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How judges added to the grim toll of opioids

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Benjamin Lesser, Dan Levine, Lisa Girion, and Jaimi Dowdell report in Reuters:

The opioid epidemic that has so far killed half a million Americans is routinely blamed on greedy drug makers, feckless doctors and lax regulators. But there’s another group that has contributed to the depth and duration of the catastrophe: judges.

Judges like Booker T. Stephens.

Until his retirement in May, Stephens sat on the West Virginia Circuit Court in Welch, deep in Appalachian coal country, where addiction took early root among miners who were prescribed the blockbuster opioid OxyContin for the pain their jobs inflicted. And it was in his court where the first lawsuit filed by a state against OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma LP, landed in 2001.

West Virginia accused Purdue of duping doctors into widely prescribing the drug by minimizing its risks, convincing them it was less addictive than other opioids because just one dose delivered steady relief for 12 hours. In the pretrial “discovery” phase of the case, Purdue sent thousands of pages of internal memos, notes from sales calls on doctors, marketing plans and other records to the state’s lawyers who had requested them.

That evidence was clearly compelling: In a 2004 ruling, Judge Stephens rejected Purdue’s motion that he dismiss the case and sided with the state’s assertion that the material could convince a jury that Purdue’s sales pitch was full of dangerous lies.

But Stephens sealed the evidence on which he relied in that ruling. And when Purdue and the state reached a settlement that year, before the case went to trial, the evidence remained hidden, out of sight to regulators, doctors and patients. Over the next few years, as OxyContin sales and opioid-related deaths climbed, more than a dozen other judges overseeing similar lawsuits against Purdue took the same tack, keeping the company’s records secret.

It would be 12 years – and 245,000 overdose deaths – before evidence Stephens and other judges kept hidden was made public, and then only after it was leaked to a newspaper. What it showed was revelatory: OxyContin, the first billion-dollar-a-year narcotic, was not the reliable 12-hour painkiller Purdue long claimed it was. Its effects often wore off much sooner, exposing patients to a relapse of pain, withdrawal, or both – suffering relieved only by the next pill. When doctors raised concerns, the documents showed, Purdue sales reps counseled them to put patients on bigger, more dangerous doses.

The eventual release of the evidence reinforced the widely held view that OxyContin was a catalyst for the epidemic, which by then had expanded beyond prescription opioids to include illicit drugs such as heroin. The material also informed hundreds of new lawsuits seeking to force accountability on the entire opioid industry for its role in the addiction crisis.

But for untold numbers of opioid users who had overdosed, it was too late. “Heartbreaking and sickening” is how Congresswoman Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat who has been involved in investigating the causes of the opioid epidemic, described the early decisions to seal the Purdue evidence. In an interview, Clark said she believes that had the secrets come out earlier, doctors would have written fewer OxyContin prescriptions and fewer insurers would have covered the drug. “We don’t know how many lives we could have saved,” she said.

Stephens told Reuters he doesn’t second-guess his decision. “It happened, and that’s all that I can say about it,” he said. “It speaks for itself.”

Today, 15 years after Stephens protected Purdue’s secrets, Federal Judge Dan Polster is providing the same cover for multiple opioid makers, distributors and retailers. He is presiding over a mass of litigation that seeks to hold the entire industry responsible for the epidemic. Life-saving information contained in those cases, too, may remain under seal, as Polster has stuck to a strict secrecy playbook.

Polster declined to comment for this article.

The trail of hidden evidence running through the opioid crisis is emblematic of a pervasive and deadly secrecy that shrouds product-liability cases in U.S. courts, enabled by judges who routinely allow the makers of those products to keep information pertinent to public health and safety under wraps. And since nearly all such cases are resolved before trial, the evidence often remains secret indefinitely, robbing consumers of the chance to make informed choices and regulators of opportunities to improve safety.

In an unprecedented analysis, Reuters found that over the past 20 years, judges sealed evidence relevant to public health and safety in about half of the 115 biggest defective-product cases consolidated before federal judges in so-called multidistrict litigation, or MDLs. Those cases comprised nearly 250,000 individual death and injury lawsuits, involving dozens of products used by millions of consumers: drugs, cars, medical devices and other products. And the numbers don’t convey the full extent of information locked away because they don’t include thousands of product-liability cases heard in state courts.

The impact is broad. Although secrecy makes complete analysis impossible, Reuters found that hundreds of thousands of people were killed or seriously injured by allegedly defective products after judges in just a handful of cases allowed litigants to file under seal, beyond public view, evidence that could have alerted consumers and regulators to potential danger.

For example, beginning in the early 1980s, judge after judge kept under seal evidence that the trigger on Remington Arms Co’s Remington 700 hunting rifle was prone to misfiring. In 2014, after decades of secrecy, a judge presiding over a class-action lawsuit in Missouri refused to seal the trove of documents, which showed that the company had been aware of the defective trigger since the late 1940s. By then, nearly 200 people had died from accidental shootings blamed on the problem. The company then recalled the defective rifles.

Thousands more people died in rollover accidents involving General Motors Co cars and trucks while judges agreed to hide records showing the company knew that reinforcing vehicle roofs would save lives. After a decade of lawsuits in which those records were kept secret, a Los Angeles judge released the information in 2004 at the request of plaintiffs who wanted to share it with regulators. In 2009, the federal government upgraded a decades-old standard on roof strength.

Remington declined to comment. In a statement emailed to Reuters, GM said: “Advances in auto safety effectively addressed this concern many years ago … Also, it’s fair for individuals or companies to be able to request that certain sensitive or personal information be safeguarded.”

THE LAW AND THE REALITY

In fact, court records are presumed to be public as a matter of law. They can only be sealed for valid concerns about privacy, including personal medical records, and to protect company trade secrets.

In most states and nearly all the 13 federal appellate circuits, judges are legally obliged to weigh any litigant’s request that information be sealed against the broader public interest in making it public. They also must explain in the court record any decision in favor of secrecy. Judges incur no penalty for failing to do these things.

In practice, secrecy has become so ingrained in the system that judges rarely question it. In 85 percent of the cases where Reuters found health and safety information under seal, judges provided no explanation for allowing the secrecy.

Judge Stephens was bound by West Virginia law to weigh secrecy against transparency and provide in the court record his reasoning. Like many judges in his position, he did neither. “This case was sealed because both sides agreed and asked me to seal it,” he told Reuters.

That reasoning explains why secrecy has become the norm: It makes things easier for everyone involved. Corporate lawyers want to protect their clients’ reputations. Plaintiffs’ lawyers want to avoid miring their clients’ cases in lengthy courtroom wrangling over requests that filings be sealed or redacted. And judges want to keep the business of justice moving. . .

Continue reading. Judges act as though they work for the corporations, not for the public.

There’s much more. It’s a long article and it shows how very bad things have gotten.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 June 2019 at 1:47 pm

ICE Agents Are Losing Patience with Trump’s Chaotic Immigration Policy

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Jonathan Blitzer reports in the New Yorker:

Last Monday, when President Trump tweeted that his Administration would stage nationwide immigration raids the following week, with the goal of deporting “millions of illegal aliens,” agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement were suddenly forced to scramble. The agency was not ready to carry out such a large operation. Preparations that would typically take field officers six to eight weeks were compressed into a few days, and, because of Trump’s tweet, the officers would be entering communities that now knew they were coming. “It was a dumb-shit political move that will only hurt the agents,” John Amaya, a former deputy chief of staff at ice, told me. On Saturday, hours before the operation was supposed to start in ten major cities across the country, the President changed course, delaying it for another two weeks.

On Sunday, I spoke to an ice officer about the week’s events. “Almost nobody was looking forward to this operation,” the officer said. “It was a boondoggle, a nightmare.” Even on the eve of the operation, many of the most important details remained unresolved. “This was a family op. So where are we going to put the families? There’s no room to detain them, so are we going to put them in hotels?” the officer said. On Friday, an answer came down from iceleadership: the families would be placed in hotels while ice figured out what to do with them. That, in turn, raised other questions. “So the families are in hotels, but who’s going to watch them?” the officer continued. “What happens if the person we arrest has a U.S.-citizen child? What do we do with the children? Do we need to get booster seats for the vans? Should we get the kids toys to play with?” Trump’s tweet broadcasting the operation had also created a safety issue for the officers involved. “No police agency goes out and says, ‘Tomorrow, between four and eight, we’re going to be in these neighborhoods,’ ” the officer said.

The idea for the operation took hold in the White House last September, two months after a federal judge had ordered the government to stop separating parents and children at the border. At the time, the number of families seeking asylum was rising steadily, and Administration officials were determined to toughen enforcement. A D.H.S. official told me that, in the months before the operation was proposed, “a major focus” of department meetings “was concern about the fact that people on the non-detained docket”—asylum seekers released into the U.S. with a future court date—“are almost never deported.” By January, a tentative plan had materialized. The Department of Justice developed a “rocket docket” to prioritize the cases of asylum seekers who’d just arrived in the country and missed a court date—in their absence, the government could swiftly secure deportation orders against them. D.H.S. then created a “target list” of roughly twenty-five hundred immigrant family members across the country for deportation; eventually, the Administration aimed to arrest ten thousand people using these methods.

From the start, however, the plan faced resistance. The Secretary of D.H.S., Kirstjen Nielsen, argued that the arrests would be complicated to carry out, in part, because American children would be involved. (Many were born in the U.S. to parents on the “target list.”) Resources were already limited, and an operation on this scale would divert attention from the border, where a humanitarian crisis was worsening by the day. The acting head of ice, Ron Vitiello, a tough-minded former Border Patrol officer, shared Nielsen’s concerns. According to the Washington Post, these reservations weren’t “ethical” so much as logistical: executing such a vast operation would be extremely difficult, with multiple moving pieces, and the optics could be devastating. Four months later, Trump effectively fired them. Vitiello’s replacement at ice, an official named Mark Morgan—who’s already been fired once by Trump and regained the President’s support after making a series of appearances on Fox News—subsequently announced that ice would proceed with the operation.

Late last week, factions within the Administration clashed over what to do. The acting secretary of D.H.S., Kevin McAleenan, urged caution, claiming that the operation was a distraction and a waste of manpower. Among other things, a $4.5 billion funding bill to supply further humanitarian aid at the border has been held up because Democrats worried that the Administration would use the money for enforcement operations. McAleenan had been meeting with members of both parties on the Hill, and there appeared to be signs of progress, before the President announced the ice crackdown. According to an Administration official, McAleenan argued that the operation would also threaten a string of recent gains made by the President. The Trump Administration had just secured a deal with the Mexican government to increase enforcement at the Guatemalan border, and it expanded a massive new program called Remain in Mexico, which has forced some ten thousand asylum seekers to wait indefinitely in northern Mexico. “Momentum was moving in the right direction,” the official said.

On the other side of the argument were Stephen Miller, at the White House, and Mark Morgan, at ice. In the days before and after Trump’s Twitter announcement, Morgan spoke regularly with the President, who was circumventing McAleenan, Morgan’s boss. In meetings with staff, Morgan boasted that he had a direct line to the President, according to the ice officer, who told me it was highly unusual for there to be such direct contact between the agency head and the White House. “It should be going to the Secretary, which I find hilarious, actually, because Morgan was already fired once by this Administration,” the officer said.

Over the weekend, the President agreed to halt the operation. But it’s far from certain whether McAleenan actually got the upper hand. Officials in the White House authorized ice to issue a press release insinuating that someone had leaked important details about the operation and therefore compromised it. “Any leak telegraphing sensitive law-enforcement operations is egregious and puts our officers’ safety in danger,” an ice spokesperson said late Saturday afternoon. This was a puzzling statement given that it was Trump who first publicized the information about the operation. But the White House’s line followed a different script: some members of the Administration, as well as the former head of ice, Thomas Homan, were publicly accusing McAleenan of sharing information with reporters in an attempt to undermine the operation.

For Homan, his involvement in the Administration’s internal fight marked an unexpected return to the main stage. Last year, he resigned as acting head of iceafter the Senate refused to confirm him to the post. Earlier this month, Trump announced, on Fox News, that Homan would be returning to the Administration as the President’s new border tsar, but Homan, who hadn’t been informed of the decision, has remained noncommittal. Still, according to the Administration official, Homan and the President talk by phone regularly. Over the weekend, Homan, who has since become an on-air contributor to Fox News, appeared on television to attack McAleenan personally. “You’ve got the acting Secretary of Homeland Security resisting what ice is trying to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President spent the weekend trying to leverage the delayed operation to pressure congressional Democrats. If they did not agree to a complete overhaul of the asylum system at the border, Trump said, he’d greenlight the ice operation once more. “Two weeks,” he tweeted, “and big Deportation begins.” At the same time, his Administration was under fire for holding immigrant children at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas. Two hundred and fifty infants, children, and teen-agers have spent weeks in squalid conditions; they have been denied food, water, soap, and toothbrushes, and there’s limited access to medicine in the wake of flu and lice outbreaks. “If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes,” Trump said, “everything would be solved immediately.” And yet, last week, when an Administration lawyer appeared before the Ninth Circuit to answer for the conditions at the facility, which were in clear violation of a federal agreement on the treatment of children in detention, she said that addressing them was not the government’s responsibility. Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me, “The Administration is intentionally creating chaos at the border and detaining children in abusive conditions for political gain.” (On Monday, Customs and Border Protection transferred all but thirty children from the Clint facility; it isn’t yet clear where, exactly, they’ll go.)

President Obama was never popular among ice’s rank and file, but the detailed list of enforcement priorities he instituted, in 2014, which many in the agency initially resented as micromanagement, now seemed more sensible—and even preferable to the current state of affairs. The ice officer said, “One person told me, ‘I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the Obama rules. We removed more people with the rules we had in place than with all this. It was much easier when we had the priorities. It was cleaner.’ ” Since the creation of ice, in 2003, enforcement was premised on the idea that officers would primarily go after criminals for deportation; Trump, who views ice as a political tool to showcase his toughness, has abandoned that framework entirely.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 June 2019 at 1:38 pm

Inside a Texas Building Where the U.S. Government Is Holding Immigrant Children

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Isaac Chotiner reports in the New Yorker:

Hundreds of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents or family members are being held in dirty, neglectful, and dangerous conditions at Border Patrol facilities in Texas. This week, a team of lawyers interviewed more than fifty children at one of those facilities, in Clint, Texas, in order to monitor government compliance with the Flores settlement, which mandates that children must be held in safe and sanitary conditions and moved out of Border Patrol custody without unnecessary delays. The conditions the lawyers found were shocking: flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated, and children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, and taking care of one another because of the lack of attention from guards. Some of them had been in the facility for weeks.

To discuss what the attorneys saw and heard, I spoke by phone with one of them, Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University and the director of its clinical-law program. She told me that, although Flores is an active court case, some of the lawyers were so disturbed by what they saw that they decided to talk to the media. We discussed the daily lives of the children in custody, the role that the guards are playing at the facility, and what should be done to unite many of the kids with their parents. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How many lawyers were in your party? And can you describe what happened when you arrived?

We had approximately ten lawyers, doctors, and interpreters in El Paso this past week. We did not plan to go to the Clint Facility, because it’s not a facility that historically receives children. It wasn’t even on our radar. It was at a facility that historically only had a maximum occupancy of a hundred and four, and it was an adult facility. So we were not expecting to go there, and then we saw the report, last week, that it appeared that children were being sent to Clint, so we decided to put four teams over there. The teams are one to two attorneys, or an attorney and an interpreter. The idea is that we would be interviewing one child at a time or one sibling group at a time.

How many interviews do you do in a day?We do a screening interview first to see if the child’s most basic needs are being met. Is it warm enough? Do they have a place to sleep? How long have they been there? Are they being fed? And if it sounds like the basic needs are being met, then we don’t need to interview them longer. If, when we start to interview the child, they start to tell us things like they’re sleeping on the floor, they’re sick, nobody’s taking care of them, they’re hungry, then we do a more in-depth interview. And those interviews can take two hours or even longer. So it depends on what the children tell us. So I’d say, with a team of four attorneys, if you’re interviewing several groups, which we sometimes try to do, or if you interview older children who are trying to take care of younger children, then you are interviewing, let’s say, anywhere from ten to twenty children per day.

How many kids are at the facility right now, and do you have some sense of a breakdown of where they’re from?

When we arrived, on Monday, there were approximately three hundred and fifty children there. They were constantly receiving children, and they’re constantly picking up children and transferring them over to an O.R.R. [Office of Refugee Resettlement] site. So the number is fluid. We were so shocked by the number of children who were there, because it’s a facility that only has capacity for a hundred and four. And we were told that they had recently expanded the facility, but they did not give us a tour of it, and we legally don’t have the right to tour the facility.

We drove around afterward, and we discovered that there was a giant warehouse that they had put on the site. And it appears that that one warehouse has allegedly increased their capacity by an additional five hundred kids. When we talked to Border Patrol agents later that week, they confirmed that is the alleged expansion, and when we talked to children, one of the children described as many as three hundred children being in that room, in that warehouse, basically, at one point when he first arrived. There were no windows.

And so what we did then was we looked at the ages of the children, and we were shocked by just how many young children there were. There were over a hundred young children when we first arrived. And there were child-mothers who were also there, and so we started to pull the child-mothers and their babies, we started to make sure their needs were being met. We started to pull the youngest children to see who was taking care of them.

And then we started to pull the children who had been there the longest to find out just how long children are being kept there. Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer. And so, immediately from that population that we were trying to triage, they were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming.

So, in any event, the children told us that nobody’s taking care of them, so that basically the older children are trying to take care of the younger children. The guards are asking the younger children or the older children, “Who wants to take care of this little boy? Who wants to take of this little girl?” and they’ll bring in a two-year-old, a three-year-old, a four-year-old. And then the littlest kids are expected to be taken care of by the older kids, but then some of the oldest children lose interest in it, and little children get handed off to other children. And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.

Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor. They are being given army blankets, those wool-type blankets that are really harsh. Most of the children said they’re being given two blankets, one to put beneath them on the floor. Some of the children are describing just being given one blanket and having to decide whether to put it under them or over them, because there is air-conditioning at this facility. And so they’re having to make a choice about, Do I try to protect myself from the cement, or do I try to keep warm?

We weren’t originally planning to be there on Thursday, but one of the reasons why we came back for a fourth day is that some of the children, on Wednesday, told us that there was a lice infestation, as well as an influenza outbreak, at that facility, and so a number of the children are being taken into isolation rooms, quarantine areas where there’s nobody with them except for other sick children.

There was one child-mother who took her baby in there, because the baby got the flu. And then the mother, because she was in there caring for the child, got the flu as well. And so then she was there for a week, and they took the baby out and gave the baby to an unrelated child to try to take care of the child-mother’s baby. Sorry, I was trying to remember where I was going with that.

It’s fine.

Oh, I know what I wanted to tell you. This is important. So, on Wednesday, we received reports from children of a lice outbreak in one of the cells where there were about twenty-five children, and what they told us is that six of the children were found to have lice. And so they were given a lice shampoo, and the other children were given two combs and told to share those two combs, two lice combs, and brush their hair with the same combs, which is something you never do with a lice outbreak. And then what happened was one of the combs was lost, and Border Patrol agents got so mad that they took away the children’s blankets and mats. They weren’t allowed to sleep on the beds, and they had to sleep on the floor on Wednesday night as punishment for losing the comb. So you had a whole cell full of kids who had beds and mats at one point, not for everybody but for most of them, who were forced to sleep on the cement.

Where are these kids from, and where are most of their parents in most cases?

Almost every child that we interviewed had a parent or relative in the United States. Many of them had parents in the United States and were coming here to be with their parents. Some of the children that we interviewed had been separated from their parents. Most of them were separated from other adult relatives. Almost all the children came across with an adult family member and were separated from them by the Border Patrol. Some of them were separated from their parents themselves; other times it was a grandmother or aunt or an older sibling. We don’t know where the parents are being kept.

They are primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. There are a few from Ecuador, one from Peru.

What is the attitude of the guards to your team?

They are on our side. Multiple guards told us while we were there that they are on our side and they want us to be successful, because the children don’t belong there, and the children need to be picked up and put in appropriate places for children. They want us to be successful.

So things like the comb and the punishment, that’s a rare story? Most of the guards care about the welfare of the kids to some extent?

I’m not going to say that most of the guards care about the kids, because we didn’t talk to most of the guards, but I do believe in the inherent goodness of people. And when I’ve talked to guards, they seemed caring, and they had guards who, when the children were there for these very lengthy interviews, would bring the children lunches in the conference room. They’re terrible lunches. That’s how some of the guards are, but the fact is that some of the guards are bad people, and there’s no question about it.

There are some other stories that we’ve heard from the children, such as . . .

Continue reading.

Gratuitous cruelty to children—that’s the US government today.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 June 2019 at 1:33 pm

Hide the problem, don’t solve it: Government moves migrant kids after AP exposes bad treatment

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Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke report for AP:

The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

Just 30 children remained at the facility near El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar after her office was briefed on the situation by an official with Customs and Border Protection.

Attorneys who visited the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, last week said older children were trying to take care of infants and toddlers, The Associated Press first reported Thursday. They described a 4-year-old with matted hair who had gone without a shower for days, and hungry, inconsolable children struggling to soothe one another. Some had been locked for three weeks inside the facility, where 15 children were sick with the flu and another 10 were in medical quarantine.

“How is it possible that you both were unaware of the inhumane conditions for children, especially tender-age children at the Clint Station?” asked Escobar in a letter sent Friday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner John Sanders and U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost.

She asked to be informed by the end of this week what steps they’re taking to end “these humanitarian abuses.”

Lawmakers from both parties decried the situation last week.

Border Patrol officials have not responded to AP’s questions about the conditions at the Clint facility, but in an emailed statement Monday they said: “Our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.”

Although it’s unclear where all the children held at Clint have been moved, Escobar said some were sent to another facility on the north side of El Paso called Border Patrol Station 1. Escobar said it’s a temporary site with roll-out mattresses, showers, medical facilities and air conditioning.

But Clara Long, an attorney who interviewed children at Border Patrol Station 1 last week, said conditions were not necessarily better there.

“One boy I spoke with said his family didn’t get mattresses or blankets for the first two nights and he and his mom came down with a fever,” said Long, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. “He said there were no toothbrushes, and it was very, very cold.”

Vice President Mike Pence, asked about the unsafe, unsanitary conditions for the children on Meet The Press on Sunday, said “it’s totally unacceptable” adding that he hopes Congress will allocate more resources to border security. [I.e., “don’t blame us” – LG] . . .

Long and a group of lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance. . .

Continue reading.

The US now has concentration camps for children, who are treated poorly in the camps. The US today has become unrecognizable to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2019 at 4:00 pm

Republicans believed Juanita Broaddrick. The new rape allegation against Trump is more credible.

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George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband, has an interesting column in the Washington Post:

“Thank you very much for coming. These four very courageous women have asked to be here and it was our honor to help them. And I think they’re each going to make just an individual, short statement. And then will do a little meeting, and we will see you at the debate.”

With those words, candidate Donald Trump kicked off a news conference just hours before the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, 2016. The brainchild of Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief, the gathering was an effort to blunt the impact of the now-notorious “Access Hollywood” tape, unearthed two days before, on which Trump had boasted of grabbing women by their genitals and doing “anything” to them that he liked.

Sitting with Trump were four women, three of whom claimed to have been subjected to Bill Clinton’s unwelcome sexual advances. One, in particular, was sitting just to Trump’s right.

Her name was Juanita Broaddrick. And she made an accusation of criminal sexual assault.

“Mr. Trump may have said some bad words,” she said, “but Bill Clinton raped me.”

The next night, at a campaign rally in Ambridge, Pa., Trump quoted Broaddrick as saying “Hillary Clinton threatened me after Bill Clinton raped me,” and called Bill Clinton “a predator,” “the worst abuser of women ever to sit in the Oval Office.”

Broaddrick had told her story nearly two decades earlier, first to the media, and then later in a book. She had recounted how, in 1978, Clinton asked her up to his hotel room. How he allegedly forced himself upon her. How she tried to pull away. How he allegedly bit her lip, then later told her to put ice on it. How she sobbed. How she told some of her friends. How she didn’t tell the police. Clinton denied her accusations.

Republicans and conservatives rallied to her cause then, and they did so once again in 2016. Democrats and liberals, not so much — although in the wake of the #MeToo movement, some have since acknowledged the credibility of Broaddrick’s claim.

But today there’s another woman with a similar allegation, against a different powerful man. Her name is E. Jean Carroll.

She, too, says that she was raped — by Donald Trump.

She, too, tells a story about how she was alone with a man. How in 1995 or 1996 that man, Trump, allegedly forced himself upon her. How she tried to fight back. How she tried to push him away and tried to stomp on his foot. How he penetrated her. How she ran out the door. How she told friends. How she didn’t tell the police. Trump also denied the accusations, calling them “fake news” and adding, “She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”

But Trump called Broaddrick “courageous,” and if Broaddrick was courageous, then certainly Carroll is as well. For Carroll’s story is at least as compelling as Broaddrick’s — if not more so.

And that is because Carroll’s claim, for a number of reasons, actually rests upon a significantly stronger foundation than Broaddrick’s.

For one thing, before she went public with her story, Broaddrick had repeatedly denied that Clinton had assaulted her, even under oath: In an affidavit she had submitted in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case against Clinton, Broaddrick had sworn that the allegations “that Mr. Clinton had made unwelcome sexual advances toward me in the late seventies … are untrue,” that the press had previously sought “corroboration of these tales,” but that she had “repeatedly denied the allegations.” (Disclosure: I provided behind-the-scenes pro bono legal assistance to Jones’s lawyers.)

For another, Carroll’s account is supported by the sheer number of claims that have now surfaced against Trump — claims in which women have accused Trump of engaging in unwelcome or forcible sexual conduct or assault against them. These claims — all denied by the president — far outnumber the publicized sexual misconduct incidents that involved Clinton, which mostly concerned rumors or allegations of consensual affairs.

And as if to bring things full circle, Carroll’s account is also of course supported by Trump’s depraved remarks on the “Access Hollywood” video, of which there was simply no equivalent in Broaddrick’s case. Whatever else he may have done, Clinton never made a video like that. What Trump described on the video is exactly what Carroll says he did to her.

Finally, no controversy involving Trump would be complete without at least one utterly brazen, easily disprovable Trumpian lie. In his statement denying the rape allegation, he added the claim that “I’ve never met this person in my life.”

If Trump had even bothered to glance at Carroll’s published account, he would have seen a photograph of himself and his then-wife, Ivana, from 1987 ― in which he was amiably chatting with Carroll and her then-husband. By making the absurd and mendacious assertion that he never even met Carroll, Trump . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2019 at 8:01 pm

Clarence Thomas’s Astonishing Opinion on a Racist Mississippi Prosecutor

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Clarence Thomas never should have been confirmed. The fact that he sits on the Supreme Court today is directly due to Joe Biden, who refused to call witnesses who could corroborate Anita Hill’s (truthful) testimony. It was part of Joe’s mission to kowtow to racists, some he just recently bragged about. Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker:

A Mississippi prosecutor went on a racist crusade to have a black man executed. Clarence Thomas thinks that was just fine.

That’s the message of an astonishing decision today from the Supreme Court. The facts of the case, known as Flowers v. Mississippi, are straightforward. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh put it, in his admirably blunt opinion for the Court, “In 1996, Curtis Flowers allegedly murdered four people in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers is black. He has been tried six separate times before a jury for murder. The same lead prosecutor represented the State in all six trials.” Flowers was convicted in the first three trials, and sentenced to death. On each occasion, his conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court, on the grounds of misconduct by the prosecutor, Doug Evans, mostly in the form of keeping African-Americans off the juries. Trials four and five ended in hung juries. In the sixth trial, the one that was before the Supreme Court, Flowers was convicted, but the Justices found that Evans had again discriminated against black people, and thus Flowers, in jury selection, and they overturned his conviction. (The breathtaking facts of the case and its accompanying legal saga are described at length on the American Public Media podcast “In the Dark.”)

As Kavanaugh recounted in his opinion, Evans’s actions were almost cartoonishly racist. To wit: in the six trials, the State employed its peremptory challenges (that is, challenges for which no reason need be given) to strike forty-one out of forty-two African-American prospective jurors. In the most recent trial, the State exercised peremptory strikes against five of six black prospective jurors. In addition, Evans questioned black prospective jurors a great deal more closely than he questioned whites. As Kavanaugh observed, with considerable understatement, “A court confronting that kind of pattern cannot ignore it.“

But Thomas can, and he did. Indeed, he filed a dissenting opinion that was genuinely outraged—not by the prosecutor but by his fellow-Justices, who dared to grant relief to Flowers, who has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison. Thomas said that the prosecutor’s behavior was blameless, and he practically sneered at his colleagues, asserting that the majority had decided the Flowers case to “boost its self-esteem.” Thomas also found a way to blame the news media for the result. “Perhaps the Court granted certiorari because the case has received a fair amount of media attention,” he wrote, adding that “the media often seeks to titillate rather than to educate and inform.”

The decision in Flowers was 7–2, with Neil Gorsuch joining Thomas’s dissent. The two have become jurisprudentially inseparable, with Gorsuch serving as a kind of deputy to Thomas, as Thomas once served to Antonin Scalia. But Thomas usually has a majority of colleagues on his side, in a way that often eluded Scalia. The Flowers case notwithstanding, Thomas now wins most of the time, typically with the assistance of Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Kavanaugh.

Despite Thomas’s usual silence on the bench (he did ask a question during the Flowers argument), he is clearly feeling ideologically aggressive these days. In his Flowers dissent, Thomas all but called for the overturning of the Court’s landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, from 1986, which prohibits prosecutors from using their peremptory challenges in racially discriminatory ways. Earlier this year, . . .

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Thanks, Joe. I sure hope you do not get the nomination.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2019 at 1:04 pm

How Police Brutality Can Function as Terrorism

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Zak Cheney-Rice writes in New York:

Video was made public over the weekend showing Phoenix police officers threatening to shoot members of a black family, which included a child and a toddler. The incident occurred on May 27, when the 4-year-old daughter of Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper allegedly stole a doll from a Family Dollar store. (NPR reports that the child’s parents were unaware of the alleged theft.) Officers followed the family — Ames and Harper, who was pregnant, and their two daughters, ages 4 and 1 — to an apartment complex where the family’s babysitter lived. Officers are seen on cell-phone video shouting at the four to exit their vehicle. One is heard yelling, “Get your fucking hands up” and “I’m gonna put a fucking cap in you,” while another voice — perhaps of the same officer — is heard threatening, “You’re gonna get fucking shot.”

The profane tirades turn physical when one officer handcuffs Ames and another tries to yank the toddler from Harper’s arms. The officer with Ames shoves the 22-year-old father against a police vehicle, kicks his legs until Ames falls to one knee, and thrusts his elbow into Ames’s back. The officer with Harper is seen shouting and pointing in her face and pulling on the arm in which she is carrying her 1-year-old baby. He eventually permits the pregnant woman to hand her children to a bystander before arresting her. None of the family members is armed.

The confrontation has prompted a $10 million civil-rights lawsuit and apologies from Phoenix’s mayor and chief of police. According to the suit, the 1-year-old was injured when the officer tried to wrench her from her mother; the 4-year-old has been experiencing nightmares and wetting the bed out of distress ever since. As far as accountability, Mayor Kate Gallego has scheduled a public forum where residents can voice their concerns about the incident and called for quicker implementation of body cameras across the Phoenix Police Department — an odd solution given that visual evidence was not lacking here. Aside from that, it is possible that no further legal or administrative recourse will be forthcoming. Officers routinely skate for killing people. Why would black Phoenicians expect them to be held accountable for merely threatening to kill?

Official accountability aside, the fear and mistrust sown in black communities via such incidents and the resulting mental-health downsides are well documented. The Phoenix debacle is further evidence that many officers’ interactions with black children in particular are rooted in intimidation and violence, with far-reaching side effects. By most definitions, the brutality applied disproportionately against black people by police across the United States is not “terrorism,” in a technical sense, only because it is permitted by law. That said, it serves a similar end: ensuring that its targets and their communities live in a state of constant stress, mistrust, and fear, practically from the cradle to the grave.

By most measures, Ames and Harper are lucky to be alive. The wealth of instances where similar interactions have ended with an unarmed black person dead at the hands of police hints at how easily the encounter could have turned fatal. The fear generated by this possibility is not a matter of probability. Like most Americans, black people are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, or even violence committed domestically or on the streets than at the hands of a police officer. But the peculiar nature of law enforcement’s relationship to black communities is what makes it so laden with fear. With the exception of Native Americans — who make up a much smaller share of the general population — black people are the most likely racial demographic to be harassed, brutalized, or killed by police in a given year. This can be attributed in part to the relationship’s long-standing function: During the lynching era — roughly the end of Reconstruction to the end of Jim Crow — the primary job of law enforcement, when it came to black Americans, was to contain them at the bottom of the racial hierarchy by enforcing laws designed to criminalize them, while ensuring that white people were not punished for murdering them or robbing them of their land and labor.

When black people fled the South en masse during the Great Migration to escape this treatment, the cities and towns to which they fled in the North, West, and Midwest greeted them with a presumption of innate criminality, a presumption driven in part by crime statistics that reflected the extent to which the most trivial aspects of their lives — including riding an empty freight train or “speaking loudly in the presence of white women” — had been transformed into crimes in the South. Police were used to corral new black residents into ghettos depressed by poverty and molded by desperation and limited avenues for mobility. Yet remarkably, the structural ills that were imposed on the black sections of these municipalities were cast as products of their residents’ own pathologies. To this day, many Americans remain convinced that the harsh policing that dogs black communities is a necessary response to something inherently wrong with black people. For those on the receiving end, the result is a state of terror. Terrorism works by convincing its targets that they are always being hunted — no matter where they are or what they are doing, their lives are out of their hands. Its aim is victory through fear. And what better way to ensure that people live in fear than to demonstrate that even the most minor transgressions — a 4-year-old’s supposed theft of a doll from a Family Dollar store — can result in their public execution?

The psychological fallout is demonstrated in the data: According to a 2014 study conducted by public-health researchers at Harvard and Boston University, incidents of lethal police violence precipitate a spike in what black adult respondents consider to be “poor mental health days” not just among people close to those victimized but their communities more broadly, judging by metrics established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The impact is racially asymmetrical: “Mental health impacts were not observed among white respondents and resulted only from police killings of unarmed black Americans,” the study reads. For black children, such negative interactions can be formative. A 2018 survey of research on the subject compiled in The Future of Children, a journal of the policy-research partnership between Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution, found that many black youth in Chicago view police as “a constant, inescapable, and unwelcome presence” in their lives. Interactions are marked frequently by officers exerting their dominance in the form of offensive questions and degrading directives, causing black children to feel powerless. As a result, by the time they turn 18, many of these youth have a bleak but well-earned outlook on policing: According to a 2014 survey by the Black Youth Project and the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, more than half of black people between ages 18 and 34 have experienced police violence or harassment or know someone who has. (Thirty-three percent of white respondents and 25 percent of Latino respondents had.) Fewer than half of black respondents said they trust the police, compared to 60 percent of Latinos and 72 percent of whites.

It remains incredible, given this documented mistreatment of so many black children by the police, that pundits and politicians continue to attribute negative disparities to some innate black defect — often located in the black family. Broken black homes are blamed for crime in black communities, with scant or ancillary mention of imposed poverty, the ills of segregation, or the role the state plays in rupturing said families using the criminal-justice system. Police violence is dismissed as subordinate to intraracial violence, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2019 at 3:07 pm

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