speech. They want to “make derogatory language great again”.

Racists are fueled by hate, and they wear their emotions on their sleeves. What, in the past, has been “dog-whistle” politics has now become a fog horn. Much of this has been the language of “States’ Rights”.

“States’ Rights” was used before the Civil War to protect slavery. “States’ Rights” was used after the Civil War to protect segregation and suppress voting rights. And “States’ Rights” are being used today to re-suppress voting rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the LGBT community.

In fact, it was the Civil Rights Act which limited the ability of “States’ Rights” to undermine Human Rights. And that is why the South has always hated it.

Trump is galvanizing the South. His rallies are an emotional hotbed, fueled by rage. He has a brand of white ethno-centric nationalism and he is now courting fundamentalist Christians. Sinclair Lewis declared that “when fascism comes to the U.S. it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”.

Now Donald Trump is running as “the law and order” candidate. This was how Richard Nixon described himself– and look how well that turned out!
The Trump campaign knows that they cannot win-over even a small minority of the Hispanic vote.

The vast majority of African-Americans will never vote for him. Their strategy is thus to get out the white vote and suppress minority voting. Is this the democracy that we really want? To win elections by racial division and voter suppression.

That is where we are headed in American politics. No wonder so many Americans believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction.

As I said before: I am tired of remaining silent on these matters. Though I struggle with feeling that there is nothing I can do about it, I am going to be speaking out more– whether it has the desired effect or not.

 

The Court of Republican Opinion: Exonerated or Convicted, Hillary Will Always Be Guilty to the Right-Wing

 

 

Yesterday the Director of the FBI, James Comey, stated that no charges would be brought against Hilary Clinton for her use of a private e-mail server while she was Secretary of State. Last week Trey Gowdy concluded his investigation into what happened in Benghazi, and found that Hilary Clinton had done nothing wrong. In the long run no one will remember that she has essentially been exonerated in both of these cases, because she has already been ‘convicted’ in the court of Republican opinion.

We have all heard of the stories of the person accused of a crime showing up on page one of the newspaper. Later his exoneration shows up on page three but no one remembers the exoneration. This happens constantly with Secretary Clinton– it is all of the Republicans accusations that are piling up.

Charles Krauthammer, the Fox ‘news’ pundit, when asked last week about whether the Benghazi report would hurt Hilary’s chances of being elected president, stated that “this” wouldn’t hurt her, but in combination with all of the other accusations would build up. It is the perception that matters. And this reveals their tactic. Throw enough mud and something may stick– even if it was you that muddied the waters.

This Republican strategy was already revealed last year when House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, stated that “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

Keep in mind that the Benghazi ‘witch hunt’ that McCarthy was referring to was the eighth one that they have held– they already held seven previous investigations and found no evidence that Hilary Clinton had done anything wrong. So they spent two more years, and seven million dollars of taxpayer money, took more time than the investigation into Watergate, the Kennedy assassination, or the 9/11 commission– in order to sabotage her presidential bid. They dragged this out to coincide with the national conventions when everyone was paying attention, but then realized that they had a dud on their hands.

Remember the 1990s?!

When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Republicans immediately began attacking his character, and that of his wife. When angry Republicans took over the House in 1994, they began impeachment proceedings– not officially, they had to find something first. But they were going to impeach him for something, they just didn’t know what yet.

The Republican Congress spent the 90s going from one fake scandal to another. They accused the Clintons of corruption in the Whitewater real estate deal, they accused the Clintons of murdering Vince Foster, they even investigated their use of Christmas card lists. They found nothing– until Monica Lewinski produced a stained dress. And the Republicans dropped everything else.

From one fake scandal to another…

Heads I Win– Tails You Lose

This is how we used to flip coins when we were children, trying to frame the outcome in our favor whatever it happened to be.

This is also how Donald Trump framed the FBI investigation  when he said last week that if she is not indicted this “proves that the system is rigged”. Actually it proves nothing of the kind. It simply shows that there was no reason to indict Hilary Clinton for some alleged ‘crime’ that she didn’t commit.

Fox ‘news’ has been out to get the Clintons since 1992. Twenty-four years of bad press takes its toll eventually. So it is no surprise that they are spinning James Comey’s statement today in order to ‘prove’ the Hilary is guilty of something. The Fox ‘news’ crowd has already convicted her, there is nothing that can be done to prove her innocence, as far as they are concerned. Again, she has already been convicted in the court of Republican opinion.

This is a problem with ideology. Once a hypothesis has been accepted as true anything can be used in order to support it. It is unfalsifiable. Keep in mind Donald Trump’s statement last week: “if she is not indicted that would prove that the system is rigged.”

But also keep in mind the lead up to the Iraq war. Before the invasion weapons inspectors said that they could find no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration (lead by Cheney) said that this ‘proves’ that Saddam Hussein is good at hiding them. There were never any weapons found!

By November, when we go to the polls, all the Republicans want you to remember are the number of the accusations that have been hurled at Hilary Clinton. They want the perception to be that there must be something to them if there are this many accusations.

Americans say that we don’t like dirty politics. But what are we likely to reward? Unfortunately dirty politics seems to work. It certainly takes its toll.

But what I find almost laughable is that more Americans think that Donald Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Hilary Clinton.  Lets’ see what turns up- keep an open mind.

Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part II – Libertarianism

Will Rand Paul be calling for open borders? Not likely; but perhaps, as a libertarian, he should.

Rand Paul

Few of us have ever stopped to consider whether a country is justified in limiting who can enter its borders. However, it actually may be the case that justice demands open borders.

Libertarianism, a popular political movement at the moment, exemplified by much of the Republican party, actually implies that border control as we understand it is a massive violation of our rights. This is the second part of a series of blogs based on Joseph Carens’s “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders.”

The foundation of libertarianism is that the state does not have any rights which an individual does not have in a situation without government. For instance, imagining a time without government, I have no right to take your property and distribute it as I see fit, so the state does not have such a right either – which is why libertarians fight against welfare programs. To redistribute property, on the libertarian account, is a violation of rights.

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Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part I – The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

Whatever you think about the current immigration debate, you have likely never questioned our country’s right to dictate who can, and cannot enter our borders. But, what if we are all wrong about that?

Undocumented border crossing.

This is the first part of a series of blogs concerning arguments for open borders. However crazy this sounds, I will give three separate arguments for open borders, each from a very different ethical perspective – the greatest good for the greatest number, libertarianism, and from the perspective of impartial rights – which should cover most of my readers.

These arguments were originally conceived by Joseph Carens, in his groundbreaking paper, “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders.” All I will do is reformulate and simplify his arguments in order to call into question one basic assumption we all share – countries have a right to prevent people from crossing their borders.

This first argument concerns utilitarianism. This is the ethic of bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The idea is that we should pursue policies that provide for the greatest overall level of well-being for everyone affected by the policies.

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When Prisons Create Criminals

Is our prison system creating more crime than it prevents?

Prison Bars

There have been a flood of stories surrounding the death of prison inmates, often at the hands of prison guards. With the Justice Department releasing a scathing report on Rikers Island’s treatment of youth inmates, and another death of an inmate, possibly at the hands of overzealous guards, it is time to ask ourselves if our justice system is doing more harm than good.

The ethics of punishment is a very complicated issue, but this is not what I want to talk about. Instead, I would like to raise a very practical concern: does our system of justice actually create criminals?

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