Category - USA: Domestic Issues

Think Police Can’t Use Illegally Obtained Evidence Against You? Think Again.

Thanks to the Roberts Court, there’s no penalty for ignoring a key 4th Amendment protection.

The Nation, By Paul Butler, September 24

Hudson v. Michigan (2006) is one in a series of cases in which
 the Roberts Court has blessed police officers with extraordinary power. This power authorizes cops to engage in the kind of violent and undemocratic policing that make places like Ferguson and Baltimore look less like American cities and more like the outposts of some totalitarian regime.

The scandal, it turns out, is not bad-apple cops. The scandal is that the conservative justices on the Roberts Court have provided the legal framework for black lives not to matter to the police.

The Constitution be damned: This was apparently the perspective of a Detroit police officer named Jamal Good, who admitted that he routinely violated the long-standing requirement that police “knock and announce” their presence before entering a home. Good found that the Fourth Amendment—with its pesky insistence that searches be reasonable—limited his ability to obtain evidence, so he simply ignored it.

Usually, the Supreme Court decides whether there has been a violation of the Constitution. In Hudson, the Court faced a different question: When a cop admits that he has broken the rules, should there be any meaningful sanction? The issue was whether the classic remedy for Fourth Amendment violations—the “exclusionary rule,” which renders evidence collected through unconstitutional means inadmissible in criminal court—applies to the knock-and-announce rule. In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that it does not.

Speaker John Boehner to resign from Congress

USA Today, By Deirdre Shesgreen & Cooper Allen, September 25

Washington — In a shocking announcement, John Boehner told his GOP colleagues he will step down as House speaker and resign his Ohio congressional seat on Oct. 30.

The speaker had planned to serve only through the end of last year. But he changed his plans after former congressman. Eric Cantor, then Boehner’s deputy, lost in a primary in one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 cycle. That changed Boehner’s calculation.

House Speaker John Boehner to resign at end of October

Washington Post, By Mike DeBonis & Paul Kane, September 25

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), faced with a constant conservative rebellion, told Republicans Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October, according to aides and lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.

The resignation will end a nearly five-year reign as speaker, allowing House Republicans to approve a short-term government funding bill that will avert a shutdown of federal agencies. Boehner’s hold on the speaker’s gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker’s position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge.

Boehner, who capped his career with Thursday’s address by Pope Francis, met with a handful of the most conservative Republicans after the papal address to lay out the plan to fund the government. But those rebels continued to agitate and threaten to force a vote at sometime in the near future to vacate his speakership.

A believer in the institution, Boehner decided to walk away on his own terms rather than relying on Democratic support or becoming the first speaker to lose the gavel midterm.

His likely successor is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.), [Wikipedia] the No. 2 GOP leader who has been in office less than 10 years. McCarthy has widespread support in the Republican Conference but many believe he lacks the political and tactical gravitas to be a force in the House.

The Wikipedia article for Kevin McCarthy has a section “Political Positions”:

In 2010 McCarthy signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.

McCarthy does not support renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., as he expects the private sector to take over the role.

McCarthy is pro-life and has received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. He has voted against ObamaCare, to ban abortions, to stop taxpayer funding of abortion and has also voted repeatedly to defund ObamaCare and repeal it.

Leaked Seattle Audit Concludes Many Mortgage Documents Are Void

The Intercept, By David Dayen, September 18

A Seattle housing activist on Wednesday uploaded an explosive land-record audit that the local City Council had been sitting on, revealing its far-reaching conclusion: that all assignments of mortgages the auditors studied are void.

That makes any foreclosures in the city based on these documents illegal and unenforceable, and makes the King County recording offices where the documents are located a massive crime scene.

The problems stem from the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), an entity banks created so they could transfer mortgages privately, saving them billions of dollars in transfer fees to public recording offices. In Washington state, MERS’ practices were found illegal by the State Supreme Court in 2012. But MERS continued those practices with only cosmetic changes, the audit found.

That finding has national implications. Every state has its own mortgage laws, and some of the audit’s conclusions may not necessarily apply elsewhere. But it shows how MERS reacted to being caught defrauding the public by trying to sneak through foreclosures anyway. Combined with evidence in other parts of the country, like the failure to register out-of-state business trusts in Montana, it suggests that the mortgage industry has been inattentive to and dismissive of state foreclosure laws.

In Radical Shift, GOP Leaders Actively Embrace Catastrophic Climate Change

Climate Progress, By Joe Romm, September 11

Over the past year, GOP leaders, driven by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have made a radical shift in the party’s public position on climate change. They are now actively seeking to destroy a global climate deal.

In any other universe this would be a major news story. But I guess the mainstream media has become so jaded to what the Koch brothers and Tea Party have done to the Republican party at a national level, that this radical shift seems just like another dog-bites-man-story, albeit one where the wound is fatal.

In fact, for most of the past quarter-century, most of the GOP leadership has at least given lip service to the idea that global warming is a global problem that needs a global solution. Not only have they abandoned that public position, but they now apparently believe the role of the “exceptional” and “indispensable” nation is to actively work to undermine the world’s best chance to save billions of people — including generations of Americans — from needless misery.
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NC Law: Teens who take nude selfie photos face adult sex charges

Fay Observer, By Paul Woolverton, September 3

After a 16-year-old Fayetteville girl made a sexually explicit nude photo of herself for her boyfriend last fall, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office concluded that she committed two felony sex crimes against herself and arrested her in February.

The girl was listed on a warrant as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of minor – second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her photo in her possession.

A conviction could have put the girl in prison and would have required her to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. A plea bargain arranged for her in July should clear her record next summer.

With the growing popularity of sexting among teens, two researchers said the courts would fill with defendants like this girl if the Sheriff’s Office were to arrest all the teens who make nude photos to share with their love interests.

Were such a standard to apply nationwide, “you’re talking about millions of kids being charged with child pornography,” said psychologist Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

… and lest you think they only prosecute girls in NC: Teen Boy Will Be Charged As Adult For Having Naked Pics of a Minor: Himself

St. Louis police use tear gas on demonstrators protesting fatal shooting

CNN, By Ben Brumfield & Dana Ford, August 19

Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and made nine arrests Wednesday night in north St. Louis as protests continued over an officer-involved fatal shooting of a young African-American man earlier in the day.

Police said Mansur Ball-Bey, 18, pointed a gun at them before officers opened fire.

Relations have been tense between police and some residents in St. Louis for some time now. And protesters did not appear ready to give police the benefit of a doubt a year after Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

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Washington Post: St. Louis police fatally shoot black man — on anniversary of another deadly officer-involved shooting

On the anniversary of another officer-involved deadly shooting, St. Louis city police shot and killed an armed black man while executing a search warrant on Wednesday, Police Chief Sam Dotson said at a news conference, according to KMOV.

The shooting occurred exactly one year after the shooting death of another black man by police, also on the city’s north side: Kajieme Powell, 25, was shot to death by police officers on Aug. 19, 2014, just 10 days after Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.

There was a police killing incident on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing, too.

AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

The New York Times, By Julia Angwin, Charlie Savage, Jeff Larson, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras & James Risen, August 15

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”

AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.

The N.S.A.’s top-secret budget in 2013 for the AT&T partnership was more than twice that of the next-largest such program, according to the documents. The company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. And its engineers were the first to try out new surveillance technologies invented by the eavesdropping agency.

One document reminds N.S.A. officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, noting, “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.”

With ProPublica: NSA Spying Relies on AT&T’s ‘Extreme Willingness to Help’
Informed Consent: New Proof: AT&T and NSA’s Long Surveillance Partnership shredded 4th Amendment, By Mark Rumold, EFF
Wired: What We Know About the NSA and AT&T’s Spying Pact

Woman accuses officer of going too far during traffic stop

KTRK, By Kevin Quinn, August 5

Houston, TX – A Spring woman says she was sexually assaulted by a deputy during a traffic stop earlier this summer.

It happened around 10:30 pm on June 21 near Ella Blvd and Barren Springs Drive, according to Charnesia Corley. The 21-year-old says she was just going to the store to get something for her sick mother when she was pulled over by a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy.

“I feel like they sexually assaulted me! I really do. I feel disgusted, downgraded, humiliated,” Corley said.

Via Boing Boing

Larry Lessig Believes Democracy Is Screwed. So He’s Running For President To Save It.

Huffington Post, By Sam Stein, August 10

Washington – Larry Lessig, a well-known legal theorist and political activist, is taking the plunge into electoral politics, announcing on Tuesday that he will formally explore a run for the presidency in 2016 as a Democrat.

Lessig, a Harvard law professor, will be a distinctly unconventional White House aspirant. In an interview, he said he will run on a singular platform: the Citizen Equality Act, which includes campaign finance reform, an end to partisan gerrymandering, and a vast expansion of voting access that would make Election Day a national holiday. Should he win and lead the passage of that agenda, Lessig said he’ll promptly quit, handing the office to his vice president, whoever that may be.

“This is not a ‘Rent Is Too Damn High’ campaign,” Lessig said, referencing the infamous 2010 gubernatorial run of Jimmy McMillan in New York. “This is a campaign about how we need to intervene to make democracy possible again. Raising the salience of that issue is enormously important. I think there is more of a chance that we do more than just raise the salience. … It is a shot worth taking regardless of the criticism that will come.”

NYT: Lawrence Lessig to Explore a Run for President as a Democrat

Man Is Shot in Ferguson After Police Say He Fired at Officers

New York Times, By John Eligon & Mitch Smith, August 10

Ferguson, MO — St. Louis County police officers shot and critically injured a man who fired at them here late Sunday night, the authorities said, setting this region on another tense and uncertain course on the same day that hundreds gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white officer.

The shooting came after rival groups began shooting at each other on the west side of West Florissant Avenue, the center of the Ferguson protests, Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department said. Chief Belmar said that there had been two more shootings in the area, and that the police had used smoke canisters.

The injured man, who was not publicly identified, was part of one of the rival groups, the chief said, and four plainclothes officers saw him running across a parking lot on the opposite side of the avenue.

The officers drove their unmarked sport utility vehicle, with its interior lights flashing, toward him, and he opened fire on the car, Chief Belmar said. The police returned fire from inside the car and then chased the man on foot, he said. Dozens of gunshots were fired, and all four officers shot back and hit the man, who fell to the ground, he said.

New York Times: Emergency Declared in Ferguson After Shooting , August 10