Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Stories of Sex and Power

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Is American society really changing? After Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, John Conyers and all the others, are we really getting to a milestone of cultural change?

I don’t think it is the beginning of the end, but I hope it is the end of the beginning.

Principles

Here is the ideal situation: nobody has to hate going to work because she expects to be groped, fondled or otherwise intruded upon by someone whom she is afraid to confront because he has situational or institutional power. Obviously, we are not there yet.

I would like the current crop of public shamings to lead to the above ideal situation. I don’t believe we are going to wake up on 1 January 2018 and magically be in that place, but we can make substantial progress.

Establishment of Guilt

Roy Moore is our first serious test case. He is accused of making sexual advances on underage girls some decades ago. He has hunkered down and is denying the charges all the way. One America News wants him to have the benefit of due process and be considered innocent until proven guilty.

I completely understand their objection. However, since I wasn’t born yesterday, I also know that he would have been able to exempt himself from due process as a DA and a judge.

One of his accusers claims:

 “I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought he was going to rape me. I was twisting, I was struggling, and I was begging him to stop,” she said. “At some point, he gave up. He then looked at me and he told me, he said, ‘You’re just a child,’ and he said, ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.'”

— Source: NBC News

Even if that didn’t actually happen, how would we ever get to the bottom of it? There have been so many predators who said, “I am ____, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.” And they have been right for all these years. This is not OK.

So a sexual predator with power and influence is not ,likely to be brought to account by normal due process. Now what are we left with? Put up with it?

I am sure that many of Moore’s defenders think he is being picked on because he is hated by both Democrats and establishment Republicans. So what? Did he do the deeds or didn’t he?

We are not going to ever get this into a court and get resolution; certainly not the same way as if a common Alabama plumber or mechanic had been accused of the same offense. Until we can, maybe persons with power and influence have to be brought down under these conditions.

If Moore really didn’t do what he is accused of, I regret the damage of the accusations. We are going to see some excesses before this is over. We are going to see people being falsely accused.

However, if there is no formal venue where such people can be brought to account, then there has to be a messy and informal venue. Allowing this behavior to continue is not acceptable.

People get wrongly accused of crimes all the time. Some of them do not have the power, influence and means to fight the accusations effectively. Take a moment to think about them.

The Appropriate Punishment

Another aspect we have to work out is what the appropriate punishment is for various offenses. In the past, the appropriate punishment was none, and we are not OK with that anymore. So we effectively have no precedent.

Is one incident of a man in a position of power forcing himself on a woman a hanging offense? If not, how many incidents establish a pattern? Does contrition matter? Does the amount of time between then and now enter into consideration?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. We will, as a society, have to answer them.

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Written by srojak

November 29, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Not Following the Logic

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The whole flap over pro football players kneeling during the national anthem has gone to a new level this week. Let’s sort it out.

Thumbing Your Nose

Kneeling during the national anthem is thumbing your nose at the entire country. It is a posture, an affectation. People who do it are poseurs. Where else could they go to make this kind of money doing what they do?

A football player does not get to tell us how to interpret his disrespect to the nation. Yes, I am talking to you, Richard Sherman. Kneeling during the national anthem is an act of disrespect to the entire country, including most of us who have no influence over how the criminal justice system treats black people in the inner city. Sherman is too intelligent not to know that.

Having a Complaint

Do black people have a complaint regarding the way they are treated by the criminal justice system? Hell, yes. Many people, not just black people, have a legitimate beef. The shenanigans in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, should offend every voter in this country. Municipalities and counties using law enforcement as a revenue center should offend every voter in this country.

The number of persons under correctional supervision (in prison, on probation or on parole) is appalling. According to a 2012 article by Adam Gopnik, there were more black men under correctional supervision at that time than there were in slavery in 1850; the total population of America that is under correctional supervision was over six million and growing. Contrary to popular lore, many of the people in prison are there for drug offenses or offenses against “public order”. Since black people are in prison at a disproportionately higher rate than Americans in general, yes, there is a genuine issue.

Taking Action

So what should a politically aware black football player do? How about taking some of that large NFL salary and putting it to work in community action? How about sponsoring court appeals on behalf of people who are being exploited by municipalities? Put your money where your mouth is.

White House Invitations

Back in 2011, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup and were invited to the White House. Goalie Tim Thomas declined the invitation. This writer maintained that Tim Thomas had no business declining the invitation.  I disagree. Similarly, Stephon Curry has every right to decline an invitation to the White House, given that he disagrees with the politics of the President.

The President is the Chief Executive, the Head of State and a high profile political figure. If a person disagrees vehemently with the political viewpoint of the President, by all means, do not accept his invitation to the White House.

Donald Trump’s Statements

Yes, Donald Trump made inflammatory and provocative statements on this subject. In other news, Lindy made it!

Really, who reasonably expected that, if this issue made it to Trump’s radar at all, he would make a nuanced, empathetic statement that would uphold respect for the nation as a whole while recognizing the real problems that people have encountered at the hands of governments? Did anyone really think Trump would call for national reflection on the issues that black athletes are raising while asserting that the nation deserves respect even if specific people in positions of authority have abused their power?

And there was every reason to expect Trump to weigh in on this issue. It is red meat to his base, many of whom a) love America and b) watch football. Trump has demonstrated that he has a laser focus on his core constituency, his political “investors”.

Trump’s statements are off the table for purposes of this discussion. There is nothing new here. The themes have not changed at all during the year. There really is not anything else to say.

Donald Trump is my President, in that he was duly elected through the recognized Electoral College process, just like Barack Obama was. Trump does not represent my viewpoint, and I would have wanted a more nuanced response. However, I recognize that Trump doesn’t do nuance. There is no point in flogging this horse anymore. He is what he is, and he is not going to change.

 

Written by srojak

September 24, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Contempt of Cop

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The BBC has posted video showing Alex Wubbels, a nurse in Salt Lake City, being arrested for refusing to turn over a blood sample of an unconscious person to police. According to reports, there are three conditions under which hospital policy allows police to have a blood sample:

  • The person in question authorizes the sample;
  • The person in question is under arrest;
  • The police have a court order to obtain the blood sample.

None of these were true. Instead, the detective ordered the nurse to procure the sample. When she refused on policy grounds, he arrested her. There is no evidence of her having copped a ‘tude or being in the detective’s face. Instead, she explained the policy in a clear, adult manner.

Absent any contradictory information, which we have not seen to date, this is an example of a contempt of cop arrest. There really are no legal grounds for arresting a person under contempt of cop. People who can’t defend themselves and don’t have a large institution behind them get treated like this all the time.

I am hopeful that this incident will make contempt of cop real to people, so that we can stamp out this practice. Watch the video so it will be real to you.

Written by srojak

September 2, 2017 at 10:04 am

Interview with the Prosecutor

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Steve Heath was a prosecutor, working for two years in New Orleans and another seven in Dallas. He has been in the engine room of the criminal justice system.

I met with him to ask him for his perspective and to provide a perspective that we, as ordinary citizens, would never have on inner-city crime and justice issues. All quotes in this post are from him.

[The DA’s office] got Federal grants — Federal money — but all they were doing was hand-to-hand drug sales of punks on the street, mostly black, OK? And they got tons of Federal money. They never ever got beyond the street level and got somebody really big — a drug dealer or a money launderer …

The Federal government gives counties money to prosecute crimes. Two major areas Heath cited are drug offences and domestic violence. So where you pay people to prosecute, it is not hard to figure out that you are going to get more prosecutions. Are they valid prosecutions? Well, where are your controls?

Heath said that most of the people prosecuted for dealing drugs are just go-betweens that are lured in by the promise of easy money.

You could set those people up forever … The cop will come to [the kid], “I want to buy a certain amount of cocaine.” So he goes and talks to the kid he knows who sells cocaine.

“Can you get me more?” “Well, I guess so.”  [The kid says], “Hey, this is a good deal, I’m making money off this stuff.” He was never even inclined to do it before. They get him to a certain level, next thing you know, they’re recommending a four or five year sentence for him on the first offence.

Just as in any other human activity, the competence of prosecutors is distributed over a range. One of the characteristics that Heath observed to distinguish good prosecutors from time-servers was their willingness to do real investigative work and follow the leads to the ultimate sources of crime.

You can see how the prisons get filled up. Black kid gets set up, he gets probation, he makes a mistake and gets a dirty UA on his test, it gets revoked. Next thing you know he’s unemployed, he can’t get a job, what’s he gonna do? Next thing you know, they’re all in the prisons. It is kind of racist, so I thought, “Black people kind of have a point here.” [Prosecutors and cops] are disproportionately setting them up.

I don’t think police are doing it because they’re racists; [the targets] are just easy marks. You can get Federal money all there and set up all these people, you can get your stats up: “500 more convictions than last year! 10% more than when the prosecutor took over three years ago!” But that’s all they focus on.

Given the incentives, it is easy to understand the pressures on ordinary police. The prosecutor wants to run up his score and the Feds are offering money for which they want to see results. You don’t do this in leafy Deerfield, Illinois or Highland Park, Texas, where the kids have parents who will get lawyers and contest the cases. You need concentrated people who can’t effectively defend themselves. Those people are going to be living in cities and are going to be disproportionately black.

The prosecutors like the statistics, because they can wave them in front of the voters. The Feds like the statistics, because they provide reassurance that the grant programs are effective and the money given out is used effectively. But it is all bogus.

“Win 98% of our cases.” Yeah, you win that many because you never try any tough cases. You just set up these punk cases, that most of them plead out because they have no choice. That’s where I’m sympathetic with the black mindset, where what I call the “prison-industrial complex” where everybody makes a ton of money setting up people.

Heath also had some observations about police training. He strongly disliked the evolution of the shoot-to-kill policies in policing.

It kind of starts with — I can’t remember the Supreme Court case of 20-30 years ago, which basically allowed the use of force by the police if they felt their lives were in jeopardy. So that kind of opened the door, then they got a lot of governmental immunity. It’s hard to get these cases prosecuted civilly.

This article discusses the two cases from the 1980s that match up to Heath’s description:

They’re trained that, if their lives are in danger, you don’t shoot to wing somebody in the arms, or legs, whatever; you shoot to kill. So the training is bad, and frankly I think the training has gotten worse since Homeland Security money has come in here. It’s more like, police are starting to have their own mentality of fear and intimidation, rather than serve and protect.

He also observed incidence of what only can be described as overkill.

What bothers you is that they don’t just shoot them once sometimes. You see these videos, also — there was this impaired man in the street, and he got up and he had a knife. There were twenty cops surrounding him, and he got up and took two steps and all of a sudden fifteen cops shoot 38 bullets in him. He was not within thirty feet of anybody.

Heath noted that you don’t have to be black to get the short end of the fear-and-intimidation stick.

I was down in Austin and I made an wrong turn, and next thing you know a bunch of cops pull me over. I start to get out and there are three of them with guns pulled, screaming at me, “Get out of the car!”

Heath observed that there are energetic and lazy police just as there are in any other line of work. He placed his emphasis on the leadership positions; these determine what behaviors will or will not be tolerated, what training will be delivered and what culture will be cultivated.

You really need to work on fostering good race relations by listening to black leaders who are saying, “Why is it always the black kids you are setting up on all these drug charges?”

One of the side effects of the war on drugs is the feeding of what Heath calls “the prison-industrial complex,” likening it to the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned about.

It’s an industry. It’s cluttering our prisons. Get ’em on probation, revoke and then they can’t get jobs, they can’t get work. I remember the stats were, like, 70% of blacks between 18 and 34 — males — were in probation, prison or parole. That’s insane. Mostly for drug offenses.

He said that he had, at one time, been in favor of drug criminalization. His experiences in the cities had soured him on it.

The war on drugs has been a complete and total failure. They never try to go to the top. HSBC and Wachovia were both convicted of laundering massive amounts of drug money. Wachovia conveniently folded at the time, got bought up by Wells Fargo. HSBC, what’d they get, a billion dollar fine or something?

Here are some additional links relating to HSBC:

He supports community policing initiatives. He does not believe that the majority of police are abusing their authority, but those that are have an effect on public perception beyond their number.

They police officers need to walk a beat. They need to get to know the people in their neighborhood. They need to develop their snitches, their sources, their whatever. Get a pulse … They need to bond with the community.

Heath expressed the hope that we could get back to a serve-and-protect model of law enforcement that did not view the people in the community as adversaries.

Written by srojak

December 11, 2016 at 7:25 pm