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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump Pardons Arpaio

ETA: A few people argue the pardon is unconstitutional given the nature of the charges, in place to enforce a court judgment regarding violation of constitutional rights.  One thing that eventually came to mind was that he is out of office.  This alone makes it questionable to me that a criminal punishment is of fundamental importance to this extent.  Still, though the phrasing of "unconstitutional" doesn't convince me, I understand the overall message that is being sent.  There is a certain constitutional duty that is being violated here; it isn't just a horrible pardon. 
Racial profiling, ignoring sex crimes, and birtherism: Arpaio’s legacy 

The sheriff Trump just pardoned has done severe damage to Arizona, and to the country.
Arpaio is a Trump role model. The idea Trump would pardon him -- months before he even was sentenced -- still seemed outrageious. Yes, he tossed around the idea at a rally in Arizona, but he often is hot air.  The top punishment would be six months, but the guy is out of office and in his mid-80s.  Would he even get any prison time? At least wait .... plus, there was Hurricane Harvey in Texas. 

Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for breaking a court order regarding a finding of racial profiling.  In a tweet, Arpaio blamed Obama holdovers.  The court order was handed down by a Bush43 judge while a Clinton appointee later handed down the contempt conviction.  A 1920s Supreme Court opinion said a pardon there was allowed.  But, the question itself underlines the court, not Obama, was ultimately the party behind the contempt.* In fact, a rather dubious argument (cited here) is made that in this special case involving enforcement of a court order to protect constitutional rights, a pardon isn't even allowed.

[The argument that due process, the Fifth Amendment, is an amendment to the pardon power seems off to me -- I think due process was generally accepted to exist anyhow. Plus, the importance of court process to enforce rights goes to the inherent power to contempt arising from Art. III alone.  Plus, various crimes are in place to protect constitutional rights. Why is court process here uniquely important?  Finally, it is unclear to me that other means -- such as civil contempt -- cannot be used. Plus, yes, there already is an exception for impeachment. Why assume more?]

He pardoned the guy though. Republicans need to do more than talk when he does things like this.  They have to do actions to underline that a certain level of dick-ness will have real consequences.  A Lawfare blog analysis noted: "Notably missing from the White House statement was the reason Mr. Trump gave at his political rally in Phoenix. He indicated then that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job.” You basically got this in the press release released as well, if you did a minimal amount of reading between the lines regarding the praise of how he "continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration." Yup. Extra level of pissed off.

I shall repeat: I don't think the guy was going to be put in jail for six months, particularly now that he's out of office. So, the pardon was a full-fledged "I approve this message."  F rule of law. The pardon as a raw matter of power is allowed -- the argument above that it is not allowed is you know not likely to be made (e.g., the judge can just sentence him anyway, arguing that the pardon is illegitimate).  He will retain the pardon.  And, though I don't necessary think it's a statement of guilt [even here Trump in effect is saying he was a victim of injustice; in another case, that might actually be true], the contempt isn't taken off the books. It can be raised in a civil suit.

The fact that the pardon is not unconstitutional is not in itself conclusive. Government officials repeatedly have the power to do something without it being the right thing to do. A horrible war comes to mind. And, the reason why this is horrible has constitutional implications: it disrespects court judgments, furthers racism and even the slipshod way it was given (without going through normal processes, even waiting for the sentence) is problematic. Courts have every right now to not give him the benefit of the doubt regarding respecting court orders. Plus, it can still be an abuse of office. A pardon that arises from a bribe can be grounds for impeachment for the bribery. Like speech being used for criminal acts, this is sort of "pardon plus."

Trump is the poison that keeps on giving. This was after he finally got around to putting in place the trans ban in the military.  The courts will now get involved, but like DADT, Congress has every right to step in. After all, even conservatives like Sen. Hatch opposed the move, right?


*  As noted in the last link related to this story, the prosecution was carried out by the Justice Department.  But, the court asked the U.S. attorney office to file criminal charges.  The court has civil powers of contempt, but has to rely on the executive for criminal charges. So, that what was meant.

The article, which I saw while writing this, discusses how Trump wanted to stop the prosecution in mid-stream, but Sessions said it would be in bad form.  But, Trump was going to pardon if he was convicted -- so heads you win, tails justice loses.  Trump's individual involvement in an ongoing prosecution to help a pal underlines his disrespect of the rule of law. 

And More: One thing that comes up is the assumption a pardon is an admission of guilt.   I don't think so -- the current law is that a pardon is a choice that it is necessary for the public good, not merely an act of grace. Still, his conviction for now was not tossed. This often happens, but a hearing has been scheduled to determine if it should be here. 

Friday, August 25, 2017


Among the usual pro forma orders third set of scheduled summer orders, a minor case was granted. Another order put off deciding a travel ban standing question. And, without comment, a third allowed an execution to go forth in Florida. Procedural concerns and regarding another tweak on drugs used. Timing: first white man in state history to be executed for killing a black victim. McCleskey v. Kemp, anyone?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Three Lucys

A NYPL list led me to this touching children's book inspired by real events of the July War in Lebanon. Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy are involved.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Woman in the Dunes

Can't handle such long movies these days, but from the scenes I saw, this is an excellent movie. It is sort of Sisyphean metaphor of our existence. The lead actress [with many roles during her long career] is particular very good, including portraying her character's desperation, passions and so on. A film for our times, including a scene where the man notes the selling of inferior sand can lead to dams etc. collapsing. "That's someone else's problem."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Glenn Greenwald had a good run early on when he went after the Bush Administration (eventually) over at Salon, but eventually got tiresome, especially his inability to take criticism. But, he did and at times does provide value, including a lot of links to material that is helpful for others to use in their more short form analysis and comments. He does this as well when defending the ACLU after the problems in Charlottesville.

I know this is not the first thing that comes to mind here, including after Trump had to go all "both sides do it" when first talking about the protest and deaths arising from it (two police officers in copter and a woman rammed into by a car, others injured too).  Still, it's something that is out there, including in multiple threads about the events on this blog. There has in the past been protests that led to violence, including to fight racism.  There is room for debate around the edges here regarding time/place/manner and a special need to have the right sort of police presence, which in this case was argued to be selectively soft on violent protesters.

The overall idea from my understanding is that the protesters wanted to stage their racist show in a park [critics of "free speech zones" repeatedly speak of the need to protest where there is the most emotional salience tied to the thing protesting, such as in front of an abortion clinic or outside a convention] where a Lee statue was being removed. The city wanted it in another park, which it argued provided a better place for crowd control and the like.  This also might have made it harder for a car to ram into a bunch of people.  A judge agreed with the protesters [the ACLU worked with the conservative Rutherford Institute here; I think the latter would have won anyway, without the value of the ACLU presence].

I would need to examine the facts to really tell if a compelling argument was present that the different in locations was worth the First Amendment penalty of not having the protest in the original location.  I might be wrong, but am inclined to think the nature of the protesters and so forth had potential for problems either way.  It is simply a danger we need to accept on a certain level or again various other protests that led to disorder would have been blocked too.  Still, I'm open to the idea that the size of the crowd etc. warranted another location. As to them being armed, local law apparently allowed that, but it would to me likely be appropriate -- especially in a "sensitive place" like a crowded park -- to not allow.
The monuments should go. Some of them simply should be trashed; others transmitted to museums, battlefields, and cemeteries. The heroism and losses of Confederate soldiers should be commemorated, but not in everyday public spaces where the monuments are flashpoints in poisonous racial contention, with white nationalists often mustering in their defense.
There is also the issue of taking down Confederate statues, which was the subject of an eloquent speech by the mayor of New Orleans.  I'm not gung ho about self-help here, though it isn't top on my concerns, you know, property rights and concern others will decide to take down stuff I like etc.  The statue there honored Confederate soldiers, which is better in a fashion than a Lee statue, but honoring fighting for treason in front of a courthouse seems a tad off.  I do think there is a place for statues and other displays with the proper context.  The displays in place are selective honoring of racism and defense of slavery.  "Southern heritage" is not about five years, is it?  But, simply destroying them all might not be necessary.

[The link is from National Review, which had it right at times. I'm actually not totally on board with tossing out Roger Taney, who was after all a Chief Justice of the U.S.  Perhaps, his one opinion -- actually not a unique expression of his views on slavery -- damns him.  And, giving a honor of dominating an area as compared to one of many representations of Maryland history etc. is a problem.  Still, perhaps, he is someone who with the proper context might warrant a statue though the context might not please some of his supporters, at least past ones.]

The Unite Right rally was somewhat counterproductive for the participants though they did have an enabler in Trump. A range of Republicans, including very conservative ones, spoke out against them.  Their message of hate was strongly denounced.  I appreciate such criticism though the Republicans enabled them all the same, including by supporting Trump.  The march again showed the value of promotion of truth in collision with error (the metaphor has dark implications here).

Finally, the crash is being investigated by the Justice Department and the details are not all clear.  I'm inclined in these situations, unless there is a problem, to let local authorities punish the wrongdoer. I understand that a national interest against inequality and national freedoms are at stake too. And, here, the person from my understanding came from out of town.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Building a Bridge

The author is a Jesuit priest who was on the Colbert Report (don't think he was on the current one; too bad) and wrote books on humor and advising an alternative play on the trial of Judas Iscariot among others. The subtitle of this book is "How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity." It is in effect a speech/essay to a unity group (it's a two way effort) plus some bible story lessons (and a prayer for someone struggling). Nice effort though an uphill battle as long as the Church is not fully loyal to its no "unjust discrimination" doctrine.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Book and Film Review

Read the quick reading Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation, which is largely lead-up, coming from both ends. Author is an amateur historian of the era, so it isn't as deep as some might like, but is overall a good read for the average reader. Also, watched the rape exploitation film Lipstick (well most of it), particularly notable for Mariel Hemingway's supporting performance. It is professionally made etc. and knows how to play with your emotions.

Thursday, August 03, 2017


More blah. Some are on vacation this month. I'm not. So, it's just hot and unpleasant.

ETA: Oh, got around to seeing Breakfast with Scot again. Enjoyable film with some serious stuff going on, including dealing with being different and being okay about it.