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.

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Point of View Columns

Black America and the Police – The Eternal Requiem

While we are consumed with watching the White House Clown Show directed by the Clown in Chief, black Americans continued to be slaughtered by law enforcement with seeming impunity. While we are finding out the answer to how many white men can fit in one Presidential Cabinet, many black Americans feel like any encounter with law enforcement, no matter how minor or ordinary, could mark the beginning of their last moments on Earth.

While we are wondering when the Senate and House and FBI investigations are going to come to the rather obvious conclusion that the Trump campaign and Trump administration colluded with Russia, the policeman/killer of Philando Castile was found not guilty on all counts. His killer’s defense was that he “feared for his life” because Mr. Castile announced that he was lawfully carrying a firearm and then reached into his pocket to get his license and registration as his killer had requested.

While we are focused on thoroughly unprepared, untrained and inexperienced Jared Kutsher (whose only seeming qualification is that Donald Tinyhands is his father-in-law) travel to Israel on a hopeless and inevitably forlorn mission to broker the peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by the police in Seattle having called the police regarding her belief that a burglary was in progress in her own residence.

It should be noted that Ms. Lyles was a black woman. Ms. Lyles was the pregnant mother of four who was described by relatives as “tiny”. Ms. Lyles may have had mental health issues and when the police arrived it is reported that she had a knife. The response of the Seattle police was not to defuse the crisis through verbal interaction or use of non-lethal force. The response of the Seattle police was to shoot a pregnant black mother of four with her children present.

It may have happened in these United States at some place and time, but there appear to be no reports of pregnant white women being shot and killed by the police anywhere. It is hard to believe that police in any jurisdiction would shoot and kill a pregnant white woman in front of her children whether she was brandishing a knife, baseball bat or gun.

What should be clear to black Americans is that throughout the history of this nation black lives simply do not matter regardless of  all the rhetoric, legislation and Constitutional amendments. What should be clear is that there is no way that the United States of America and the Attorney General who is the proud Son of the Confederacy, Jefferson Beauregard Davis III will lift a finger to make even the most rudimentary official inquiry into the death of Charleena Lyles or the acquittal of the killer of Philando Castile.

There is a Groundhog Day feel to this entire situation. Since the days of the Black Codes in the 1600’s to the Slave Codes in the 1700’s to the routine terrorizing and lynching of black Americans from 1865 to 1965, black lives do not matter – certainly not when compared to white lives. And the head fake slogan of “all lives matter” rings false when it is clear that in comparison to white Americans in multiple similar encounters with the police do not die with anywhere near the same frequency as black Americans.

The saddest part of this story is that within a week or a month of reading this column you will be reading about yet another police-induced atrocity involving a black American citizen who did not deserve to die whatever their transgression might have been.

It is said that this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is also the land where black lives do not matter.

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Point of View Columns

James Comey – Lordy, Lordy, Lordy

Somehow James Comey, the presumably mild-mannered former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has morphed into one of the most pivotal characters in the recent history of American presidential politics. Not since the days of the never-to-be-missed J. Edgar Hoover, the venal, vicious and racist cross-dressing founder of the FBI, has the Director of the FBI exerted such history-changing influence. And it is reasonable to ask, Lordy, how did this happen?

Even a cursory analysis reveals that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump thrust the game-changing role onto Mr. Comey, although there is no indication that when the role was offered, he didn’t exhibit any reluctance in fully embracing that role.

Consider James Comey’s role in the 2016 presidential election. Between his midsummer announcement that there would be no further investigation of Secretary Clinton and his stunning reversal 11 days before the election that the FBI investigation of the presidential candidate had resumed, Mr. Comey exerted incredible undue influence on the presidential election and in all likelihood handed an unthinkable upset victory to Donald Tinyhands.

Of course it can be argued that if a private e-mail server was not installed in Secretary Clinton’s bathroom in her Chappaqua home there would have been no story about hidden e-mails, there would have been no death by a thousand cuts disclosure of the content of those e-mails and there would have been no Congressional investigations and there would have been no FBI investigation. And, of course, there would have been no faux savior of democracy role for James Comey to assume.

Similarly, if the coterie of advisors, sycophants and wannabe’s surrounding Donald Tiny hands had not pursued contact with the Russians like besotted sophomore suitors, there would have been nothing for Mike Flynn, Jared Kutsher and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to deny. And then there would be no need to cover up surreptitious correspondence, meetings and a rendezvous in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

And then there would be nothing for the FBI to investigate and no reason for Donald Tinyhands to demand a Godfatheresque ring-kissing pledge of personal loyalty from an appalled James Comey. And then there would be no contemporaneous memoranda penned by Mr. Comey and then there would be no Senate Intelligence hearings like the one held on June 7th and June 8th.

However fascinating alternative history might be, it is best left to Harry Turtledove and other authors of that genre. Actual history indicates that Secretary Clinton did create the e-mail server morass giving her sworn enemies just enough morsels of pseudo scandal to bring about the chain of events that resulted in James Comey becoming a key player in her electoral downfall in 2016.

Similarly, by pursuing the fool’s errand of dancing with the devil that is Vladimir Putin, Donald Tinyhands and his henchmen and henchwomen provided his sworn enemies with more than enough reason to sound echoes of Watergate and Iran Contra thereby casting James Comey in the role of Sir Galahad on a mission to save democracy.

By all accounts, James Comey is a decent and dedicated public servant who does not have a devious bone in his body. Nevertheless, Machiavelli himself could not have constructed a series of actions and strategies that resulted in Mr. Comey having such history-changing influence on the fate of over 300 million Americans.

The question is not whether James Comey is a hero or a villain. The question may turn out to be whether the ensuing chaos and turmoil in American politics are the unintended consequences of blind dedication to duty.

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Point of View Columns

The Trump Phenomenon – Beware of Shiny Objects

The first 100 plus days of the Trump presidency has turned out to be a compelling horror show for anyone who cares about governance, the Constitution or the future of this nation. It is hard not to watch an individual who seems to be dedicated to offending, insulting and repelling virtually every person who does not swear absolute fealty to him, and him alone. The institutional damage that he has committed in so little time is awesome to behold. But it is important to note that when the history books are written the Hurricane Called Trump may turn out to have been a head fake, a distraction from the real damage that is being done to the American people.

Consider the fact that we stared in awe and dismay at the naked lawlessness and infinitely perfect and disgraceful bad taste of President Trump in firing FBI Director James Comey. Meanwhile a mouth breathing direct descendant of Neanderthals named Scott Pruitt heads up the Environmental Protection Agency.

All that Mr. Pruitt has done has been to fire scientists who have been trying to quantify the effects of climate change. He has also declared the policy of his agency as denying the impact of human activity on climate change. And, just to keep things interesting, Mr. Pruitt has begun to allow coal and oil exploration on federal lands in the Arctic and through the lower 48 states.

One day the Terror of Trump will fade into the dustbin of history, but yet unborn children will suffer from the diminished and degraded environment that they will inherit thanks in no small part to Scott Pruitt and his science denying minions. The damage that Pruitt can wreak in just a few short years is fearsome and real.

Consider the fact we are absolutely dumbfounded by the notion that the President of the United States would bar American press from his meeting with senior Russian officials while allowing Russian press to attend. And then, to keep things interesting, Terrible Trump shared highly confidential and classified information with these same Russians.

But while the Trump Circus lumbers through the American political landscape, President Trump appointed as Attorney General, none other than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III from Alabama – a state whose flag is modeled after that of a Confederate States of America regiment (to remove any doubt regarding the heart and soul of the ruling citizenry of that state). Aside from lying to Congress regarding his association with representatives of Russia, Mr. Sessions has been quietly at work reviving the spirit of mass incarceration.

Mr. Sessions has already stated his belief that maximum criminal penalties for even low level marijuana usage will be the hallmark of his tenure. He has also directed all United States Attorneys to seek maximum prison sentences whenever and wherever possible. While the executives and shareholders of CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America) are doing the 21st century version of the Macarena, hundreds of thousands of American families and thousands of American communities will suffer due to the revival of punitive action as the driving force of the American criminal justice system.

Recent news has reported that in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Officer Betty Jo Shelby (who is white) has been acquitted of all charges in the shooting of the unarmed Terrence Crutcher (who was black). Prior to this verdict, Attorney General Sessions had announced that the United States Department of Justice will no longer look into these matters, thereby turning back the clock to a time when black Americans could be beaten and killed by police with apparent impunity. Perhaps this is what Making America Great really means.

We have been watching the Trump Rocky Horror Show, wondering who will be fired, indicted or arrested next. Meanwhile his appointee to the Office of Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, has been busy supporting a proposal to totally eliminate the 42 year old Community Development Block Grant Program.

During the Republican presidential primaries Dr. Carson did two amazing things. He made “brain surgeon” a pejorative term and he actually made Herman Cain look good as a black Republican presidential candidate. Now that he has a real job, Dr. Carson seems to be operating on the assumption that he should perform surgery, indeed amputations, on the programs upon which poor and aspiring Americans have depended upon for years. Even the short term impact of his short term thinking can be horrific – and over the long term the damage may well be unknowable.

The point is that in less than four months Donald Trump has proven himself to be miscast as President of the United States. He may or may not be “fired” at some point. But while we are watching the Spectacle That is Trump, we should not lose sight of the real damage that his Administration is doing every day – out of sight of the news cycle.

Watching shiny objects can be dangerous to your health.

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