Chris Powell: Newspaper archives increasingly important in criminal justice

Connecticut's Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Waterbury Republican-American reported the other day, is getting more generous with pardons, which erase criminal records maintained by government agencies and allow recipients to pretend that they never did anything wrong.

Among recent recipients of such pardons, the newspaper disclosed, were former police officers in Waterbury and Hartford who had been fired and convicted of fabricating evidence. Presumably now they can regain employment as officers, unless the departments to which they apply undertake background reviews broader than government records.

Any broader review will involve the archives of newspapers and other news organizations, which have become essential archives of criminal justice in Connecticut, since so many criminal charges, while justified, vanish from government archives because of plea bargaining and erasure laws as well as pardons.

Overwhelmed, Connecticut's criminal-justice system fails to produce much accountability for criminals, crime victims, the wrongly accused, and the public. As a result, much of the limited accountability resulting from criminal justice here now resides not in government archives but in the archives of news organizations.

Because news organization archives now may be more complete than government's and because they are accessible on the internet, news organizations are being flooded with requests from people who want reports of their arrests or convictions suppressed. Of course such reports can impair people's employment and social relations -- but then they often should, as with crooked cops.

Such suppression is deception, the opposite of journalism.


EVERYBODY AVOIDS TAXES: The furor over what appears to be Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's avoidance of federal income taxes is hypocritical, for three reasons.

First, while Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns, tax avoidance is not tax evasion. Nearly everyone exploits legal deductions and exemptions to minimize taxes.

Second, while some deductions and exemptions are available only to the wealthy, Congress established them in the name of encouraging or discouraging certain economic activity. If deductions and exemptions are disgraceful, the disgrace falls not on the people who use them but on Congress for establishing them.

And third, contrary to the accusation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump's tax avoidance has not really deprived the federal government of any money. That's because the federal government enjoys the power of money creation and thus doesn't need taxes for revenue and has not needed taxes for revenue since gold and silver were removed as circulating money decades ago.

Rather, as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Beardsley Ruml, wrote in 1946, the purpose of federal taxes has become social control -- to determine who has money and why. 

Trump has so much money on account of tax policies for which the Democratic Party is as responsible as the Republican Party.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY, NOT MERE TALK: Trump and his apologists keep saying that the vile conversation he had with the host of a celebrity gossip television show 11 years ago, caught on tape and disclosed the other day, was just “locker-room talk” and “banter,” disgusting to others but of no significance. 

Not so. For Trump was describing things he already had done. He even identified a married woman he had tried to seduce. Forgive or excuse him or not, conclude if you want that his character is less objectionable than Hillary Clinton's character or her policies, but what was captured on that tape was far more than talk. It was conduct and autobiography, and it has been confirmed by many women who, following disclosure of the tape, have detailed their awful experiences with Trump.


Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.