- Associated Press - Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

No problem, no shackles

Doing things the way they’ve always been done is not always the best way to go.

The Illinois Supreme Court made a common-sense decision last week when it adopted a new rule that, as a general proposition, will end the practice of shackling juveniles when they make court appearances.

Under the new approach, which becomes effective Nov. 1, the current approach some counties embrace will be reversed. Instead of automatically shackling juveniles, the rules will require that they not be shackled unless they pose some sort of threat to security or courtroom decorum. The ultimate decision will be made by the judge.

The change in policy was promoted by the Illinois Justice Project, which objected to the more punitive approach adopted by an unspecified number of the state’s 102 counties.

Champaign County is not among them. Minors who are held in detention here and taken to court are not shackled unless they pose a problem. A spokesman for the probation office recently said that any deviation from the regular routine is rare, occurring “once every couple of months.”

The new approach will put an end to what Chief Justice Rita Garman described as the “indiscriminate shackling of minors,” and for good reason.

If shackles are not necessary to prevent a disruption in the courtroom, they’re not necessary at all.

Critics complained that juveniles held in shackles are humiliated and traumatized as a consequence of wearing the restraints. Most juveniles as well as their family members should, and probably do, feel shaken just as a consequence of being arrested and required to appear in court. Whether shackles further aggravate the problem is a matter of speculation.

But because the typical juvenile court appearance is not a matter of security, the psychological aspect of unnecessary shackling is irrelevant. The high court has made a sensible response to a legitimate concern.


October 9, 2016

Chicago Sun-Times

Illinois’ campaign finance limits just a shell game

For a glaring example of how Illinois campaign finance limits are utterly inadequate, look no further than the caper pulled last week by the campaign fund for Republican comptroller candidate Leslie Munger.

Just days after raking in a cool $5 million from two billionaire allies of Gov. Bruce Rauner, Munger’s fund transferred $3 million to the Illinois Republican Party. Now the party is free to dole out all that cash to other races, doing an end-run around legal limits. Munger was free act as a pass-through for the $5 million because she recently blew the funding limit caps off her own race by accepting a large campaign loan from her husband.

So much for limited the overwhelming advantage of billionaires. Maybe our state symbol should be the loophole.

This is a shell game played both parties play, and it is legal. But we should all be troubled by the spectacle of big donors and politicians slipping through back doors to circumvent campaign finance laws. Both parties have set up webs of candidate committees, political parties and super PACs that allow them to elude the weak laws and shower unlimited piles of cash on their candidates.

In theory, the most a single donor can give to a campaign is $5,400, but moving the money from one fund to another is just one trick used to defeat donation limits. As Mick Dumke and Tina Sfondeles reported earlier this month, the Illinois Democratic Party under leader Michael Madigan also shuffles money through various committees to dodge donation limits.

As a result, more than $2 million has been spent in each of three politically key Illinois House races.

Illinois’ campaign finance law also is flawed because it imposes fund-raising limits on candidates, but not on legislative leaders. As we have written for years, reforms are long overdue to break this financial dominance over the Statehouse rank and file. Or party leaders will continue to make big decisions behind closed doors without the open debate essential to a democracy.


October 8, 2016

The (Alton) Telegraph

Political class failures giving rise to populism

Whatever the outcome of November’s presidential election, one particular note should be apparent to political leaders going forward: Populism is alive and strong in American politics.

But it’s not unique to the United States this year; populism is trending globally.

There is an evident global frustration with those in the political class who are viewed to be out of touch with the average person. These folks are voting for what they believe will disrupt the political system and displace the establishment.

To that aim, 2016 has numerous examples: In the United Kingdom voters surprisingly voted to exit the European Union in June. In May, the Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte, a brash politician known for making cringe-worthy statements that often rightly inspire global condemnation.

And closer to home, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been built on tapping into populist frustrations of Americans who feel as though they are unrepresented, disenfranchised, left behind and poorly served by the American government. It was a similar populist sentiment that carried the Bernie Sanders campaign. And now, even Hillary Clinton has recognized that some of the populist policies Sanders and Trump have floated are gaining traction and she has assumed similar positions, specifically talking about trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Populism has gone global this year and is due in no small part to global economics - and the economic choices many politicians have instituted since the onset of the global recession. As was argued by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times: “Real income stagnation over a far longer period than any since the second world war is a fundamental political fact.”

Wolf drew data from the McKinsey Global Institute’s report, “Poorer than their Parents?” which detailed the number of households suffering from real incomes that are either stagnant or falling: “On average between 65 and 70 percent of households in 25 high-income economies experienced this between 2005 and 2014. In the period between 1993 and 2005, however, only 2 percent of households suffered stagnant or declining real incomes.”

This staggering data alone is enough to explain why voters are angry, scared and rightly frustrated with the political class.

It’s easy for politicians and government leaders to dismiss these populist winds, but that’s a dangerous proposition. Voters are frustrated because government has become ineffective, political leaders are out of touch and unaccountable, and the fortunes of the elite seem to improve while the many stagnate or get worse.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of the 2016 election is that populism is bred when the political class fails to listen and act.

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