Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 8, 2012

This week, seemingly in response to the controversy regarding the NYPD’s invasive stop and frisk policy, New York Governor Cuomo announced a plan to reduce and/or eliminate penalties for marijuana possession. But there will still be a stop and frisk policy in place, so what’s the point? The Teapublicans have been playing prevent defense against President Obama since the beginning of his term in 2009. By refusing to pass any legislation that might help the economy they seek to blame the Obama Administration for the faltering economy –and Americans suffer in the meantime. And finally, as the presidential campaign is now down to the Final Two, it might be a good time to remember that the president is the one who appoints Supreme Court justices.

As Shell of a Shell Game

The NYPD stop and frisk policy is drawing more heat by the day as the number of stops continues to increase exponentially. The fact is that these warrantless interventions into the lives of too many young minority men can only corrode and erode community relations and impede law enforcement for years to come.

Now New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed to drastically reduce and/or eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of very small amounts of marijuana. Presumably the thinking is that since huge numbers of these stop and frisk interventions have primarily yielded marijuana possession arrests (not gun possession), by reducing or eliminating the ensuing criminal penalties there is less reason to complain about stop and frisk.

This is a shell of a shell game. Stop and frisk is still stop and frisk. The intrusion into the lives of private citizens by the police without probable cause is simply wrong and certainly treads on the constitutional rights of every person who is stopped and frisked. Reducing the consequent criminal penalties does not make stop and frisk a defensible police procedure.

It has been noted in this column that constitutional rights are not an inconvenience for law enforcement. Constitutional rights are to be observed and protected by the police. Governor Cuomo’s proposal, while a good idea, misses the point to the extent it is meant to address the stop and frisk controversy.

Prevent Defense

In the National Football League some teams adopt a strategy of just trying to keep the other team from scoring while not trying to be aggressive on defense or on offense. Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president the Republicans and Teapublicans have employed a prevent defense strategy seeking to obstruct President Obama’s policies while offering little in the way of substantive proposals.

This has been especially true with respect to the economy. Every proposal made by President Obama that might create jobs or stimulate the economy has been opposed by the Teapublicans. This stubborn obstructionism almost drove this country over the default brink last summer and threatens to do so again at the end of this year.

The resulting economic dysfunction is as predictable as the sun rising. And as Americans yearn for job growth and a healthy business climate, the Teapublicans seek to blame President Obama. Whenever there is a sign of the economy improving we hear that the Obama Administration’s policies are irrelevant. When the economic signs lag it is all put at the doorstep of the White House.

This cynical strategy has imposed untold suffering on the American people. It continues to be the task of President Obama to call out the Teapublicans whenever and wherever possible.

Keep Your Eyes on the Court

A recent poll states that only 44% of Americans have confidence in the United States Supreme Court. Considering the blatantly partisan philosophy and decisions of the RobertsAlitoScaliaThomas alliance on the court, it is surprising that 44% of the American people still take the SCOTUS seriously.

We have seen the political landscape shifted into the money pit thanks to the Citizens United decision. We are braced for the evisceration, if not the elimination of the Affordable Health Care Act and now that the issue of same sex marriage is headed to the Supreme Court we don’t need to be fortune tellers to guess the probable outcome.

These events points out the importance of the coming presidential election. It is quite possible that during the next four years there may be two or more vacancies on the Supreme Court. A President Romney will certainly walk the Teapublican plank and his appointments will join the relatively young and healthy RobertsAlitoScaliaThomas alliance to form an impregnable right wing of the right wing court for the next twenty years.
With his appointments of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan it is pretty clear what appointments by President Obama will bring to the court.

When discussions about the presidential choices arise, please keep SCOTUS in mind.

Have a great weekend!