Category Archives: Politics

America Needs One More Jail

In general, I’m of the view that we have too many jails and prisons (and far too many private prisons!), and that this is an industry, or social practice if you prefer, where supply tends to create demand for reasons economic and social.

But I’ve learned that we are short of one jail we need. In today’s New York Times explainer on executive privilege (a non-constitutional doctrine invented by courts, but don’t get me started), author Charlie Savage has an aside in his explanation of the convoluted and uncertain way in which Congress enforces its finding of contempt by non-cooperating witnesses:

(In theory, lawmakers could also direct the House sergeant-at-arms to arrest recalcitrant witnesses and detain them until the end of its session, but that “inherent contempt” authority is viewed as obsolete; the Capitol has no prison cell and lawmakers have not tried to use this power since 1935.)

So here’s my very modest proposal: Congress should either build its own little jail, or it should contract with a nearby jurisdiction–or a private prison company–to guarantee to hold anyone arrested by the Sergeant at Arms. I doubt they would actually have to use it; rather, having this capacity on tap would provide a much greater in terrorem effect than the current system which requires first that the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia take up the case, and second that the court fights over it happen quickly–the latter being highly unlikely.

Surely a contingency contract with a per diem per prisoner if required would be a very minor budget item. Stick it in the reconciliation bill please.

Posted in Law: Everything Else, The Scandals | 1 Comment

The Texts are Coming from Inside the House

This vile fundraising text-message did not come from some fringe group. It came from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Let’s count just a few of the ways in which this is disgusting:

  1. It misuses the term “traitor” to suggest that not supporting a politician can ever be treason.
  2. It implicitly identifies fealty with The Leader with loyalty to the United States.
  3. It suggests that it is unpatriotic to fail to support a man who
    1. encouraged a seditionist mob to storm the Capitol of the United States in order to prevent the certification of an election he had lost and
    2. tried to subvert the Justice Department to undermine the election result
    3.  when in fact the reverse is true: supporting the seditionist is what is unpatriotic.
  4. It says those who don’t send the NRCC money right now will be “branded a deserter”. And creates a totally bogus 17 minute deadline to fork over.
  5. Appeals like this work.

I knew House Republicans had gone pretty far over to the Dark Side, but this…

Posted in 2022 Election, Trump | Leave a comment

The First Thing We Do is Praise (Certain) Lawyers

Dick the Butcher in Henry VI, part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73 explains the necessary first step to seizing power illegally.

Trump really did attempt a coup.

Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Pak — all Republicans — testified that Mr. Trump was not seeking their legal advice, but strong-arming them to violate their oaths of office, undermine the results of the election and subvert the Constitution.

What stopped him?  Two things: 1) Lawyers with a basic core of ethics that required fidelity to bedrock democratic values;  and 2) the general incompetence of the plotters (cf. events of Jan 6, 2020).

I believe this has important implications for how we teach law students.  More discussion of (or paeans to?) the values of the rule of law in a democratic society may be in order.  At least until the Supreme Court makes ashes of it in our mouths, at which point…what?…Edward Luttwak?

Continue reading

Posted in Law School, The Scandals | 1 Comment

The First Terrific Ad of the 2022 Election Cycle

I’ve seen a bunch of frankly unimpressive attack ads this cycle. (Yes, looking at you, Remove Ron.) Here’s a reminder of how positive ads can be so much much better. This ad for Charles Graham in North Carolina could bring a tear to the eye if you are the weepy sort:

Great ad, but alas not a perfect candidate. If that doesn’t put you off, you can donate here.

Posted in 2022 Election | Leave a comment

DeSantis Admin Obfuscating Florida COVID Death Rate and End-Running a Court Order on Masks Mandates in Schools

Grim Reaper at the BeachBecause all that matters is getting reelected and then running for President.

The Miami Herald has the goods on the COVID data–Florida changed its COVID-19 data, creating an ‘artificial decline’ in recent deaths:

As the delta variant spreads through Florida, data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest this could be the most serious and deadly surge in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

As cases ballooned in August, however, the Florida Department of Health changed the way it reported death data to the CDC, giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline, an analysis of Florida data by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald found.

On Monday, Florida death data would have shown an average of 262 daily deaths reported to the CDC over the previous week had the health department used its former reporting system, the Herald analysis showed. Instead, the Monday update from Florida showed just 46 “new deaths” per day over the previous seven days.

The dramatic difference is due to a small change in the fine print. Until three weeks ago, data collected by DOH and published on the CDC website counted deaths by the date they were recorded — a common method for producing daily stats used by most states. On Aug. 10, Florida switched its methodology and, along with just a handful of other states, began to tally new deaths by the date the person died.

If you chart deaths by Florida’s new method, based on date of death, it will generally appear — even during a spike like the present — that deaths are on a recent downslope. That’s because it takes time for deaths to be evaluated and death certificates processed. When those deaths finally are tallied, they are assigned to the actual data of death — creating a spike where there once existed a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time.

Meanwhile DeSantis’s people at the FL. Dept of Education (motto: “you raise ’em, we infect ’em”), working at arms-length from the state’s Chief Obstacle to decent COVID policies, are doing an end-run around a court order so as to to really stick it to school districts trying to protect their students with a mask requirement. Yes, really, Florida withholds funds from two school districts requiring masks — despite court decision against state ban on mandates:

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced late Monday that the Florida Department of Education has withheld the monthly salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties who voted to impose mask mandates that only provide for a medical exemption from a doctor. The state actually withholds the equivalent in funding of the members’ salaries.

I am sure that our very educated Governor (Yale College, Harvard Law) could, if he wanted, explain how the rule of law is for suckers, not the manly types who plan to inherit Trump’s mantle and govern with the mailed fist. But that is the unspoken part of the act.

More likely he would argue that since the injunction against enforcement of DeSantis’s anti-mask-rule order doesn’t technically forbid the Florida Dept. of Ed from just happening spontaneously to implement the DeSantis policy of fining counties for having a mask requirement, without formally relying on the Governor’s order. So, that’s all alright until another court issues a more far-reaching injunction.

And indeed, as a formal legal matter that argument about the limited reach of the original injunction might be accurate. (It’s a little hard to tell from the news reports of the decision.) But the question then is whether the mask-requirement-in-schools issue is one for which this sort of legal hardball (or sophistry?) is morally appropriate. I appreciate that there might be deep issues of principle where such an action might even be praiseworthy — don’t do something horrible until there is no legal argument left unturned, and then resign rather than sign the order sending people to the camps. I simply cannot conceive of the masking rule as such a deep question of liberty and principle; we require K-12 students to have various immunizations, and to wear clothes, indeed many public schools have quite strict dress codes.  But here, the DeSantis admin is using these arguments to advance their play-to-the-base electoral scheme to block life-saving health measures.  Even if this is a valid technicality, it is being harnessed in favor of a policy that will — there’s no way to sugar-coat this — kill people.

DeSantis is a menace.

Posted in 2022 Election, COVID-19, Florida | Leave a comment

UM’s Alex Azar Appointment Gets Deserved Flack

Alex Michael Azar II in caricature © 2020 DonkeyHotey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t quite rise to the level of ‘man bites dog’ but when the president of your local chapter of the American Association of University Professors objects to the hiring of someone as any sort of Professor, it’s at least unusual. But here comes Scotney D. Evans, an associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development, with a statement (written with graduate student Thomas Kennedy) opposing the UM Business School’s hiring of former Trump Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as a researcher and adjunct professor in UM’s Business School. They have some cogent points:

Hearing that the Miami Herbert Business School hired Alex Azar, former President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, we both reacted with a mix of horror, disgust and sadness. With all the amazing, diverse and socially responsible policy experts out there that can really motivate and inspire students into “ethical citizenship and service to others” with “a respect for differences among people,” as stated in UM’s mission statement, they choose this guy? There are a lot of important reasons why Azar should be unemployable by any reputable organization that values common humanity and equal rights for all.

Trump’s family separation policy is one of the most shameful stains on the moral character of this country in recent years. Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor and director of speechwriting for Trump, and other Trump cronies like Azar helped enforce a policy that resulted in children being ripped from crying mothers’ arms to be placed in facilities where sexual abuse and mistreatment were rampant. Unaccompanied minors who were coming to this country looking for a better life did not fare much better, as they were also placed in detention facilities in which they were routinely denied hygienic products and basic necessities. Our very own community became a flash point during the Trump years because of an infamous detention center for migrant children in Homestead, Fl.

I (Thomas) have worked on campaigns to close and prevent the reopening of that detention facility and heard firsthand the awful conditions that children were subjected to, including a military style regimen in which they were not allowed free movement, afforded very limited call time, given inadequate access to lawyers and were mistreated and abused by staff. The for-profit detention of immigrant children under horrid conditions outraged many of us, but unfortunately, those who were involved in implementing these horrible policies have not suffered repercussions. Azar was complicit in implementing these detention policies during the Trump era, and was responsible for the administration of immigration detention centers, including the one in Homestead.

This hire directly contradicts the university’s espoused commitment to racial justice. You can’t be against racism and hire Azar. In addition to being complicit in the racist Trump policies described above, he also botched the COVID-19 response that disproportionately harmed and killed Black people, and he tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid which greatly benefit people of color. Being anti-racist as an institution means taking a strong stand against racist policies and those who have a hand in creating or upholding them. Alex Azar was directly involved in creating, implementing and rationalizing racist discourse and policies while employed by the Trump administration.

This hire reminds us of the saying – “don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.” University statements against systemic racial injustice are meaningless without decisive action against racist policies and the public figures who propagate them. Frankly, we’re dismayed that more faculty, staff and students have not strongly vocalized opposition to this hire. Are faculty in the business school on board and willing to ignore Azar’s role in toxic policies? Is the harm that Azar helped cause simply being waved away and whitewashed under the guise of welcoming a diverse “marketplace of ideas”? As University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Professor and activist David Shih has suggested, the marketplace of ideas fails when we cannot make objective choices about racism.

We believe in free discourse and think our campus benefits from a variety of beliefs and opinions to encourage a healthy and diverse learning environment. We also believe that people make mistakes and should be afforded opportunities to repent. But Azar was complicit in some of the most horrific policies enacted during the Trump era. His hire was a huge mistake.

Posted in Trump, U.Miami | Leave a comment