Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dumb and Dumber (Part II)

Following up on my post Dumb and Dumber from 2014, word comes today of psychology's Glimmer Twins, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, and their depositions in a civil suit against them and their shady practices that led to the War on Terror's more ignominious torture practices back in 2002.

Fifteen years after he helped devise the brutal interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects in secret C.I.A. prisons, John Bruce Jessen, a former military psychologist, expressed ambivalence about the program.
He described himself and a fellow military psychologist, James Mitchell, as reluctant participants in using the techniques, some of which are widely viewed as torture, but also justified the practices as effective in getting resistant detainees to cooperate.
“I think any normal, conscionable man would have to consider carefully doing something like this,” Dr. Jessen said in a newly disclosed deposition. “I deliberated with great, soulful torment about this, and obviously I concluded that it could be done safely or I wouldn’t have done it.”
The two psychologists — whom C.I.A. officials have called architects of the interrogation program, a designation they dispute — are defendants in the only lawsuit that may hold participants accountable for causing harm.
Read the story and watch the excerpts from their depositions (I particularly like the one dope's response about the insult slap: "It's discombobulating, sure, but it doesn't hurt.").

Frankly, I think nailed these two "clinical psychologists" accurately back in 2014:
These clowns, in the face of overwhelming expert opinion showing these techniques could not and would not ever produce actionable intelligence, nonetheless were the architects of some of the most brutal actions ever taken by U.S. personnel against foreign enemies.
The trial in September is sure to be an interesting one. We'll watch and report the verdict come fall.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Men Willingly Believe What They Wish

How Outrage Built Over A Shakespearean Depiction of Trump:

All over the country, from Oklahoma to Oregon, theaters have been staging “Julius Caesar” this year as a way to chew over politics, power, democracy and authoritarianism at a moment when a populist leader with a fondness for executive power has moved into the White House.
Most of the productions take place without incident, but Mr. Eustis’s, which opened Monday night in New York, has been engulfed in controversy ever since a bootleg video of the assassination of Caesar, who is styled and performed to suggest Mr. Trump, began circulating on the internet last week and some who had seen the performance started to complain.
The production is also explicit and graphic, featuring a blond, Trump-like Caesar in a red tie, whose bloody stabbing is seen as offensive and inappropriate to some who have seen it. They, along with Breitbart News and Fox News, have driven a campaign on social media against the Public that has prompted two corporate sponsors — Delta Air Lines and Bank of America — to withdraw their support of the production, and a third, American Express, to distance itself.
Sidebar: Bank of America pulling its funding of this is almost laughable. I guess when you're still forking out $17 billion in settlement fines to the Justice Department for having defrauded your customers and investors, it's kind of difficult to pony up for the arts.

But we digress.
“It was appalling,” Laura Sheaffer said in a radio interview. “Shocking.”
Ms. Sheaffer, a sales manager for Salem Media, a conservative-leaning media group, saw a performance on June 3. Three days later she described her dismay over the production in a conversation with the conservative radio host and comedian Joe Piscopo, then voiced her concern again to the media and politics site Mediaite, declaring “I don’t love President Trump, but he’s the president. You can’t assassinate him on a stage.” Mediaite made the most of the story, posting it with the headline “Senators Stab Trump to Death in Central Park Performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”
Talk about the proverbial snowflakes. If you know anything about Julius Caesar, you know it's Shakespeare's cautionary tale against political violence...about what happens in the aftermath of political assassinations (Caesar is whacked about mid-way through the play; the second half is about said disastrous effects).

And another sidebar: is that what happened to former SNL star Joe Piscopo from back in the 80's? He became a conservative radio host? I guess you can only make a living doing Sinatra impersonations for so long.
Still, the wheels of conservative media — as well as some other outlets — were already in motion. Breitbart and The Blaze jumped in, citing Ms. Sheaffer, along with Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog. Television’s “Inside Edition” quoted an unidentified audience member on camera saying, “I didn’t like that they made this person who looks like Trump get assassinated.”
On Sunday, “Fox and Friends,” the Trump-friendly morning show on Fox News, gave the outrage its largest platform, running multiple segments on the story. “Notice, nobody has a problem with it on the left,” said Pete Hegseth, a “Fox and Friends” host who appeared with Mr. Trump during his presidential campaign. “Nobody seems to care. It’s only us talking about it.”
That is odd, isn't it? I wonder why they are talking about this production, but they weren't talking about a similar staging of Julius Caesar back in 2012 which featured Caesar as Obama, replete with bloody assassination and everything?
Five years ago, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis staged a production featuring the assassination of an Obama-esque Caesar by a group of right-wing conspirators. "their side" getting over on Obama as Caesar is good, the "other side" getting over on Trump as Caesar bad. Got it. 

Say what you will about the "libtards," at least they were/are consistent on this one: support for the 2012 production, support for the 2017 production.

While Julius Caesar is considered one of Shakespeare's "tragedies," this reaction to it is nothing but comedy. The entire brouhaha shows how bizarrely hyper-partisan, politically-correct, and intellectually dumb we've become as a country.

And say what you will about Bill Shakespeare, but is there another writer who, 420 years later, is still mixing it up and getting in people's grills?

Veni, Vidi, about a career!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ending Mass Incarceration Through Art

Agnes Gund Sells A Lichtenstein To Start A Criminal Justice Fund:

In January, rumors swirled that the art collector and patron Agnes Gund had sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein “Masterpiece” for a whopping $150 million, placing it among the 15 highest known prices ever paid for an artwork.
Ms. Gund is confirming that sale now, revealing that she parted with the painting (for what was actually $165 million, including fees) for a specific purpose: to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.
This new Art for Justice Fund — to be announced Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, where Ms. Gund is president emerita — will start with $100 million of the proceeds from the Lichtenstein (which was sold to the collector Steven A. Cohen through Acquavella Gallery).
“This is one thing I can do before I die,” Ms. Gund, 78, said in an interview at her Upper East Side apartment, where the Lichtenstein used to hang over the mantel, along with works by Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko. “This is what I need to do.”
I had to read that a couple of times to actually believe it, especially the words on the fund's website.
The criminal justice policies that lead to these disproportionate outcomes devastate entire communities: not only the people sentenced to prison, but also the families they leave behind.
Yet there is little investment in proven prevention, education and re-entry programs that could reduce incarceration and recidivism — and transform millions of lives.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
More from the article:
The effort is noteworthy, not only for the amount of money involved — rarely do charitable undertakings start at $100 million — but because Ms. Gund is essentially challenging fellow collectors to use their artworks to champion social causes at a time when the market has made their holdings more valuable than ever.
“The larger idea is to raise awareness among a community of art collectors that they can use their influence and their collections to advance social justice,” said Darren Walker, the Ford Foundation’s president. “Art has meaning on a wall, but it also has meaning when it is monetized.”
Those who have already committed to the fund — and are being called founding donors — include Laurie M. Tisch, a chairwoman of the Whitney Museum of American Art; Kenneth I. Chenault, chief executive of American Express, and his wife, Kathryn; the philanthropist Jo Carole Lauder; the financier Daniel S. Loeb; and Brooke Neidich, a Whitney trustee.
“There’s long been this criticism that people who have the means to acquire fine art are allowed to surround themselves with beautiful things while they are unwilling to look at the ugly realities that sometimes shape a community or a culture or a country,” said Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. “Using this art to actually respond to over-incarceration or racial inequality or social injustice is a powerful idea.”
The impetus for the fund was personal. Six of Ms. Gund’s 12 grandchildren are African-American, and she has worried about their future as they’ve matured, particularly in light of shootings of black teenagers like Trayvon Martin in Florida.

After seeing the film, Ms. Gund called Mr. Walker, long a close friend. “She said, ‘I really want to do something to help here,’” Mr. Walker recalled. “‘What if I sold one of my jewels and we used the proceeds to make grants to organizations working on mass incarceration?’”

Because criminal justice “has never been very popular in philanthropy,” Mr. Stevenson said, “I’m hoping the fund will help energize some long overdue reform efforts.
Incredibly, I have absolutely nothing snarky or sarcastic to say about this piece. I'm simply blown away by the recognition of this problem from what is otherwise the very rarefied world of art collecting. As Stevenson said, you just don't ever see criminal justice, particularly mass incarceration, a hot topic in the world of philanthropy and the arts.

But there it is. Thank you Ms. Gund, and all the other donors. Maybe I'll apply for a grant myself, seeing as the novel I'm working on currently deals directly with mass incarceration and criminal justice. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Degradation Ceremony

Innocent Until Your Mugshot Is On The Internet:

We can guess at why we want to see the photos of the famous facing legal trouble, or rubberneck at Mr. Medlin’s transformation — as powerful an antidrug yarn as Nancy Reagan could ever have spun.
Yeah, for the same reason people slow up at traffic accidents.
Why, though, did we see the images in the first place?
The simple answer is as routine as the booking photo itself: They’re public documents.
There’s a more complicated answer, too, since the United States professes a belief in blind justice while eagerly distributing photos of its accused. It’s not that police departments in England and Canada don’t collect photographs of people they’ve arrested; they just release them only on occasion, such as when there’s a jailbreak or a murder suspect on the loose. As Eddie Townsend, spokesman for the City of London Police, put it: “It goes back to the principle of innocent until proven guilty.”
Which publishing mugshots immediately contradicts: once your mug is out there online, in the newspaper, or collected in these sleazy publications designed specifically for mugshots, the presumption is guilt, even if you are, in fact, innocent of the charges for which you've been arrested.
Most states don’t limit their distribution, and some police departments believe putting out these images is an important part of transparency and serving their communities. Sheriff’s offices in large and tiny counties alike now post mug shots to slick, constantly updated websites. Under its former sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County, Ariz., even held a contest in which visitors voted on a mug shot of the day.
Local TV affiliates present them in slide shows, and crime-fighting social media groups use them to identify people connected to local crimes. The Smoking Gun website assembles them into all manner of categories, including “cleavage,” “fogeys” and “B-List.”
Privately run online databases like let readers tag and comment on them, while Jailbase shuffles them through a smartphone app. Some sites have been described as extortion operations, posting booking photographs online, then charging exorbitant removal fees.
Free expungement clinics help the more desperate scrub their criminal records, while companies like offer “removal” services for a fee. Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have tried reeling in the more pernicious practices of some mug shot entrepreneurs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Which is nice and all, but the legislatures could also ban the dissemination of said mugshots and be done with it. There is no 1st amendment right to access or publish a mugshot, anymore than there's a 1st amendment right to access or publish police evidence of a crime scene. 

The recent arrest of Tiger Woods in Jupiter, Florida, and the disgraceful release of both his mugshot and booking videos, is enough to turn the stomach. Ludicrously, the Jupiter PD spokes-hack said releasing them was "standard practice because they are public documents." Right, and if they'd beaten the shit out of Woods during the arrest, I'm sure that would have been released immediately as well because it's "standard practice...public documents."
Why are people so obsessed with these photos? A Rutgers sociologist, Sarah Esther Lageson, who has been studying the explosion of digital mug shots for nearly a decade, said they offer a view not just into the darker recesses of someone’s life but also into an essential government process that many of us never see or experience.
Professor Lageson interviewed 27 people at Minnesota expungement clinics over two years beginning in 2014 and found that people whose mug shots were easily available online had been fired and rejected from jobs — or afraid to even apply in the first place. One woman had been unable to find decent housing; another was kicked out of her church.
Most of the people Professor Lageson interviewed didn’t bother contacting the sites that were publishing their images. Some thought it wouldn’t do any good, given the official-sounding language some sites used. Consider, which describes itself as a “search engine for Official Law Enforcement Records” — a mission it says is protected by an assortment of federal and state laws and two constitutional amendments.
Not everyone has been chastened by this legalistic language, though. In Illinois, three men seeking class-action status filed a suit last year describing the site as an extortion racket that, among other things, routinely published out-of-date or inaccurate information for a single purpose: to drive people to a prominently advertised “sister” site — — which charged from $399 (to remove a single arrest) to $1,799 (for five).
A lawyer representing, David Ferrucci, denied this. He said that the site is as much a crime blog as anything else. He pointed to its aggregated posts about accused sexual predators and murderers, and compared it to The Chicago Tribune’s “Mugs in the news.”
Besides, Mr. Ferrucci added, shouldn’t the focus be on the draconian elements of our justice system? “Instead of shooting the messenger, the purveyor of the public records, maybe we should lessen the impact of the prison industrial complex,” he said. “That’s really the tragedy here — how easy it is to get arrested.”
Talk about shooting the messenger, Dave. "Hey, if you don't want to end up on our website, don't get arrested by the police." And it has nothing to do with the prison-industrial complex, trust me, and everything to do with the rackets and scams these clowns are purveying. 

Interesting sidebar: the owners of these mugshot publications and websites go to extreme lengths to conceal and scrub from the 'net their own identities. I wonder why?
Sites like aren’t the only ones fighting for continued, broad access to booking photos. In 2013, The Detroit Free Press sued the Justice Department after it refused to release mug shots of four police officers accused of corruption. Federal authorities have considered the release of a booking photograph an invasion of privacy, and in its ruling last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, overruling a 1996 decision that allowed the release.
The Free Press appealed this decision to the United States Supreme Court; last month, the court declined to hear the case.
Still, dozens of news organizations and press advocacy groups backed the newspaper up in court, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. A lawyer there, Adam Marshall, described the mug shot as a memorialization of one of the most important processes of the criminal justice system — the arrest. What if the police arrested the wrong person? What if the officer assaulted that person? “The public expects information from the government about what they’re doing,” Mr. Marshall said. “The photo provides the public with that information in a way that a name doesn’t.”
Do you really think the police would release the mugshot of a suspect they got over on? Or the video of said beating? If these things (and worse, police shootings) aren't caught by private citizens on their phones, you won't see them ever.

That's the point: it's completely arbitrary what they choose to release and not release, and that very randomness is why the process should be eliminated completely.

It's more than a "memorialization" going on;  it's what Garfinkel described in his work as good old fashioned Degradation Ceremony. The release of the mugshot (only certain ones, mind you) is part of the way we degrade the suspect's identity, stigmatizing the individual so as to change permanently both their social identity ("sorry, you've been turned down the job, we checked the interwebs") and personal identity ("they say I'm a criminal, therefore I must be a criminal").

It's no different than publishing the names or pictures of crime victims: we don't, generally, because it's recognized as revictimizing them. And that's all you're doing here, revictimizing people who, more than likely, simply made a mistake.
Which gets us back to the original point: whether this person is ever found guilty of said charge is irrelevant (and oddly, never "publicly released" to the media). The morbid, under-educated obsession with these pictures is indicative of our unforgiving, brain-dead culture...a way to make you feel better about your own pathetic life by having a good laugh at the mistakes of others.

Police departments should stop releasing mugshots unless there is a viable public safety reason to do so (as the article mentions, jail breaks, suspects on the run, etc.). 

And the bottom-feeders who publish the garbage, the cretins who extort people desperate to have their pictures scrubbed, and the podunk online newspapers and sheriff's departments who use the blotter as click bait, should all be put out of business. 

Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court may be moving precisely in that direction.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Like Suicide

Chris Cornell, Soundgarden Frontman, Dies at 52:

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit hours after the band had performed there. He was 52.
The death was a suicide by hanging, the Wayne County medical examiner’s office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.
Mr. Cornell’s representative, Brian Bumbery, said in a statement that the death was “sudden and unexpected.”
Soundgarden played at the Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night, and had been scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday at the Rock on the Range festival.
I admit, much as I wrote when I first learned about David Foster Wallace's suicide back in 2008, this one really hit me in the knocked me on my ass. 

As much as I've written about it, studied it, and been affected by it via close friends and family members, it never ceases to amaze me how shocking, disturbing, and life-changing the act of suicide remains.

I always viewed Cornell as one of the pillars of strength in the music industry, someone whose 4-octave howl and music the rest of us turned to in order to understand why others (like Cobain, Staley, Weiland, et al) succumbed to drugs, suicide and tragedy. 

It was in songs like "Times of Trouble," "Fell on Black Days," "All Night Thing," and others that Cornell always seemed to offer rays of hope and light, amidst the sludge and darkness of depression and sadness. True, the dark side was always there too ("Burden in My Hand," "Let Me Drown," etc.), but generally the themes he always seemed to echo, particularly in his solo work, were perseverance and not letting the bastards get you down.

Which is why, again, yesterday was such shocking news.
Whether he was fronting the ferocious hard rock of Soundgarden or backed simply by an acoustic guitar, his voice — now silenced in a suicide — was spectacular by any reckoning. It was a voice that could sail above the grunge barrage of Soundgarden, with an attack to rival the band’s churning guitars; it was also a voice that gave modest acoustic ballads an existential gravity. At the bottom of its nearly four-octave range, Mr. Cornell’s voice was a baritone with endless reserves of breath and the seething tension of contained power. He couldn’t be more convincing than when he sang one of his definitive songs, “Rusty Cage,” with Soundgarden: “I’m gonna break my rusty cage and run,” he howled.
Oy. Long time readers will remember my previous Soundgarden post and admiration for all things Cornell. There will be plenty of post-mortems written in the days and weeks ahead, but this event definitely confirms one bedrock truth I know about suicide: it is a great democratizing force. It can come to anyone, anywhere, even those you think "would never" think such a thing, and in the end makes us all equal.

I'll leave you with two other videos, one showcasing Cornell's softer side ("Seasons" from the Singles soundtrack,) and "Let Me Drown," which is still the most epic head banger Soundgarden ever did.

I'm going to the holy land...RIP.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gabby At The Gallows

Trump Fires FBI Director:

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.
Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.
But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.
You can read his error-filled termination letter to Comey here, as well as the grammatically sloppy, full of typos, memorandums supporting the termination from AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and his Deputy AG Roderick Rosenstein (who, like Sessions, is another federal judgeship reject).

In fact, the title of Rosenstein's churlish memorandum, "Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI" has pissed off agents, legal, and rank and file staff throughout the Bureau. I'm not sure you could pick a better way to self-immolate than that.

Well, except maybe this: 
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday. White House officials refused to say anything more about the three occasions Mr. Trump cited.
That's because they didn't happen (for a brutal recitation of all of "Trump's lies" so far, read this). In fact, despite the parsing that this is about "Trump's associates" and the campaign, there is evidence to the contrary that the criminal investigation Comey was leading by the FBI does include Trump individually and in his capacity as president. That gets us into clear obstruction territory.

And probably explains why dude is apparently "yelling at the t.v." enraged by what he's seeing in the news about Comey and the mushrooming Russia/Treason investigation. Raging at the t.v...kind of like Nixon raging at the portraits of Kennedy and Lincoln at 3am, crocked out of his mind, in the final days of Watergate.

Which is why this is so deliciously Nixonian. Even though Nixon never fired the FBI Director, he fired the special prosecutors investigating Watergate (which included "Nixon's associates" and ultimately Nixon himself), only to find himself swinging in the gallows less than a year later.

People seem to think impeachment and removal from office is the worst that could happen to Trump, but it's always possible that formal criminal charges could lead to him ending up in cuffs and leg irons, being frog-marched out the front of the White House. Some have even suggested he could end up out at the ADX in Florence (where those convicted of treason go), though I have a hard time seeing how that could happen since a Ford/Nixon kind of pardon would probably come down via Pence first.

Nonetheless, most people assume dead men walking are very meek, mild, and humble on their way to the gallows. But many often put up a fight, get very gabby and verbose, and wrangle till the noose is tightened just behind the left ear and the floor drops.

I think you're seeing the latter here.

UPDATE: Talk about your day after tone-deaf responses:
At the White House, Mr. Trump shrugged off accusations of presidential interference in a counterintelligence investigation. He hosted a surreal and awkwardly timed meeting in the Oval Office with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Mr. Kislyak’s private meetings with Mr. Trump’s aides are a key part of the sprawling investigation.
White House officials denied American reporters permission to witness the Oval Office meeting or take photographs, but Russian state news outlets published images taken by their official photographer of a beaming Mr. Trump shaking hands with the envoys. The pictures quickly spread on Twitter.
And TASS, the official news agency of the Russian government, then sold pics to the U.S. press to use. So think about that: our "fake news" outlets are using Russian-approved propaganda in their news coverage of our own president. 

And then, after going to extraordinary lengths to keep the U.S. fake news out of the Oval while the prez met with the Russians yesterday, no one thought this picture, also of a meeting he had yesterday (yesterday of all days!) might be a bad idea as well.

Awesome. Forget the "echoes" of IS 1974 all over again.

UPDATE II: Trump Threatens Comey With Tapes:
Donald Trump warned on Friday James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, if Mr. Comey leaks anything negative about the president and warned the news media that he may cancel all future White House briefings.
In a series of angry, early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.
Mr. Trump’s mention of tapes did nothing to dispel the echoes of Watergate heard in Washington this week. His dismissal of Mr. Comey in the midst of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s associates struck many as similar to President Richard M. Nixon’s decision in October 1973 to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, in an incident that came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

Back To The 80's

Attorney General To Toughen Rules on Prosecuting Drug Crimes:

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is expected to soon toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes, according to people familiar with internal deliberations, in what would be a major rollback of Obama-era policies that would put his first big stamp on a Justice Department he has criticized as soft on crime.
Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has been reviewing a pair of memos issued by his predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., who encouraged federal prosecutors to use their discretion in what criminal charges they filed, particularly when those charges carried mandatory minimum penalties.
The policy under consideration would return the department to the era of George W. Bush. In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the nation’s prosecutors to bring the most serious charges possible in the vast majority of cases, with limited exceptions. Mr. Sessions could, however, craft his own policy that does not go quite so far; a draft is still being reviewed.
Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who cut his teeth as a young prosecutor in Alabama during the height of the crack epidemic, came to office promising to make being tough on crime a top priority, and his new guidance on charging and sentencing would be the strongest articulation yet of his emphasis on a law-and-order agenda.
Which is why he wants to take the country back to the bad old days...back to the 80's when he was rejected for a federal judgeship "for racism," and then as AG of Alabama when he brought back chain gangs, whipping posts, and life without parole for children under the age of 14 in the 1990's (side bar: all of these things were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hope v. Pelzer as a violation of the 8th amendment, and as a "racist gratuitous infliction of wanton and unnecessary pain"). 
Sonja B. Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in criminal sentencing, said that even if Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions were to return to the policies of the Ashcroft era — instructing prosecutors to pursue the strictest charges and sentences — there might not be drastic changes in how prosecutors handle drug cases.
“There’s still a lot of discretion left to prosecutors to determine what is readily provable,” Ms. Starr said. “Under any regime, whatever the Department of Justice policy, the choice is made by individual prosecutors.”
Still, she said, should Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions push for a uniformly strict posture in prosecuting drug crimes, it would mark a significant shift in tone.
“Many advocates think there are too many mandatory minimums, and that federal charging in general is still too harsh, even after the shift in policy under Holder,” Ms. Starr said. “But this isn’t especially surprising given what we know about the attorney general and the president and their view on criminal justice.”
I love her phrase "under any regime," which is precisely what these folks are turning the Justice Department, and defacto the executive branch, into (see also: the post above). With crime at an all-time, historic, 50 year low, this is nothing but grating political theater that's about 25 years past its expiration date.

In sum, the individual USA's operate with a lot of discretion, and while some may follow these "rules," they are, at the end of the day, merely suggestions and can be ignored wholesale (which they should be).

UPDATE: The Rules
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.
The dramatic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it telegraphs his priorities to target drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.
In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.
“It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions wrote in the memo, which was distributed late Thursday and emphasized his demand for consistency in federal cases.
Of course, many ADA's will simply ignore it.
Mr. Sklansky, the law professor, said it was unclear how dramatic an impact Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’s new policy may have.
“Prosecutors in the field appropriately pay attention to and try to follow the directions they receive from Washington,” he said. “A reversal or replacement of the Holder memo will be interpreted by many prosecutors in the field as a direction to be more aggressive to use mandatory minimum penalties against low-level nonviolent drug offenders.
For those inclined, certainly. But these people being career prosecutors, some will almost definitely ignore it.

While the reaction to this is almost universally derision, eye-rolling, or laugh out loud disbelief, there are a few reactionaries supportively weighing in on these new rules, including my favorite bloggers over at Crime and Consequences, with this gem (emphasis theirs):
It will be attacked by the Left as likely to produce longer sentences.  That's probably so.  However, there is a ready mechanism by which such sentences can be avoided: Mr. Nicey might consider quitting the smack business and getting a normal job like everybody else.  I'm just not a partisan of the notion that it's always the public that has to change. Instead, in both practical and moral senses, we'll be better off when we insist that it's the criminal who has to change.  We don't need less serious charging. We need less crime.
What we need is less stupid, and these rules basically violate that tenet.

Also, taking "Mr. Nicey" out of "the smack business" for 1 year, or 20 years, does nothing to lower crime, because there are a thousand "Mr. Niceys" just waiting to take his place. Whack-a-mole sentencing schemes do nothing to address the larger problems of economics, crime, and opportunity.

But who wants to talk about all that, when "git tuff" is so much easier to understand? Or worse, the only thing you understand?