Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Modern Debtors' Prisons

Debtors’ prisons were banned under federal law in 1833. A century and a half later, in 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating indigent debtors was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

Yes, a person may be jailed while awaiting trial because they could not afford bail and could not afford the non-refundable 10% a bail bondsman charges. But that is not the only way people end up in jail. A creditor, or a debt collector hired by the creditor, may bypass bankruptcy court and take the debtor straight to civil court. If the debtor fails to show up, or if the judge deems that the debtor is “willfully” not paying the debt, the judge may write a warrant for the debtor’s arrest. A person owing money in a civil case may end up being charged criminally for "failing to appear in court," "disobeying a court order," or for "contempt of court." While a criminal defendant is afforded legal counsel, a person owing money may end up in jail without having had a lawyer.

Then there are criminal justice financial obligations, or "offender-funded" justice. These are fines, fees, and restitution. Included are traffic tickets, jail book-in fees, bail investigation fees, public defender application fees, drug testing fees, DNA testing fees, jail per-diems for pretrial detention, court costs, felony surcharges, public defender recoupment fees, and restitution owed to the victim or victims for personal or property damage. An offender may also have to pay the costs of imprisonment, parole, and probation, which may include fees for re-entry (into society), drug rehab, and electronic monitoring.

And if an offender or ex-offender fails to pay any of this debt, the court will outsource the debt to a private debt collector, and the process of taking the debtor to court begins all over again.

These debts affect creditworthiness, eligibility for a driver’s license, and any employment an "offender" may have had. These debts make it harder to get a job, get a home, get a loan, or otherwise find a way to avoid more jail time while trying to repay that existing debt.

Welcome to America.

The US bail system punishes the poor and rewards the rich
Ending Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons
Debtors’ Prisons, Then and Now: FAQ

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Electoral College Plus Notes on the Modern GOP

Originally, more than half the states chose electors in their legislatures rather than by the voting public in the election. The electoral college was intended to give less populous states increased representation, to preserve the presidency as independent of Congress (the House only votes in the event of a deadlock), and to try to insulate the election process from political manipulation. The biggest problem is that people's votes are not given equal weight, some states have a winner take all system (essentially disenfranchises people who didn't vote for that state's winner), it discourages 3rd parties, and swing states are given undue importance. If you believe in "one person one vote," the electoral college is unfair.

On another note, there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud. In-person voter fraud is very rare. From 2000 to 2014 there were only 31 confirmed cases of voter impersonation fraud out of more than a billion votes cast. Voter suppression, however, is alive and well. Extreme gerrymandering, voter photo ID requirements, disinformation even when contrary to specific court orders, not enough voting machines in minority districts, restrictions on early voting and absentee ballots, distorted purging of voter rolls, sending registration confirmation requests to deliberately false addresses, and voter intimidation. And don't tell me both sides are equally bad and don't try to dismiss facts with name-calling. If you really believe all the lies that you are told, then you are beyond reasoning with.

The modern GOP. Racist, dishonest, looking out for the interests of large corporations and the wealthy. They are against environmental protections, worker protections, fiscal responsibility, food safety, consumer protections, public education, sane energy policies, equal justice, and Social Security (a self-funded program which is separate by law from the federal budget and has no effect on the National Debt).

Are you really against minimum wage laws? When people don't make a living wage, they need government assistance. When taxpayers have to fork out money to help a business's workers, that is corporate welfare.

Cutting Medicaid, gutting health insurance and giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy? Do wealthy people need tax relief? Universal health care such as that enjoyed by most other western countries is labeled communist or socialist and is against radical conservative's philosophy of individual responsibility without social responsibility (I've got mine, you can go to hell). They must be afraid that bankruptcies due to medical bills (including for those who are insured) will diminish. Their philosophy of individual responsibility doesn't even extend to paying employees enough so that they can be individually responsible.

If you really think Republicans are fiscally conservative, then you have been conned. They have been hard at work for decades to lower federal revenues so that they have an excuse to cut social programs and eventually to drown the federal government in a bathtub.

Draining the Swamp

Sure, Trump is draining the swamp. Right into the White House. Have you bothered to see who he has appointed to head government agencies? People whose mission is to deregulate and to deconstruct the agencies that they head. He surrounds himself with Goldman Sachs' executives, conspiracy theorists, purveyors of fake news, and people who don't like the federal government.

Just last week Trump said, "We're going to be working with Congress on helping out the state of Texas...It's going to be a costly proposition, because, again probably Ted Cruz is here." He refused to put his assets into a blind trust and is raking in money from people who are hoping to buy influence (Mar-A-Lago, Trump Tower, violations of the emoluments clause of The Constitution). He has long been known as Don the Con and regularly screwed employees and stiffed contractors. He has had numerous bankruptcies, including for a casino that he ran into the ground with a billion dollars in debt. Who loses money on a casino??

He lies constantly about easily checked things such as his inaugural crowd. He blamed Democrats for the failure of the ACA repeal even though he never bothered to talk to any of them, and now he is threatening to sabotage it because it's not imploding like he thinks it should. He thinks Climate Change is a hoax and does not understand the difference between climate and weather. He is vindictive, hateful, impetuous, and corrupt. He thinks health insurance works like life insurance, where "by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan." For $12 a year.

He pardoned Arpaio, who was labeled the worst sheriff in the U.S., and who treated presumed innocent people awaiting trial as if they were the scum of the earth. Arpaio's thugs even turned a paraplegic into a quadriplegic in the "punishment chair" because he had the temerity to request a medically necessary catheter. A paraplegic turned quadriplegic who was a guest of Arpaio for one day while he awaited trial for possession of pot. Arpaio, a man who was found guilty and then refused to follow the judge's orders and was thus found in contempt and was awaiting sentencing. A man who apparently shared Trump's disdain for the rule of law and for judges.

Trump is the guy who claimed Hillary didn't have the stamina to be president and then excused his atrocious behavior towards a foreign leader by saying that it was after 5 and he was tired. This is your hero and savior. An ignorant, narcissistic, praise-seeking, delusional, corrupt, threatening, insulting, angry, hateful idiot.

Yeah, go ahead and dismiss criticism of Trump by other world leaders as a deflection. Don't believe the confessions of collusion with Russia by Trump's people. Ignore all of the fact-checking as fake news. Just don't expect us to join you in your delusions. We have seen the truth.