Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Do take advantage of your brand new prayer opportunities. Along with your newly created job opportunities and all your new freedoms.

The most important turn in Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway—a case that probes the constitutionality of explicitly religious prayer in legislative sessions—isn’t that the courts no longer have a role in policing the Establishment Clause, or that pretty much any sectarian prayers can be offered at town meetings so long as they do not “threaten damnation, or preach conversion” to minority religions. No, I think the interesting change in the court’s posture today is that sectarian prayer in advance of legislative sessions is no longer characterized merely as “prayer.” In the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who writes for five justices, these benedictions are now free and unfettered “prayer opportunities.” And “prayer opportunities” are, like “job creators” and “freedoms,” what make America great.

Let Us Pray:The Supreme Court gives its blessing for prayer at town meetings. Get ready for a lot more Jesus in your life., Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, yesterday

My Polish-Jewish-immigrant grandmother, who’s been spinning in her American-cemetery grave since yesterday morning (trust me on that), might calm down once she realizes the benefits of this new all-in-one-case body of law.  Which are that town residents who’d rather not take advantage of their prayer opportunity but who do want to attend a town-government meeting can plug their iPhone earphones into their ears and enjoy some music until the policymaking stuff begins. And not have to worry about appearing rude.

Hopefully, someone will give some visual signal that the prayer opportunity is over and that everyone who didn’t grab the opportunity when it was available will have to wait until Sunday church service for another one. Although there probably isn’t a prayer that that will happen. And if all hell breaks loose before Sunday, like during the policymaking debate, that missed prayer opportunity will be regretted. My grandmother would have appreciated being forewarned.

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A final comment on Scalia’s dissent in EPA v. EMA Homer City Generation

I haven’t read Scalia’s dissents–either one of them–in EPA v. EMA Homer City Generation, and don’t plan to. Nor did I plan to post more than I already have about it. But Kenneth Jost has read it, and at his blog Jost on Justice points out another line in the first of the two:

In dissent, Scalia saw the EPA as making up the approach on its own in the face of an “unambiguous” statute. Even while calling the law “stupid,” Scalia said the episode was “a textbook example” of why many Americans believe they are governed “not so much by their elected representatives as by an “unelected bureaucracy.”

Some Americans do believe they are governed “not so much by their elected representatives as by an “unelected bureaucracy.”  Other Americans, though, believe they are governed “not so much by their elected representatives as by a radical bare majority of justices all but one of whom worked in the Reagan administration and has a quarter-century-old list of what is effectively legislation that they are hell-bent on enacting by Court fiat–largely by striking down legislation enacted by none other than the elected federal and state representatives.

Jost writes:

Scalia takes off against other parts of government in much the same way. When the court considered the Voting Rights Act two years ago, Scalia cited its overwhelming approval by both chambers of Congress as evidence that it was all wrong. When Roberts led the court in a narrow ruling on campaign finance law in 2007, Scalia accused the chief of “faux judicial restraint.” In Scalia’s disordered mind, the rest of government is so often so very wrong — and he alone is not afraid to say so.

There are by now so many examples of federal and state laws that this five-member legislature is striking down under the guise of fanciful interpretations of one or another Constitutional Amendment that it’s hard to keep track.  But the ruling last year in the Voting Rights Act case, Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, really is in a separate category, in my opinion.  In that opinion, this group appears to have stricken down Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment, which expressly authorizes the type of legislation that they struck down as unconstitutional in Shelby County.

There, they concocted a constitutional theory that, best as I can tell, is that the structure of the original Constitution–the Articles, as opposed to the Amendments–is such that it supersedes constitutional amendments that alter the “federalist” power structure.  The federalist power structure being that states are sovereigns vis-a-vis the federal government, except when a state legislature enacts a law that contradicts one of the Reagan-era Conservative Legal Movement’s goals. State campaign-finance regulations, for example, even ones enacted a century ago in, e.g., Montana, are being stricken as violative of the First Amendment right to buy elected officials.

I’ve said a few times here at AB recently that I think we’re now in seriously dangerous territory, in which gimmicky redefinitions of common word and phrases, and emotionally manipulative sleights-of-hand faux analogies, are being employed casually and wholesale by this group of five people trapped in a bizarre, airtight time warp, in what amounts to a capture of this country’s legal system.

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George Will Comes Out for Single-Payer Healthcare Insurance! Again! (This time, though, it’s the Constitution’s ‘origination’ clause that made him do it.)

Updated below.

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If the president wants to witness a refutation of his assertion that the survival of the Affordable Care Act is assured, come Thursday he should stroll the 13 blocks from his office to the nation’s second-most important court, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. There he can hear an argument involving yet another constitutional provision that evidently has escaped his notice. It is the origination clause, which says: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”

Obamacare’s doom, George F. Will, Washington Post, May 2

Hmmm. And y’all thought it was the antidisestablishmentarianism clause in the ACA that was going to be Obamacare’s doom, after reading that column of Will’s back a few months ago that said so. But, he promised!

Oh, well, doom is doom, whatever the sound of the death knell. So, not to worry, Chuck and Dave. Will explains:

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Roberts: Don’t Leave Home with Two Phones on Your Person; Dems and White Males; Executions, Prison, and Sentencing Costs; and WS Quotes

– I have my own personal phone and also a business phone. I am also a straight up guy, former Marine Sergeant, Scout Leader, VP on a Planning Commission for the Township, etc. etc. etc. I travel a lot and I do get out and walk the streets of the cities I visit for exercise and out of sheer boredom from being cooped-up. More than likely I will carry both of my phones as someone could call me from overseas and my family may want to get a hold of me urgently. I separate business from family as the company already knows too much about my life. For a person to carry two phones on your belt, in your purse, or in your brief case; here is an interesting take on carrying them:

Two Phones

Police suggest those who carry two phones can be suspected of selling drugs. Chief Justice John Roberts, the pillar of court activism, says there may be reasonable cause for police officers to believe that people carrying two phones are also engaged in the sale of drugs. Huh? So, don’t leave your home with two phones on your person as Roberts just (almost) made it legal for the police to stop and question you while you are walking to the nearby Chop House or Ruth Cris’s restaurant to meet clients for dinner.

It is worth the read at Crooks and Liars:”The Supreme Court’s Real Technology Problem: It Thinks Carrying 2 Phones Means You’re A Drug Dealer” Originated at: parker higgins dot net; The Supreme Court’s real technology problem

– Do Dems really need White Males when there exists a growing Hispanic population? Digsby writes a snippet of her Salon article on Hullabaloo exploring the Democrats efforts to bring back the Southern White Male into the fold.

[I]f those conservative, white Southern male voters ever wake up to the fact that their enemies aren’t feminazis, African-Americans or Latinos and figure out just who it is who’s really keeping them down, I’m quite sure the Democrats would be proud to have them back in the fold. Until then Bubba’s going to be the heart and soul of the GOP. He’s their problem now.

HT: Can the Democrats finally stop chasing their (Southern male) white whale? and GOP’s white Southern men problem: Why they can’t hold Democrats down any longer

– From my literary dungeons or a little bit of Gonzo: “Your procedure would be prohibited if applied to cats and dogs,” Justice John Paul Stevens told a lawyer arguing for Florida. John Paul Stevens comment was made when this drug-induced-death procedure was in place for the execution of prisoners:

1. Barbiturates are injected into the person to anesthetize them. This in itself could be the delivering blow to life if delivered in a massive dose. Prison officials do not want to subject the witnesses and executioner to 30 minutes of waiting for death.
2. Pancuronium bromide is injected as a paralytic agent to keep the prisoner from twitching. It is not needed to cause death. It also makes it harder to tell if the prisoner is sufficiently anesthetized and in pain from the final dose.
3. Potassium Chloride is administered which causes a painful cardiac arrest if the prisoner is not sufficiently anesthetized. Dogs are no longer put to sleep using this method as it is painful. No precautions are taken to assure a prisoner is sufficiently anesthetized and much is done to prevent knowing such.

Since then many drug companies will not sell to the state governments as they get a bad rap for supplying drugs for execution. I can personally vouch for the potassium drip as twice I tolerated them in 2012 a week at a time. It burns as it goes up your arm. There is more to this argument against the death penalty.

And if they are innocent? From 1973 through 2003, 125 prisoners have been released from death row due to wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 prisoners were released. In 2000, Illinois Governor Ryan commuted the sentences for 167 inmates on death roll to natural life in prison. His reasoning was he could not be sure of whether the convictions were legitimate after releasing the 13th inmate from death roll due to wrongful conviction. 13 of 180 or ~7% error rate in Illinois. ~3800 inmates were on death row in 2000 and up till that point, 125 were released and exonerated for a percentage of ~3.2%. While not exact (it is probably higher), the 3.2% stands in defiance of Louisiana State Prosecutor Marquis and Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s claim of less than 1% being innocent and sentenced to death.

And what about the cost of housing them? Execution could be cheaper if we were to subvert the rights of prisoners during trial and on appeal to state and federal courts. A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas revealed total costs for the death penalty at 70% more than non-death sentence cases with a median cost of $1.26 million as opposed to $.74 million. Since 1995 when the death sentence was reinstated in NY, the cost for each of 5 people condemned, not executed yet, was ~$23 million per person for a total of $165 million. The Comptroller for the state of Tennessee audit revealed that death sentences cases increased costs by 48%. These are costs associated with the trial up till and including sentencing and not taking into account appeals.

“New Jersey taxpayers over the last 23 years have paid more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one.” 197 capital cases, 60 convictions, 50 overturned, and no executions carried out since 1983. Average cost = ~$25 million/conviction.

And then we have the botched executions. “technician looked at Lockett’s arms, legs, feet and neck before ultimately placing the IV in Lockett’s groin area five minutes before the blinds were lifted, Patton wrote in a timeline sent to the governor. The area with the IV was covered by a sheet so that witnesses couldn’t see his groin, blocking their view of the vein where the needle was inserted.

After Lockett said he had no last words, the execution began. They administered the drug midazolam, which is meant to induce unconsciousness. Ten minutes later, they announced that he was unconscious. “This is the first execution I’ve covered that they’ve made a point of pronouncing someone unconscious before they pronounce him dead,’ Branstetter said.

Three minutes later, ‘he violent reaction’ began, she said. First, she saw his foot kick. Then his body bucked, he clenched his jaw and he began rolling his head from side to side, trying to lift his head up, grimacing and clenching his teeth. ‘He mumbled some things we didn’t understand,’ Branstetter said. ‘The only thing I could make out was when he said ‘man.’

It looked like he was trying to get up, she said.

‘He looked like he was in pain to me,’ Branstetter said. ‘How much pain, nobody knows but him.'” What it was like watching the botched Oklahoma execution

There is no living hell like being confined for the rest of your natural life in a level 4 prison with 4-8 hours out and the rest of your time in a cell. In a level 5 prison, the shower comes to you and you have 1 hour out by yourself.

Were they Wrong?

“Both give rise to a systematic aversion to government regulation of private economic activity. For him, recognition that the workings of such markets sometimes destroy asset values, jobs, or even entire industries is still not ground for interference in the economy in the aggregate, or with individual transactions to which two or more private parties voluntarily agree.”

In a “state of shocked disbelief,” the maestro of the US economy testified to Congress that he also “contributed” to the economy’s recent downfall; but, but, he did not cause it. He testified that “he made a mistake in believing that banks operating in their own self interest would also protect their shareholder and depositor’s interests.”

Waxman (soon to Retire) “My Question for you is simple. Were you wrong?; “Well partially,” the former Fed Chairman answered. Even as billions of dollars are pumped into the economy to maintain liquidity and prevent the nation and the world from plunging into a depression, Greenspan will not admit his turning a blind eye to Derivatives, telling the world to look elsewhere to invest, and keeping Fed interest rates at 1% for too long as he led the largest economy of the world off a cliff. Hard to belief this testimony and his philosophy, it is ok to have these types of recessions as long as there is no regulation to prevent them from occurring as a result of this market.

Some Comments from some of the characters who helped bring about this crisis:

Greenspan shot back that CFTC regulation was superfluous; existing laws were enough.’Regulation of derivatives transactions that are privately negotiated by professionals is unnecessary,’ he said. ‘Regulation that serves no useful purpose hinders the efficiency of markets to enlarge standards of living.'”

Senator Gramm opened a June 21, 2000 hearing calling for ‘regulatory relief:’ “ ‘I think we would do well to remember the Lincoln adage that to ask a society to live under old and outmoded laws — and I think you could say the same about regulation — is like asking a man to wear the same clothes he wore when he was a boy.'”

Levitt’s thoughts: ‘In fairness, while Summers and Rubin and I certainly gave in to this, we were not in the same camp as the Fed,’ he said.’The Fed was really adamantly opposed to any form of regulation whatsoever. I guess if I had to do it over again, I certainly would have pushed for some way to give greater transparency to products which turned out to be injurious to our markets.'”

Goldschmid, the former SEC commissioner and the agency’s general counsel under Levitt: ‘In hindsight, there’s no question that we would have been better off if we had been regulating derivatives — and had a clearinghouse for it.'”

“On Sept. 26, 2008 SEC Chairman Christopher Cox shut down the program. Cox, a longtime champion of deregulation, said in a statement posted on the SEC’s Web site, ‘the last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work.’”

“cast the shadow of regulatory uncertainty over an otherwise thriving market, raising risks for the stability and competitiveness of American derivative trading.” Summers testifying in front of Congress on the memo coming from the Cassandra of the coming crisis Brooksley Born. Congress placed a 6 month moratorium on the CFTC’s powers to regulate derivatives. Brooksley resigned June 1999.

More at another time.

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Yes, Scalia Messed Up. But He Was Right. Sort of. (Although not about his claim that in 2001 the EPA was masquerading as a trucking association and arguing both sides of a lawsuit.)

(Important update below.)

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Well, I’m sure y’all have heard by now about Scalia’s hilarious confusion of the EPA with the American Trucking Association, even if you didn’t read this post of mine about.  The two cases at issue are Whitman v. American Trucking Associations., from 2001, and EPA v. EMA Homer City Generation, the case decided earlier in the week in which Scalia, in his dissent, accused the federal gummint of trying get away with something in Whitman that in fact the Trucking Association was trying to get away with. Yikes.

At the heart of these cases is a Court-created doctrine called the Chevron doctrine. I’ve mentioned it here at AB a few times and would not be mentioning it again–trust me!–except that Harvard Law professor/Bloomberg Law writer Noah Feldman has an article at Bloomberg today that pretty much sums up the 2001-opinion-vs.-this-week’s-opinion stuff, and the doctrine he describes but does not identify by name is the Chevron doctrine.  The article is headlined “Yes, Scalia Messed Up. But He Was Right.”.

That title, though, which probably was written by a headline writer at Bloomberg, isn’t complete. Feldman says Scalia was partly right and partly wrong. (Okay, okay; what do I expect from a headline?!)  Yes, Feldman says, there is a tension between the Court’s claim about the specificity of the section of the Environmental Protection Act at issue in Whitman and the (different) section of that statute at issue in EMA, because the two sections are pretty equally specific (or nor) about what the EPA can consider.  And Scalia was right to point that out.

But, he says, the actual respective issues in the two cases were significantly different from each other.  In Whitman, the issue was whether the EPA was required to make a cost assessment before ordering compliance with EPA environmental standards. The agency said it did not, and in a unanimous opinion written by Scalia the Court said it did not.  In EMA, by contrast, there apparently was no question but that air pollution in the state downwind of the power plant at issue was higher than permissible under EPA regulatory standards, and also apparently no dispute that some of the pollution was coming from the power plant.  The EPA apparently saw the case as entirely about whether the power plant company could be forced to contribute to the cost of reducing the level of air pollution in the downwind state.

(I used all those qualifiers, like “apparently,” in that last paragraph because I have no expertise whatsoever in environmental law and because I haven’t read either the majority opinion written, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Scalia’s dissent, joined by Clarence Thomas, who probably would have joined Scalia’s dissent even if it had claimed that the federal gummint back in 2001 was impersonating plaintiff Vladimir Lenin. (Okay, especially if it had.)

Someone, whether the corporate person who challenged the EPA ruling or instead the sovereign downwind state (who are people only when they want to be), was going to pay the costs to reduce the pollution.  And the EPA apparently argued that the sovereign downwind state should be assisted in this by the corporate person that was causing some of the pollution, even though that corporate person resides in another sovereign state. Remember: I don’t actually know anything about this case. But Feldman does. He explains:

The answer to why the EPA wanted to weigh costs in setting the good neighbor rule is more complicated. In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg explained the EPA was primarily concerned with allocating costs fairly among different states that might have in the past spent different amounts on reducing pollution. Considering cost was therefore a solution to what she called an “allocation problem.” Equity, not efficiency, was driving the bus. Because the EPA didn’t think of itself as setting standards to protect the environment directly, just as distributing costs among different actors, it didn’t mind weighing costs and benefits in this case.

There’s a lesson here for how the environmental community thinks about cost-benefit analysis: not as a mechanism for identifying the right amount of environmental protection, but as a tool for handing out the burdens fairly. To Scalia, this might well be a distinction without a difference; but to the EPA, it’s what separates clean air from the question of who pays for it.

But in my opinion (which isn’t worth much; I don’t know anything about the law or the case!), the tension between Whitman and the majority opinion in EMA–a tension solely concerning the specificity of the two respective statutory sections at issue in the two cases–is beside the point, if, as Feldman says, there was no dispute about excessive air pollution and that the power plant was a significant cause.  The dispute concerned only who would pay for the necessary reduction in pollution. If I understand him correctly, this is what Feldman is saying, too.

If I’m not mistaken, though–and I may well be–what Scalia really is arguing is that the EPA violated the rights of a power company that is entitled to invoke its state’s sovereignty, which could be abridged by a regulatory change allowing the EPA to consider costs, but which hasn’t been abridged because there has been no such regulatory change.

That regulatory change will have to await a Koch-sponsored White House administration.  As Feldman points out, when the issue is whether or not there will be a change ordered at all, rather than who will pay for the change, it is the corporate folks who insist that the EPA must make a cost analysis before ordering a reduction in (or bar to) pollution.

I don’t really understand this apples-and-oranges conflation of these two separate issues, in two separate, unrelated contexts that use the word “cost.”  It seems to me that the “good neighbor” provision of the statute–the statutory section at issue in EMA–has as its very purpose exactly what was at issue in that case: allocation of costs between neighbor states and communities. But what do I know?  Maybe I should read the opinion and dissent in EMA. But I probably won’t. Instead, I’ll just wait until Scalia explains this conflation the next time he speaks at some law school or to an interviewer. I’m sure it won’t be a long wait.

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UPDATE: Reader Bloix posted this terrific comment to my post this morning:

Bloix

May 4, 2014 4:32 am

Here’s the problem the EPA faced:

Suppose the permissible level of air pollution is ten. Suppose downwind State D has a level of 12, all caused by pollution sources in upwind states A, B, and C. Suppose A contributes 5, B contributes 4, and C contributes 3.

The EPA must impose regulations to bring the amount in D to 10, and it must do so by regulating the sources that contribute “significantly” to the violation. Not contribute significantly to the pollution – to the violation.

Obviously, each upwind state contributes significantly to the pollution. But do all of them contribute significantly to the violation? After all, if State A stopped polluting entirely, then B and C could keep on polluting with no reduction and D’s air would be in compliance. And the same is true for B and C.

EPA thinks that it can use cost benefit analysis to bring the level into compliance without violating the statute, even if that means requiring no reduction for some upwind states. So, if State A’s polluting sources can be reduced from 5 to 3 for a million dollars a point, but reducing State B’s contribution costs $10 million a point and State C costs $100 million a point, the EPA will require State A’s sources to cut two points from their pollution. The pollution is reduced to 10 and the problem is solved for $2 million.

But, Scalia says, “significant” means you look at the pollution, not the cost of cleaning up. So you must reduce the costs pro rata. From 12 to 10 is a 16.67% cut, so each upwind source must reduce by that much: State A must go from 5 to 4.17, State B from 4 to 3.33, and State C from 3 to 2.5.

This will cost $57.53 million, which is an insane imposition a deadweight loss of $55.53 million on private businesses. It also enacts a penalty on states that have been out front in reducing pollution – the reason it costs so much more to reduce pollution in State C is that C has already enacted regs imposing the cheap controls that State A hasn’t bothered with.

But Scalia says it must be done, because the word “significant” does not allow for costs to be taken into effect.

Does Scalia really believe this? And do the companies opposing the regs really want to force the waste of $55 million (or, in real life, many billions?)

No, of course not. What they want is to make the regulations unworkable. And requiring pro rata reductions without regard to cost would be so expensive and so obviously unfair that genuine progress in reducing upwind pollution would become very difficult if not impossible. That is the whole point of Scalia’s position.

Again: I wasn’t joking when I said in my post that I know nothing to speak of about environmental law (I wish I did), and that I know very little about this case–or did until I read about the argument in the case last week; now I know more, but not all that much more.  I do, as I said, know a bit about the Chevron doctrine, which is the Supreme Court-created doctrine that sets out the permissible parameters of federal regulatory agency regulations.  But Bloix, who to my knowledge is not a regular AB reader or comment poster, sure does know a lot about this particular case and relevant environmental law, or so it certainly appears. (And now that I’ve read his comment, I know more than I did.)

I’m not sure how he happened upon my post, but I’m glad he did.  (“Regs,” by the way, is legalese shorthand for “regulations,” as I learned the hard way when in my first year of law school one of my profs started babbling away one morning, when I still needed another cup of coffee or three, about “the regs.”  I sat there suppressing a yawn and saying to myself: “What the hell are ‘the regs?'”  And eventually, “Ahhh. The regulations.”) — 4/4

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Wasting One Life Away

A while back, I had written this: “One in 31 Adults”. As this was one of my first posts, Dan was kind enough then to post it on Angry Bear.

One in 31 Adults” (~2.3 million) are under the control of the correctional system according to a March 2009 Pew Center Report of the same title. 1 in every one hundred adults are imprisoned in jail, state prison, or federal prison. 25 years ago, those under the control of the correctional system was 1 in 77 adults as compared to 1 in 31 adults. If you factor in the numbers on parole or probation (~5.1 million [2007]), the numbers in jail, prison or on probation swell to ~ 7.3 million under some type of correctional/probationary control (2007).

What does the then growing prison and correctional population cost taxpayers? To support the then growing state prison population, costs ranged (it has only gone up) from ~$13,000 in Louisiana to ~$45,000 in Rhode Island annually (2005). The average was ~$23,000 annually, “US Imprisons 1 in every 100 Adults” NYT. The cost of imprisonment compares nicely to a state or private college education (another story which then I had not written about). As a whole the US imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world (and we still do such) from which the cost burden of housing prisoners has become an issue for states with a decreasing/stagnant economy and decreasing tax revenues. Paradoxically while costing the state more, jails and prisons for many communities are a stable and growing business employing people, services, and a fast growing part of the rural community economies.

If you want to see how prisons impact local communities, go visit Ionia, Muskegon, Kingsley, etc. Michigan; prisons/jails are the major employer in small communities and Michigan courts keep them full. Livingston County is building a $15 million extension to its jail to overcome crowding. Just like building a warehouse to house inventory, the county will fill it up. “If you build it, they will come.” Whack the prisons/jails and the towns dry up. The laws such as three strikes and drug possession for imprisoning nonviolent prisoners are antiquated. Fast forward to 2014 and this story of a man who was sentenced to prison and how they never came to get him while he was out on bond.

“Back in 1999, Anderson helped rob a Burger King assistant manager in St. Charles, Mo., with what turned out to be a BB gun. In May 2000 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison — but because of a clerical error, he never did the time.

While out on bail, he went on to become a law-abiding, happily married man with four children. After training as a carpenter, Anderson started a small businesses and built his own home from the ground up. On the weekends, he volunteered at his church, went fishing, fixed up old cars and helped his kids prepare for their spelling tests — ‘just normal, everyday, good stuff,’ he told Snow.

At first, Anderson lived every day wondering whether law enforcement might arrive and take him to prison.

‘For the first couple of years, yes,’ he said. ‘When I’m in the shower, I hear a noise, outside somebody closing the door, I’m thinking it’s them at the door every single day.’

Despite that anxiety, he did not turn himself in.

‘That was not me,” he said. “Prison is not me.’

Then, early one morning in July 2013, that day came, as law-enforcement officials descended on his home and hauled him away for failing to serve his sentence all those years ago. Anderson maintains that he was never a fugitive and he never hid his whereabouts from authorities.

‘We did everything we were supposed to do,’ Anderson told Snow. ‘We filed all the paperwork. My attorney (at the time) told them that I wasn’t incarcerated, that I was out on bond.’

Anderson told Snow that as the years passed, he registered his businesses with the state of Missouri, renewed his driver’s licenses, got married and even voted — all the while using his full name and his current mailing address.

‘A fugitive is someone that they’re looking for and that’s running,’ Anderson said. ‘I never ran, and they weren’t looking for me. … I used to think, ‘Maybe they just wiped the slate clean.’”

No, they did not wipe the slate clean, through clerical error they had lost Cornealious “Mike” Anderson in the state correctional system. If you ever want to see a low caliber operation, visit your prisons. I had to laugh when one guard was explaining to me how to secure a vehicle in a heavily patrolled area. In the early seventies, I chased prisoners for the USMC during the few months remaining of my enlistment. Existence in the state system for many workers is measured by how little you do.

Missouri caught up with Mike and they want their 13 years of prison-time-slice of his life. Mike is now sitting in prison today “It’s — it’s like my life is wasting away.” Considering what he has contributed to society over the last 13 years as a normal citizen making a living and paying taxes, Mike’s life is wasting away. Mike has gone from being a contributor in society by leading a normal life, raising a family, and paying taxes to a prisoner in a Missouri prisoner and the state and its citizens paying for his upkeep.

Thirteen years of making ~$40,000 annually or ~$520,000 in economic activity to 13 years @ $22,350 annually or $290,550 in cost to the state plus the loss of his salary for a total 0f $810,550 over the next 13 years plus welfare for his wife and 4 children. All just to get even with a person who made a normal life for himself.

“I gave my life to the Lord and he changed my mindset, gave me a new heart — changed my mind about the way I was living, the way I thought about things. And I just — I became a man.” This fits in with the religious culture one would see in this part of the state. It is also not unusual to see this reaction in prison where the prisoners become religious, especially when they are cut off from family, as they have no one else to turn to while there and they cling to anything. We have bought a few Bibles and teaching Bibles for prisoners from time to time and have probably stocked a library or two with our purchases of other books. Mike did this outside of prison when he really did not have to do so and he proved his worth. Maybe if he were white the reaction might have been different as back when the Pew Report was written, 1 in 11 adult African-Americans were imprisoned as compared to a lesser rate for Caucasians. The US imprisons more African-Americans then Caucasians.

We as a society really do some dumb things.

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A Wisconsin federal judge today struck down as unconstitutional that state’s voter-ID law, ruling that the appearance of voter fraud, just like the appearance of political corruption, can’t justify impeding the First Amendment right to vote.

In a close and insightful  reading of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in McCutcheon, reproduced here with his permission from the election law listserv, Marty Lederman has called attention to this first paragraph:

“There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. Citizens can exercise that right in a variety of ways: They can run for office themselves, vote, urge others to vote for a particular candidate, volunteer to work on a campaign, and contribute to a candidate’s campaign. This case is about the last of those options.”

— Former Obama White House Counsel and eminent Washington election-law attorney Bob Bauer, on his blog moresoftmoneyhardlaw.com, Apr. 24

Bauer sums up:

While disclaiming “naiveté” about the Roberts Court’s commitment to the interests of voters, Marty asserts that if “taken seriously,” this freshly minted right to participate could “be the source of a new flourishing of voting rights and other election-related rights.”

Eminent and esteemed though they are, Bauer and Lederman are late to a party.  Specifically, my party. On Apr. 3, a day after McCutcheon was issued, I pointed out right here on this popular and acclaimed blog what “the REAL news from the McCutcheon opinion” is:

“There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”  That’s how Roberts began the opinion.

So I guess we can now assume that the Court will strike down all those voter-ID laws that so clearly impact that most basic of rights, and will do so by unanimous vote of the justices.

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America’s First Fracking Trial

Re-posted from Naked Capitalism (with permission from the author) comes a well written piece on an important court case concerning damages to health and property from fracking operations in Texas (hat tip Run75441):

Texas Family Awarded $3 Million in America’s First Fracking Trial

by Lambert Strether of Corrente

$3 Million? More like this, please. Here’s some background on the suit, from Natural Gas Intelligence:

In a first-of-its-kind hydraulic fracturing (fracking) nuisance lawsuit, a Dallas Jury Tuesday awarded a North Texas family $2.95 million for physical and mental pain as well as loss of property value due to activities by Barnett Shale producer Aruba Petroleum Inc.

Plaintiffs Robert and Lisa Parr had sought $9 million in damages and alleged that 22 wells operated by Plano, TX-based Aruba within two miles of their land, about 15 miles west of Denton, TX, exposed them to toxic gases and industrial waste. The Parrs said they were forced from their home at certain times and had to live in Robert Parr’s office. The lawsuit said that exposure to volatile organic compounds from fracking made them sick and that the family’s well water had been polluted. …

The award, in Dallas County Court, did not include any exemplary damages as the jury did not find that Aruba had acted with malice.

The [Parr] family experienced chronic migraines, rashes, dizziness, nausea and chronic nosebleeds, including an incident when their daughter awoke in the middle of the night covered in blood, according to plaintiffs attorneys. Livestock and pets on the family’s ranch were also affected with nosebleeds and other illnesses. A dwarf calf was born of a cow that had delivered healthy calves before the fracking operations started.

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Scott Brown Comes Out for a New Hampshire State Healthcare-Insurance Public Option. In the Name of Freedom. Cool!**

[Annotation added below.]

I’ve written here on AB, extensively now, about the invidious co-opting of the word “freedom” by the political far-right.  I’ve addressed this mainly in the context of the conservative Supreme Court justices’ neat trick of disconnecting the word from any relation to actual physical freedom as long as it is a state court (in criminal cases and in a variety of civil cases, e,g. adult-guardianship and conservatorship cases, as well) or a state or county prosecutor’s office rather than the federal government that violates federal constitutional rights in order to remove physical freedom.  This is done in the name of federalism as allegedly envisioned by James Madison.

And on Saturday, I addressed it in the context of the Cliven Bundy matter, which includes the support he’s received from the likes of Nevada Senator Dean Heller.  The immediate occasion for that post was to note that this bizarre appropriation of the word “freedom” to justify doing whatever the invoker of “freedom” wants to do–which, for the Supreme Court’s invokers, includes obsessively requiring that state courts, but not state legislatures, be entitled as “sovereigns” to violate individuals’ federal constitutional rights; I really can’t stress this enough–is finally, thanks to Bundy, being recognized by actual professional pundits. Specifically, by New York Times columnist Gail Collins in her Saturday column.  Paul Krugman used his bi-weekly Times column this morning to highlight it.

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