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Pinback's Journal
Pinback's Journal
January 19, 2021

Reality check - "Biden vs. Trump: Who's the Actual Criminal Justice Reformer?"

Welcome to DU! I don't mean to pick on a newcomer, but I feel it's important to point out that The First Step Act -- and the Trump Administration's criminal justice policies -- are at best an extremely mixed bag.

Biden vs. Trump: Who’s the Actual Criminal Justice Reformer? - Politico, 4/23/2020

Despite a bipartisan push to reduce the United States’ highest-in-the-world incarceration rate, the prison population decreased only slightly in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. It was the last year in a slow but steady decade-long decline to the current population of 1.5 million.
- much more at link:

Trump Just Bragged About Criminal Justice Reform. Look Closer at How His Administration Is Undoing It. - Mother Jones, 2/4/2020

During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump praised himself for his work on criminal justice reform. “Our roaring economy has for the first time ever given many former prisoners the ability to get a great job and a fresh start,” he said. “This second chance at life is made possible because we passed landmark criminal justice reform into law. Everybody said that criminal justice reform couldn’t be done, but I got it done and the people in this room got it done.”

Yes, it’s true that Trump—the same man who recommended heavier enforcement of stop and frisk policing, and whose administration brought back the federal death penalty and fueled the expansion of private prisons—signed a much-heralded bill in 2018 to reform the federal criminal justice system, with broad bipartisan support. The First Step Act made changes that have reduced the federal prison population, and it was the first criminal justice reform bill to pass Congress in a generation. So far, the law has shortened the prison stays of about 2,500 people who were serving disproportionately long sentences for crack cocaine offenses, most of them African American. It has also let more than 3,000 people go home early because of their good behavior during incarceration. And it could lead to improvements in prison conditions.

But as Trump claims credit for freeing people from prison, there’s one very big problem that he’s not mentioning: His Justice Department is actively pushing to send some of these same people back behind bars, and to prevent others from reducing their sentences—which greatly limits who can benefit from the law that Trump has touted as one of his signature achievements.
- more at link: https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2020/02/trump-just-bragged-about-criminal-justice-reform-look-closer-at-how-his-administration-is-undoing-it/

Oh, yes, this too: Trump administration has executed more Americans than all states combined, report finds - The Guardian, 12/16/2020

The Trump administration ultimately executed 13 prisoners, most recently Dustin Higgs.
January 19, 2021

I'm familiar with that deer-in-the-headlights look

When I've tried to explain to conservatives that Trump's reduction of the "death tax" does nothing for the average person, I've gotten blank stares. Before Trump's windfall for the 1%, the estate tax exemption was about 5 1/2 million bucks per person, or around $11 million per couple. I dunno about you, but that certainly was never even close to being an issue in my family. (And if it had been, what a nice problem to have, eh?)

Now the estate tax exemption is a little more than double what it was before the Treasury looters came into power. So Trump, Ryan, and McConnell's scam provides unnecessary "relief" for the top-hat-and-furs crowd but does absolutely nothing for 99% of Americans.

January 6, 2021

Greetings from Georgia's Blue Wall

I live in DeKalb County, Georgia, where the highest percentage of voters went for Warnock and Ossoff in this runoff election (83+ % at this point in the count). My wife and I went to bed being very cautiously optimistic, half-resigned to ultimate defeat. We're so used to losing here that even after 2018 and 2020, we're reluctant to allow ourselves hope.

I was hoping to be awakened by fireworks at 3 a.m. when both races were called for the Democrats, but no such luck. Then I awoke this morning to news of Warnock's victory.

You already know this, but it's stunning, I have to tell you.

Senator Warnock. The first Black U.S. senator in this state's history. Wow.

Recent Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate include Michele Nunn (Sen. Sam Nunn's daughter), who would have been fine but didn't sufficiently inspire the Dem electorate, and that idiot Vernon Jones who was recently seen crowd surfing at a Trump rally. Somewhere in the past decade or two we had a white centrist candidate who admitted having used crack. Winning combination! But I digress.

And now Ossoff is on the cusp of victory it seems. Most of the uncounted votes should only enlarge his current 16,000-vote lead. I'm not ready to put the champagne on ice yet, but it's not looking bad. There will be recounts and demonstrations, of course, and all kinds of bullshit from the Republicans. But it's looking like we just might pull this off.

From being "represented" in the Senate a sleazeball dollar-store magnate and a trophy-wife whose "career" is based entirely on her husband's wealth, we're now going to have one of the nation's greatest voices from the modern Black church and a young progressive Jew.

This is Georgia, 2021. We still have Republicans in control at the state level, and it will take continued hard fighting to hold on to these Senate seats and the Congressional seats we've flipped in the last two election cycles. But we have a fight we can win. And we have a lot of new, excited young, Black, Brown, Asian, and progressive voters of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages who are fired up to keep on fighting.

This is Georgia, 2021. From DeKalb County: Thank you, and you're welcome.

January 5, 2021

How about some love for Nse Ufot?

Don't get me wrong. I love Stacey Abrams. After all, I changed my avatar to her photo a couple of months ago. But in all the well-deserved praise for Ms. Abrams, sometimes we overlook the many thousands of other hard-working Georgians who are changing this state. Another of the inspiring women who've stepped up to help harness the power of Georgia's emerging Democratic majority is Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project.

Here she is in an NPR segment from a couple of days ago:
CEO Of New Georgia Project On 'Aggressive' Voter Participation Efforts

So we've run essentially our traditional campaign, but on an aggressively truncated timeline, right? So in the immediate aftermath of the November 5 general election, we immediately went into what we call ballot curing, right? So there are tons of people with provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that were on the verge of being rejected for a number of reasons. And we would knock on their door and say, hey, we have reason to believe that your ballot is going to be rejected if you don't take your ID down to the county office, if you don't fill out this affidavit, if you don't go there and find your envelope, et cetera.

And then, immediately after ballot curing, we went into voter registration and registered about 7,000 young people and people of color across the state. And then after the voter registration deadline on December 7, we immediately went into sort of get-out-the-vote mode because early voting started December 14. And as it has been reported now across the country, we have blown through all kinds of turnout records for participation in runoff elections in Georgia. So we've been a little busy...


UFOT: ...Trying to make sure that as many people as possible show up again to vote in these runoffs.

We are looking at something like - we've cracked the 30% threshold for Black voters. Over 30% of the people who've shown up to vote early are African American voters. I would also add that we are looking at 115,000 people who voted in the runoff who did not vote in the 2020 general election. And over half of them are people of color. And about half of them are voters under the age of 40 - so between the ages of 18 and 39. So those are folks who did not vote in November.

The segment is well worth 7 minutes of your time: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/953073942

From her 2019 bio on shethepeople:
Powerhouse lawyer turned top voter engagement strategist, Nse has been the force behind changing the political landscape in Georgia and she does it with such pizazz -- art shows, video game competitions. She makes voting fun -- all the cool kids are doing it. That’s why she’s on a mission to reshape the political landscape of Georgia, one voter at a time. In her role as the executive director of the New Georgia Project, she leads an ambitious effort to register 800,000 new voters of color and young people while cultivating civic engagement among through an innovative blend of technology, art and culture. In November (2019), the organization hosted Game Jam, a 72-hour video game contest focused on voter protection and engagement. By combining gaming and voting, they hope to increase black and brown youth participation in the civic and electoral process.

Nse’s experience as an immigrant from Nigeria has prepared her to fight for the American Dream to become a reality for everyone. She wants to know what Georgians care about, their hopes and aspirations and what keeps them up at night. Staying focused on people and their communities is the focus of New Georgia Project’s work in 2020. They plan to register 100,000 people of color to vote, help Georgia flip the State House from red to blue and make sure there is a full and accurate census count in the state so that hard to count populations have their needs met.

This video from 2016 gives you some idea of the New Georgia Project's attitude and energy:


As a long-time Georgia resident, I'm accustomed to preparing to swallow the periodic bitter pill at election time. And I'm certainly not over confident this time. But we have a fighting chance, a good chance. And the great work and positive spirit of Nse Ufot and her organization are among the big factors.

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Hometown: GA
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