You don’t have to be college-educated to figure out how the Republican Party feels about women. They’ve made it crystal clear throughout Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. President Donald Trump punctuated his party’s stance with an uncharacteristically reserved albeit unsurprisingly ignorant comment that should have every American woman voting for anyone but a Republican male this November and beyond.
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America,” Trump said after seeing and hearing the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was 17; Kavanaugh denies the allegations. It’s a situation this country’s seen before, which shows how little has changed in 27 years.
Despite 90 to 98 percent of sexual assault allegations found to be accurately reported according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the President thinks it’s men who should be scared while “women are doing great” making 80 cents to a man’s dollar and so scared of men it took a movement of high-profile women accusing high-profile men of sex crimes for less than half of victims to report sexual abuse. An estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police, and one in six women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape.
So it might be a scary time for up to 16,093,000 American men (10 percent of 160.93 million American men), but it has been and continues to be a scary time for almost twice as many American women (27,915,666 to be more precise). Trump’s opinion on this subject is not unlike his and his party’s opinion of voter fraud. Neither has a foundation based on facts. Instances of voter fraud are even rarer than instances of false sexual assault reports. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, commonly known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, was quick to educate the President via Twitter.
Trump called the testimony of Ford “very compelling,” adding that “she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.” I don’t know if Trump was commenting on Ford’s appearance or her integrity, but, as usual, it took him a few seconds of rambling before the words with which he should have led managed to sneak by the foot in his mouth. “Credible witness” was all Trump had to say of Ford; words he didn’t use to describe his Supreme Court nominee.
Frankly, none of Kavanaugh’s testimony should be considered truthful until he does what Ford did: take and pass a polygraph test, the use of which he actually supported in writing just two years ago. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Andrew Manuel Crespo revealed that Kavanaugh recommended polygraphs be used to “screen applicants” for “critical” government positions. There are few governmental positions more critical than Supreme Court Judge, but Kavanaugh isn’t practicing what he preached. Apparently, Kavanaugh thinks his position as an “honorable” judge entitles his non-polygraphed testimony equal consideration to Ford’s polygraph-passing testimony.
Have we learned nothing in the 27 years since Anita Hill accused then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace? Like Ford, Hill passed a professionally administered polygraph test, and like Kavanaugh, Thomas didn’t take one. But Thomas’s performance in 1991 was Oscar-worthy, while Kavanaugh’s was Razzie-worthy. I might not be a Hollywood director, but I have a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and know a good performance when I see one. Ford’s testimony seemed realistic. The moments, or beats, she was emotional were moments you’d expect to make someone emotional; they were motivated by the dialogue being delivered. She gave honest testimony, and had she not taken a polygraph, I’d still believe her over Kavanaugh.
Not only was Kavanaugh’s performance unconvincing but unmotivated, except for the brief moment he channels Thomas in talking about the allegations being a political hit by “left-wing opposition groups.” Of the 5,294 words in Kavanaugh’s prepared statement, he convincingly delivered 51 of them. It was as close as Kavanaugh would come to channeling Thomas.
You can tell Kavanaugh tried to use Thomas’s testimony as a template, but he strayed from that proven playbook as if he was Tobin scrambling behind his offensive line in high school. Tobin, the “great quarterback” at Kavanaugh’s high school (which has its own nine-hole golf course), used to workout with Kavanaugh. Tobin’s dad ran the workouts, the thought of which made Kavanaugh cry. That sort of reaction made me wonder if Kavanaugh had been molested by Tobin’s dad, or if Tobin or his dad died tragically. That would have motivated tears, not working out with high school friends.
Kavanaugh also choked up over calendars that doubled as his dad’s diaries, which he started keeping in 1978. He wept over these calendars as if his father was dead or as if they were responsible for his fondest childhood memories (Kavanaugh was 13 when his father started keeping the calendars). John Oliver quipped that Everett Edward Kavanaugh Jr. is not only alive, but was seated behind his son hiding his disgrace better than his son was hiding the truth.
Trump seemed to be more shocked by Kavanaugh’s testimony than Ford’s, and for good reason. Not only did we have a good idea of what Ford was going to say, but we thought we had a good idea of what Kavanaugh was going to say and how he would say it. He could have and should have emulated the example provided by Thomas 27 years earlier — posturing unmitigated strength and voicing emphatic anger in response to the accusations, the accuser, and Congress for allowing this “circus,” “national disgrace,” and “high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”
Kavanaugh couldn’t play the race card like Thomas, so he played the politics card instead. It’s a much weaker hand, but any hand played properly can win the pot. Kavanaugh just doesn’t have Thomas’s poker face, and worse yet, he’s probably a sexual molester of at least one woman if not more.
Whether he’s guilty or not, Kavanaugh’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided ample reasons why he’s not fit for the Supreme Court. He repeatedly said he likes beer, as if he was trying to placate to the committee’s beer-drinkers. He was extremely rude to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar when asked if he’d ever drank to the point he couldn’t remember events. Despite spending 28 years in courtrooms, Kavanaugh responded to Sen. Klobuchar’s question with a question of his own: “Have you?” He must have been tired of lying, but that probably wouldn’t have been his response had a man asked the question. I think this moment is most indicative of Kavanaugh’s treatment of women. He bullied Klobuchar, going on the offensive when he’s supposed to be defending himself and his reputation.
It’s worth noting that it took three years for George W. Bush’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be confirmed. During that time, Kavanaugh was downgraded from a rating of “well qualified” by the American Bar Association, its highest designation, to simply “qualified,” after conducting more interviews in 2006. He’s not even good at his job, and there are 20 or so more candidates Republicans can confirm who will overturn Roe v. Wade just like Kavanaugh would. Why Republicans are willing to die on this hill with this lying snake is the most mind boggling move they could make with the midterm elections upcoming. The last thing they need is to give women more reasons not to vote for them, and their unwavering support of Kavanaugh is doing just that.
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Whatever the final result over the confirmation battle of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, one thing is becoming more urgent. The court itself has a crisis of legitimacy. And one way to restore its genuineness is to require term limits for all future judges.
The Supreme Court of old was more majestic with few periods of confrontation. Just a decade ago, 2/3rds of Americans had great confidence in the Court. No more. There’s trouble brewing in those marble temple walls. Confidence in the workings of the court and the Justices themselves have dropped to a mere 50% approval rating.
And it should not be any surprise as to why the Supremes are held is such low esteem. They have become a partisan body, every bit as political as the other two branches of government. We saw such partisanship front and center in the Bush-Gore election decision and in the court’s blessing of Obamacare. Five to four split decisions are becoming the norm with Republican appointees voting one way and their Democratic counterparts voting just the opposite. No more moderates or progressives on the court. Just jurists who are either hard right or hard left.
The writers of the constitution never envisioned such partisanship. The nation’s founding fathers imagined a court made up of legal sages, devoid of the political pressures experienced by congress and the president. Justices of the past seemed to relish in their image of being independent and simply interpreting the law as written.
Current Chief Justice John Roberts made a vain attempt to enunciate such a balanced philosophy at his confirmation hearings back in 2005 when he told the Senate judiciary Committee:
“Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire. Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.”
So justices are not influenced by their own personal opinions? Good luck with that. Partisanship has never been so extreme. Judge Kavanaugh was never going to receive any democratic support from the day he was nominated. And republicans in the senate refused to even consider or hold a hearing on President Obama’s last pick, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland. New justices taking office are well aware of their partisan supporters. And such awareness certainly affects their view of becoming activists by extending or even creating the law, rather than merely interpreting it as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
So why term limits? For a starter, no other democracy in the world gives life tenure to a sitting judge. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any other profession that makes appointments for life. Sure, the constitutional scholars back in the 1770s created lifetime appointments. But remember that the average life span back then for a U. S. citizen was 35 years.
Chief Justice Roberts endorsed term limits back in 1983 when he stated: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence.” And that’s an important point. The court has, too often, been occupied by aging justices who habitually seem disengaged from the world surrounding them. You would think that the court should have dynamism and consistency that a rotation of new judges would bring. It’s hard to breathe new life into a court that bases its make up on actuarial tables and the luck of the draw as to who lives the longest.
Under the current system, a president can only serve in office for eight years yet can appoint a Justice or judge who can stay on the bench for 40 year or more. One term of say 16 years makes sense. Poll after poll show that voters want term limits for judges. With all the controversy in Washington over who ends up on the court, now seems like a good time to consider such a change.
After more than 30 years as a Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. This news probably doesn’t come as a shock to many, as the man is 81 years old making him the seconds oldest Justice that served. Ginsberg is three years his senior but has vowed to stay on the Court through the Trump administration.
President Reagan appointed Kennedy to the bench in 1988 and for almost two decades Justice Kennedy voted largely conservative on a variety of social issues including (but not limited to) - abortion, affirmative action and gay rights and the Gore vs. Bush recount; however, in more recent years he has cast a key swing vote for liberal principles casting the deciding vote in 2015’s for same sex marriage and even wrote the majority opinion - much to the chagrin of Republicans who began to view him as a turncoat. That being said, Kennedy did side recently with the majority allowing President Trump’s travel ban to stand.
So, Kennedy has voted on both side of the fence but with his departure it’s pretty much a certainty that President Trump will nominate a strong conservative to the high court. Which will give conservative judges a majority for, probably - decades.
Kennedy’s retirement will take effect at the end of July.
Each week at Foul Play-by-Play (follow the link to listen to the audio) we will review the week’s cheats, cheap shots and alleged criminals in sports for a sports talk radio show, eventually airing online and on GCNLive radio affiliates. Here are your top law-related sports headlines and cheats of the week for May 11-17, 2018.
The Supreme Court struck down the federal law prohibiting state-sponsored sports betting after almost a six-year legal battle. States can now decide whether to allow or disallow sports gambling, with 20 states having already proposed bills to legalize sports gambling.
New Jersey expects to have its sportsbooks up and running before the start of the NBA Finals, but tribal casinos could theoretically open sportsbooks immediately because they are their own sovereign nations. The 1993 Nation-State Gaming Compact authorizes the Oneida nation of New York to adopt any gaming specification that is permitted without any further approvals by the State. They intend to open a sportsbook as soon as possible.
Tribal casinos in rural America have the most to gain from the Supreme Court’s decision, because sports gambling could actually cut into the profits of urban, tribal casinos by moving money from most profitable gaming machines to less profitable sportsbooks. Setting up a sportsbook is also expensive, especially an online sportsbook, which gamblers will demand. The cautious approach of urban, tribal casinos to open sportsbooks could allow rural, tribal casinos to be first to market in the American online sportsbook industry. But your state, Montana, has long been against sports gambling. It’s one of nine states prohibiting residents from betting on fantasy sports.
While the consensus of casino experts seems to be that the estimated $140 billion per year illegally wagered on sports in the U.S. according to the American Gaming Association (AGA) is overestimated, there’s tons of money to be made by a score of entities outside the gaming industry. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants his league to get one percent of all bets made on its games. Local newspapers and radio entities in states with legal sports gambling will now be able to provide content related to sports gambling instead of dancing around the subject. Most importantly, though, most of the billions of dollars Americans have stashed with online bookkeepers overseas will find its way back to the states and stimulate the American economy. I say most because these online bookkeepers overseas have been fraudulent in the past.
Newly hired coach of the Detroit Lions, Matt Patricia, was forced to once again express his innocence when Robert Snell of The Detroit News published a story about sexual assault allegations brought against him that resulted in an indictment but no trial for Patricia 22 years ago. Patricia’s accuser declined to testify citing “stress” as a reason, but Patricia and his attorney vehemently denied the abuse ever occurring.
As a former journalist, I’ll just say that Robert Snell of The Detroit News isn’t starting his work relationship with Patricia and the Detroit Lions on the right foot. I had the difficulty of covering a similar story involving a high school golf coach with an alleged history of sexual harassment of female golfers. But when that teacher/coach was first hired by the district, no story was written about his alleged past because no charges were brought against him and his former district sealed all details of the allegations from the public as part of the terms of his termination.
No charges were brought against the coach the second time, either, but despite that, my employer wanted me to write a story based solely on unsubstantiated allegations that could further undermine that teacher/coach’s career. It ultimately resulted in me submitting my resignation, and I feel I was correct in doing so.
Patricia’s case is entirely different because he was charged and indicted, and while I think Snell might have risked his employer’s work relationship with Patricia and the Detroit Lions, somebody should have and would have brought attention to this 22-year-old story.
Also in the news, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, a couple of capable football players who can’t find jobs because of the expression of their personal views, are working out together with hopes of landing on an NFL roster.
Both players have waged grievances against the league for colluding against them to keep them from making a living in their chosen profession. Reid was asked about his anthem protest plans by the Bengals, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, and Kaepernick was similarly asked about his plans for the anthem by the Seahawks, who postponed a scheduled workout with the Super Bowl quarterback because Kaepernick reportedly had no plan in place, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport.
But these players aren’t breaking any rules. The NFL owners and players’ association could have collectively bargained for players to be required to stand of the national anthem had they foreseen it as an issue. The NBA did, but the NFL didn’t.
I think my biggest problem with all the haters of these anthem protesters is their attempt at justifying their hate. For once I’d just like to run into someone who says, “You know, I just really like the national anthem as a song, and the protests don’t allow me to enjoy it as much.” I think that’s the only justification for disliking the anthem protests. The whole “honor the military and stand for the flag” argument just doesn’t compute with me because I’ve never seen the flag or the anthem as representative of our military specifically. To me, it’s representative of this nation and the rights of those of us who reside here, especially the right to free speech, which I feel is the First Amendment of the Constitution because it’s most important. Kaepernick even altered his protest, going from sitting to kneeling, acknowledging and accepting the opinion of ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer.
My least favorite justification for hating the anthem protesters is the ‘if I did that at my job I’d be fired’ defense. My old man made that argument just a few days ago, and I wanted to tell him he shouldn’t be mad at Kaepernick for using his workplace as a means to create awareness for a cause for which he’s passionate. He should be mad at himself for not obtaining a job that would allow him to also do so.
The railroad workday is not televised, and they don’t kickoff the railroad workday with what was, for the longest time, a paid advertisement by the United States military exploiting the national anthem to appeal to the patriotic sensibilities of the NFL’s mostly American audience. But imagine every American industry started the workday with the national anthem. Before an attorney tried a case the national anthem would be played in the courtroom. Before I could sit at my desk and read the news, the national anthem would be played over the intercom. Before my dad could fix a locomotive, the national anthem would be played throughout the roundhouse.
Now, assuming the same situation facing the NFL, where players are not contractually obligated to stand for the national anthem, employees of all industries could use the anthem as an opportunity to draw attention to themselves, and, in turn, a cause of their choosing. You might not have the media reporting on a railroad machinist’s decision to kneel for the anthem, but his fellow coworkers would probably ask why he didn’t stand for the anthem.
You might even have employers like NFL owners who dismiss employees for their anthem protests. They’d have good reason if morale or production is effected or damage is done to the employers’ brand. But, I ask you, is it not still illegal for an employer who has terminated an anthem protester to contact all the other employers in his industry and make sure they never hire that employee? It indeed is, and if that’s the case, wouldn’t that employee be due lost wages for the employers colluding to take away his or her right to work? He most certainly would. I don’t understand why so many people insist these guys should be banned from the sport and forced to find a new job. If you were fired from your job for expressing your political views and then colluded against by the employers of your chosen career, would you accept that you were terminated justly and humbly find work at a convenience store?
Honorable mention: Former Texas Rangers’ first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, at 53, got a hit in his second at-bat with the Independent League’s Cleburne Railroaders, his son, Patrick’s team. Patrick also had a hit and made a great play at third base, throwing over to his dad at first to complete it.
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian said on The Dan LeBatard Show with Stu Gotz there’s no way Palmeiro makes it back to the majors because teams want nothing to do with him after lying under oath about using performance-enhancing drugs.
Bronze medalist: Seattle Mariners All-star second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games for use of the banned substance Furosemide, a diuretic commonly used to mask performance-enhancing drug use. Cano said in a statement that he was given the substance by licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical condition. Furosemide is used to treat fluid retention in people with congestive heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disorders, as well as high blood pressure, or hypertension. Under MLB's drug policy, a player is not automatically suspended for use of a diuretic unless MLB can prove he intended to use it as a masking agent. Cano reportedly tested positive for the drug prior to the season and appealed the potential suspension, but MLB was apparently able to prove his intent, resulting in Cano dropping his appeal. It will cost him $11,850,000.
Silver medalist: Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Rick Brunson resigned amid allegations of “improper interactions with several women while on the job,” according to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski. Brunson is still married despite admitting to an extramarital affair with a massage therapist in June 2014 that resulted in him being charged with attempted criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery and domestic battery. Brunson was acquitted of the charges.
Gold medalist: New Orleans running back Mark Ingram not only failed a drug test and was suspended four games for a drug “permissible with the proper use exemption from the NFL,” but will also sit out voluntary organized team activities entering a contract year. I probably don’t need to tell you, Mike, but Ingram had one of his best seasons last year, scoring 12 touchdowns and setting a career high in rushing yards.
In Ingram’s case, amphetamine was likely the drug “permissible with the proper use exemption,” a drug that has long been popular amongst athletes, especially baseball players. "'Greenies’" (Dexedrine) were a club house staple for decades beginning just after World War II, when ball players drafted into the military returned to the diamond having been exposed to the stimulant pills, which the armed forces dispensed by the millions. Another incubator of baseball speed-freakery was the winter Caribbean baseball circuit. There, players on seasonal hiatus discovered the two coffee pot system, where each club house had one pot with regular coffee and one with an amphetamine additive."
As of 2009 according to Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times, “[t]he 106 players who received exemptions for attention deficit disorder represent about 8 percent of the major league players, based on 40-man rosters. The percentage of American adults who have been given a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder is somewhere between 1 and 3.5 percent, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, although some experts believe the actual number is much higher, citing a large number of undiagnosed cases.”
As someone diagnosed with Adult Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AADHD), I can tell you it’s very easy to obtain a prescription for amphetamines if you familiarize yourself with the symptoms prior to taking the tests medical professionals administer. I answered the questions as honestly as I could because I long suspected I suffered from ADHD. As early as first grade I would do something, anything, to break the boredom of being seated at my desk in the classroom. It got to the point my teacher had a sticky note attached to my desk with each day of the week, and she would mark the days that I behaved with a smiley face and the days I didn’t with a frowny face, delivering reports to my mother. When I was introduced to pens I clicked them incessantly. Even after being asked to stop, I would revert back to the habit in times of boredom. My teacher’s eventually inherited enough of my pens to never have to visit the school’s materials closet.
Amphetamines streamline your focus, and I imagine it slows down the spin and speed of a MLB fastball ever so slightly. For a running back like Ingram who relies on his vision to find holes in the defense, I’m sure it slows down that part of the game for him to react quicker. He won’t be doing any reacting for the first four games of the Saints’ season, though, and likely won’t be back with the Saints after this year given his free agent status and the abilities of their second-year back Alvin Kamara.
A Louisiana guy named John Thompson died last week. You may not recognize the name, but he was the victim of one of the worst cases of prosecutorial misconduct in the state’s history. Here are the facts.
Thompson was convicted back in 1982 of first-degree murder and given the death sentence. He came within days of being executed after spending 14 years on death row and 18 years total in prison. Five different prosecutors were involved in the case and all knew that a blood test and other key evidence had been hidden that showed Thompson was innocent.
On his deathbed dying of cancer, one of the prosecutors confessed to a colleague that he had hidden the exculpatory blood sample. The colleague waited five more years before admitting that he too knew of the hidden evidence. Thompson, after 18 years, received a new trial, and his lawyers were finally able to produce ten different pieces of evidence that had been kept from him, that overwhelming showed he was innocent. The new jury took less than 35 minutes to find him not guilty.
Hiding evidence that can find the accused innocent is nothing new for prosecutors in New Orleans, both in state and federal court as well as with the FBI. The Innocence Project of New Orleans reviewed a number of convictions over the past 25 years in the city and concluded that prosecutors gave a "legacy" of suppressing evidence. The Project said 36 men convicted in Orleans Parish alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
Nineteen have since had their sentences overturned or reduced as a result. According to the Innocence Project, favorable evidence was concealed in a quarter of the murder convictions from 1973-2002. In 19 of 25 non-capital cases, the prosecutors withheld favorable evidence; in the other six cases, the courts ruled that evidentiary hearings were needed.
With full justification, Thompson sued the prosecutor’s office in New Orleans for ripping away and stealing 18 years of his life. He had two sons that he never saw grow up. A New Orleans jury awarded him $14 million. Some said it was too much money. Would you give up 18 years of your life in solitary confinement on death row for $14 million? On appeal, the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals, reputedly the most pro-prosecutorial circuit in the nation, upheld the award in favor of Thompson.
But a bitterly divided Supreme Court said to Thompson “no way.” In 2011's Connick v. Thompson, a conservative led 5-4 decision tossed Thompson's case out – not because they disagree that the prosecutor’s office hid evidence (in fact all 9 justices agree on that point). Instead they tossed the case because, in their divine judicial opinion, they didn’t see any “pattern” of the prosecutor’s office doing this to other people besides Thompson (because one life ruined is apparently not enough). Sounds like a John Grisham novel with a bad ending, right? If only that were so. Unfortunately, this is real life and John Thompson got nothing for his 18 years in jail. Not a red cent. Tough luck fella. The system failed you, but “stuff happens.”
This was not a decision based on a conservative interpretation of the law, even though the so-called conservative bloc voted in lockstep to deny Thompson’s claim. A true conservative justice would be strongly opposed to government oppression and the encroachment on the liberty of a falsely accused person. After all, when a prosecutor can operate with impunity, totally absent of any criminal or civil check on their actions, the seeds of fascism are planted. No, a true conservative judge would have held these rogue prosecutors fully accountable.
John Thompson, stunned by the Supreme Court's decision, spent the rest of his life working to help wrongly convicted inmates. He founded a group called Resurrection after Exoneration. Sadly, he did not have the financial resources that the lower courts rightly concluded should have paid to help him pursue his goal.
If there was ever any doubt about the lack of fairness, competence and fundamental decency among the current majority composition of the Supreme Court, such doubt was put to rest by a decision that would make any oppressive and dictatorial government proud. The judicial system failed John Thompson. Along with Lady Justice, we all should shed a tear.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
- Elie Wiesel
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.
The United States Supreme Court will rule on partisan gerrymandering for the first time since 2004, deciding whether Wisconsin Republicans drew electoral district lines with the unfair intent of strengthening their political presence in the state. Gill v. Whitford will be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall and could result in a ruling that will set the boundaries for drawing electoral district boundaries.
The case at hand is pretty straightforward. While 51 percent of Wisconsin voters were Democrats in 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state’s Congress. Republicans say that’s because Democrats have the disadvantage of living in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison, which is true. Metropolitans are generally underrepresented given the populations in their districts compared to the populations of rural districts, and that’s not Republicans’ fault.
But there’s more to the story. Thanks to the work of University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, there’s a new way to measure whether district lines are fair representations of representation or partisan gerrymandering designed to be advantageous to the political party drawing the lines. The efficiency gap measures “wasted votes,” or the number of votes wasted in a district where one party wins an election easily.
For example, take those metropolitan voters in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, which includes parts of Milwaukee, incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore won 77 percent of the vote in a race that didn’t feature Republican opposition. You could argue that Moore wouldn’t have required all those votes to win even if there was a Republican challenger. Those would be considered wasted votes, and voters living on the edges of Milwaukee should have instead voted in neighboring first, fifth and sixth districts to make races more competitive.
The same could be said for Wisconsin’s second district that contains Madison. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pocan wasted votes beating Republican challenger Peter Theron by almost 150,000. Move 100,000 of those wasted votes to the sixth district and Wisconsin would have one more Democratic Senator. And we haven’t even started looking at the state assembly.
If we look at the Milwaukee area again, there are two districts, the 14th and 21st, that had competitive races Republicans won in 2016. Each race was decided by about 5,000 votes. Wisconsin's 14th district is bordered on the east by the 12th, 17th and 18th districts. Those districts are closer to Milwaukee and all went Democratic. In fact, there was no Republican opposition in any of those races, so the Democrats needed just over 5,000 votes of the 58,000 wasted votes they got in those three races to take the 14th district. Had the east boundary of the 14th district been drawn closer to Milwaukee, the Democrats would have likely won that district.
Wisconsin’s 21st district is neighbored by the 20th district to the north, which went to the Democrats unopposed. Another 21,222 votes were wasted in the 20th district, and Democrats needed just 5,000 to take the 21st district.
It’s a similar story for Wisconsin’s 42nd district, which is neighbored by the 79th and 81st districts, which went Democrat by a combined 16,000 wasted votes. Democrat George Ferriter needed just 5,000 of those votes to swing the 42nd district blue.
The point is Wisconsin Republicans probably gained seats by drawing the district lines where they did, which is not supposed to happen. This is the Republicans’ fault because they were last to draw the districts, and the Supreme Court could rule that the districts must be redrawn to make races more competitive. That was the ruling in the lower court.
If the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, it would set the efficiency gap as legal precedent when determining whether partisan gerrymandering has taken place. It would also give the party disadvantaged by the gerrymandering a better chance of righting the wrong and achieving more accurate representation throughout states. That’s no small accomplishment, but it’s not a solution by any means, because gentrification is the old gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering has been around almost as long as America, but even older than America is gentrification, which will continue to weaken the power of the minority vote despite a ruling on gerrymandering. While gerrymandering is the drawing of lines around communities, gentrification is actively creating communities by displacing other communities.
There’s nothing stopping a city council our county commission from purchasing land to build whatever they want to “improve” their city or county. Cities, counties and states don’t need your permission to build “improvements.” They can just buy you or your landlord out. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’re likely familiar with these projects and might have been displaced because of them.
New research by the University of Minnesota found that “over a third of low-income census tracts in Minneapolis underwent gentrification...and about a quarter of low-income census tracts in St. Paul gentrified” from 2000 to 2014. Northeast Minneapolis is the best example of gentrification in the area, which tends to happen in downtown areas near public transit. So the people who actually need the bus and train to get to work no longer have access to it or have to walk/ride even farther to work.
But brown people moving to suburban or rural areas should even out the vote there, right? Wrong. Minorities had a voice in metropolitan areas because they had power in numbers. Those numbers being spread around suburban and rural areas dissipates the power of that collective vote. Those displaced people also lose local representation that’s been dedicated to their interests. They were a member of the majority when it came to their local community, and they are now a minority in a new community. Just like the local elected officials in the cities, the local elected officials of the suburbs and rural areas have the interests of the majority in mind.
Those same Wisconsin Republicans who allegedly committed partisan gerrymandering will simply resort to “improving” their communities and spreading the minority vote around into suburban and rural districts via gentrification in the future. Even if the Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Republicans were in the wrong, gentrification makes gerrymandering unnecessary, because if you can move the people instead of the lines there’s no need to move the lines. Moving the lines is just cheaper and easier, for now. That’s why gentrification is the old gerrymandering.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights
The United States Supreme Court’s next decision will determine whether a warrant is needed for law enforcement to review your cellphone location data. It was announced Monday that Carpenter v. U.S. will be heard by the Supreme Court and determine whether your cellphone location data is your cellphone location data and not public information.
Timothy Carpenter is alleged to have committed multiple armed robberies in the Midwest from 2010 to 2011, but he was convicted of six robberies because a prosecutor sought and obtained cellphone location data spanning more than five months, placing Carpenter in the area of the crimes.
Currently, law enforcement needs no warrant to view cellphone location data because of the Stored Communications Act, which was supposed to bolster the weak Fourth Amendment when it comes to protecting your data stored online. Only a subpoena and prior notice are required of law enforcement to entice a service provider to disclose the contents of an email or files stored online.
Carpenter’s appeal to three judges of the Sixth Circuit was unsuccessful because Carpenter “had no reasonable expectation of privacy in cellphone location records held by his service provider.” Expect the conservative majority Supreme Court to uphold this decision because you are not required to use a cellphone. You choose to use a cellphone because of how much easier it makes your life. You are not required to store information online. You choose to store information online so you can easily access it from anywhere. Again, you are choosing serenity over security -- publicity over privacy. You are at the discretion of your cellphone carrier when you sign a contract or purchase minutes for your cellphone. It’s no different than signing a contract with an internet service provider who can monitor your online habits and sell that information to advertisers.
Storing data online is a form of publication. Regardless of how you encrypt it or password-protect it, people who want access will get it. There are things you can do to avoid ending up like Carpenter, though.
If you’re going to commit a crime, turn off your location services in the privacy settings of your cellphone. You can always turn location services back on when you’re looking for a place to eat near you or trying to catch a bus, but unless you want law enforcement and the government to know your exact whereabouts at any given time, turn off location services when you don’t require them.
Turning off location services does not keep law enforcement or the government from determining your approximate location. As long as you are connected to a cell tower, your carrier can determine your approximate location. The only way to avoid this is to turn off your cellphone altogether.
One of the easiest ways people can gain access to cellphone data is by obtaining a cellphone that unlocks via the fingerprint scanner. Of course, many of the known hacks still require the finger of the cellphone owner to create a mold, but imagine you’re suspected of a crime like Carpenter. All authorities would need to unlock the data on your cellphone is your finger, and courts have repeatedly ruled with law enforcement on this issue.
If you’re dead, whoever wants to access your phone doesn’t even need your permission. Say you recorded video or audio of a murder. The murderer would just need your dead hand to delete the evidence. Determining which of the 10,000 possible combinations your passcode could be would take a lot longer.
A recent review of four smartphones for privacy and security by Gadget Hacks resulted in the Blackphone 2 taking the title as most secure cellphone. Blackphone’s manufacturer Silent Circle offers a year’s worth of encrypted phone calls and messages for free, so not even your carrier can intercept your communications. The phone also warns you when it’s connected to a suspicious cell tower in an attempt to protect your calls and text messages from StingRay surveillance devices used by the government.
What might be the best feature of the Blackphone, though, is the speed in which bugs are fixed. Silent Circle offers up to $1,024 for any bugs found with the phone’s security, and security updates that fix known bugs are released within 72 hours of the bug being discovered. The other three phones reviewed have security patches ready in a month or so.
One of the best ways to protect your mobile data is to delete it if your phone is lost or stolen. With Find My iPhone, you can log on to iCloud and delete your data from any other device. Here’s how you do it on Android devices.
If you want to protect your cellphone data, backing it up to the cloud is pretty oxymoronic. Your backup data should be stored on a secure computer or hard drive that’s encrypted and password-protected. You should keep multiple, encrypted backups as well, in case your computer drive fails.
I cannot stress enough the importance, convenience and sense of security that comes with using a virtual private network. For less than $4 per month, you can dictate the IP address location of all your devices so internet service providers and websites can’t monitor your online habits. This comes in handy when you use public wifi networks at the library, restaurants or even at the office. You’re more likely to come across spies on these networks, but with a VPN, the spies can’t see a thing. It really is worth the money. Plus, you can use a VPN to workaround blackout restrictions so you can watch your favorite baseball team’s games online.
Unless you’re using an iPhone, you should have some sort of anti-malware and antivirus app on your cellphone. Apple’s iOS is more secure by design, but if you jailbreak your iPhone, you should be using an anti-malware and antivirus app. Over 95 percent of malware attacks were targeting Android devices, so if you use an Android device, it’s critical that you have a line of defense against these attacks. You can even install a firewall to protect your device.
The best thing you can do to limit the amount of data cellphone carriers have on you is to not pay a cellphone carrier for service. Talkatone is a free, wifi calling and messaging service that allows you to do everything a cellphone carrier provides as long as you’re connected to a wifi network. If you do most of your calling and messaging from a place with a wifi network, you seldom need to use a cellphone tower, so don’t.
The only downside to not having cellphone data is if you live in a rural area that lacks public wifi networks. It makes it hard to send and receive calls and messages if you’re rarely around a wifi. If you rely on your cellphone as a GPS while driving, you’ll sacrifice that convenience, but we’ve managed to find our way with maps and atlases for centuries.
So there’s seven ways to protect your cellphone data. Take advantage of all of them so you don’t end up like Timothy Carpenter, whether you’re guilty or not.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Tech Night Owl, Free Talk Live, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Erskine Overnight, Home Talk, The Josh Tolley Show, The Tom Chenault Show
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on Feb. 13, 2016, it sparked a standoff between Democrats and Republicans that rivaled that of the OK Corral. Senate Republicans refused to confirm a replacement on the grounds that President Barack Obama was a lame duck president and that the new president should choose a successor. Obama famously responded by saying, “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term; neither should a senator,” and nominated Merrick Garland a month after Scalia passed.
Garland is a moderate by general consensus, but it wasn’t enough to convince Republicans to make the judiciary work on behalf of Americans. You can find how an empty seat has affected cases since by following this link. Basically, there were two ties that adversely affected working immigrants and unions.
Here we are over a year later with the Republicans getting exactly what they wanted: Neil Gorsuch, a consensus conservative judge, breaking the tie on a church-state case.
The separation of church and state is long-standing, federal law. Tax dollars are not spent in support of religions, but the federal government won’t stop you from raising money as a church – going as far as to make churches exempt from paying income taxes. A church can even donate money to super PACs that aren’t supporting a specific candidate, but no one is really enforcing this, with the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission calling their organization “more than dysfunctional” and saying the likelihood that the laws being enforced is “slim.” Donald Trump would like to make churches the new super PACs, according to The Atlantic. That opportunity has arrived in the form of the church-state case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.
Trinity Lutheran is a church-run preschool that applied for a state grant to fund a playground upgrade for safety reasons. They want to put that forgiving material made out of old tires in the playground so kids don’t end up with brain injuries, etc. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. You can see what they currently have in the playground just by visiting the website, and it’s pretty terrible. But the state in which Trinity Lutheran operates, Missouri, has a state constitution clause that forbids tax dollars from going to churches, which is also perfectly reasonable. The latest decision upheld Missouri’s state constitution. The church must raise its own money to upgrade the playground. They are a private school after all, and if they actually took advantage of all this media attention, they’d probably be funded for the entire year already.
The case could be thrown out entirely because the Supreme Court put off scheduling the case because of the empty seat, and since, Missouri’s Democratic attorney general lost an election and was replaced with a Republican, who announced he will change the state’s policy and allow churches to receive grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Then there’s no case, right? Attorney Irv Gonzalez of the Know Your Rights talk show thinks so.
“If they change the policy then I think they should not hear the case … If he changes the law today, then there’s really no issue,” he said.
Not so fast. That change to the state’s policy wouldn’t be permanent. It would be subject to change every time there’s a new attorney general. If the Supreme Court rules, though, it would become permanent nationwide. You see why these nine judges are so important and why having just eight is a real problem? Just look back at the FEC’s six chair people and how ineffective that has been. Those people can’t even talk to each other.
So, here we are at a crossroads, with a ninth and final traveller determining which path America takes for the foreseeable future. Does the consensus conservative Gorsuch side with state’s rights or religion? Everything points to religion. Furthermore, the hundred or so federal judges Donald Trump has or will appoint and another 70 that will likely retire during Trump’s first term will make sure more church-state cases are heard by the conservative Supreme Court. Gonzalez doesn’t foresee sweeping changes to church-state precedent, though. Unless, of course, 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passes away in the next four years.
Americans need to realize that Republicans didn’t just hijack the Supreme Court, but they hijacked nearly 200 more courts at other levels throughout the country. President Obama made 54 federal nominations to the 112 empty seats that Senate Republicans refused to confirm. Winning the White House was imperative for the power play to work, but Trump slapped the puck through the Democrats’ five hole – Hillary Clinton – with perhaps an assist or two from the Russians, who say they’re going to the Olympics regardless of what NHL owners declare. With a Republican-led executive, legislative and judiciary branches, what’s next?
Churches will be allowed to donate directly to political officials, whom, of course, will be members of the religious right. Freedom of religion will infringe upon free elections, and religions and corporations will battle together to elect politicians who put more money in the pockets of priests and CEOs. Everyday Americans will continue to suffer, but it won’t seem like it as long as they have their precious devices, television and internet access. Whether their use of those devices is monitored and sold to advertisers matters little to them. Fewer and fewer people will vote, because why waste an hour every two years when both candidates are working against you? Believe it or not, your vote means more now than ever. Use it.
Editor's Note: An update follows.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights