Point of View Columns

Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied

In 1963, in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell, Martin Luther King, speaking of the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights by black Americans, wrote “Just too long delayed is justice denied”. Those words were true in 1963 and they still ring true in 2019.

Eric Garner was killed by a New York City police officer on July 17, 2014. His murder was captured in real time on video by multiple cellphones and his desperate cry of “I can’t breathe” was heard all over the world although his words fell on deaf NYPD ears. The fact that Mr. Garner’s encounter with the police was connected to the infinitely minor and absolutely nonviolent crime of his selling loose cigarettes (or “loosies”) made this particular blue on black crime even more tragic.

What we know is that several New York City police officers witnessed the murder of Eric Garner and did nothing to restrain Officer Daniel Pantaleo even as he was choking Mr. Garner to death. What we know is that the racist DNA of the American law enforcement system was on full display as the District Attorney of Staten Island, where the murder occurred, did not to seek to indict Pantaleo or any of the police officers for any offenses.

And what we know is that the Obama Administration Department of Justice, headed at the time of Garner’s murder by Eric Holder, and then in 2015 by Loretta Lynch, engaged in a civil rights investigation. Amazingly, this investigation could not come to a conclusion regarding the violation of the civil rights of the deceased Eric Garner, even though his murder was captured on videotape.

And what we know is that on November 9, 2016, then Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew that Donald Trump would be inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 2017 and that an Attorney General in the Trump administration would almost certainly put the Garner case into a bureaucratic dustbin. That meant that she had 73 days to make sure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice took some concrete steps to ensure that justice would be done in the Garner case. And nothing was done.

What we know is that the Department of Justice under the aegis of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III slow walked the Garner case. What we know is that under the administration of Attorney General William Barr the Garner case was permanently buried in 2019, defying logic and common sense in concluding that there was not sufficient evidence that Eric Garner’s civil rights were violated.

What we do know is that throughout all of these meandering delays justice was too long delayed. And what we do know is that when Daniel Pantaleo was finally fired from his position in the NYPD justice had been denied to the Garner family. Mr. Pantaleo will never have to face criminal charges. He will spend the rest of his life as a free man – free to laugh and love and be with his family while Eric Garner remains in his grave and Mr. Garner’s family continues to grieve.

The conclusion must be that the firing of Daniel Pantaleo by the NYPD after five years of delay is that justice has not been served. And what we do know is that the Garner case is another sad illustration of the fact that black lives do not matter in these United States of America. And unless and until there is a basic commitment by governmental authorities and the citizens of this country to acknowledge and recognize the basic humanity of black Americans, it will be impossible to come to any other conclusion but that black lives do not matter.

There has been no justice in the Garner case. Indeed, justice has been too long delayed and justice has been denied.

Standard
Point of View Columns

What a Difference a Day Makes

Monday, August 12, 2013 will be noted as an important day by those who pay attention to what goes on in this country. Because after all of the A-Rod, Anthony Weiner and Lindsay Lohan stories, there are actually some very important issues of justice that are being addressed. And how they are addressed is going to make a huge difference on how all Americans will live in the days and years to come. And we can start with today’s “Stop and Frisk” court decision.

Today, Federal District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled in a 195 page decision that for close to a decade the New York City Police Department has systematically, intentionally and institutionally violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latinos through its eternally controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy. Her decision does not mince words and leaves New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly without a legal leg to stand on.

For example, the City of New York argued that the high proportion of blacks and Latinos who were stopped reflected the high proportion of crimes committed by blacks and Latinos. Judge Scheindlin correctly and logically pointed out that stopping virtually all black and Latino young could not be justified because some black and Latino men commit crimes.

What is astounding is that the case itself brought to light the fact that over the past decade millions (yes, millions) of stops of the “Stop and Frisk” variety were inflicted on black and Latino young men (88% of the stops). Yet less than 10% of these stops resulted in reasonable cause for arrest and less than 5% who were stopped were ever convicted of a crime – and in the overwhelming majority of those convictions the crime was possession of small amounts of drugs (usually marijuana).

That the police department of a major American city would inflict such draconian measures upon a large and much maligned segment of the population is stunning. “Stop and Frisk” as employed in New York has been nothing less than despotic in its implementation and incredibly corrosive when it comes to the relationship between the police department and the minority communities of the polyglot capital of the world known as New York City.

The only surprise is that some people, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, are surprised that an impartial judge would find the City of New York to be at fault. And we can only hope that in the future the common effort to prevent and deter criminal activities does not give rise to other “simple” solutions that so casually violate the rights of millions of Americans.

And, on this same day, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will instruct U.S. attorneys across the country to limit charges in drug cases so as to limit the terms of incarceration that are imposed. Attorney General Holder pointed to the fact that although this country has 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of all of the prisoners in the world. Clearly this astronomical incarceration rate is expensive ($80 billion per year) and just as clearly indicates a dysfunctional criminal justice system.

As the so-called War on Drugs approaches the half century mark it is clear that this war is beyond “winning”, whatever “winning” was ever supposed to mean. The War on Drugs did give rise to a private sector corrections industry and widespread corruption within the law enforcement sector. And it has also resulted in the horrific decimation of communities of color across the country as men (and increasingly women) in these communities are arrested and convicted and sentenced and incarcerated in much higher proportions than their white counterparts.

Interestingly enough, Attorney General Holder and the Obama Administration did not take this matter before the politically hogtied United States Congress. Even though the drug sentencing proposals have widespread bipartisan support at the state level, it is now a sad fact of life that any proposal with “Obama” connected to it is virtually DOA when it arrives at the door of the House of Representatives.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Holder and President Obama picked a good time to remind the Teapublicans in the House what the word “executive” in the Executive Branch actually means.

All in all a good day for justice.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 9, 2013

Sometimes it is useful to remember that elections do matter. Thinking about a Mitt Romney presidency provides some perspective. Meanwhile, in light of Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, we are already hearing the clarion call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics next year – and why do these call always come from the right? And finally, while we already knew that the Teapublican playbook calls for the dismantling of the federal government, the new playbook calls for making sure that the federal government just doesn’t work.

Elections Do Matter

In the 2012 presidential campaign over $1 billion was spent in order to persuade voters that there was a real difference between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Obviously the majority of voters chose Barack Obama to lead the country for another four years.

But, for those who continue to suggest that there was only a marginal difference between the two candidates (the ever loquacious Tavis Smiley and continuously quotable Cornel West come to mind) think about this: Right now the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to undo the horrific damage caused by the recent Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.

This has required the Department of Justice to fight voting rights battles state by state, court by court. What do you think that an Attorney General appointed by President Mitt Romney would be doing?

Some more food for thought: The Department of Justice is reviewing the murder of Trayvon Martin for possible civil rights violations. That would be the U.S. Department of Justice headed by Attorney General Eric Holder who was appointed by President Barack Obama. What do you think that President Romney’s Department of Justice would be doing about the travesty of George Zimmerman’s acquittal last month?

In the weeks and months to come more examples of the difference between a thankfully mythical Romney presidency and the actual presidency of Barack Obama will be offered for your consideration.

We can be assured that Tavis Smiley and Cornel West will be to absorbed with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West to pay any attention.

The Revenge of the Nerds

In 1980 the United States boycotted the Olympics that were to be held in the Soviet Union because of a dispute regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In retaliation the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1984.

While this political posturing went forward, the hopes and dreams of thousands of Olympic athletes were obliterated. If they were American they simply could not compete in 1980 and had to compete in a flawed Olympics in 1984 if they were still around. Many other athletes from around the world were caught up in the boycott and there was absolutely no impact on Soviet policies in Afghanistan.

Now Senator Lindsay Graham and other wannabe tough guys in the Senate and House are calling for the United States to boycott the Winter Olympics that are to be held in Russia next year as retaliation for Edward Snowden being granted temporary asylum in that country.

Aside from the fact that boycotting the Olympics would be cutting off the nose of American athletes in order to spite the global face of the United States, logic tells us that such an action would have absolutely no impact on the current Snowden-asylum impasse. The only people that would be hurt would be American athletes many of whom have trained their entire lives for one shining Olympic moment in 2014.

Let us hope that saber rattling will not take the place of sane and sober foreign policy.

Traveling at the Speed of Mud

Approximately two weeks ago the Senate confirmed the head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau after only………., get this, seven years of delay and obstruction. Approximately three weeks ago the Senate confirmed the Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau after light speed deliberations of two years!

These delays are part and parcel of a Teapublican strategy to throw enough sand into the gears of the federal government until it simply stops working. On the Planet Teapublican this passes for sound public policy.

Loyal opposition is one thing. Destruction of the federal government itself does not border on treason, it is treason. The sooner it is said the better.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

 

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 26, 2013

With his recent remarks disparaging Latino immigrants Congressman Steve King has once again proven that Teapublicans never run out of racist sewage. Meanwhile Attorney General Eric Holder has taken on the state of Texas and its vicious voter suppression plan. And finally, Jay-Z is a wealthy superstar, adored by millions of fans around the world, but he is no match for Harry Belafonte.

This King is a Pauper

In explaining why he opposes just about everything related to immigration reform except self-deportation and higher walls, Congressman Steve King slimed the millions of men, women and children who have come to this country in recent years as he neatly sanctifies his own immigrant forebears.

Serving a bizarre stew of fiction, fantasy and racism, Congressman King claims that most immigrants coming from Mexico are drug mules. He even went so far as to say that many of these immigrants “have calves as big as cantaloupes” from carrying so much drug weight.

Unfortunately, his employment of racist myth to support his lily white America fantasy is nothing new. And when questioned, King was unapologetic and repeated his slimy statements.

And sadly for this country, Representative Steve King is also representative of the new leadership in the Teapublican Party.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Immediately upon the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 states, counties and local governments rushed to implement some of the most restrictive voter suppression measures since the high cotton days of Jim Crow. That the paperwork was already completed before the Shelby v. Holder decision was even announced shows how eager some white people are to suppress the vote of anyone who is not white.

Now Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Department of Justice will take the state of Texas to federal court to challenge the transparently racial and racist redistricting measures that will ensure white rule even as the demographics of the state turn darker every day. For this Attorney General Holder should be congratulated since thanks to the SCOTUS VRA travesty the Department of Justice will have to fight for voter rights trench by trench, case by case – hand to hand combat in every courtroom in every jurisdiction where voter suppression raises its ugly head.

And this is a good time to ask what do you think an Attorney General appointed by President Mitt Romney would be doing? Playing golf or just working on his tan?

Harry Belafonte v. Jay-Z

During the past few weeks there has been a media match going on as a result of lyrics in a song recently released by Jay-Z. Leaving out the profanity and the self-hating racist references, it appears that Jay-Z is criticizing Harry Belafonte for criticizing him for not demonstrating enough social responsibility.

Referring to the iconic Harry Belafonte as “boy”, Jay-Z basically deflects Mr. Belafonte’s criticism by alluding to his own charitable contributions. And we can give Mr. Sean Carter the benefit of the doubt that he and his wife, Beyonce, give significant sums of money to charity.

But Mr. Carter misses the point of Mr. Belafonte’s criticism. Social responsibility is more than giving away turkeys or dollars to the needy. Al Capone used to do that and drug dealers and gang leaders still do it.

Because of his success and popularity Jay-Z has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Paul Robeson and yes….Harry Belafonte. But to do that he would have to contribute to the enrichment of the lives and environment of his fans and supporters and that would mean reversing the decades that he has spent writing and singing lyrics glorifying and romanticizing violence while demeaning and degrading women all the while turning an incredibly racist epithet into some kind of bizarro term of endearment.

That might be a lot for Mr. Carter to do – but wouldn’t it be great to see him try.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 22, 2011

Easter and Passover are being observed as this week comes to an end. We also observe that John McCain is in Libya calling the anti-Gaddafi rebels his “heroes”. Really? A great circus movie, “Water for Elephants” opens this weekend but it is being eclipsed by the Republican circus featuring clowns for candidates. And by the time you finish reading this column the price of gasoline will have been raised again. Just another week on the Planet Earth.

Send in the Clowns (Part I)

There has been tremendous pressure on the Obama Administration to do more to support the rebels who are waging a war against Muammar Gaddafi that is not going well for them. Clearly, in response to this pressure a decision has been made to send in the clowns.

That can be the only explanation for the sudden appearance of Senator John McCain. He landed in Libya earlier today and immediately announced that the insurgents were his “heroes”.

One wonders if his dimming memory recalls American support of the mujahedeen in their battle in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. They were also the “heroes” of inveterate jingoists like John McCain.

Of course, these “heroes” morphed into the Taliban (who are killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) and Al Qaeda (which is responsible for 9/11 amongst countless terrorist incursions around the world).

The Libyan rebels may be noble Washingtonians and Jeffersonians for all we know. Or they could be the spiritual cousins of Osama bin Laden. The point is we just don’t know. And John McCain certainly doesn’t know.

This might not be the best time for the United States to get entangled in another alliance that leaves bite marks on its posterior.

Send in the Clowns (Part II)

It is safe to assume that the Republican Party will run a candidate for President in 2012. It is also safe to assume that the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party element of the Republican cohorts will ensure that this candidate will be against healthcare, environmental protection, taxes and abortion. What this candidate will be for is open to speculation.

In looking at the array of potential candidates it would seem that the greatest danger facing Barack Obama is complacency and overconfidence. Donald Trump swears that he would make a great Chief Executive. But The Donald may have to contend with the hundreds of not so silent contractors who built his New Jersey casinos and never got paid and the thousands of sullen holders of bonds in various Trump enterprises who lost every penny in the multiple Trump bankruptcies during the past two decades.

Sarah Palin is probably eternally discredited after her misbegotten star turn in the Tucson Massacre aftermath and Mitt Romney is without a political (or moral) compass and cannot recant his Mormon religion, thereby disqualifying himself in the eyes of the powerful Christian evangelical sector of the right wing of the right wing.

Only Michelle Bachman takes Michelle Bachman seriously and Herman Cain has yet to demonstrate how being the CEO of a chain of pizza shops qualifies him to be President of the United States.

There are other would be aspirants – they remind me of the circus car with an endless number of clowns exiting the doors of what appears to be a compact. The G.O.Tea Party has clearly taken on the challenge of entertaining the America public instead of challenging the American public with new ideas and emergent policies.

Gas Pains

As you read this column the price of gasoline is going over $4.00 per gallon across the country. Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens have joined in a chorus to demand that President Obama “do something” about these rising fuel prices.

In response he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate any instances of fraud, collusion, speculation or price-fixing. That pretty much describes day to day operations in the oil industry.

Of course, when President Obama has proposed sustainable energy alternatives and conservation strategies he has been opposed by many of the same Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens that now want him to “do something”.

Perhaps magic is what they have in mind.

Have a great weekend!

Standard