Follow the Money . . . to Ferguson

March 9, 2015., by Joseph Margulie

Original Article



“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” So began the report written by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, a 100-page indictment of the Ferguson Police Department. The entire document repays careful study, but at its core, the report describes a department—and municipality—beset by two overlapping problems.

First, the City uses its police to close gaps in the city budget rather than deter or investigate crime. As a result, the police in Ferguson are fee- and fine-producers instead of peace officers, which has predictably led to chronic over-policing. “Many officers,” the report found, seem to view Ferguson’s residents “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

Second, the Ferguson Police Department has developed an adversarial culture that routinely trumps the restraints imposed by the Constitution. “Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority.” As symbols of authority so often do, Ferguson police apparently confuse disagreement with disobedience, and mistake a legitimate exercise of constitutional rights with an unpardonable display of disrespect.

The report implies that the second condition follows from the first, but in this regard it is mistaken. The fact that the police are misused as revenue agents need not make them hostile to the community they ostensibly serve. One can imagine, in other words, an officer handing yet another ticket to a Ferguson resident for some trivial or non-existent offense with an apology instead of a snarl.

The problem of an adversarial police culture—in which the police view themselves as operating in hostile territory and treat the community as the dangerous enemy—has been recognized for decades. It was immortalized in the movie, Ft. Apache, the Bronx, and helps account for the too-quick decision to acquire and deploy the latest and most advanced weapons of war on neighborhood streets. I hope to address this problem in future columns, since it is almost impossible to imagine meaningful reform of the criminal justice system so long as it persists.

But today, I want to address the first problem identified by DOJ—viz., the distorting influence of money. More than anything, the DOJ report confirms the familiar insight that financial incentives can have a profound, if not always dispositive, influence on behavior. Implicit in this insight, and similarly confirmed by the lesson of common experience, is that if you alter the incentives, you can influence the behavior.

Ironically, this was a key insight in the earliest years of the punitive turn in American life. In 1975, conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson published, Thinking About Crime, where he argued that offenders were fundamentally rational actors who assessed the relevant incentives and chose crime because the anticipated balance of risk and reward favored lawlessness. Change the balance and you will alter the behavior, or so he thought. His work was exceptionally important in advancing the view that punishment should be far more swift, certain, and severe, a view which many legislators and criminal justice policymakers quickly endorsed.

Tinkering with incentives is also an essential component of the neoliberal approach to crime control, which relies on, among other things, the management and control of physical space to corral and redirect would-be offenders. Have you ever noticed that newer park benches use metal armrests to divide the bench into two or three distinct seats? That’s not for comfort. It prevents the bench from being used as a bed, and therefore deters the homeless from mixing with the good people of the city.

To date, proposals to redirect the flow of money have not played a prominent part in the discussion of criminal justice reform, which has focused instead on statutory changes, mostly at the state level. But there is some evidence this may be changing. Recently, the MacArthur Foundation announced a $75 million grant to develop programs aimed at reducing jail populations. Last week I spoke with Nancy Fishman, the Project Director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the VERA Institute, a major player in criminal justice reform and one of four groups charged with administering the MacArthur grant.

As Fishman explained, the idea of the grant is to create incentives for municipalities to think systemically about how to eliminate what has become a reflexive over-reliance on jail. Over the past two decades, violent crime has fallen by nearly 50 percent and property crime by 44 percent. Yet annual admissions to jails in the United States have almost doubled, from six million to nearly 12 million. The great majority of these people, perhaps as many as three-quarters, are held for nonviolent traffic, property, drug, or public order offenses. Many are mentally ill or have alcohol or drug dependencies but are warehoused in jail for want of alternatives. Finally, to compound the crisis, pretrial detainees are held far longer than in the past: over the past three decades, the average stay has increased from 14 to 23 days. (VERA’s report is available here).

MacArthur, VERA, and its partners hope to identify and fund creative proposals from municipalities that will reward alternative strategies. Backed by MacArthur’s resources and tied to VERA’s technical expertise, these alternatives will—one hopes—change the incentives in a way that encourages police, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, and legislators to think of jail as the last resort rather than the first. This, after all, is the intended purpose of pretrial detention, which should be limited to those very few who cannot safely be returned to the community. All evidence shows that jails long ago took on a far different role.

One lesson of the DOJ report is that if you reward municipalities to think and behave differently, they will. If cash-strapped cities are paid to reserve jail for the appropriate population, they will, and the message will gradually spread from the mayor in city hall to the cop on the street, and all the actors in between. Prosecutors will learn not to seek pretrial detention for those who should be diverted elsewhere, judges will no longer impose bail that sounds reasonable to a middle class sensibility but is far beyond the reach of a poor man or woman, and legislators will think twice before creating yet another category of crime that calls for presumptive pretrial detention.

No one remotely thinks that the MacArthur grant will solve the problem of distorted incentives and misallocated money in the criminal justice system. After all, $75 million is almost literally nothing compared to the tens of billions of dollars awarded by the federal government to states and local municipalities across the country over the past 50 years to shape and expand their criminal justice system. But all of this money represents an extraordinarily powerful resource, if only it can be harnessed in the service of a new vision of criminal justice. Ferguson points the way, and MacArthur is taking the first step.


Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

February 16, 2015
Je Suis Charlie Hebdo
by Ronald D. Rotunda

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Censored SpeechFree speech is under renewed attack after the Charlie Hebdo murders that claimed 12 lives earlier this year. Around the world, some Muslims protested—not to defend the right of free speech but to attack those who, in their view, insulted Islam. For example, in late January, protestors killed five people and set fire to eight Christian Churches in Niger. French President Francois Hollande responded that France was committed to “freedom of expression,” and that commitment is “non-negotiable.”

A month before the Charlie Hebdo violence, a French appellate court overturned the conviction of Christine Tasin, a retired schoolteacher of Classics. In 2013, she had publicly criticized Islam’s Eid-ul-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”), as unsanitary and cruel to animals. The trial court sentenced her to a €3,000 fine (half of which it suspended) and a three month prison sentence, also suspended. Earlier, a Muslim man threatened her with death. The court fined that man only €800. The judge apparently decided that objecting to cruelty to animals is five times more offensive than threatening a retired schoolteacher with death.

Tasin rejoiced in the overturning of her conviction. “Last Thursday was a great day for freedom of expression in France,” she said. She added:

The [appeal] court in Besançon has now acknowledged that one has the right to express opinions and I did not encourage hatred against Muslims, and I can think and say that Islam is a threat to France, that it is a freedom of expression. [Those who] fear that freedom of expression is disappearing, and that blasphemy has become a crime again are relieved. Yes, I am an Islamophobe, so what? It’s Normal! . . . I don’t find it normal to torture animals; I don’t find it normal to veil women. I’m talking about a serious problem.

Others take away a different lesson and encourage self-censorship—be careful what you say. On January 21, Stevie Wonder advised, “we should make laws against people criticizing religion,” a most in-apropos comment (it was part of his eulogy of André Crouch). In 2012, the President’s Press Secretary, Jay Carney, in the course of a press conference, said, “We are aware that a French magazine [referring to Charlie Hebdo] published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the prophet Muhammad, and obviously we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this.”

After the 2015 murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, Carney reaffirmed his view that Charlie Hebdo should have pulled back with its satire. Carney, of course, made clear that he did not justify violence. Yet, as Washington Post columnist Charles Lane advised, “mixed messages unavoidably implied that the rioters had a valid point, which is never something you want to imply—at least not if you understand how dangerous it is to give violent extremists a veto over what your citizens can and cannot say.”

Carney’s successor as White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, speaking shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack, embraced that mixed message. The violence is terrible, of course, yet, when a reporter asked Josh Earnest, “Does the White House stand by that questioning [in 2012] of the judgment of the publication of that cartoon in light of recent events?”—Earnest’s response was yes, after long, convoluted remarks. He reaffirmed that Charlie Hebdo exercised poor judgment; however, satire “could put Americans abroad at risk,” so the President “will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.”

This response appeared to be a non sequitur so the reporter said that protecting “American service personnel is different than criticizing or raising questions about the judgment underlying any satirical expression, be it to mock Islam or Christianity or Judaism, or anything else.” Consequently, the reporter asked, “Where do you draw the line?” Earnest’s answer, “I think it depends on the scenario.” What does that mean? Don’t mock Islam but Episcopalians are fair game?

It is difficult for you to support free speech if you simultaneously express reservations about what the speaker is saying and then warn that you will “not now be shy” about “taking steps” to discourage the speaker from speaking because that is exercising “poor judgment.”

Jonathan Chait, a commentator for New York Magazine and former senior editor at the New Republic, saw right through this decidedly ambiguous message. What the White House Press Secretary is saying, Chait says, is, “They do not believe religious extremists should be able to impose censorship by issuing threats, but given the existence of those threats, the rest of us should have the good sense not to risk triggering them.” That is not a defense of free speech but rather a call for self-censorship:

“The line separating these two positions is perilously thin. . . . The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”

The Washington Post republished the Charlie Hebdo cartoon cover circulated after the attack, but the New York Times did not, noting, “most Muslims consider any depiction of their prophet to be blasphemous.” That certainly appears like self-censorship. (It also shows that the editor of that article does not travel much, at least not to Istanbul, where one could tour the famous Topkapi Palace Museum, which displays many images of Mohammed. That’s another problem with self-censorship; it leads to over-self-censorship, if you are scared enough.)

In December 2004, I gave a speech at the University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands about America and the Gulf War. A month earlier, a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim murdered Theo van Gogh, while cycling to work. My speech was public and a Muslim woman spoke up in the back of the room before I began. She was accompanied by several large men and videotaping equipment. She wanted to videotape my speech. I asked the audience if they objected and they did. The audience was obviously scared and I asked her if she had any reaction to that. She refused to speak.

I told her that the audience was scared of her because of the murder of Theo van Gogh and that ought to concern her. She just stared at me in utter silence. I said she could condemn the murder of Theo van Gogh; that might make the audience less frightened. Again, nothing. I finally told her that she could videotape me but the camera must focus only on me. She could not make any record of anyone in the audience. She agreed, and the audience felt better. Then I began my speech by saying that it is important that we not be afraid to speak. After I finished the presentation and answered questions, she and her entourage left. At that moment, I did not need the White House Press Secretary to tell me to exercise “better judgment,” i.e., self-censorship.

Each generation must learn and relearn the lessons of free speech. Those who say we can speak, but should not be rude or offensive do not understand that inoffensive speech has no need of protection. The White House Press Secretary should not be telling us to censor ourselves; he should be telling the world that the cure for speech we do not like is more speech, contrary speech, not violence or self-censorship. If you disagree, respond with words, not force.

Those who worry about inciting those Muslims who preach and act out hate think that appeasement will stop the terrorist attacks. Sadly, appeasement in the past has been about as effective as throwing some blood in the water to appease sharks.
Listen to an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in 2009, on Egyptian Television. He told his viewers:

If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the earth.

The Quran tells us that if God had wanted one community, He would have made one community. Instead, we are many communities so that we can compete with each other in good works (Quran verse 5:480). The murderers of Charlie Hebdo worry about sacrilege, but they are the ones who are sacrilegious, because they actually think that Almighty God needs those puny men to effectuate His will.

SCOTUS Rules Cops DO NOT Need A Warrant To Search Your Home

Original Article

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In another devastating blow to freedom, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police don’t need a warrant to search your property. As long as two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter, and the resident who refuses access is then arrested, police may enter the residence.

“Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” Ginsburg wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.” Tuesday’s ruling, she added, “shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph.”

Georgia v. Randolph was a similar case the Supreme Court addressed in 2006, in which a domestic violence suspect would not allow police to enter his home, though his wife did offer police consent. The police ultimately entered the home. The Court ruled in the case that the man’s refusal while being present in the home should have kept authorities from entering.

“A physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” the majority ruled in that case.

The majority, led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said police need not take the time to get a magistrate’s approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the “very core” of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, reports the LA Times.

According to the AP, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s 6-3 decision holding that an occupant may not object to a search when he is not at home.

“We therefore hold that an occupant who is absent due to a lawful detention or arrest stands in the same shoes as an occupant who is absent for any other reason,” Alito said.

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/supr…

The Sad Facts People Forget, Because They Don’t Pay Attention To History

Sunday, 12 October 2014

IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’

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Rebecca Harvey’s photo.

IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’ claims expert The Irish slave trade began when the Proclamation of 1625 James II required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70 percent of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.” “Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants and the majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.”

“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

Martin goes on to explain that for some reason, the Irish slaves are often remembered as ‘indentured servants.’ However, in most cases during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were no more than “human cattle.”
“…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” writes Martin. “It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”
During the late 1600s, writes Martin, African slaves were far more expensive than their Irish counterparts – Africans would sell for around 50 sterling while Irish were often no more than 5 sterling.

The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.
“These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of breeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/whtslav.htm