Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Watching the waves roll in here in Duck, NC, I have to admit things seem pretty peaceful and serene. It got me wondering why the folks in Ferguson, Mo. are demonstrating on a daily basis about their policing. Wonderment stopped last evening when I came across this video by 35-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department, Sgt. Major Dan Page.  Former Green Beret and supervising cop, Dan’s vaguely known to most  CNN viewers as the enlightened peace officer who shoved reporter Don Lemon from a Ferguson street corner as he tried reporting on the mass protest of 17-year-old Michael Brown’s police-facilitated killing. Lemon was shoved and then was herded to some “Free Speech Zone” in a remote parking lot. Now street-savvy Page is back … and with a right-wing philosophy and blood thirsty vengeance that you’d have to go to 1970s Cambodia to match — “We can kill you anyway we want!”

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President_Barack_Obama305px-USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedThe Government Accountability Office has rendered a decision on the actions of the Obama Administration in swapping five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this year. At the time on CNN and other forums, I noted that President Obama had again openly violated federal law which requires at least 30 days of advance notice in such a change. The GAO agreed and found that the Administration clearly violated federal law. I recently testified (here and here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. As in past cases, defenders of the President insist that any violation was done for the best of reasons, but that is a dangerous rationalization for any violation of law. Presidents always insist that they are acting with the best of motivations when they violate laws. We remain a nation of laws and presidents do not have the option of not complying when the laws are inconvenient or counterproductive. Notably, it was not just one law that President Obama violated in taking this unilateral action.

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220px-Felthat300px-Muddy_Water_Red_desertBelow is my column today on the Perry indictment. I have previously raised my serious reservations about the factual and legal basis for a criminal charge. We obviously do not know what evidence will be presented, particularly evidence of back channel communications that might have occurred over the threatened veto. Such conversations can have a highly damaging effect on jurors as shown by the trial of Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. They can also damage someone politically by exposing uninhibited moments or comments. I have heard from reporters in Texas that there might have been communications between Perry and Lehmberg about her resigning but I have yet to see clear accounts of such communications. However, at the moment, I cannot see the basis for these charges. Perry publicly stated his intent to use his lawful power to veto the line item for the office budget if Lehmberg did not resign. I do not see how the use of such a lawful power in this case would rise to the level of a criminal act.

At the moment, I see a compelling case for dismissal as a threshold legal question for the court. However, the degree to which the court views this matter as turning on the factual allegations as opposed to the legal questions, it could be held over for trial. That is the problem with such ambiguously written provisions is that the court may feel more constrained in dismissing the counts. The result for Perry can be damaging even if he is acquitted as was former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison two decades ago. Hutchinson was charged with using state employees to plan her Christmas vacation in Colorado and write thank-you notes. The case was so weak that it took only 30 minutes for the jury to find her not guilty on all charges. The political danger is the exposure of private communications. Few of us are as crude as Blagojevich or his wife even in private but none of us is likely to look good if our unguarded comments were played out for a national audience. Once again, only time will tell what type of evidence was heard by the grand jury. Yet, my view is that this indictment is very problematic from a constitutional standpoint and offers little to support such a major prosecution.

Here is the column:

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Rho-Chalmers-TDPC-SelfieThere is an interesting story out of Texas in the Perry controversy that raises the difference between grand juries and petit juries. One of the grand jurors, Rho Chalmers, who indicted Governor Rick Perry turned out to be a delegate to the Texas Democratic Party convention who not only actively participated in the convention during her service but actually took a picture with a Democratic state representative who appeared as a witness before her jury.

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250px-flag_of_iransvgWhen following the news from Iran, it is often hard to tell the difference between a news story and a really good joke. The latest story on the Islamically correct lifestyle, according to the Iranian government, involves a study that found that young Iranians were having sex, even homosexual sex, in rising numbers. The 82-page report, issued by Iran’s parliamentary research branch, is alarmed at the findings and recommends that the government push for the use of “temporary” marriages that may last no longer then the tryst itself. It is something akin to a Vegas marriage for good Muslims. Marry, have sex, and then divorce. You are happy. The Mullah is happy. Everyone is happy.

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220px-Jay_Nixon_cropWhile like many I was shocked by the story of the shooting of an unarmed man, Michael Brown, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, I have refrained from making public comments due to the conflicting accounts that have arisen in the case. As a criminal defense attorney, I have long resisted the tendency to rush to judgment, particularly in the midst of public unrest, in such cases. I saw that as a problem in the Trayvon Martin case. Those same concerns were raised this morning with the statement of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon who publicly stated that “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.” Presumably, he is speaking of the arrest and prosecution of Officer Darren Wilson. However, the investigations into the case are continuing and, in my view, Nixon’s comments are wildly inappropriate at this stage.

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196px-National_Football_League_2008.svgAvariceI have said it before but I will say it again. The The National Football League (NFL) remains one of the most greedy and thuggish organizations in the country in dealing with host cities, artists, and citizens. The fact that it has been allowed to retain not-for-profit status is a grotesque triumph of money and lobbying in our country. Now, as proof that the NFL has lost any sense of shame, it is asking artists who want to play at the Superbowl to not simply play for free but to actually pay to play.

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perry2Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned himself in response to the indictment for alleged abuse of power. Regardless of how you feel about Perry, he takes a damn good mug shot.

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milleryoungincident2 We have been following the controversy surrounding the confrontation of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Younga with pro-life advocates on campus. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, filed complaints and Miller-Young was charged with criminal conduct including Theft From Person; Battery; and Vandalism. To the surprise of some of us, faculty and students rallied behind Miller-Young. She remains employed as a faculty member. Miller-Young initially pleaded not guilty but later entered a guilty plea with an apology. She has now been sentenced to sentenced to three years of probation, 108 hours of community service, 10 hours of anger management, $500 in restitution and a small fine. While her actions (and absence of serious university punishment) remain highly disturbing, some of the letters written on her behalf raise new questions over the commitment of University of California faculty to free speech and core academic principles. Miller-Young has been defended by faculty as the victim of a media campaign to portray her as “an Angry Black Woman” and her seemingly happy demeanor on the videotape has been dismissed as a “mask” that she wears as part of a “cultural legacy of slavery.”

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225px-rick_perry_photo_portrait_august_28_2004Late yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin on charges of abuse of power. The charges stem from Perry carrying out a threat to veto funding the budget for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, which handles political corruption investigations.

District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg had been arrested for drunk driving and was widely criticized for her conduct while in custody. She refused to resign even after been sentenced to jail and Perry carried out his threat. I have been critical of Perry in the past and I believe that his veto was wrongheaded. However, I view the indictment as very troubling on a separation of powers basis and the result of the extension of criminal provisions with tangential applicability to this type of dispute.

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dJZiSXft_400x400There is a controversy at the University of Illinois over the right of faculty to express views on social media outside of their positions. Steven Salaita had already been offered a tenured position in the American Indian studies program on the Champaign-Urbana campus and was just waiting for approval by the university’s Board of Trustees, usually a perfunctory stage. However, Salaita posted strongly anti-Israeli sentiments after the start of the recent war in Gaza. After those postings, he was informed that the university was rescinding its offer due to opposition on the board.

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225px-alberto_gonzales_-_official_doj_photographPresident_Barack_ObamaFirst there is the record low polls of his popularity. Then there is the growing independent view that there is no chance that the Democrats can retake the House and that the GOP could not only gain seats in the House but retake the Senate. However, nothing likely prepared President Barack Obama for this. His controversial use of unilateral authority has been defended by . . . former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. You may recall Gonzales who was so vilified for his politicalization of the Justice Department and blind support of executive power that he had a difficult time even landing a job. The Gonzales defense is part of a bizarre new world of Democratic politics. Democratic members of Congress recently lined up to quote Associate Justice Antonin Scalia for his restrictive views on standing — a view that has been used to bar public interest organizations in environmental and civil liberties cases. The Obama Administration now routinely pitches appeals to the four most conservative members of the Supreme Court on presidential powers and the most vocal supporters of the President’s use of virtually unchecked power is coming from former Bush officials. Such is the inversive world in which we live. The Democrats have largely abandoned traditional values tied to civil liberties, war powers, privacy, and other core issues in favor of supporting Obama. The result is that you find yourself left with Alberto Gonzales as your pro bono counsel.

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article-2723659-20794D3A00000578-930_634x487article-2723659-2080250B00000578-342_634x478We recently discussed the homicidal hunk from ISIS who is all the rage with Muslim women looking for a husband to watch martyred. The extremist Sunni movement has been reaching out to Westerners to join their self-declared caliphate and thousands have reportedly responded. Now even more disturbing pictures have been posted with a father from Australia having his seven-year-old son holding up a severed head in celebration and a former British rapper (right) doing the same. Beheadings are viewed by ISIS as a traditional Islamic form of execution and a type of macabre celebration of their view of Islam. Severed heads feature prominently on ISIS (or Islamic State) social media postings.

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Rashi_woodcutAnd you thought the Redskins controversy was bad.

There are reports this week is of a bizarre confrontation where the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has asked the French government to rename a small village in central France that is currently called “Death to Jews” (La Mort aux Juifs). However, the town is resisting the efforts to change the name that dates back to the 11th Century.

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609px-Coat_of_arms_of_Kenya.svgThe anti-homosexual movement in Kenya continues this week with an infamous bill that would reportedly allow foreign homosexual people stoned to death in public. The law would allow such executions for foreigners who commit one homosexual act while imposing a life sentence on Kenyan nationals.

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