Category Archives: Politics

What the Supreme Court is doing right in considering Trump’s immunity case

by Claire B. Wofford, College of Charleston

There was a lot of press attention paid to the Trump immunity hearing at the Supreme Court building on April 25, 2024. Mandel NGAN / AFP/Getty Images

Following the nearly three-hour oral argument about presidential immunity in the Supreme Court on April 25, 2024, many commentators were aghast. The general theme, among legal and political experts alike, was a hand-over-the-mouth, how-dare-they assessment of the mostly conservative justices’ questioning of the attorneys who appeared before them in the case known as Trump v. United States.

Rather than a laser-focused, deep dive into the details of Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, virtually all of the nine justices instead raised larger questions, peppered with hypotheticals – hello again, Seal Team Six! – about the reach of executive power, the intent of the nation’s founders and the best way to promote a stable democracy.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s “I’m not focused on the here and now of this case” and Justice Neil Gorsuch’s “We are writing a rule for the ages” drew particular fire.

The headline and subheadline on the New York Times analysis by Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak complained that the court had taken “Trump’s immunity arguments in unexpected direction” with “very little about the President’s conduct.” And the story itself fumed that the justices had responded to Trump’s claim that he should not face charges as a “weighty and difficult question.”

Slate’s Amicus podcast decried the court for failing to focus on the “narrow question” the case presented, instead going “off the rails” and “bouncing all over the map” with various legal arguments. A guest on NPR’s 1A program lamented that the court had “injected new questions” into the oral argument to “slow-walk” the case and prevent Trump from facing trial before the election.

But here’s what the pundits seem to have forgotten: What happened that day in the court should have surprised no one, especially those constitutional scholars like me familiar with Supreme Court procedure.

A man in a dark suit and red tie emerging from a building with a police officer near him.
Donald Trump’s attorneys told the Supreme Court that the actions of a president should be immune from criminal prosecution. Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images

Five words ‘change everything’

Trump’s case stemmed from his prosecution by Special Counsel Jack Smith for his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump claimed he, as president, was immune from prosecution, and he took his case to the Supreme Court.

When parties appeal their case to the court, they must tell the justices what specific legal question or questions they want the justices to answer. As a colleague and I have explored in a recent academic journal article, the court generally accepts what is called the “Questions Presented” as given, agreeing to hear a case without making any adjustments to its legal framing.

Sometimes, however, the court will alter the legal question in some way. Why it does this is an issue that scholars like myself are just beginning to explore. And because it is that question – not the one the litigant initially asked – that frames the legal analysis, the justices can exert real control over both the case itself and the development of the law.

Trump v. United States is a classic example. When attorneys for the former president filed their request with the court, the question presented by them was “Whether the doctrine of absolute presidential immunity includes immunity from criminal prosecution for a President’s official acts.”

When it granted the petition in late February 2024, the court changed this language to “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

Five of those additional words – “if so to what extent” – changed everything. They sent a clear-as-day signal that the court would move well beyond the simple yes-or-no of whether Trump could be prosecuted.

Nine men and women seated in two rows, wearing black robes.
The full Supreme Court, with nine justices, heard oral arguments in the immunity case. Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

The court doing its job

With their reformulation of the question, the justices would instead be determining how, when and for what acts any president could ever be held criminally responsible.

That is a much larger inquiry, one that necessarily involves formulating a legal test to draw a line between what is constitutionally permissible and what is not. That the justices spent oral argument trying do exactly that is not a problem, much less an outrage: It’s just the court, the highest appellate court in the land, doing its job.

The scope of the argument, the expansiveness of the coming opinions and the time suck for the justices to write them and the possible vanishing of Trump’s prosecution are not at all shocking. The court signaled it would address the broader question months ago when it took the case; the time to fault the court for making the case about more than just Donald Trump was then, not now.

But perhaps commentators’ response to the oral argument can be a good lesson. Americans are told to take Trump at his word, expecting his second term to contain all the extremes he gleefully says it will.

When the Supreme Court indicates what legal question it will answer, the smart response is to do the same thing – pay attention and believe. This may not make the ultimate outcome any less distasteful to many, but at least it won’t be quite as disturbing.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation .

What I teach Harvard Law School students about opening arguments

by Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard University

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 19, 2024. Sarah Yenesel – Pool/Getty Images

Though Hollywood movies about courtroom dramas often glamorize the closing arguments given by lawyers, in reality the opening statement is likely the most important single event of a trial.

Lawyers in the hush money case involving former President Donald Trump and alleged payments to porn star Stormy Daniels presented their opening statements on April 22, 2024, in New York.

In this case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged the former president with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an effort to influence voters’ knowledge about him before the 2016 presidential election. Trump entered a plea of not guilty.

Academic psychologists tell us that between 65% and 75% of jurors make up their minds about a case after the opening statement. What’s even more incredible is that 85% of those jurors maintain the position they formed after the opening statement once all evidence is received and the trial is closed.

More often than not, it is too late by closing arguments to win over the jury.

This phenomenon comes as no surprise to veteran trial lawyers. They are aware of two theories that define how jurors – indeed, people generally – process information: the concepts of primacy and recency

These ideas suggest that jurors best remember what they hear first and what they hear last. It is vitally important, then, for lawyers on both sides to start their opening arguments with a bang.

The psychology of jurors

I have taught a course on trial advocacy for the past two decades at the Harvard Law School. Part of my curriculum is to teach budding lawyers how to deliver effective opening statements.

If the idea is to win over the jury by the end of the lawyer’s opening statement, how, in practice, is that done?

Trial lawyers steeped in the research know that juries respond to a well-considered theory of the case, punctuated by a pithy theme.

A theory of the case is a brief, three- to five-sentence statement akin to what is known as an “elevator pitch.” The theme is a short, pithy summary of the theory of the case that is easy for a juror to remember. Often the theme is the first sentence out of the lawyer’s mouth, followed by a fuller description of the theory.

Indeed, in my class at Harvard, the very first skill I teach is how to develop theories and themes. In order to effectively convey a theory in a case, many lawyers start their opening statements with “This is a case about …” and then fill in the specific details.

For example, the prosecution in a murder case may start their opening like this:

“Members of the jury, this is a case about the death of an innocent young woman, witnessed by concerned citizens, who all identify the only person with a motive to kill her, the defendant.”

A Black man wears a blue suit and stands at a New York County lectern next to a poster that says 'People v. Donald J. Trump' and in front of an American flag.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference about former President Donald Trump’s arraignment on April 4, 2023. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

In stark contrast, the defense might start with something that is the complete opposite of the prosecution’s opening statement:

“Members of the jury, this is a case about a jealous ex-lover who shot a woman in cold blood, fled the country and left my client to take the fall.”

In each example, the jury is given enough information to frame the evidence they will hear throughout the trial.

After both sides have finished their openings, data shows that more than two-thirds of the jury will have come to a decision that will persist through the remainder of the trial.

Why do juries tend to behave this way?

Research also has taught trial lawyers that if you connect the jury with your theory of a case, at the beginning of the trial, jurors will process all the rest of the evidence – whether potentially helpful to the prosecution or to the defense – through the prism of that theory.

The importance of opening statements cannot be overstated. They set the tone and offer the jury a framework to understand the upcoming months of testimony they are about to hear.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Why rural white Americans’ resentment is a threat to democracy

by Thomas F. Schaller, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Some white Americans are showing signs of disagreeing with key democratic principles. Carol Yepes/Moment via Getty Images

Rural white voters have long enjoyed outsize power in American politics. They have inflated voting power in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and the Electoral College.

Although there is no uniform definition of “rural,” and even federal agencies cannot agree on a single standard, roughly 20% of Americans live in rural communities, according to the Census Bureau’s definition. And three-quarters of them – or approximately 15% of the U.S. population – are white.

Since the rise of Jacksonian democracy and the expansion of the vote to all white men in the late 1820s, however, the support of rural white people has been vital to the governing power of almost every major party coalition. Which is why my co-author Paul Waldman and I describe rural white people as America’s “essential minority” in our book “White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy.”

As a political scientist, I’ve written or co-written five books addressing issues of racial politics at some level of government or part of the country. My latest, “White Rural Rage,” seeks to understand the complex intersections of race, place and opinion and the implications they hold for our political system.

The unfortunate fact is that polls suggest many rural white people’s commitment to the American political system is eroding. Even when they are not members of militant organizations, rural white people, as a group, now pose four interconnected threats to the fate of the United States’ pluralist, constitutional democracy.

Although these do not apply to all rural white people, nor exclusively to them in general, when compared with other Americans, rural white people:

  • Express the most racist, least inclusive, most xenophobic, most anti-LGBTQ+ and most anti-immigrant sentiments.
  • Subscribe at the highest rates to conspiracy theories about QAnon, the 2020 presidential election, Barack Obama’s citizenship and COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Support a variety of antidemocratic and unconstitutional positions and exhibit strong attachments to white nationalist and white Christian nationalist movements inimical to secular, constitutional governance.
  • Are most likely to justify, if not call for, force or violence as acceptable alternatives to deliberative, peaceful democracy.

Let’s examine a few data points.

Xenophobia

In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2018, 46% of white rural Americans said it is important to live in a diverse community. That’s a lower proportion than urban and suburban dwellers and even nonwhite rural residents.

And in rural areas, fewer than half the people said white people have advantages Black people do not, approve of the legalization of same-sex marriage, and say immigrants make American society stronger.

In addition, Cornell researchers found that rural whites reported feeling less comfortable with gay and lesbian people than urban whites do. And 49% of rural LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 10 and 24 called their own towns “unaccepting” of LGBTQ+ people – nearly twice the rate of suburban and urban LGBTQ+ young people who said the same about their communities.

Conspiracism

Polls in 2020 and 2021 indicated that QAnon supporters are 1.5 times more likely to live in rural areas than urban ones, and 49% of rural residents – 10 points higher than the national average – believe a “deep state” undermines Trump.

Rural residents are also more likely than urban and suburban residents to believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, according to 2021 polling by the Public Religion Research Institute.

And people who live in rural areas are also less confident as a whole than those who live in urban areas that votes will be counted accurately and fairly in their state or across the country, according to a 2022 poll from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

In addition, by our analysis, of the 139 U.S. House members who voted to reject the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election just hours after a violent mob of Trump supporters rampaged through the Capitol, 103 – 74% – represented either “purely rural” or “rural/suburban” districts, as categorized by Bloomberg’s CityLab project.

Antidemocratic beliefs

A scholarly analysis of multiyear data from the American National Election Studies project finds that rural citizens are “much more likely (than urban residents) to favor restrictions on the press” and to say it would be “helpful if the president could unilaterally work” without regard to Congress or the courts.

In addition, more than half of rural residents surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute said being a Christian is important to “being truly American” – 10 percentage points more than in surburban or urban areas.

This is one of several signals that rural residents are disproportionately likely to support white Christian nationalism, an ideology that reaches beyond Christian ideas of faith and morality and into government. Its followers want the United States to base its laws on Christian values rather than maintain the centuries-old separation of church and state the founders saw as fundamental to a secular democracy.

Justification of violence

Rural residents are more likely than urban or suburban residents to say the political situation in the country is heading to a point where violence may be necessary to preserve the nation, according to polls from the Public Religion Research Institute in 2021 and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics in 2022.

Of the estimated 21 million Americans who in late 2021 said Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win was “illegitimate,” according to the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, 30% lived in rural areas. And 27% of Americans who say Trump should be returned to office even if “by force” are rural residents. Those are minority views, but both proportions are significantly higher than the rural proportion of the overall population.

With the 2024 election fast approaching, the views of rural white people are once again of vital importance because they and the members of Congress who represent them disproportionately believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump by Joe Biden. A Pew Research Center study found 71% of rural white voters voted for Trump in 2020, so their preference in November will be key to who returns to the White House for a second term.The Conversation


Republished with permission from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians

by Randall Hill

Israel and the United States will find themselves on the wrong side of history because of the atrocities being committed in the Gaza Strip. As this is being written, the death toll in Gaza surpassed 5,700, and 2,300 of those were children, this number doesn't include those still buried under the rubble of buildings destroyed by missiles.

First, let me state that I am not anti-Semitic! Anyone who disagrees with anything that Israel does is labeled as such. I have long admired Jewish success or dominance in certain industries such as banking, entertainment, law, and science among others despite Jews being less than 1% (.2%) of the world's population. One of my favorite books is "The Secret War Against the Jews". I can't say for sure, but I believe it was that book that explained how Jewish males were required to read to Torah. The Jewish people had a literacy head start of about two thousand years, one of the reasons for their success. 

Before going any further, it is important to understand the history of Palestine and Israel. Prior to WWII, the land now occupied by Israel was Palestine. The land was under British control and they allowed the UN to decide how to divide Palestinian land and give a majority of it to Israel. Below is a video that provides a brief history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Imagine the United States decides to allow some refugees to come to America and then comes to your home and divides a portion of your home for refugees and a smaller portion for you and your family. Then let's say the refugees decide they need more space and take an even larger portion of your home by force, preventing you from moving about freely, and deciding when and what you can bring home. That's what happened in Palestine. 

I hadn't planned on commenting on this topic until I saw that the City of St. Louis was considering a proclamation of solidarity with Israel which in my opinion a proclamation approving Apartheid and Genocide!

It was bad enough that President Bidden pledged U.S. solidarity and weapons support to Israel after it had committed war crimes by targeting civilians, but the fact that St. Louis was blindly jumping on the bandwagon was the final straw.

Last year, Amnesty International called Israel's Apartheid, "a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity". Two years ago, Human Rights Watch, commented about Israel's crimes of Apartheid and persecution. The United Nations recently expressed concerns about Israel committing the crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

During a 2013 speech in Jerusalem, President Obama counseled Israelis to "look at the world through" the eyes of Palestinians and recognize that "Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer – just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own. Obama's speech below is set to start at 31 minutes and 40 seconds of the video where he talks about Palestine, however, feel free to watch the entire video.

The Palestinian oppression issue is so clear that hundreds of Jewish protestors in D.C. wearing T-shirts with the slogan, "not in our name", demanded that Congress pass a cease-fire resolution in the Israel-Gaza war amid an intensifying humanitarian crisis. They stated they didn't want to see atrocities committed against Palestinians in their name.  Award-winning Israeli journalist and author Gideon Levy, whose recent column for Haaretz states the obvious in the headline “Israel Can’t Imprison Two Million Gazans Without Paying a Cruel Price.” 

I don't condone Hamas' surprise attack on October 7th. Peaceful resolutions are always preferred, but as I have stated, "It's foolish to let your oppressor tell you that you should forget about the oppression that they inflicted upon you". It's equally foolish for your oppressor to dictate how you should respond to that oppression.

Remember that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) were considered terrorists. Mandela was not removed from the U.S. Terror Watch List until 2008. The oppressor sees a terrorist when the oppressed see a freedom fighter!

"A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a point, one can only fight fire with fire." – From Mandela's book, "Long Walk to Freedom"

As the conflicts between Israel and Palestine and Russia and Ukraine continue, remember, "War is a Racket", there is no greater profit generator than war. Remember what President Eisenhower said before leaving office, "Beware of the Military Industrial Complex". Those who make weapons and profit off conflict don't want peace, they want to sell more guns, bombs, ammo, planes, tanks, and other machinery of war. 

How Police and Politics Sabotaged Progressive Prosecutors Trying to Reform the Justice System

Editorial note by Randall Hill

The month before Kim Gardner was sworn in, I published an article that made the following prediction: "Make no mistake, if Ms. Gardner proves to be a fair prosecutor, there will certainly be those that will attempt to distort her statements, vilify her actions and generally discredit her. There is a private prison system that stands to lose millions of dollars under a non-oppressive system." 

The oppression of African-Americans is big business. Police officers often earn six figures annually, judges, prison food service, prison guards, probation officers, tech companies that supply ankle monitoring systems, and a multitude of others make their living and profits because of the continuing oppression of others. Take away the oppression and their income is taken away. Oppression and racism are big business, and always have been!

Article by Jeremy Kohler

After the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the months of protests that followed, the city of St. Louis was forced to reckon with its Black residents’ longstanding distrust of its police and courts.

Kim Gardner emerged as a voice for change. A lifelong resident of St. Louis, she had diverse professional experiences, having worked as a funeral director, a nurse, a lawyer, and a state legislator. When campaigning for circuit attorney, the city’s top prosecutor, she focused on the disproportionate frequency of arrests and police officers using force against St. Louis’ Black community.

Kim Gardner in 2022, when she was the St. Louis circuit attorney

“We need to change decades of old practices that left many in our community distrustful of the criminal justice system as a whole,” she told The St. Louis American, the city’s Black newspaper, just days before her decisive primary victory in August 2016 that all but sealed her general election win.

In the last decade, prosecutors in other major American cities also campaigned on promises of systemic reform: Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco.

Yet, much like Gardner, these prosecutors have faced resistance from the police and the unions that represent rank-and-file officers. They’ve been accused of being soft on crime and have even been met with political maneuvers aimed at derailing their initiatives. Several have been targeted by efforts to remove them from office or pare away their powers.

Boudin lost a recall vote and was removed in June 2022. And Krasner, criticized for his reduced emphasis on prosecuting minor crimes, was impeached by the state legislature in November, although a state court threw out the result.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has removed elected prosecutors in Tampa and Orlando. He suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren over Warren’s refusal to prosecute offenses related to abortion and gender-related health care. He suspended the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, Monique Worrell, because he said she wasn’t tough enough on some serious offenses.

Monique Worrell speaks at a press conference after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended her from her job as a state attorney

Georgia recently became the first state to establish a commission with the authority to discipline and even remove local elected prosecutors. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp framed the law as a way to check “far-left prosecutors.”

Gardner, who was reelected in 2020, stepped down in May of 2023 while facing both a lawsuit from the state attorney general that sought her removal and a separate attempt by the Republican-led legislature to curtail her authority. Gardner’s mismanagement of her office played a significant role in her downfall. Reform-minded lawyers who she personally hired had departed. And while judges fumed about prosecutors failing to show up for court, Gardner was moonlighting as a nursing student.

Though other prosecutors faced various challenges, there are no widely known instances like that of retired detective Roger Murphey in St. Louis, who has refused to testify in at least nine murder cases and hasn’t received any departmental discipline.

“For every progressive prosecutor who’s managed to stick it out, there’s one who’s either been recalled or driven out,” said Lara Bazelon, a University of San Francisco law school professor who volunteered on Boudin’s campaign and serves as chair of the commission he created to review inmates’ claims of innocence. “So it’s a real mix of success and cautionary tales.”

She added: “If the police are against you, or literally out to get you, you’re probably not going to be able to last in that job.”

Foxx, elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020, announced in April that she will not seek a third term next year, though she said it was not because of resistance from the police. In an interview, Foxx said that even before she took office, the Chicago police union felt threatened by her assertion that Black lives matter and that the criminal justice system could be more fair, particularly to communities of color.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announces that she will not seek reelection.

It was a signal, she said, “that I was not one of them.”

“The reality is we were offering something very different to what was traditionally viewed as the law-and-order approach to prosecution,” Foxx said. “I think it was surprising to folks that prosecutors could be elected addressing these issues.”

R. Michael Cassidy, a law professor at Boston College and an expert in prosecutorial ethics, said the Ferguson unrest emphasized the need for change in how police and prosecutors work. He said some prosecutors have failed to manage their relationships with police; prosecutors depend on the officers to bring them cases and to testify in court, but they must conduct oversight of the police as well.

Foxx pushed back against any assertion that she didn’t manage her relationship with police. She pointed to a popular Chicago police blog that often refers to her as “Crimesha” — “a play on the word ‘crime’ and what I believe to be a racist insinuation about me being Black with the name ‘-esha.’” The blog has also sexualized her last name by adding a third X and has insinuated that members of her family are connected to gangs.

“From the moment we came into office, we reached out to our partners in law enforcement, and what we saw was there was a segment of them who were never going to be satisfied with me in this role because I said ‘Black lives matter,’ because I said ‘We need police accountability,’ because I said that we had a criminal justice system that overly relied on incarceration that targeted Black and brown communities,” she said.

She said that she, Gardner, and other prosecutors “have been faced with an unprecedented level of hate and vitriol” from the police.

“That,” she said, “is the story.”

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara and other union officials did not respond to requests for comment. But Catanzara told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2020 that the union’s complaints about Foxx were based on her job performance. He said she was a “social activist in an elected law enforcement position” who was unwilling to “faithfully do her job.”

The local police union organized a protest calling for the removal of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in Chicago in 2019.

Boudin was elected in 2019 on a reform platform. Soon after taking office, he eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. He also brought criminal charges against nine city officers for misconduct and announced a plan to compensate victims of police violence.

But as property crime rates climbed in San Francisco, Boudin came under increased scrutiny.

Cassidy said Boudin and other like-minded prosecutors have been scapegoated for isolated incidents or temporary spikes in crime statistics, as if they alone are responsible. In some cities, that has swung public opinion against them.

Chesa Boudin, during his time as San Francisco’s district attorney

Boudin said the claims were unfair and largely the product of police resistance to his reforms.

“We’ve seen, on body-worn camera footage, police officers telling victims there’s nothing they can do and, ‘Don’t forget to vote in the upcoming recall election,’” Boudin said in an interview.

Boudin said he and other local prosecutors have found “there is absolutely zero accountability for these officers who engage in explicitly political acts of sabotage or dereliction of duty.”

A spokesperson for the San Francisco police union declined to comment.

Some prosecutors have held onto their positions despite challenges to their power. In November, veteran public defender Mary Moriarty was elected county attorney for the jurisdiction that includes Minneapolis in the first election since the death there of George Floyd. The same night, Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot was reelected by a nearly 20-point margin in spite of calls by a police union for his ouster over his plan not to prosecute certain low-level offenses.

In August 2022, Sarah George, the incumbent state’s attorney in Vermont’s Chittenden County, which includes Burlington, secured her seat with a 20-point victory in the Democratic primary over Ted Kenney, a challenger backed by the police.

George had introduced a variety of reforms, including eliminating cash bail and declining to prosecute cases where evidence was obtained during noncriminal traffic stops, like those for broken taillights. The Burlington police union called her actions “disastrous” and Kenney argued that the approach made streets less safe.

George, too, has seen police body camera video of officers blaming her for crime. In one video, which she provided to ProPublica, the Riverfront Times and NPR, an officer from a suburban police department tells a couple that officers can’t do anything about a crack house in their neighborhood. He then implores them to vote for Kenney because of George’s “super-progressive, soft-on-crime approach where we arrest the same people daily and they get out the same day.”

George said that, with some crime investigations, the police are “not really doing the work that we need to do on the case, and then blaming us for the case not being filed.”

The Burlington police union declined to comment. The chiefs of police in Burlington and Winooski, the suburb where the video was taken, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Gardner, too, often faced criticism from police for her reluctance to prosecute cases based on arrests alone. In one notable instance in 2019, she dropped child-endangerment charges against two daycare workers who were captured on video as they appeared to encourage toddlers to box using toy Incredible Hulk fists.

The police union called for her ouster, writing on Facebook: “The first rule of toddler fight club is … that you prosecute the sadistic promoters of toddler fight club.”

In comments made before her resignation, Gardner noted that she had been careful not to file criminal charges in cases where she did not feel there was enough evidence. “What they want me to do is make it look like this job is easy,” she said. “We can’t make things fit and people don’t like that. That’s not what justice is about.”

Richard Rosenfeld, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, was one of several researchers who pooled data from 65 major cities and found “no evidence to support the claim that progressive prosecutors were responsible for the increase in homicide during the pandemic or before it.”

Indeed, Chicago’s murder rate fell during Foxx’s first years in office, rose during the first years of the pandemic and has been falling this year, city crime statistics show. Philadelphia’s murder rate was in steep decline this year after a precipitous rise that started in 2020. And most categories of crime were in retreat in St. Louis at the time Gardner resigned, while violent crime was up in San Francisco a year after Boudin’s exit, according to statistics.

Acknowledging that the St. Louis police commonly blamed Gardner for crime trends, Rosenfeld, a veteran observer of policing in St. Louis, said, “Case not proved, is what I would argue there.”


Republished with permission from Propublica under license.

Cheap oil instead of democracy: The conflict between Iran and the US

Court.rchp.com Editorial note by Randall Hill:

In order to successfully represent yourself in court, you need to know what your government is capable of doing to achieve it's objectives. You should assume state, county and local governments participate in the same sort of illicit activities as the federal government, just on a smaller scale; otherwise you'll be unprepared when they use corrupt tactics against you. The Confessions of an economic hitman section was added by Randall Hill and was not included in the original article.

by Raphael Bossniak & Sara Mohammadi, Kontrast

In 1906, Iran was one of the first states in the Middle East to officially to become a democracy. However, in order to secure cheap oil from the country, the US and Britain overthrew progressive Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and turned Iran into a “pro-Western” dictatorship. In doing so, they also destroyed a great opportunity for Iran to become a model for a democratic, peaceful Middle East. Since then, the US and Iran have been at war with each other almost constantly.

In TV images, we have seen demonstrators in Iran burning US flags for decades. And the media portrays Iran as an enemy of the West and our democracy. Relations hit a low point when, in 1979, Iranian students occupied the US Embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage. In the wake of this crisis – US President Jimmy Carter failed to free the hostages, he lost the election to his successor, Ronald Reagan, who eventually succeeded in freeing them. In 1988, again, an Iranian passenger plane was shot down over the Persian Gulf by the U.S. warship USS Vincennes because it was mistaken for a military plane. 290 people onboard died.

Beginning in 2014, negotiations over the Iran nuclear agreement saw a short-term rapprochement between the two countries until US President Donald Trump brought relations back to a standstill. The latest low point in relations was the targeted killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone in January 2020. And that is just a small excerpt from a long list of political and violent confrontations between Iran and the United States.

Overview of armed conflicts between US and Iran

  • 1953: CIA organizes violent coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh.
  • 1979-1981: Iranian students take Americans hostage at U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • 1980: In the Iran-Iraq war, the U.S. supports Iraq. Quasem Soleimani is there as a Revolutionary Guard on the Iranian front.
  • 1983: The pro-Iranian militia Hezbollah claims responsibility for an attack on U.S. naval headquarters in Beirut in which over 300 people lost their lives.
  • 1988: U.S. shoots down Iranian passenger plane, killing 290.
  • 2017: After Trump denied Iranian citizens entry to U.S., Iran tests ballistic missiles as military provocation.
  • June 2019: U.S. accuses Iran of responsibility for attacks on oil tankers in Persian Gulf.
  • December 2019: U.S. conducts airstrikes on targets in Iraq and Syria linked to pro-Iranian militias.
  • January 2020: U.S. kills Quasem Soleimani. Iran responds with attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq, accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing 176 people.

But how could it have come to this? Above all, this conflict was and is about coveted oil. Let’s take a look at the history of Iran.

Confession of an Economic Hitman 

John Perkins describes the methods he used to bribe and threaten the heads of state of countries on four continents in order to create a global empire and he reveals how the leaders who did not “play the game" were assassinated or overthrown. Everytime I hear about a coup or assasination such as the July 7th murder of Haiti's President, Jovenel Moïse, I think about this speech.

Iran: The first democracy in the Middle East 

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi engaged in long power struggles with the parliament. Photo: Modesikuwasi, no changes have been made

 

Iran was ruled by the Shah and his royal family until 1906. Shah means ruler in Persian. Detail on the side: the name of the game chess is derived from it. But back to the Shah: he ruled Iran in an absolutist way.

But this changed in 1906: In the so-called Constitutional Revolution, Western-oriented merchants, artisans, aristocrats and some clergymen fought for a parliamentary system of government and a modern legal system. This replaced the absolute monarchy at the time.

From then on, there was an interplay of power between the shah and parliament. Several times, the royal family took control again. The young Shah Reza Pahlavi also ruled authoritatively again for some time: at that time, he obtained parliament only to preserve the appearance of democracy.

Democracy or Monarchy? British side with King Reza Pahlavi 

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, however, only came to power with the help of the British. And this was to the displeasure of the Iranian population: Great Britain was considered by the Iranians to be a hated exertor of influence.

Even Shah Reza Pahlavi’s father forged alliances with other powers in order to ensure his influence in Iran. He had worked closely with Germany since the 1920s, for example, even during the Nazi era. But when Syria fell under the control of the Axis powers at that time, the British put down a military uprising in Iraq. This was close to Nazi Germany. Then, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran, deposed the old Shah, and appointed the young Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the new “King of Kings” at age 21.

The rise or Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh

Shah Pahlavi’s opponent: Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. He led the rallying party “National Front,” consisting of liberals and socialists.

 

But the royal family and Shah Reza Pahlavi then had to share power over Iran with Parliament. Shah Pahlavi’s opponent was Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. He was democratically elected by the people in 1951 and presided over the Iranian parliament. Democrats like Mossadegh viewed the shah’s function as purely ceremonial-unlike the shah himself.

Prime Minister Mossadegh was extremely popular with the Iranian people. He provided robust social programs: a support allowance for the unemployed and sick, peasants no longer had to perform forced labor for their landowners. Mossadegh also embarked on his heart’s project: to nationalize Iran’s oil, much of which was in the hands of British corporations.

Britain strips profits off Iranian oil

Oil was already gushing in Iran at the beginning of the 20th century. But the Iranians themselves hardly benefited from it. The oil was produced by the British oil giant BP, known at the time as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The profit share of the Iranians themselves was far less than half, only about 20 percent.

Great Britain, then a major power, was involved not only economically but also politically: Newspapers were bought, the government bribed. Iran became an “informal colony” of Great Britain.

The reason for the immense greed for oil was that after the end of World War II, global oil consumption increased dramatically. The whole world needed more oil. The unstoppable rise of the automobile happened simultaneously with the ever-increasing demand from the ever-expanding factories.

In addition, the world was in the midst of a Cold War: The world seemed divided in two, the two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, were arming themselves militarily. And both needed oil to fuel their tanks and fleets. Thus, the extraction of raw materials such as petroleum increasingly became a cause of war in various international theaters. In the search for new oil deposits, the focus falls primarily on the Middle East. The world’s largest reserves are located there. And Iran is one of the most oil-rich countries.

The war for Iranian oil begins

The Masjed Soleyman oil field. Iran’s oil wealth is both a curse and a blessing . Photo: Ahmad Rasekhi Langaridi, no changes have been made.

 

Prime Minister Mossadegh, however, wanted to hand over control of Iran’s oil to the Iranian state. He proposed to the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company that it share half of its oil resources with the Iranian state, but Britain refused. Iran then dissolved the contract with the British oil company and nationalized the oil industry.

The British responded with economic warfare and imposed a ban on exports from Iran. British warships subsequently barricaded the Persian Gulf. And so the aberrant situation arose in which the Iranians could not sell their own oil on the world market.

Economic war against Iran

Britain was now trying to gain US support. But the American government initially remained neutral. The British were allies, but the US did not want to weaken Iran. It was still the Cold War: Iran was not to be driven into the arms of the arch-enemy Soviet Union.

And so Iran slid into a severe economic crisis because of the British blockade. The Shah took advantage of this crisis situation and refused to appoint a war minister to the elected head of state, Mossadegh. Prime Minister Mossadegh resigned in protest because of this. However, because of the many social measures and his anti-British stance, the latter had a broad section of the population behind him despite the economic crisis. When the shah then appointed Ahmad Qavam, a British-friendly member of parliament, as prime minister, protests followed.

Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh (right) with US President Harry S. Truman (left). Initially, relations with the US are good – later, the US suspects Prime Minister Mossadegh of being a communist and plans his overthrow.

 

Broad sections of the population joined the protests. Even those who were originally opponents of Mossadegh. Religious, socialists, nationalists, and even communists demonstrated together in the streets, demanding Mossadegh’s return. Mossadegh eventually became prime minister again, but the support of the Communists hurt him in Washington. This was because during the Cold War, the communist Soviet Union was considered the US’s greatest adversary.

Fear of Communism: USA opposes Prime Minister Mossadegh

The US government in Washington, however, now fears that Mossadegh may be a communist. Originally, Mossadegh was quite popular in the U.S. Time magazine even named him “Man of the Year” in 1951. But the mood turned when Mossadegh showed himself willing to accept economic aid from the Soviet Union if necessary. At the same time, a new president came to power in the USA: the hardliner and anti-communist Dwight D. Eisenhower. The latter aligned his stance with the British: Prime Minister Mossadegh must go. The secret services CIA (USA) and the British MI5 jointly hatched a plan to overthrow Mossadegh.

Overthrow from the Outside: Operation AJA 

Kermit Roosevelt, son of former US President Theodore Roosevelt, leads Operation Ajax. He personally persuades the Shah to depose Mossadegh

 

1953: The plan called Operation Ajax by the CIA and MI5 is in full swing. Britain wants power over Iranian oil back, the US wants to weaken communism. In addition, with the suppression of independence in Iran, they want to weaken other anti-colonial uprisings in what was then called the “Third World.”

The CIA’s director of operations is Kermit Roosevelt. He is the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt and, with a million US dollars in his pocket, is looking for supporters for the CIA plan. He finds what he is looking for in the Shah’s Iranian palace.

Roosevelt often allows himself to be smuggled into the royal palace for secret meetings with the Shah. The plan: The Shah should depose Mossadegh and install a general as a puppet.

The coup fails, however: military informants warn Mossadegh of the impending coup. The military continues to support Mossadegh and arrests the coup plotters.

Mossadegh speaks of an attack by the British on Iran – he mistakenly believes the US is still on his side. Mass protests by Mossadegh supporters follow, after which the Shah flees the country. Prime Minister Mossadegh triumphs for the last time.

Prime Minister Mossadegh is overthrown 

But the CIA and MI5 do not give up. For: Mossadegh becomes increasingly vulnerable. Land reforms and the oil crisis have brought Mossadegh new enemies. He is trying to master the crisis with radical emergency decrees. Critics therefore accuse him of ruling in an authoritarian manner.

In order to overthrow Mossadegh, the CIA also recruits gangsters. Here, the street thug Shaban “the Brainless” Jafari (center, in front of the picture), is advertising for the shah.

 

The CIA and MI5 intelligence agencies take advantage of this: They bribe politicians, officials and journalists. They pay demonstrators to provoke riots. They print and disseminate propaganda. Mossadegh lulls himself into a false sense of security.

With CIA money, anti-Mossadegh military and Islamic clerics launch a new coup: They pay demonstrators to pose as Communists or Shah supporters. These groups rioted in the Iranian capital Tehran on August 19, 1953. 

The army finally turns against Mossadegh. Soldiers occupy government buildings.

 

Citizens initially join the demonstrations, which turn into street battles between Communists and Shah supporters. The CIA also paid extra gangsters from Tehran’s slums to further exacerbate the violent nature of the protests. Under the pretext of trying to end the riots, the military finally intervenes. Government buildings are occupied. Mossadegh’s house comes under tank fire, and a short time later he is forced to surrender.

After his arrest, Mossadegh ends up in court and later in prison. In 1956 he is released and retreats to his private house – guarded by employees of the Iranian secret service SAVAK. He dies on March 5, 1967.

The End of Democracy

When Mossadegh is deposed, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi returns to Iran with CIA support. The years of democracy are over: the Shah seizes absolute power. He has his political opponents hunted down and systematically tortured by the SAVAK secret service. In this way, the Shah eliminates Mossadegh’s supporters and the Communists – in line with the wishes of his supporters Great Britain and the USA. Iran becomes a so-called pro-Western dictatorship, closely allied with the US.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (right) meets US President Jimmy Carter (left). Under the Shah, Iran becomes an important partner of the USA in the Middle East, although the country systematically oppresses its own population. Photo: US Federal Government, no changes have been made

 

Dictatorship instead of democracy: Peace and prosperity for the Iranian people, who wanted to live in a democracy, fell victim to the economic-political interests of the USA and Great Britain. Some of the profits from Iranian oil now fell back to the British. However, from now on they also had to share with five US companies. And what happened next politically in Iran?

Iran becomes an Islamic Republic

For the Shah, however, his political career was over again in 1979: he had ruled the country for 26 years. A revolution swept him from the throne: under pressure from the US, he had somewhat relaxed the repression against his own people. And that ultimately proved to be his undoing. His opponents rallied across large segments of the population: Islamists, Communists and former supporters of Mossadegh and his National Front party eventually overthrew the Shah.

But once again, democracy did not follow the revolution: Islamists took advantage of the situation to eliminate their opponents and established an authoritarian “theocracy” in Iran.

Positions become increasingly polarised

During the revolution, the memory of former Prime Minister Mossadegh and the once-stolen democracy played a major role. To this day, the Iranian people blame the influence of Great Britain and the USA for their suffering. After all, the secret services of these two countries were instrumental in the fall of the then democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh.

This resentment on the part of Iranians was also evident when, in the course of the revolution, students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage. Since this incident, up to this day, the fronts on the part of the United States have hardened. From now on, Iran is perceived as an enemy.

The US and its allies are hated in Iran to this day. The Islamism promoted by the Iranian government further strengthens the anti-American tendencies. Photo: Mohamad Sadegh Heydary, no changes have been made.

US flags burn regularly in Iran, whether after the assassination of Iranian officer Qasem Soleimani or during the dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. To this day, the USA and Iran remain at odds.

The US and its allies are still hated in Iran today. The Islamism promoted by the Iranian government further strengthens the anti-American tendencies. Picture: Mohamad Sadegh Heydary, no changes have been made

Late admission of guilt

The CIA itself did not acknowledge its influence at the time until 2013, on the 60th anniversary of the coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. For them, the coup against Mossadegh was pure power politics. The price: the loss of democracy for Iranians.


Republished with permission under license from Scoop.me.

States pick judges very differently from US Supreme Court appointments

by Joshua Holzer, Westminster College

The future of the U.S. Supreme Court is politically fraught.

The court’s partisan balance has long been a hot-button issue, and both Democrats and Republicans can correctly claim that the other party bears at least some blame for the politicization of the federal judiciary.

Political pressure is focusing on the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

 

In 2016, appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court became even more overtly political when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died and the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority refused to let President Barack Obama fill the vacancy.

This delay ultimately gave soon-to-be President Donald Trump the chance to seat conservative Neil Gorsuch as Scalia’s replacement. Four years later, though, Republicans rushed to fill the vacancy left by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months before a presidential election.

Now, with Democrats in control of the White House and – barely – the U.S. Senate, some within the party have been calling for President Joe Biden to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of reversing Republican efforts to enshrine conservatism within the courts.

In response to those calling for reform, Biden has created the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, whose mission “is to provide an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform.”

This commission – which includes scholars, lawyers and political advisers – could look at top courts overseas for ideas about how to depoliticize the U.S. Supreme Court. But its members could also learn lessons from the states, many of which have already taken steps to insulate their judicial branches from partisan politics.

State court lessons for depoliticization

Following the model set by the U.S. Constitution, many state constitutions initially called for governors to appoint state judges for life with the advice and consent of the state’s Senate. Over time, many felt that this system empowered governors to award judgeships based upon party loyalty rather than judicial temperament and fair-mindedness.

In the mid-1800s, populism swept the country. This movement toward giving power to the public prompted several states to amend their state constitutions to allow for the popular election of judges.

This did not solve the problem of judicial politicization, as judges were often beholden to the political machines that helped them get elected. As such, the public began to perceive elected judges as both partisan and corrupt, and turned against the courts. For example, between 1918 to 1940 only two Missouri Supreme Court judges were reelected.

In 1940, Missouri became the first state to adopt what is now called the “Missouri Plan” for selecting judges, which involves two elements: “assisted appointments” and nonpartisan “retention elections.”

Typically, for assisted appointments, a nonpartisan commission reviews candidates for state judgeships, creating a list of potential nominees based on merit. The governor fills vacancies on the bench by choosing from this predetermined list. In such a system, the governor’s pick does not usually need to be confirmed by the state legislature because the pick has already been vetted by the nonpartisan commission.

For retention elections, judges face no opponent and are listed on the ballot without political party designation. Voters are simply asked whether an incumbent judge should remain in office, which provides an opportunity to oust judges who regularly make unpopular decisions. Retention elections are often held in states that use assisted appointments. However, in some states that still elect their judges using partisan elections, such as Illinois, nonpartisan retention elections are used when it’s time for reelection.

Today, more than 30 states use some form of assisted appointments. More than 20 states use some variation of retention elections. More than a dozen states use both in some capacity. Notably, both “red” states and “blue” states have adopted one or both of these reforms, as have many “purple” states.

Two men shake hands
President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court sparked a partisan fight. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Showing the way forward?

Advocates of Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan argue that the reforms have been a success. According to Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, “the ‘Show-Me State’ … has shown the nation how we can do a better job of selecting our judges.”

If the federal government adopted assisted appointments, campaign tactics like Trump’s 2016 promise to appoint pro-life, conservative judges would be less relevant, because presidents would be limited in whom they could nominate for a court vacancy.

Additionally, if voters could remove U.S. Supreme Court justices whose opinions differ from that of the majority of Americans, politicians might not feel as pressured to block the appointment of a particular justice for partisan reasons, as the judge would serve on the bench for only as long as they retained public support.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

US museums hold the remains of thousands of Black people

by Delande Justinvil, American University and Chip Colwell, University of Colorado Denver

Among the human remains in Harvard University’s museum collections are those of 15 people who were probably enslaved African American people. Earlier this year, the school announced a new committee that will conduct a comprehensive survey of Harvard’s collections, develop new policies and propose ways to memorialize and repatriate the remains.

“We must begin to confront the reality of a past in which academic curiosity and opportunity overwhelmed humanity,” wrote Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow.

Museums across the U.S., including at Harvard University, collected human remains, which were often displayed to the public. Smith Collection/Gado/Archive Photos via Getty Images

 

This dehumanizing history of collecting African American bodies as scientific specimens is not a problem just at Harvard. Last year, the University of Pennsylvania announced that its anthropology museum will address the legacy of the 1,300 human skulls – including those of 55 enslaved people from Cuba and the U.S. – in its collection, which was historically used to denigrate the intelligence and character of Black people and Native Americans.

Other institutions have far more Black skeletons in their closets. By one estimate, the Smithsonian Institution, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Howard University hold the remains of some 2,000 African Americans among them. The total only increases when considering museums with remains from other populations across the African diaspora. How many more sets of remains lie in museum storerooms across the United States, and whether or not they were collected with consent, is unknown.

As archaeologists, we understand the impulse to gather human remains to tell our human story. Osteobiographies, life histories constructed from skeletal remains, can offer insights into nutritional, migratory, pathological and even political-economic conditions of past populations. However, scholars and activists across the U.S. are now seeking to recognize and redress the deep history of violence against Black bodies. Museums and society are finally confronting how the desires of science have at times eclipsed the demands of human rights.

How did the remains of so many Black people end up in collections, and what can be done about it?

Collecting Black bodies

The abuse and circulation of African American human remains for research dates back at least to 1763, with the dissection of corpses of the enslaved for the first anatomy lecture in the American Colonies.

chest up portrait of Samuel Morton
American physician and naturalist Samuel Morton (1799-1861) collected human remains for pseudoscientific study. Hulton Archive/Archive Photos via Getty Images

The systematic collection of African American remains, as well as those of people from other marginalized communities, began with the work of Samuel George Morton. Considered the founder of American physical anthropology, Morton professionalized the acquisition of human remains in the name of scientific practice and education.

Morton boasted the first collection of human remains, at one point considered to be the largest globally. He used its subjects-turned-specimens to promote racist hierarchies through pseudoscientific interpretations of cranial measurements. His research resulted in his 1839 magnum opus, “Crania Americana,” replete with hundreds of hand-drawn images of skulls and faulty-logic racial categorization.

His collection eventually ended up at the University of Pennsylvania. Only last year did the university officially announce the collection had been removed from a shelved display within an archaeology classroom.

The impact of Morton’s collection and career ricocheted far and wide, laying the foundation for unethical practices built on the theft, transportation and accumulation of human remains – especially of those most marginalized. Collecting surged during the time of the Civil War. From the late 19th century well into the 20th, skeletal collections in museums across the country skyrocketed.

Morton also influenced the ideology of biologist Louis Agassiz, his eventual collaborator. Agassiz founded Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which originally bore his name. His own collection practices around the photographed bodies of the enslaved have embroiled the university in a public lawsuit.

Institutions long embraced such collections primarily for the pseudoscientific work of justifying racial hierarchies. But they also enhanced their prestige by the number of remains in their collections that could be used for research as well as for exhibitions that fed the public’s morbid curiosity.

Eventually, most collecting institutions shifted away from these original goals but held on to human remains for teaching skeletal biology and testing new scientific methods. A majority of museum collections, however, sit unused, retained in the belief that they may help answer questions at some point in the future.

woman holds historical photo of enslaved Black man
Shonrael Lanier holds a photo of her ancestor, Renty, an enslaved Black man. Her family has sued Harvard University for ownership of his image. Scientists’ photos of him and others were discovered in a museum basement in the 1970s. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Ultimately, the remains of African American people, freed or enslaved, are in these collections because the captivity of their bodies, both living and deceased, was the very foundation of museums of medicine, anthropology, archaeology, natural history and more. While some academic and cultural institutions have taken the initiative to confront their legacies with slavery – such as decolonization efforts to include more diverse perspectives and values – a national effort has yet to take shape.

Desecrated in life and death

The U.S. Senate passed the African American Burial Grounds Network Act in December 2020. This bill would establish a voluntary network to identify and protect often at-risk African American cemeteries. The program would be administered through the National Park Service, and nothing in the legislation would apply to private property without the consent of landowners. More than 50 prominent national, state and local organizations support the passage of the act into law and are working to have it reintroduced in Congress’ current session.

But even this legislation does not include the remains of Black people in museum collections. Such an addition would be more in line with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a 1990 federal law that addresses Native American human remains in all contexts – both in the ground and in collections. This work is necessary because many of the remains of Black people, like those of Native Americans, were taken without the consent of family, used in ways that contravened spiritual traditions, and treated with less respect than most others in society.

In the absence of such an addition, the work of finding all of the African American remains in museums will be unorganized and inconsistent. Institutions will need to make efforts on their own, which will cost more money and consume more resources. Even more importantly, the absence of a coordinated, national effort will mean the delay of justice for thousands of African American ancestors whose bodies have been, and continue to be, desecrated.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

A white supremacist coup succeeded in 1898 North Carolina

led by lying politicians and racist newspapers that amplified their lies

 

by Kathy Roberts Forde, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Kristin Gustafson, University of Washington, Bothell

While experts debate whether the U.S. Capitol siege was an attempted coup, there is no debate that what happened in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, was a coup – and its consequences were tragic.

These two events, separated by 122 years, share critical features. Each was organized and planned. Each was an effort to steal an election and disfranchise voters. Each was animated by white racist fears.

And each required the help of the media to be successful.

Armed white insurrectionists murdered Black men and burned Black businesses, including this newspaper office, during the Wilmington coup of 1898. Daily Record, North Carolina Archives and History

Those who study Reconstruction and its aftermath know the U.S. has deep experience with political and electoral violence. Reconstruction was the 12-year period following the Civil War when the South returned to the Union and newly freed Black Americans were incorporated into U.S. democracy.

But few understand that the Wilmington coup, when white supremacists overthrew the city’s legitimately elected bi-racial government, could not have happened without the involvement of white news media. The same is true of the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, 2021.

The news media, it turns out, have often been key actors in U.S. electoral violence. This history is explored in a chapter one of us – Gustafson – wrote for a book the other – Forde – co-edited with Sid Bedingfield, “Journalism & Jim Crow: The Making of White Supremacy in the New South,” which comes out later this year.

In 1898, Charles B. Aycock wanted to become governor in North Carolina. A member of the elite class, Aycock was a leading Democrat, which was the party of white supremacy in the South before the mid-20th-century political realignment that produced today’s parties.

A major obstacle lay in his path to the governor’s office. Several years earlier, Black Republicans and white Populists in North Carolina, tired of Democrats enriching themselves off public policies favoring banks, railroads and industry, joined forces.

Known as Fusionists, they rose to power in the executive branch, the legislature and the governments of several eastern towns, but most importantly, the thriving port city of Wilmington, then the largest city in North Carolina.

A racist political cartoon by Norman Jennett showing a boot worn by a Black man smashing a white man underneath.
A political cartoon from the Raleigh News & Observer, Aug. 13, 1898. North Carolina Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Anti-Black disinformation

Wilmington, with its majority Black population and successful Black middle class, was a city that offered hope for Black Southerners. Black men had higher rates of literacy than white men, ran some of the city’s most successful businesses, such as restaurants, tailors, shoemakers, furniture makers and jewelers, and, to the dismay of Democrats, held public office.

Dr. Umar Johnson delivers seething commentary about negative propaganda and it's power against a target population.

Democrats, seething over their loss of power, were determined to get it back in the state election of 1898.

Aycock joined forces with Furnifold Simmons, a former U.S. representative who served as the party’s campaign manager, and Josephus Daniels, the editor Raleigh’s News & Observer newspaper. Together they hatched a plan.

Using anti-Black disinformation spread through newspapers and public speeches across the state, they would whip up white racial fears of “Negro domination” and “black beasts” that preyed on the “virtue” of white women. The goal: drive a wedge in the Fusionist coalition and lure white Populists back to the Democratic fold.

The press and political power

The News & Observer, the most influential newspaper in the state, was the Democratic Party’s most potent weapon. Its editor called it “the militant voice of white supremacy.”

For months in advance of the November election, the paper ran articles, editorials, speeches and reader letters telling lies about Black malfeasance, misrule, criminality and sexual predations against white women. White newspapers across the state, from big cities to tiny hamlets, republished the News & Observer’s content.

The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina, September 27, 1898

“The prevalence of rape by brutal negroes upon helpless white women has brought about a reign of terror in rural districts,” the paper said. Daniels admitted years later this claim was a lie.

Knowing the power of images, Daniels hired a cartoonist to create viciously racist images for the front page.

Roughly a year after Rebecca Latimer Felton, a prominent white Georgian, gave a speech advocating the lynching of Black men for their supposed assaults on white women, white newspapers across North Carolina reprinted and discussed it for days to gin up racist hostility.

At the same time, the Democrats organized the Red Shirts, a paramilitary arm of the party, to intimidate Black citizens and stop them from participating in politics and, eventually, voting.

Alexander Manly, the editor of the Black newspaper The Daily Record in Wilmington, then the only Black daily in the country, decided to fight back.

To counteract the lies the Democrats and Felton told about Black men as “beasts” and “brutes,” Manly told the truth in a bold editorial: Some white women fell in love with Black men and, if these affairs were discovered, the inevitable outcome was the label “rape” and a brutal lynching. The grandson of a white governor of North Carolina and a Black woman he enslaved, Manly knew white hypocrisy well.

Democrats went wild, reprinting Manly’s editorial in newspapers across the state and attacking him for insulting the “virtue” of white women.

A white fist holding a bat, about to strike a Black man in an 1898 political cartoon.
An anti-Black political cartoon by Norman Jennett in the Raleigh News & Observer, Aug. 30, 1898. North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The coup

As the election approached and Red Shirts patrolled the state, Democrats laid their final plan.

Because there were few local elections in Wilmington in 1898, and Democrats viewed the city as the center of “Negro domination” in the state, they began organizing in early fall to overthrow Wilmington’s bi-racial government and install all white officials.

After stealing the state election through fraud and violence, the Democrats sent a massive group of Red Shirts into Wilmington.

They murdered an untold number of Black men in the street; burned Black businesses, including Manly’s newspaper office; terrorized the Black community, forcing at least 1,400 people to flee, many never to return; and removed and exiled all Fusionists from office, installing white Democrats in their stead.

Early in the new century, Aycock sat in the governor’s office. Black citizens were disfranchised by constitutional amendment, ushering in white supremacist, one-party, kleptocratic rule that lasted at least through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Then and now

Across the past four years, the overwhelmingly white right-wing news media spread lies that President Donald Trump and his allies churned out daily. Social media companies helped turn these lies into a contagion of mass delusion that radicalized a significant swath of the GOP base.

Since President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in November, Trump and his political and media allies have relentlessly pushed the massive lie that liberals stole the presidential election.

Like press involvement in the murderous events in Wilmington long ago, today’s media played an essential role in deluding and inciting supporters to violence in the attempt to steal an election.

“The past is never dead,” William Faulkner wrote. “It’s not even past.”The Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

How to track your mail-in ballot

Court.rchp.com Editorial Note: Missouri is one of only four states that do not provide any state wide mail in ballot tracking, however, in the St. Louis area, tracking is available.

  • St. Louis City:  Go to STLCityBallotTracking.com, Enter the “Ballot Track ID” from your ballot stub. You may also scan the square QR code on the stub and the code will take you right to the results. Once the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners has received your ballot, they’ll let you know by updating your ballot tracking page with a third green checkmark.
  • St. Louis County:  Go to MyBallotTracking.com and enter your “Ballot Track ID”.
  • St. Charles County:  There are a few steps to tracking your ballot in St. Charles County. First, visit sccmo.org/410/Election-Authority and then scroll down just a little to the “Nov. 3, 2020 General Election Information” list. Then click the second option which is “Track your Absentee by Mail ballot.” Then enter your information in their tracking system and you should be able to track your ballot from there.
  • Jefferson County:  There is no tracking website, but if you call the County Clerk’s office and give them your name and address, they’ll look you up and confirm that your ballot has been received. Their phone number is 636-797-5486 and once you get the voice recording press “2” on your phone for the Voter Registration and Elections Department.

by Steven Mulroy, University of Memphis

Many voters who want to participate in the election by mail are concerned about when they’ll receive their ballot – and whether it will get back in time to be counted.

The pandemic has caused interest in mail-in voting to surge to record numbers this presidential election.

At the same time, recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service have caused slowdowns in mail delivery. The Postal Service itself has warned states that ballots mailed by election officials close to Election Day may not reach voters in time. A federal court has issued a nationwide order giving election-related mail priority in Postal Service processing.

Nevertheless, anecdotal reports abound of voters who applied for absentee ballots and are still waiting for them weeks later.

And on Oct. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court accommodated potential mail delays by ruling that Pennsylvania may count ballots that arrive through the end of Friday, Nov. 6 – three days after Election Day.

Different states have different rules about who can cast their ballots by mail; I was involved in a nonpartisan lawsuit that expanded access to voting by mail in Tennessee.

Fortunately, almost everyone who is allowed to vote by mail can stay on top of where those ballots are. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, a unified system allows all voters to see when their request for a ballot by mail was received, when the ballot was mailed to them and when the completed ballot was received back at the local election office.

Two other states provide online tracking for members of the military and civilian citizens who live overseas – groups that have special mail ballot protections under federal law. In the remaining four states without a statewide ballot-tracking system, some counties and municipalities may have their own online versions – or may be able to update voters who contact the office by phone or in person.

The Postal Service, election officials and other experts recommend that people conservatively allow a week for the ballot to arrive at their home from the election office, and a week for it to get back so it can be counted. It may take less time, and in some places you can speed things up by using an official drop box to return your ballot without relying on the mail.

In either case, you can keep an eye on your ballot to make sure it has arrived and been accepted for counting. And if it hasn’t arrived yet, or has been rejected for some reason, you’ll know to contact local election officials to see what to do so your vote can count.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.