So Much for the Rule of Law

'Something about this court makes me uneasy.'

I’m worrying about the powerful abusing the weak and the need to expand rights and opportunities. Them’s my rules.

The Trump regime’s goal of returning us to the days before even the Progressive Era, 1890 to 1918 or 1920, when women finally got the vote, has now given us a truly horrendous Supreme Court pick. [By the way, I’m not one of the sad sack progressives who believes this guy will automatically make it onto the court although I am very close to a state of sad sackism…]  In case you’re not familiar, watch this video for a history of the Progressive era, the good and bad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0Q4zPR4G7M

Let’s circle back to the hue and cry of late from Democrats and some progressives among them that the Republicans are not obeying the “rule of law” by which I think they mostly mean, the norms of civic life more than actual laws. Okay, there are also things like the “emoluments clause” which none of us had likely heard of til now and few yet know what exactly it entails. It seems it was written for folks like Benjamin Franklin who, “for instance, had accepted a snuffbox festooned with 408 diamonds from the King of France.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/what-is-the-emoluments-clause-does-it-apply-to-president-trump/2017/01/23/12aa7808-e185-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ca92c7adcdf6

Here’s a tweet which typically references “the rule of law” without stipulating what that means, “In the end of this debacle, there will either be a Republican Party that has joined with Putin to reform our gov.into an authoritarian state, or there will be the rule of law. There can’t be both. The Republicans have committed treason and need to be prosecuted for the crime.”

If it’s referencing colluding with a foreign state, then the law would seem to work as many already have been indicted and given prison terms but if it references the president, it’s vague. Because, by law, the Republican run congress can set aside the findings of the investigation and it’s a toss-up as to whether a sitting president may be indicted. In fact, it’s a political question, not a legal one.

But, if you’re asking whether a politician is above the law, yeah, that’s another issue and we all know the answer to that. Our system was set up to favor a certain group, a group I don’t have to describe. There have been years, even a decade here and there where laws were made to equalize the playing field, although equalize is not really fair if you were placed at a different starting block than others.

So now the Supreme Court and to a greater extent, the lower courts, which we had come to rely on, will be stacked against, hmmm, take a long lunch break while I type these-(Warning-I’m dropping the useless apostrophe here) workers rights, consumers rights, womens rights, Black folks rights, Brown folks rights, disabled folks rights, LGBTQ folks rights, immigrants rights, childrens rights, people who need healthcare rights, people who need to breathe clean air rights, endangered species rights (we should be added to that list). Hey, even most straight white males who own property actually need to preserve some of those rights.

Well, we kept saying, the system worked. The courts have stopped him/them. Yeah, good luck with that now. They will just ignore any judge who disagrees with them after ignoring any existing laws, statutes or NORMS until they get to SCOTUS where their perfidy will be upheld.

Why is any of this a surprise? For most of our history the courts have protected the Wealthy, the White and the American Aristocracy, whether it’s landed dudes who own their workers or tech dudes who, almost own their workers, and so-called Christian dudes who don’t wanna bake cakes in case they call for lavender icing.

We learned to love the Warren Court and hold it as our image of the goodness of lifetime appointments and the belief that if the same guy who proposed the internment/imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent could turn out to oppose segregation and uphold the 4th Amendment, could evolve so could they all.

Well, good luck with that. But if it’s cause you now wanna defend the FBI, I got some movies that show even Hollywood can set the lie to that. Now I don’t mean to say that the folks who run that Republican organization are all like J Edgar, no, they are more polished than that. And should we defend them, those agents, against the GOP’s obvious partisan and personal attacks, yes, of course. We can read and chew at the same time, right?

BUT, let’s stop getting our panties or our boxers-tired of the feminine reference being used to show weakness and Warning don’t read this if you are offended by gross language-everybody knows a pussy is way more resilient and powerful than a dick-whenever a norm is broken or a law misused. It’s the American way.

I’ve gone to jail twice because I ignored the rule of law, minor laws, laws imposed for expediency sake, for sure. But I’ll do it again and I’d even prefer doing it for “greater” laws as we shall soon see the return of laws against free speech like we did under Woodrow Wilson, yeah, that guy. Check out the Sedition Act of 1918, https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/supremecourt/capitalism/sources_document1.html

Or the ones that go back to John Adams, sigh.

Relying on such a concept of the Rule of Law is a recipe for acquiescing to more racially punishing laws, more denigration of individual and group liberties and the complete collapse of our environment.

No, we need to coalesce around a group of principles against which we will give not an inch. It starts with preventing any of Trump’s SCOTUS picks from getting a fair hearing, Yep, I said fair. All those judges were picked by folks who oppose equal rights for the rest of us so the list is biased against us and we must act accordingly.

Anyway, please discuss, especially the legal minds, tear into this if you will but please define the rule of law before you do, cause really, I don’t know what you folks are worrying about. I’m worrying about the powerful abusing the weak and the need to expand rights and opportunities. Them’s my rules.

download

“The Force” & the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition: A Story Untold

14502777_1785765278374178_2710833209093021818_n

Many members of the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition, some of whom have worked on police reform for decades, have struggled to reconcile the portrayal of the Oakland community, its police department and the fight for police reform which ultimately led to the passage of Measure LL–an independent police commission-with the power to impose discipline and passed by 83% of the voters last fall with the film, the Force. The final product was more significant for what it left out than what it described.

First off, the filmmakers were embedded with the department and that shows in its point-of-view. And even within that access the emphasis was very narrow, following one officer whose community engagement was shallow, to say the least. The film itself came off like an episode of Cops when it came to its portrayal of the Black community, showing only the most dysfunctional interactions with individuals who were experiencing life threatening stress.

The thesis as told by The Force is an old cliche, a cop’s life is tough-he has to deal with difficult even dangerous people. That may be a part of the story but it’s not the whole story, certainly not the one that has yet to be told.

For instance the film took pains to explain away a rash of police killings, showing video from police cameras that purported to hold them blameless. But there was no mention of the shooting death of an unconscious man on the Lakeshore Avenue off ramp that same summer at the hands of a rookie officer. A huge peaceful vigil was held near where he died yet somehow a year later the DA found the killing “justifiable.” The police had video which former Chief Sean Whent IMG_20150612_212616promised to share with the community but never did.  Thirteen months later the city paid out a $1.2 million wrongful death suit on behalf of the dead man’s family. Once again, there was  no mention of this incident or its aftermath in the film which perhaps did not fit the already established narrative.

Peter Nicks and his crew probably thought their film was almost in the can when the news on OPD and its trajectory toward reform blew up. At that point the filmmakers had an opportunity to fully explore what had gone so wrong that a department under a Negotiated Settlement Agreement, that is court oversight of its reform measures for over a decade, could have jumped the tracks once again and found itself in the middle of a national scandal; but it was an opportunity lost. It appeared that Nicks and his crew had run out of steam and then decided to run out the clock just as wave after wave of ugly revelation hit Oakland and the Bay Area police community.

Since then many officers who were involved in the cover-up of this OPD-underage pimping/youth-sex-trafficking scandal have been promoted to OPD command and at the same time the initial charge that led to the NSA so many years ago, that of racial profiling continues to require the court’s oversight.

While all this was going on, the Oakland community, never willing to accept the dangerous status quo, continued to organize against police aggression. There is a story to be told here that would rival any drama now in theaters but alas it remains almost completely untold. The absence of even a mention of People United for a Better Oakland, PUEBLO, the organization that doggedly worked on police accountability for decades  is  particularly galling.

There are some illuminating scenes of powerful Black Lives Matter demonstrations and discussions of tactics and goals at Anti Police Terror Project meetings, one of the groups working toward ending police brutality, but there is not one scene of any of the 30 community organizations which wrote and passed the Police Commission initiative, Measure LL. One member of APTP is seen suggesting a police commission as a path to change but ultimately, that group decided against supporting the measure as “reformist.”

18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_nFor all that, many members of the Anti Police Terror Project continue to apply pressure in the streets and at city council meetings for reduced police budgets and the abolition of policing as we know it. There is no doubt that their efforts have made a difference and some of us continue to show up for those calls. We see no contradiction in taking to the streets while lobbying at the ballot box, because we believe that the broadest strategy continues to be necessary in this struggle.

But to have altogether left out the band of dedicated community representatives who pulled off a huge electoral victory with almost no cash and no paid consultants in favor of hours of rookie cops riding around in police cars, is to downplay, at best, the story of the creativity, tenacity and community dedication that are at the heart of transforming police community relations. We continue to wait for that history to be told but please don’t expect to find it in Peter Nicks the Force.  14523289_1794031850880854_5149506198094883856_n

Further references: https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-force-is-a-methodological-failure/Content?oid=9073235

https://hyphenatedrepublic.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/policing-history-peter-nicks-ahistorical-the-force-erases-context-and-facts-about-opd/

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-police-chief-doubles-down-on-promoting-the-cops-who-covered-up-the-celeste-guap-case/Content?oid=7922863