Author Archives: SHG

The Dangling Nomination

Lacking any other issues with which to attack the inchoate apocalypse (/s) to breathlessly fear the end of times, Dahlia Lithwick resurrected the Obama administration’s sacrificial lamb for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. He was, of course, a pawn in a political game that, in a better world, a better nation, would have never happened.

Maybe some Republican will be big enough to admit that it was just a cynical gambit, but they pulled it off. Sure, some nice folks believed their story, but they knew it was nonsense, a scam to prevent Obama from exercising his constitutional authority. Having done so, they now have to worry that they’ve escalated the war over the Supreme Court and will be repaid should the Democrats ever get their act together and realize that they can’t win elections by sacrificing the majority of Americans in favor of a small entitled minority.

While there might be some greater zeal toward fighting for Garland’s nomination if he wasn’t a moderate conservative’s dream justice, he will likely be better than the next nominee. And no one on either team denies that he was well-qualified for the job, even if he wasn’t your flavor of justice. That was never the issue. But there he is, sitting quietly on the sidelines, in Senate purgatory.

Lithwick doesn’t want to let this go, Obama be damned. Continue reading

The Tech Solution To The Bail Problem

There was never a good argument as to why Kalief Browder should have spent three years of his young life in jail.  His case was ultimately dismissed, before he killed himself. His family was incapable of making his bail, and there was no good explanation for why bail, any bail, was needed.

Browder’s story raised consciousness about the problem, giving rise to pushes for reform that made for great headlines, heartfelt aspirations for change and . . . nothing more.  Between New York City’s most progressive mayor ever, and New York State’s most progressive Chief Judge ever, nothing changed.

But that’s all about to end, as there has finally been movement, momentum, to do something about the warm bodies warehoused for no particular reason in very violent, even deadly, jails. The tech revolution is here for bail.

Friends and family of people incarcerated in New York City jails will have the option of posting bail online, part of a larger effort to reform the bail system and reduce reliance on cash bail, officials announced Tuesday. Continue reading

An 80-20% Discussion

At a lovely dinner party to celebrate an old friend’s birthday, conversation unsurprisingly turned to the election. A quick poll of the table revealed that the gathering voted 80-20% for Hillary Clinton. There were no rural working class whites there. There were no minorities there. The gender split was even, but the room was devoid of gay and trans people. It was not a representative sampling of America by any stretch. The age range spanned middle baby boomer to greatest generation, so naturally everyone voted.

When the conversation turned to how it happened that Trump won, the percentages shifted. While 80% of the people in the room had voted for Clinton, 80% understood why Clinton had failed to win. And of the 80% who voted for Clinton, yet understood, one theme emerged. America needed a new political party, because the Democrats no longer represented their values.

The woman to my right was bright and vivacious, a lawyer and unafraid to speak her mind. During the course of the conversation, a fellow who served in World War II expressed disgust at the kids who had taken to the street to protest. Not because they disapproved of the president-elect, but because it was a childish response. Continue reading

Twitter, Twitter, Gab, Gab, Gab

Twitter is doomed. No, not because of all the mean twits that hurt your feelz, but because it has been poorly run despite its popularity and will never be adequately monetizable. It’s a business, and when a business can’t make money, it ceases to exist. I know, it seems that anything you like and use ought to be able to make money, but unless you’re willing to pay by the twit, it’s doomed. Doomed.

Meanwhile, the New York Times tech guru, Farhad Manjoo, realized that twitter has gone past its peak and is now in its death spiral.

Twitter, the well-known but less-well-used social network of 140-character quips about the news, is polarizing. You’re either an addict, or you don’t get it.

And if you get it, explaining what it is and why you’re on it — and why you can’t stop looking at it even though you’re supposed to be tending to your 3-year-old at the park, on the swings, where she’s just fallen and hit her face, something that actually happened to me — can be a challenge even in ordinary times.

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Blood On The Tracks

It was predicted that the election of Donald Trump would empower that portion of his base reflecting the most venal humanity America has to offer. And the next day progressives went in search of examples to prove they were right, and moderate voices explaining that the election was not a referendum on white supremacy were wrong.

Shaun King, the patron saint of mindless confirmation bias, asked for stories of racism and misogyny, of hatred and abuse, and he got them. How many are true will never be known. King isn’t big on questioning claims that support his agenda. But some are true, as the claims are backed up by evidence.

And despite the human tendency to see only what you want to see, the violence cuts both ways. There is a sense of empowerment, as if an election has somehow altered all norms of violence. The irony here, if one can reduce it to such a trite observation, is that each side is proving the most outraged cries of the other right. The worst of us is coming out, which emboldens the stupidest of us (and no one has as yet plumbed the bottom of that dark hole) to let go of whatever inhibitions kept them in check and conclusively prove that they cannot function in a viable society.

Dealing with the racists is easier, as they readily show themselves and appear quite proud to be venal scum, so it’s not hard to tell the venal from the politically incorrect. They have mistaken the Trump win as a vindication of their hatred. It isn’t.* It wasn’t, regardless of the fact that Trump did nothing to tell them so, happily enjoying their support. Continue reading

The Clueless Constitution: Welcome Aboard

For all the evils that twitter put in front of our eyes (not forces, because we can always turn it off, but that’s an issue for another day), some of the worst come from surprising sources. CATO’s Jonathan Banks brought this bit of news: “Coming soon to Trump’s America: A new era of minority activism.” Well, that’s good to hear. Activism is what everyone should be doing, and indeed, minorities should certainly assert their views.

But the good news didn’t last very long.

Deep down, millions of Americans believe a simple morality tale that goes something like this: The white Christian establishment is the original source and continuing guardian of America’s tradition of liberty and limited government, and minorities threaten it because they don’t share the same attachments.

This has always been nonsense. But in Donald Trump’s America, that will become even more obvious. Indeed, if America’s liberal democracy has a future, it is no longer with Trump’s overwhelmingly white backers, but with minorities.

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Stop Crying Long Enough To Blame

That the names Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani are back in the news shouldn’t come as any surprise. You knew they would be there, backing the dark horse, because no one else would let these toxic losers anywhere near their administration. And if nothing else, Trump prizes loyalty, because he wouldn’t know integrity if it bit him in the ass.

There will be plenty to do going forward, because these are the people who will be in charge of something. Crying about the pain of it all is what got us here. Dealing with it will be hard. If you can’t stop feeling bad about it, crying over how it will impact you and your feelz, then you will be useless in dealing with it. In fairness, there would be plenty to do going forward had Clinton won. Remember what a great president Barack Obama was for the Constitution? Yeah, he sucked, unless you were one of the lucky ones who happened to get your tummy rubbed by his rhetoric or occasional forays into actually doing something.

Brian Tannebaum took an empathetic view of the tears, telling those who would call on the crying masses to “move on” to “go fuck yourself.” This will surely help. Maybe if we cry hard enough, long enough, Rudy Giuliani will disappear? Maybe if we hug each other, Trump will gain a sense of the constitutional limitations of the office? Then again, maybe not. Maybe instead, we put on our big boy and girl* pants, wipe the snot from our nose, and get ready to fight.

Just as we would have to do had Hillary been elected, because she’s as awful when it comes to crim law as her beloved Bill, who brought us the AEDPA. Or Obama, who locked up more undocumented aliens than anyone in history, and handed out fewer pardons than any president ever. A little perspective goes a long way to turn that frown upside down. Continue reading

Forfeiture Of The DNA Indictment

The opening paragraph of Judge Eugene Pigott’s opinion in People v. Lerio Guerrero seems clear as can be.

The primary issue on this appeal is whether defendant, by pleading guilty to all of the counts of an amended indictment, forfeited his right to challenge the legal sufficiency of the so-called “DNA indictment”1 and the subsequent amendment that added only his name to that indictment. We hold that defendant, by pleading guilty, forfeited his right to challenge both the underlying “DNA indictment” and the amended indictment that named him.

So the defendant lost. And he lost because he copped a plea, and when you plead out, you give away your challenge to the DNA indictment, and its subsequent amendment. How much clearer can it be?

What’s a DNA indictment? It’s a new-fangled weapon in the war against crime, because when the prosecution doesn’t know the identity of the perpetrator, but has the perp’s DNA available, indict the placeholder until you figure out whose DNA it is, then swap out the captions and, bang, you’re good to go.  The placeholder serves to stop the running of the statute of limitations and shift the burden of delay from the prosecution to the defense. It’s not that they didn’t act within the time frame the law required, but that the defendant, by concealing his identity behind his DNA, caused the delay to ensue. Continue reading

The Trauma Of Your First Loss

At my alma mater, students held a “cry-in” after the loss. Their world of absolute certainty crashed down around them, because no one ever told them that there would be loss in their lives. The past eight years was under President Obama, the nation’s first black president. And they were still sucking their thumbs when Shrub was last elected.

At Yale, students sought the concession from their Econ 115 professor to cancel his midterm exam. The claim to suffer “fear, rightly or wrongly.” may well be true, as is the pain. They just suffered the first smackdown of their values ever, and this wasn’t possible. They had been told that their values were true, were real, were absolutely right, and therefore there could be no reasonable disagreement. If true, and they believe it with all their being, then this was no more possible than pigs flying. And everybody knows pigs can’t fly.

So it had to be evil that permeated their country. Millions of racists and sexists stole control from them. It had to be. There could be no other explanation that meshed with their world view. The old aphorism, that there were two sides to every story, was a lie. There was no other side. They were right. They had always been right, and would always be right. There could be no higher calling than serving what was right, and it justified doing anything, anything, to achieve what was right.

Donna Brazile, who filled in as head of the Democratic National Committee after Debbie Wasserman Schultz got caught dirty, got caught dirty herself. But she was only contrite about being caught, because her giving debate questions away while (bizarrely) serving as a neutral commentator on CNN may have been cheating in the worst sense of the word, but her cause was just. And righteousness excuses every wrong. Continue reading

Job? Definitely. Gun? Well…

A few years back, a White House national security cyber guy told me that the biggest stumbling block to the United States being capable of meeting the threat of cyber attack was that the damn coders were so . . . coder-ish. There were limits as to whom the government would hire, and those limits included people who committed crimes. Like smoking pot or downloading music illegally.

There were two things that almost all good coders did. Smoke pot and download music illegally. It was a problem. Sure, there were coders who didn’t, but not enough and, I was told, they weren’t the “good ones.” Hey, that’s what he told me. I’m just repeating it here.

But it appears the days of rejecting people in law enforcement, even people whose sartorial choice can be best described as “homeless Jesus” in a Megadeath t-shirt, may be over, at least for the waning hours of the Obama administration.

In a push to hire minority police officers, the Obama administration is asking the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies to forgive drug use, disregard the criminal records of candidates from “underrepresented communities” and lower standards on written and physical exams. It’s part of the administration’s Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement initiative following a string of officer-involved shootings involving African Americans. Key to the mission is the racial diversification of local law enforcement agencies so that they “better reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”

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Sex Crimes Meet Whenever

It wasn’t too long ago that the forces of feminism and social justice were pulling their hair out over the sentence given Brock Turner and the fact that allegations against America’s most-hated dad, Bill Cosby, wouldn’t result in prosecution because the statute of limitations had run. This was a travesty. This had to be changed, they exclaimed in the online petitions favored by slacktivists.

Of course, this is all petty history, at the moment, because evil old white men in flyover land elected a “lying, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, narcissistic, petulant con-man with small hands” as its 45th president, and when they can pull themselves out of their safe spaces, their time is spent taking to the streets in the hope that if they scream loud enough, the space-time continuum will change the outcome of the election.

Nonetheless, politicians who sought to curry favor with their constituencies, and had otherwise found themselves barren of opportunity to be simultaneously tough on crime and soft on social justice, pandered as fast as they could.

In the last two years, at least six states have extended or eliminated their statutes of limitations on sexual assaults. Activists are seeking similar changes in at least three others.

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The New Nine: Make The Supreme Court Legitimate Again

In advance of the election, Rick Hasen wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News, which means you probably weren’t among the twelve who read it.

“We need nine,” the refrain goes. But it’s the balance of power on the Supreme Court and not the number of justices that matters. The fate of many of our most cherished rights hangs in the balance of not just the presidential race, but control of the Senate.

Neither the presidency nor the Senate went the way Hasen wanted.

A conservative Supreme Court is more likely to protect broad gun rights, take a narrow view of federal power against the states, and the rights of businesses over workers and consumers.

That’s why I’ve called control of the Supreme Court the most urgent civil rights issue of our time.

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