Archive for the ‘War on Drugs’ Category

A possibly-obvious preamble: other parties, including Democrats, are also inconsistent and shift priorities based on opportunism. The main thrust of this article is that Republicans are much more consistently opportunistic, to the point that the only reliable party platform it has consistently held in the past few decades is to simply obstruct the Democrats. 

An old example that I can bring to bear is how the party that is most beloved by the National Rifle Association supported and passed gun control legislation under Reagan, when he was governor of California. What on earth would cause this? Because disarming politically active minorities was a bigger priority than their sacred second amendment rights. And before anyone dismisses the Black Panther Party as a violent extremist group, which is how it was painted in mainstream media, it bears noting that most of their fears turned out to be correct: it turns out the police were unfairly targeting black people and the federal government was illegally monitoring them

Even before that, the Republican party’s Southern Strategy was only opportunistic. Before the party leadership to make it an issue because they realized it could drive a wedge between southern voters and the Democratic party, Evangelicals favored abortion rights for women. The Southern Baptists, the largest evangelical organization in the US,  passed resolutions to that end at their Conventions of 1971, 1974 and 1976. However, once the party saw the opportunity, evangelical organizations pivoted and made it a political issue

Despite being the laissez-faire party of economic and personal liberalism, Republicans started and supported the War on Drugs as a way to control minorities during the war and civil rights protests of the 1970s. And not necessarily because they were racist – merely politically convenient

More recently, before the health care framework was implemented in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it was originally concocted by the very conservative Heritage Foundation and then adopted by Republican then-governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. And while I’ve criticized the legislation before (let’s face it, it’s a gift to the private health care insurance industry to require folks to carry health care insurance), taking it down now has become merely a battle-cry for Republican leadership, even though they decided not to do anything about it when they held both houses in Congress and the Presidency.

Perhaps most recently, the Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnel, as well as many other Republican Senators, had championed the idea of not even considering presidential appointees to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, during the last year of their term. This was called the Thurmond rule, after the Senator who blocked president Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointment of Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice. Oddly, the Republicans only seem to apply it when the president is a Democrat, if at all.

Famously the party of fiscal responsibility, The Republican presidencies have consistently seen increases in the government’s debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio, and economic recessions. To the point where president Trump was not only outspending prior presidents before the Coronavirus epidemic, but even used the epidemic to pass a $1.2 trillion bill while refusing any oversight on it. Further, they’ve perpetrated the myth that lower taxes (the purple line in the graph below is the top income tax rate, and the blue line is the effective average corporate tax rate) boosts the economy, even though it has no impact on median wages or employment (the red line in the graph below).

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Of course, no party can stay in power without voter support. Again, like the other main party, the Republican party’s messaging has a significant impact on its supporters. However, it is either more effective, or the supporters have similarly malleable positions on policy, depending on whether their party favors or opposes it at any given point in time. For example: 

I’d love for this observation to age horribly, or even be inaccurate, because I personally espouse many of the ideologies that Republicans have occasionally espoused, and have frequently voted for Republicans. But, as of late 2020, it seems very much to be the case that obstructionism is the only ideology the Republicans consistently espouse. 

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For every case on the podcast and in the Fantasy League, we will provide a brief summary of what to know and what to worry about.
WHAT HAPPENED: When you are a criminal defendant facing drug charges, your defenses to those charges often rank:
(1) contesting a search under the 4th Amendment
(2) disproving possession with factual evidence
(3) hoping for a mistake in the crime lab.
……
(Whatever last place is) alleging the police framed you and planted drugs on you.

This is not to say this never happens, but the defense itself is a Hail Mary before the Court and the Jury, as it is hard to prove and harder to believe. Within that context, consider the plight of Mr. Manuel, the plaintiff in this action. Manuel successfully alleged and proved that police officers arrested him for drugs, even though they knew he was only in possession of health supplements. Accordingly, Manuel is suing the City of Joliet for damages stemming from that arrest.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  This gets a little technical, but the basis of Manuel’s civil claim is a tort known as Malicious Prosecution.  Because of the nuances of Manuel’s criminal case, Manuel was barred from bringing the most common form of a Malicious Prosecution claim due to the Statute of Limitations. Instead, Manuel wants to bring a rarer Malicious Prosecution action which is pursuant to the 4th Amendment, because that claim has a longer Statute of Limitations.  Although many jurisdictions allow this type of claim, Manuel’s does not.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS: Let’s cover the more specific one first. While Manuel’s jurisdiction does not recognize this claim, all other jurisdictions do; so this is not out in left field. Plus, allowing this claim would presumably only extend then Statute of Limitations in a reasonable way, so it’s hard to see harm if SCOTUS wants to make a uniform rule for all federal jurisdictions. That being said, there’s also no harm in allowing different jurisdictions to set their own rules, and it’s hard to see a legal basis for the Court to decide that this issue warrants uniformity.  On a broader end, the entire judicial branch’s inability to ensure that police are held civilly and/or criminally liable for both willful and negligent actions has been a running subplot of 2016. This case won’t change any of those previous cases and nor will it open the door for immediate police accountability, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

ROOT FOR Manuel if you believe the facts of this case warrant the Court taking action away from individual jurisdictions.

ROOT FOR City of Joliet if you believe that jurisdictional sovereignty is worth letting cases like this pass without remedy.

PREDICTION – 6-2 in favor of the City.

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Among the myriad of ongoing legal debates are marijuana law reform – recently set back by the DEA’s decision to keep it as a Schedule I drug because there isn’t enough evidence for any legitimate medical use, despite the fact that it’s basically impossible to do any research on it because it’s a Schedule I drug – and sentencing reform. I mean who doesn’t like to be the runaway winner of the nation for most of its citizens in prison? I guess we’re just, you know, bad. But, just in case some of us thought that this might be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, well, here’s why we can’t, succinctly stated in this excerpt:

There’s no question that the “war on marijuana” is overblown and unproductive. Since the early 1990s the focus of drug arrests nationally has shifted from a prior emphasis on cocaine and heroin to increasing marijuana arrests.  By 2014 marijuana accounted for nearly half of the 1.5 million drug arrests nationally. But while this elevated level of marijuana enforcement is counterproductive in many respects, there is little evidence to indicate that it has been a substantial contributor to mass incarceration.  Of the 1.5 million people in state or federal prisons, only about 40,000 are incarcerated for a marijuana offense.  The vast majority of this group is behind the walls for selling, not using, the drug, often in large quantities.  We could debate whether even high-level marijuana sellers should be subject to lengthy incarceration, but they constitute less than 3% of the prison population.