Category Archives: Politics

On the Supreme Court, difficult nominations have led to historical injustices

 

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 27, 2018. AP/pool image, Michael Reynolds

By Calvin Schermerhorn, Arizona State University

Far from being unusual, the hurried and partisan Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh mirrors several notable examples of similarly politicized confirmations in U.S. history.

Those conflicts, which ultimately placed justices on the court, yielded some of the most damaging civil rights decisions in our nation’s history.

Unlike any other branch of government, Supreme Court justices do not have to face voters at the polls. They have no term limits. Yet the high court is the final arbiter of constitutional rights and protections.

Controversial appointees who were rammed through hearings, or political careerists nominated for strategic reasons and confirmed despite scant vetting, handed down decisions that expanded slavery and rolled back civil rights.

Bad processes do not by themselves yield bad decisions. There have also been thinly vetted justices who have protected and extended civil rights, but such cases are in a minority.

Of course, all Supreme Court nominations are political because they embody the strategic priorities of the president. And the required Senate confirmation of a nominee may well be a “vapid and hollow charade,” in Justice Elena Kagan’s words, since partisan support matters over merit.

But as history shows, judicious confirmation hearings are vital to vetting a lifetime appointment that can affect citizens’ right to vote, access to courts, or the limits of presidential power.

Portrait of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney by George P.A. Healy. The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Bad process, bad decisions

Roger B. Taney was a partisan warrior who helped President Andrew Jackson kill the Bank of the United States by illegally draining its funds. Congress refused to confirm Taney as treasury secretary and censured Jackson.

So Jackson named Taney to the Supreme Court. The Senate refused to confirm him. The next year, after Jackson got a Democratic Senate, he renominated him, this time as chief justice. Taney was pushed hurriedly through confirmation.

The Taney Court was staunchly pro-slavery, rejecting states’ rights when Northerners asserted them to oppose slavery.

Taney’s most sweeping pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857 held that African-Americans “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” The decision ruled that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in any U.S. territory. Dred Scott is widely considered to be one of the worst decisions ever made by the court.

A critical time

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was able to replace the Taney Court with corporation-friendly Republicans like Samuel F. Miller of Iowa, whom he nominated in 1862. Lincoln’s court strategy was to appoint Republicans who would endorse presidential powers in a war to save the Union.

Like Taney, Miller had owned slaves but freed them. And he was a party loyalist. As Miller’s biographer claims, he “sought results first and then found the arguments to justify them.”

Miller’s appointment came just as Lincoln was contemplating the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln could have asked Miller his views on the scope of black freedom, but he never did. He never even met Miller. And with no opposition in Congress, the Senate confirmed Miller in just hours.

Miller’s appointment may have been shrewd politics but it hollowed out the Civil War’s crowning achievement, the abolition of slavery and constitutional protections for African-American citizenship, including equal protection of the laws and the right to vote.

It was Miller’s majority ruling in the 5-4 Slaughterhouse Cases in 1873 that had the effect of limiting civil rights protections for African-Americans under the 14th Amendment, which extended citizenship to African-Americans and forbade states to deny them equal protection of the laws. The ruling in effect gave states sole power over areas of citizenship not explicitly covered in the federal Constitution. That, in turn, ultimately led to the growth of racist Jim Crow laws in states.

Justice Joseph P. Bradley, appointed by Ulysses S. Grant. Supreme Court

President Ulysses Grant’s two nominees were also pushed through hastily and had an oversized impact on civil rights.

Those appointments – conservative pro-business Republican Joseph P. Bradley and political hack Morrison Waite – unwittingly undermined Grant’s own Justice Department’s civil rights enforcement.

In 1870 Grant appointed Bradley specifically to help business interests concerned about recent decisions that they believed harmed them. Bradley faced scant opposition from a majority-Republican Senate in bed with railroad and other corporate interests.

Four years later, Grant picked Waite, a crony of Grant’s Ohio friends, who had zero judicial experience. Called a “national nonentity” by a court historian, Waite’s appointment surprised everyone, including Waite. The Senate confirmed him without debate.

The unintended consequences of these two overtly political nominations became clear in U.S. v. Cruikshank, an 1876 court decision.

In April 1873, up to 150 African-Americans were murdered by whites in a conflict over two competing Louisiana governments. Among those whites was William Cruikshank.

Cruikshank and others who participated in the massacre were charged and convicted in federal court of civil rights violations under the Enforcement Act of 1870. That act made it a federal crime to violate civil rights and was passed with the intention of putting teeth in the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection of the laws and due process. The case considered by the court was an appeal of those initial convictions.

Justice Waite ruled that the 14th Amendment’s civil rights provisions, including the equal protections of the laws and right to due process, did not apply to the victims of the Colfax Massacre.

Justice Bradley concurred in the ruling, clearing Cruikshank. Indeed, Bradley declared that none of the Colfax Massacre defendants were alleged to have “committed the acts complained of with a design to deprive the injured persons of their rights on account of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Bradley and Waite’s responses constituted willful blindness to a naked act of racial terrorism. And these decisions gutted the 14th Amendment’s civil rights provisions, leading to the swift and violent rise of Jim Crow.

More damage

Bradley went on to rule in 1883 that the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which outlawed racial discrimination in public facilities, was unconstitutional. He did this at a time when blacks were being denied the right to vote, barred from businesses and murdered with impunity. Bradley tutted that with his ruling a black citizen “ceases to be the special favorite of the laws.” And the law ended protection for African-Americans from segregation in schools, theaters and even cemeteries.

It would be 74 years before Congress passed another civil rights act.

Not all justices involved in partisan nominations, or who were poorly vetted, handed down dreadful rulings.

Louis D. Brandeis’ nomination in 1916 led to a bitter partisan brawl infused with anti-Semitism. One witness at his confirmation accused him of “infidelity,” and another characterized Brandeis as “duplicitous”.

Louis Brandeis won a bitter nomination fight to the Supreme Court. Boston Journal, June 2, 1916

Yet Brandeis became one of the nation’s most renowned Supreme Court justices, standing up for free speech in Whitney v. California in 1927 and dissenting in Olmstead v. United States the next year against warrantless wiretapping.

Harold H. Burton was a surprise nomination when Democrat Harry Truman nominated the Republican senator from Ohio in 1945. The Senate dispensed with hearings and confirmed Burton without debate. But Burton defied expectations, shaping the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) ruling that desegregated schools and overturned the Jim Crow doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Back to the 19th century

More recently, contested nominations have revived the 19th-century practice of ramming through partisans whose decisions undermine civil rights.

The 1991 Clarence Thomas nomination evokes that legacy. With a thin resume, partisan credentials, and his nomination hastily pushed through by George H. W. Bush’s administration, Thomas won a lifetime appointment by a two-vote margin after an acrimonious hearing involving his alleged sexual harrassment.

Justice Thomas is arguably among the most conservative justices. He joined Chief Justice John Roberts in the landmark 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, like that of Morrison Waite, Joseph P. Bradley and Roger B. Taney, has been rushed. A partisan warrior, he has been hastily advanced, with the majority of his papers withheld and sexual assault allegations overtaking his hearings.

As American history has shown, this process comes with profound risks.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

For universities, making the case for diversity is part of making amends for racist past

By Juan Miró, University of Texas at Austin and Edmund T Gordon, University of Texas at Austin

The Trump administration recently announced plans to scrap Obama-era guidelines that encouraged universities to consider race as a factor to promote diversity on campus, claiming the guidelines “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

Some university leaders immediately went on the defense.

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Historically, many American universities helped lay the foundation for eugenics, a pseudoscience used to justify racism. Helioscribe/www.shutterstock.com

Harvard University stated that it plans to continue to use race as an admission factor to “create a diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have an opportunity to learn from and with each other.”

Similarly, Gregory L. Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, noted how the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 “affirmed the University of Texas’ efforts to enroll a diverse student body.” He also stated that “diversity is essential” to the university’s efforts to provide the highest quality education.

But, why is diversity essential for the educational mission of U.S. universities?

Advocates for diversity in higher education emphasize a variety of reasons. They range from business oriented considerations, like the need for a diverse and well-educated workforce to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse marketplace or the belief that diversity fosters innovation and creativity. Another reason is based on the idea that diversity enriches the educational experience of all students on campus, not just minorities.

In addition to the reasons above, we believe that diversity is also an ethical obligation of American universities. We write not only as professors but as higher education administrators with a keen interest in diversity on campus. We believe that promoting diversity in our campuses helps fulfill the inclusive vision that gave birth to our nation. This vision became enshrined in the Declaration of Independence when it proclaimed that “all men are created equal.”

Sadly, the “all men are created equal” proclamation was not a guiding principle for our universities not so long ago. Quite the contrary, they fostered ideas that promoted racial disparagement and exclusion, causing great harm to the country in ways that we must still deal with today. For instance, black students were not admitted to the University of Texas and many other universities until the 1950s, and lack of black representation among students and faculty remains an issue. The pursuit of diversity now can help universities make amends for aggressive anti-diversity practices of the recent past.

Universities and eugenics

At the beginning of the 20th century, many administrators, alumni and faculty members from American universities were at the forefront of the eugenics movement, a pseudoscience that sought to improve the genetic qualities of human populations by selective breeding. The movement was led by presidents of elite private institutions like Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and also at public universities like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Eugenicists championed ideas of racial superiority. For them, the Nordic “race” – that is, people from Northern Europe, like Anglo-Americans – was the master race. Accordingly, they regarded Africans, Asians and even Southern and Eastern Europeans as inferior. They believed the immigration of these groups to the U.S. should be curtailed.

“The Nordic race will vanish or lose its dominance,” renowned Yale professor and economist Irving Fisher warned in 1921. Eugenicists were anti-diversity. They considered immigration and racial mixing a threat. They spoke of the “yellow peril,” the “flooding of the nation with foreign scum” and the arrival of “defectives, delinquents and dependents.” These views are not unlike President Trump’s recent complaints about Mexico sending “rapists” and “criminals,” or about admitting people into the U.S. from “shithole countries.”

Beyond teaching eugenics on campus – 376 American colleges were offering courses on the subject by the late 1920s – these academic leaders and their followers worked hard to take eugenics ideas mainstream – and did so “with considerable effect,” according to Harvard Magazine.

The eugenecists’ ideas may not have predated the racial prejudices and segregationist practices that existed in the United States, but they provided academic validity to help sustain those prejudices and practices.

Melville W. Fuller (1833-1910), eighth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 through 1910. The court decided in favor of racial segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896. Everett Historical/www.shutterstock.com

In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court had paved the way for segregation when it ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that keeping races “separate but equal” was constitutional. Then in the 1920s, at the height of the racial caste system known as “Jim Crow,” the U.S. government embraced new policies promoted by eugenicists.

Those policies included new anti-miscegenation laws that criminalized interracial marriage. They also included forced sterilization programs. These programs affected all racial groups but especially targeted women, minorities and the poor. Eugenicists advocated effectively for forced sterilization in court cases that remained the law of the land for decades.

The eugenics movement also actively advocated in Congress for policies to prevent immigration by “undesirable” racial and ethnic groups. And the movement succeeded. With the Immigration Act of 1924, Congress implemented quotas that favored immigration from Northern Europe and drastically reduced arrivals of Eastern European, Jews, Italians and Africans. It completely stopped immigration from Asia.

These policies were developed to reverse fears of what President Theodore Roosevelt called “race suicide” or the dwindling of the Anglo-American “stock.”

Reversing a racist past

New York lawyer Madison Grant, a graduate of Yale and Columbia, was a prominent eugenicist and friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1916 he published “The Passing of the Great Race,” widely considered the most influential eugenics book. Grant attempts to use science to justify racism. The book was translated to German and after he became Fürher, Adolf Hitler wrote a fan letter to Grant thanking him and praising the book as “his Bible.”

It was only after the Holocaust that the U.S., rather slowly, abandoned its own eugenicist policies. Interracial marriage was still forbidden in 16 states when it was declared unconstitutional in 1967. Coerced or involuntary sterilizations continued to happen into the 1970s.

The fact that thinkers from prestigious American universities provided the intellectual foundations for Hitler’s racial cleansing policies is scarcely mentioned in our country. We believe it is time for universities to undertake a discussion about this disturbing chapter of their history – a time when their own community led the development of white supremacist ideologies.The ConversationIt is also timely to reflect on the extraordinary impact universities can have in our nation and the world. A century after the misguided eugenics movement took a hold of higher education in the U.S., most universities now actively work to be inclusive and diverse. They must embrace their renewed values and help lead our nation toward a more just and equitable future.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

Citizenship through the eyes of those who have lost the right to vote

By Kimberly R. Kras, University of Massachusetts Lowell

A fundamental right of U.S. citizenship is having your voice heard by voting to elect representatives. However, at least 6 million U.S. citizens cannot vote in the United States because they have been convicted of a felony.

Losing the right to vote is among numerous other consequences of being convicted of a crime. This so-called “civil death” suggests that person is considered dead to society. The larger political consequence is a lack of representation in government of a large group of citizens who are largely poor and people of color.

I study the impact of being convicted on individuals and communities. States have a variety of rules and regulations when it comes to voting rights and felony convictions. In some states, when a person is convicted they are barred from voting until they successfully complete prison, probation or parole. But in 12 states, people convicted of felonies are barred from voting for life.

In response to growing concern that these laws disenfranchise large segments of America’s citizens, several states have recently made substantial, yet controversial, changes to voting rights of ex-felons. This may be a growing movement.

Voting rights and felony convictions

In 2016, Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe took executive action to restore voting rights to at least 173,000 ex-felons. In April, New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to restore voting rights to felons on parole.

Florida may be next in line for change.

In July, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about whether laws excluding felons from the right to vote are constitutional. In November, the state will vote on a ballot measure to restore ex-felon’s voting rights automatically upon completion of their sentence.

These decisions will impact a large segment of Florida’s voting-age population and continue to build a strong precedent for other states.

Florida has historically played an important role in American elections. Yet roughly 10 percent of Floridians can’t vote because they have been convicted of felonies. Research suggests that had these Americans been able to cast their vote for president in the 2000 election, Florida would have been a blue state. Studies show that ex-felons largely vote Democrat, and in this case would have made an impact in a presidential election.

However, critics point out that many felons do not vote even if their rights are restored.

That may be true, but research shows that for many ex-felons it’s because they don’t know they can. This means fewer people have input in electing representatives who generally support causes important to them such as rehabilitation for offenders and criminal justice reform.

Crime and the social contract

Some pundits and legal scholars argue that felons should not be eligible to vote because when people commit crime they violate the “social contract.” The social contract is the agreement among citizens to abide by rules and laws for the good of society. This reasoning says that those who break it, say by committing a crime, are no longer entitled to the benefits of the contract, such as political representation.

People who study criminal behavior often say the opposite is true. They argue that restoring voting rights may in fact reinstate the social contract and improve factors that led the individual to commit crime in the first place.

In research I conducted, and headed by professors Beth Huebner and Timothy Bynum, we spoke with people returning from prison about how their felony conviction impacted their life after release. One participant whose name is protected under a confidentiality agreement, stated: “Not being able to vote restricts our voice.”

Another participant stated how his inability to vote about things important to him, like justice reform, meant that other voters might reinforce laws and restrictions that affect him: “Those are usually the people who want to put harsher rules and penalties and categorize everybody the same. I feel that they allow more and more of those laws to be piled on us because we’re not allowed to speak our minds.”

Americans who have been convicted and stripped of their right to vote often feel that they can’t see themselves as citizens who are giving back to the community if they are denied participation in the political process.

Restoring voting rights signals to all citizens that those who have served their time for a past crime can participate in a key mechanism of civic engagement: voting. Participating in civic life is associated with reductions in recidivism, so an inclusive approach to democracy can only strengthen the political process. That’s because the interests of more Americans, especially those historically silenced, will be heard through their vote.

Ex-felons as citizens

Moreover, research has shown that denying voting rights impacts not just individuals, but also families and entire communities, especially those typically underrepresented in political arenas like people of color and those in poverty. For example, partners of ex-felons are less likely to vote.

In 2016, approximately 70 percent of individuals in prison were people of color, despite making up only 25 percent of the U.S. population. Researchers attribute some of this racial disparity to sentencing laws and policies resembling what’s been termed by Michelle Alexander as “The New Jim Crow.” 

Restricting ex-felons from voting really says that, if you have committed a crime in the U.S., you can never be a full citizen again, even after serving punishment. That message suggests that they are always second- or third-class citizens.

The ConversationBut studies have shown that when people are reintegrated meaningfully in our society, the chances that they return to prison are reduced and the public is safer. Without the right to vote, ex-felons have less of a benefit or an interest in contributing positively to our communities. Being fully engaged in your community and having a voice in what happens to you are vital connections to others in the community – connections that can act to reduce crime. Voting rights represent the epitome of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.


Republished with permission from The Conversation


The Racist Origins of Felon Disenfranchisement

Why Trump hasn’t been impeached – and likely won’t be

Before Donald Trump took the oath of office, we published, "Billionaire President Equals Massive Military Industrial Complex Profits," which questioned the motives of a billionaire seeking the presidency. There are 2,208 Billionaires with a combined worth of over 9 trillion dollars, which is about half the total U.S. GDP.

This elite club employs and controls millionaires. Billionaire NFL owners are using money in an attempt to control player protest. Similar methods can be used to control politicians through contributions, book deals, speaking engagements, and other perks including high-end employment opportunities after they leave office. 

As long as Trump continues to assist billionaires to increase their wealth, it is not in their best interest to have him removed from office. Politicians who don't want billionaires contributing to their opponent's campaigns are held hostage. The five corporations who control the majority of the media are using the ancient Roman philosophy panem et circenses (bread and circuses); a phrase that means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy, but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace – a diet of entertainment or political policies on which the masses are fed to keep them happy and docile.

The media creates a circus atmosphere by highlighting the latest buffoonery of Trump, the circus clown,  and distracts away from policies that hurt the environment, siphons public money from social programs to provide grants, tax abatements and other incentives to corporations and wealthy individuals.


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Trump with the men who would replace him – Vice President Mike Pence on the left and House Speaker Paul Ryan on the left. Win McNamee/AP Pool

Editor’s note: Removing a president from office is a two-step process. The first step is impeachment. That’s when members of the House indict, or charge, an official with an impeachable offense. Impeachment does not remove the president from office. That only happens if a second step is taken and the president is convicted of the alleged crimes.

Jacob Neiheisel, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, SUNY answers five questions about how impeachment works.

1. What sort of crime can lead to impeachment?

The U.S. Constitution states that the president can be removed from office after being both impeached and convicted for “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Treason is notoriously difficult to prove. For example, Aaron Burr – a former vice president – was caught stockpiling supplies and gathering a force to take over some of the lands that would eventually be obtained through the Louisiana Purchase. And yet, he still wasn’t convicted of treason.

To date, no president has been charged with bribery.

What exactly constitutes a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” has always been open to interpretation, but it is clear that partisan politics plays a role.

Scholars argue that Andrew Johnson, the first American president to be impeached, was targeted because of his “soft” approach to states of the former Confederacy during Reconstruction. The official reason was his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, which was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Articles of impeachment were brought against Bill Clinton for perjury, or lying under oath, and obstruction of justice, but there is little doubt that there was also a Republican desire to weaken Clinton’s presidency behind the charges.

Even Alexander Hamilton expected the process of impeachment to be overtly political. President Gerald Ford put the matter bluntly when he described an impeachable offense as “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

2. How does the process work?

The process usually begins when a member of the House brings forth articles of impeachment. Last year, five Democrats in the House did just that.

Next comes a vote on the articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee can choose to investigate the matter – or opt out, as they did in the case of the Clinton impeachment. The committee can then recommend for or against impeachment. Either way, their recommendation isn’t binding – meaning the House can impeach over their recommendation. The current chair of the committee, Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, is a strong supporter of the president, but he is set to retire in 2019.

Next comes a vote in the full House, with only a simple majority required.

If the House votes to impeach, the case is referred to the Senate for trial. The trial runs much like a criminal case, and witnesses can be called on either side. A supermajority, or two-thirds, of the Senate then has to vote to convict and remove the president from office.

Although two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached by the House, both avoided a conviction in the Senate and a resulting removal from office.

A common misconception is that the Supreme Court plays a major role in the proceedings. The chief justice does preside over impeachment trials in the Senate, but that is the court’s only role.

3. Republicans have a majority in the House and the Senate. Does that essentially make Trump bulletproof?

More or less.

Although it is possible that Republican members of Congress could join with Democrats in calling for Trump’s removal, as we saw happen in the run-up to Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal, today’s polarized political environment makes such an occurrence unlikely absent clear and convincing evidence of major wrongdoing.

While Nixon’s impeachment was likely inevitable, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 1974, today substantial Republican defections from Trump would be essential to any movement toward impeachment.

Currently, there are 236 Republican House members. That means 22 Republicans would have to join with all of the Democrats in the House to impeach Trump. However, the 2018 midterm election could change this math if the Democrats pick up seats.

The articles of impeachment against Trump might look remarkably similar to those levied against Nixon and Clinton. The articles of impeachment drawn up by Democrats in November 2017 accuse the president of obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI director James Comey, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary, accepting emoluments from a foreign government and other charges. Any attempt to accuse him of treason is extremely unlikely, in my opinion.

4. If the president is removed, who takes over? What would happen if the vice president was also implicated in the president’s crime?

If President Trump was removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence would be immediately sworn in. In the unlikely event that both the president and the vice president are impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would become president.

5. Can officers other than the president be impeached?

Absolutely. In fact, 15 federal judges have been impeached, although only eight have been removed from the bench. The most recent example was in 2010 when federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous was found guilty on multiple articles of impeachment by the U.S. Senate. Porteous was found to have accepted bribes from lawyers with dealings before his court.


Republished under license, with permission from The Conversation.

When some police feel misunderstood, it can impact their performance

Shefali V. Patil, University of Texas at Austin

Amid a string of fatal police shootings of unarmed black citizens, the Pew Research Center ran a massive study in 2017 of 8,000 U.S. police officers asking them about their experiences.

It revealed something startling: 86 percent of officers believe the public does not understand the risks and challenges of their jobs, even though 83 percent of U.S. adults rated officers’ jobs as very risky.

A police officer once told me in an interview: “I think police officers are misunderstood, what we do, why we do things. All the public sees are 30-second cell phone camera videos from a biased individual.”

Another said, “There’s this automatic generalization of an officer being there just because of the color of their skin or the uniform they’re wearing.”

These officers, who I won’t name to protect their confidentiality, are not alone.

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Antwon Rose Jr. was fatally shot by a police officer in East Pittsburgh. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Dealing with people who do not understand your work and have unrealistic expectations can be frustrating. For example, a previous study found that serving difficult people can cause stress, burnout and lower performance among lawyers, accountants, architects and registered nurses.

As an organizational psychologist, I set out to study if police who feel misunderstood also perform worse on the job.

After all, there are many ways in which officers feel misunderstood. Some feel that the public doesn’t understand how difficult it is to make quick decisions when lives are on the line, deal with social ills like drug addiction and poverty, and witness tragedy and loss on a daily basis. With so much at stake, they only have to get it wrong once – something officers think the public does not fully appreciate.

The studies

To answer this question, I conducted two studies across six U.S. police agencies. First, I asked patrol officers to rate the public’s understanding of the difficulties of their jobs and the dilemmas they confront on a daily basis.

I also asked officers about their beliefs about how society should deal with crime. Some officers supported softer policies that emphasize rehabilitation and community outreach. Others supported harder policies that emphasize “get tough” punishment to set an example for others.

Then, I collected about 800 body camera footage videos of 164 officers. The videos captured everyday policing duties such as traffic stops, arrests and house calls. I recruited experts – retired division commanders and current supervisors – to rate officer behaviors in the videos. For example, they rated the degree to which officers “performed their on-scene functional duties in a competent manner.”

Ideology matters

Dallas Police Department Chief Joseph Hannigan bows his head at a ceremony to remember five law enforcement officers killed in a sniper attack in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016. AP Photo/Jaime Dunaway

Surprisingly, not all officers who thought the public misunderstood their jobs received poor performance ratings. Some actually had high performance ratings.

In fact, I found that only the police officers who indicated a softer stance toward crime were rated poorly. Their bodycam videos revealed that they hesitated or acted too quickly, violating basic safety protocols.

By contrast, the performance ratings of officers who believe in harder approaches to fighting crime remained high.

I found this was the case regardless of the raters’ personal beliefs about crime.

Why did officers who support softer approaches to crime receive poorer ratings?

It is likely that they are more frustrated than their peers by perceptions that the public does not appreciate their jobs. They are trying to build closer relations with the public, and their efforts are being met with criticism and a lack of appreciation.

This frustration and uncertainty about how the public will react may be leading to lower performance. For example, when asked how public misunderstanding affects him during an interview, an officer stated: “It makes not only me, but I see it in a lot of these guys, they don’t want to be proactive. Officers pause, and there’s going to be times where it’s going to be a safety issue.”

On the other hand, officers who believe in hard-line approaches do not expect the public to understand their jobs. From their perspective, officers are given authority over the public because they have knowledge and expertise that are only understandable to them. They are the ones who wear the uniform.

Because of this lower frustration, these officers may be performing better. For example, another cop told me: “Public misunderstanding don’t really change anything. I know what I was trained to do. Whether you’re happy to have me there or not, I’m still going in there. I have a job to do.”

Coping with misunderstanding

These studies suggest two things.

First, community safety suffers when some officers believe that the public does not understand the physical and emotional difficulties they face on the job. While it is generally known that there is tension between officers and the public, my studies demonstrate the dangers of this tension.

Second, because public misunderstanding can reduce the effectiveness of some officers, it is important to explore ways to help all cops – regardless of their different approaches to crime – be effective despite today’s environment. For example, some of my current research suggests that officers who feel misunderstood, but also feel that they have little autonomy and discretion in making decisions, actually perform better than those who feel they have a lot of freedom.

The ConversationGiven the impact that officers can have on human life, helping police officers cope with public tension should be a priority.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Shefali V. Patil, Assistant Professor of Management, University of Texas at Austin

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’

Robert A. Sedler, Wayne State University

Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state could require nonmembers of a public employee union to pay an “agency fee,” otherwise known as costs of collective bargaining, for their representation by the union.

The union could not use any part of the agency fee to advance ideological purposes unrelated to the union’s primary function of collective bargaining.

At that time, the court took the view that this requirement did not violate the First Amendment’s “right of silence” of nonunion members who didn’t want to pay the fee. The “right of silence” is the guarantee that people cannot be forced to be associated with an idea they do not believe.

On Tuesday, June 26, in Janus v. American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, the court overruled that decision.

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Plaintiff Mark Janus, right, leaves the the Supreme Court Wednesday. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The court held that when it came to public employee unions, all collective bargaining involved ideological and public policy considerations. For government workers, the court said, issues like salaries, pensions and benefits are inherently political. And some employees may not agree with the union’s position on those matters.

For example, if a teacher’s union sought higher wages and benefits for its members, this might result in higher taxes for residents of the school district. And if that position was shared by certain union members, the union would be, effectively, putting words they didn’t believe in in their mouth. So the court said that compelling objecting employees to pay an agency fee violated their First Amendment right of silence.

Labor unions fought bitterly against Janus. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Although the court is reluctant to overrule prior decisions, the court majority, consisting of the four conservative justices plus Justice Kennedy, found that requiring objecting public employees to pay an agency fee was inconsistent with standard First Amendment principles.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan blasted the decision in her dissent, writing that “The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance — including over the role of public-sector unions.”

The majority also decided that agency fees were not justified by the union’s claim that they were necessary to avoid “free riders,” who would get the benefit of the union’s collective bargaining services without paying for them.

Indeed, said the court, the alleged “free riders” would be employees who were compelled to take a ride that they did not want. And above all, public employee unions did not need agency fees in order to effectively perform their role of representing the members of the bargaining unit.

The court noted that today public-sector union membership has surpassed union membership in the private sector. They said that public-sector unions effectively represent both federal employees without any agency fees and public employees in “right to work” states, where agency fees are prohibited.

The result in Janus extends strong protection to the First Amendment right of silence. It continues a trend over the last decade by which the court, sometimes divided and sometimes not, has expanded First Amendment rights, often at the behest of ideological conservatives.

The ConversationIn the United States, we give more constitutional protection to First Amendment rights than is provided by other democratic nations and international human rights norms. Janus is another example of this protection.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Robert A. Sedler, Distinguished Professor of Law, Wayne State University

Trump White House Taking ‘Marching Orders’ from Hundreds of CEOs: Report

'One of every five of the corporate executives who met with the Trump administration within the first 100 days represented the banking or financial sector'

"President Trump not only has betrayed the promises of candidate Trump by failing to break up the special-interest monopoly in Washington, D.C., he has invited the special interests into the White House and asked them for guidance on how to deepen and perpetuate their monopoly." (Photo: Mike Maguire/flickr/cc)

Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has met with at least 190 corporate executives, not including phone calls with heads of banks or his numerous Wall Street appointees, the watchdog group Public Citizen reported Monday in a new analysis.

And since the November election itself, he's met with at least 224.

"One of every five of the corporate executives who met with the Trump administration within the first 100 days represented the banking or financial sector, a particular focus of Trump's criticism during the campaign," Public Citizen noted in a write-up of its findings.

The group's report comes just days after the Trump administration announced it would not disclose visitor logs from the White House, Trump Towers, or the president's Mar-a-Lago resort to the public.

With those documents unavailable, Public Citizen developed its analysis via news reports and White House press releases.

The gatherings reflect the administration's interest in giving special treatment to corporate sectors, such as Big Pharma, banks, and the automotive industry, among others—and it's yet another example of Trump breaking his "drain the swamp" campaign promises, Public Citizen said.

"Donald Trump has asked America's CEOs for marching orders, and in meeting after meeting, they are happily issuing instructions," said the group's president Robert Weissman. "As best anyone can decipher what's going on at the White House, the CEOs are in charge now—and they are predictably advocating their narrow, short-term profitability interests, not what's in America's interest."

Sheldon Adelson, David Koch, and Carl Lindner III are among the wealthy benefactors that Trump has met with in his first 100 days; he's also entertained JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, and Doug McMillon of Wal-Mart, along with four separate executives from Fox News.

"President Trump not only has betrayed the promises of candidate Trump by failing to break up the special-interest monopoly in Washington, D.C., he has invited the special interests into the White House and asked them for guidance on how to deepen and perpetuate their monopoly," Weissman said.


Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams

$60 Million in Public Money For a Soccer Stadium? NO!

Yesterday, St. Louis MLS owners and the City of St. Louis announce charitable partnerships. How insulting! Bribing us with our own money? 

If the voters approve giving millionaires $60 million dollars of public money, those millionaires will give the voters $5 million of their own money back over a 20 year period ($250,000 per year). There were allegations of corruption during the previous stadium proposal. St. Louis, if you give me $60 million, I'll give $10 million back, and actually do some good with it; how's that for a great deal? 

I played soccer recreationally when I was younger, but nothing organized or for an actual team. When my family moved back into the City of St. Louis, my youngest son attended Lexington Elementary school which had a soccer program that he played in which I believe was funded by a sports or soccer foundation. I like soccer and I certainly do not have a problem with professional soccer returning to St. Louis. However, there are plenty of better ways to spend $60 million dollars than on a soccer stadium that the City would have no ownership interest in. St. Louis already owns a stadium and an arena and should maintain those properly before spending money on someone else's stadium.

The City has much more urgent problems than trying to fund a soccer stadium. The City of St. Louis has one of the highest homicide rates in the country and just recently, a man died after being shot at the Busch Stadium Metro Link stop. Public money needs to be spent on public problems.

Here's my idea for that money. Contact Habitat for Humanity, Rankin, Larry Rice and other organizations involved with the homeless. Every time I go downtown to the St. Louis Public Library, City Hall, Municipal or Circuit Court buildings, you can't help be see the tragic sight of homeless people with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

St. Louis homeless encampment downtown on Locust near 15th street.

According to the 2015 homeless census, there were more than 1,300 homeless people in St. Louis City alone. If I had not developed legal skills, I and my family might have been among them when both my wife and I lost our jobs. Computerization, artificial intelligence, and robotics will take away half of all jobs in the United States, and that estimate might be low. In the future, it won't be an immigrant taking away your job, it will be a computer or a robot. How many paychecks are you away from being homeless? 

Crews of homeless can be trained with the skills to rehab city-owned homes. As those homes are rehabbed, some of the homeless people that participated in the rehab can use sweat equity earned towards rent or home ownership. For example, a rehabbed three bedroom home can house a homeless family or three single men or women each with their own room. They could continue using sweat equity to pay rent while building additional skills that will eventually lead to employment and being able to pay actual rent. 

Once place in sweat equity housing, those new tenants could put those new skills to use as part of a revitalization crew. Those revitalization crews would perform maintenance projects in the neighborhoods where they are placed. Cleaning up vacant lots and properties, planting and maintaining urban gardens, assisting with repairs to the homes of elderly, disabled and low-income homeowners.

The homeless population benefits from learning and applying new skills, meaningful employment and the prospect of a decent place to live. The neighborhood benefits from having vacant city-owned property being put back into good use, neighborhood improvement projects and sources of nutritious neighborhood grown produce. 

Once some of the formerly homeless individuals have been stabilized, they would receive assistance with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork and applications to attend St. Louis Community College, Rankin or other trade schools. 

This is just one example of how I would spend $60 million and how public money can and should be spent. However, public money should never be spent simply to make rich men richer. When you hear politicians fighting hard to give your tax money to rich men, you need to replace those politicians with others who fight hard to make your tax dollars enrich your community rather than individuals.

Every Republican is not Your Enemy, Every Democrat is not Your Friend

The first African-American candidate nominated by a political party to run for President of the United States, George Edwin Taylor, had been both a republican and democrat. Taylor belonged to a group whose motto was “Race first; then party.” As a group of people, African-Americans politically have become too predictable and are therefore taken for granted.

The three major black democratic candidates for mayor of St. Louis received more than 64% of the total votes cast. Our next mayor easily could have been black. The three black candidates that split the black vote knew that black voters are so predictable that they would not lose their support, even if they collectively cost the black community the mayor's office. 

There is still one a black candidate in the mayor's race. Andrew Jones won the republican primary and will be on the ballot in April. Jones wants to debate Krewson and I want to see that debate. Before this election, I was not familiar with Krewson. Krewson only received 5% of the black vote during the primary election.The fact that she is endorsed by both Slay and the St. Louis Police Union, previously headed by Jeff Roorda, does not make me very comfortable.

Jeffrey Roorda was a Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives and has worked in law enforcement for seventeen years. He was a police officer in Arnold, Missouri until 2001, when he was fired for making false statements and filing false reports. Later, he became chief of police in Kimmswick, MO. He was the executive director and a business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association and is currently a city police union representative. 

In St. Louis, some democrats are closet republicans. Republicans understand it's almost impossible for a republican candidate to win, so many republicans disguise themselves as a democrat to win. The democrats at one time were known as the party of the Ku Klux Klan who were described as the military arm of the Democratic Party and are attributed with helping white Democrats regain control of state legislatures throughout the South after the Civil War.

Malcolm X in his "Ballot or the Bullet" speech, explained how dangerous it was for Black folks to throw all their support behind a single political party.

Blacks and the Republican Party

"Heroes of the colored race" Print shows head-and-shoulders portraits of Frederick Douglass, former Republican Senators Blanche Kelso Bruce, and Hiram Rhoades Revels surrounded by scenes of African American life and portraits of Jno. R. Lynch, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph H. Rainey, Charles E. Nash, John Brown, and Robert Smalls. 1881

Blacks were overwhelmingly republicans until Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency during the Great Depression. Ironically, FDR's new deal legislation excluded most blacks from benefits, because of a deal made with Southern Democrats. As late as 1960 a third of all African-Americans were still republican.

"First Colored Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States." (Left to right) Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi, Representatives Benjamin Turner of Alabama, Robert DeLarge of South Carolina, Josiah Walls of Florida, Jefferson Long of Georgia, Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliot of South Carolina.

The Republican party began as an anti-slavery party opposed to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which opened Kansas and Nebraska Territory to slavery and future admission as slave states, thus implicitly repealing the prohibition on slavery in territory north of 36° 30′ latitude, which had been part of the Missouri Compromise.

Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President and Southern states began seceding from the union resulting in the Civil War. Since President Lincoln was credited with freeing the slaves and democrats were associated with slavery, Blacks naturally supported the Republican Party. 

George Wallace Effect

In 1952, George Wallace became the Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in Alabama. Wallace became known as "the fighting little judge," a nod to his past boxing association. He gained a reputation for fairness regardless of the race of the plaintiff. It was common practice at the time for judges in the area to refer to black lawyers by their first names, while their white colleagues were addressed formally as "Mister". A Black lawyer, J. L. Chestnut said that,

"Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom."

In 1958, George Wallace ran against John Patterson in his first gubernatorial race. In that Alabama election, Wallace refused to make race an issue, and he declined the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. This move won Wallace the support of the NAACP. Patterson, on the other hand, embraced Klan support, and he trounced Wallace.

Wallace reportedly said after the campaign,

"I was out-niggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be out-niggered again." … "I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor." 

In 1962 Wallace, having realized the power of race as a political tool, ran for governor again—this time as a proponent of segregation. He won by a landslide.

Civil rights protest made many white voters unsympathetic to the movement. After Republicans notice how popular democratic Governor George Wallace's racist rants were all over the country, including the North, some republicans began incorporating those same racist elements into their campaign.

Racist white democrats unhappy with Kennedy, switched to the republican party. Because of Kennedy's perceived support of black issues and Johnson pushing through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Black voters became almost exclusively democrat.

In 1968, when George Wallace maintained that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, he may not have known how right he was or why.

The republicans, using the democratic play book, started injecting racist code words rather than overt racist words into their campaigns. John Ehrlichman, President Richard Nixon's domestic policy advisor, made the following statements about the 1968 presidential election, 

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies, the anti-war left and black people."…"We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news."

Ronald Reagan during his campaign told stories of Cadillac-driving "welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. George Bush used the infamous Willie Horton ads during his campaign and of course most recently Donald Trump reverted back to overt racist language to win. See the book, "Dog Whistle Politics" for additional information racism used to win elections.

Republicans control all the major Missouri state-level elected offices and the legislature is Republican controlled. A Black Republican mayor under these conditions stands a better chance of working with and getting concessions from the Republican-dominated state government. The republican legislature and governor might even pay closer attention to issues concerning black voters since they would want them to continue voting for other republican candidates.

Use common sense, if you know a particular group of voters will never vote for you, how seriously would you look out for their interests? The opposite is also true. When you know you have the black vote regardless, politicians can make deals without worrying much about the issues affecting the black community. Electing a republican mayor would send a chilling message to democrats that the black vote should no longer be taken for granted.

I am 51 years old and have voted for democrats all of my life. Things have actually gotten worse, it's time to consider a change. In my 51 years, a white person has sat in the Mayor's office except for eight years when Freeman Bosley Jr. and then Clarence Harmon were mayor. I saw changes and real attempts at change in North St. Louis when a Black mayor was in office.

A black mayor is more likely to have friends and relatives in North St. Louis and may care a little more about the issues that affect the black community. However, I don't want to vote for Andrew Jones simply because he's black any more than I want to vote for Krewson just because she's democrat. I want to see a debate and a real discussion about the issues.

As Phillip Agnew, with Dream Defenders stated during the PBS special "America After Ferguson

"It's not a matter of just having a representative … that looks like you, they've got to come from the community, know the issues of the community, and then it's folks in the community that got to remind them every day that we pay your bills and where watching every single day to ensure that the platform on which we elected you on is followed and defend you when those people who seek to calibrate the system and right the system as it's been built seek to come after your for that office" 

Had one of the three major black democratic candidates gotten elected, I would have been voting for a democrat this election. I am extremely disappointed with their lack of unity and vision. Those candidates were divided and conquered. Unfortunately, they couldn't unite and work together so that the black community could support and elect a black democratic candidate in the general election. If they can't work among themselves, how would they ever be able to work with a republican controlled governor and legislature? 

Amazingly, St. Louis media including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis television stations and even the St. Louis American, a Black St. Louis' Newspaper, appear to ignore the fact that a black man is the republican candidate for mayor. Bruce Franks received more press coverage about being a write-in candidate than Andrew Jones received as an actual major party candidate. It's almost as if the press in St. Louis doesn't want to alert the black community that a black republican is in the race for mayor. Andy Karandzieff of Crown Candy received more press coverage for being a republican primary candidate than Jones has received as the republican candidate for mayor. 

St. Louis, which has been dominated by democrats all of my life, has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. The entire North Side was abandoned and left to decay and St. Louis City a reputation for being one of the most racist and segregated cities in the country. How much worse off could St. Louis be under a Republican mayor?

Krewson should at least debate Jones so we can better decide if the white democratic candidate or the Black Republican candidate is the better choice. If Krewson refuses to debate Jones, take that into consideration when you vote.

Will Andrew Jones become St. Louis’ Next Mayor?

Andrew Jones won the March 7th, Republican primary race for mayor and is the only Black candidate still in the running for mayor.

The five black democratic candidates received a total of 67.5% of the vote. Since St. Louis is in one the most racially polarized cities in the country, having a Black republican candidate in the general election might be a game changer.

Before Andrew Jones' victory in the republican primary, I had assumed I would be voting for Larry Rice during the general election, but I am now taking a closer look at Andrew Jones. There's even indication by comments made by Jones concerning the homeless that Jones would be more willing to work together with Larry Rice than the current administration or Krewson.

Who Is Andrew Jones

You may be wondering just who is Andrew Jones? I had the same question, so here's the result of my research.

Andrew Jones is an Executive Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at Southwestern Electric, which distributes electricity from Collinsville to Effingham, Illinois. Jones was born in Cairo, IL in 1960, raised in East St. Louis and has lived in the City of St. Louis for about 30 years, currently in the Botanical Heights neighborhood.

Andrew Jones earned a BS in economics with a minor in business administration from Lincoln University (Jefferson City, MO), and two graduate degrees; an MA in International Business from Webster University, and an MBA from Washington University's Olin School of Business.

Below is a video of a February 22, 2017, primary election event held at the Sheldon Concert Hall where the St. Louis mayoral candidates participated and responded to questions.

If you would like to skip the other candidates response, Andrew Jones responds to questions or makes statements at: 7:53, 10:55, 21:23, 30:46, 34:13, 45:20, 101:10, 109:05, 111:52, 116:45, 121:21, 132:36, and 141:51 in the timeline.

Will Black voters support the White democratic primary winner who only received about 5% of the Black vote during the primary or will they break ranks and support the Black republican candidate. 

I consider myself independent, however, I have voted most often for democratic candidates. Unfortunately, there haven't been many republican candidates that genuinely seemed to have the best interest of the black community at heart. We need a change in St. Louis and a Black republican mayor would certainly bring change. The one thing I know for certain, it couldn't be much worse than it is now, and St. Louis has had democratic leadership I believe for my entire life.

The fact that Krewson was endorsed by Slay and the Police Union doesn't inspire faith that things will be any different under a Krewson administration. A republican mayor might even be able to gain additional favor from the republican governor and legislature and work as partners rather than adversaries. 

For more information about Andrew Jones' views, check out Building St. Louis News which published a series of questions and answers concerning a range of St. Louis issues or visit the Andrew Jones for Mayor website