Class Warfare Blog

June 19, 2020

Once Again The Brilliant Yves Smith . . . This Time on the Police

Over at the Naked Capitalism website, the wonderful Yves Smith unpacks the propaganda “To Protect and Serve.” The Police Weren’t Created to ‘Protect and Serve.’ They Were Created to ‘Maintain Order.’ A Brief Look at the History of Police in America

Here’s a taste:

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, “What’s being protected?” and “Who’s being served?”

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose — to “maintain order” after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that “order.” The threat wasn’t primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who’s being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

 

June 16, 2020

Supreme Logic

I was reading about a supreme Court’s ruling in the recent case as to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

You have probably heard that according to this SCOTUS, it does. However, as one article put it: “Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion saying, ‘The common understanding of sex discrimination in 1964 was bias against women or men and did not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If Congress wanted to protect gay and transgender workers, he wrote, it could pass a new law.’

The article went on to comment: “Let me break down Alito’s argument: Because homophobia was more acceptable in 1964 when the anti-discrimination act was written and the creators of that law had no intention of protecting LGBTQ people, that law should not protect LGBTQ people.”

I wonder if Justice Alito’s logic extends to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, in that the amendment was referring to smooth bore, single shot muskets and swords and “If Congress wanted to protect the right to own and bear modern firearms, it could pass a new law.” I wonder how the Justice’s NRA supporters would view throwing that idea open to Congress.

And wouldn’t it be simpler to restrict employers as to hiring and firing to “job related performance” and nothing else. This would allow firings for not having the money to pay the worker, or the job was no longer needed, or the employee stinks and refuses to bathe, or . . . etc., but shouldn’t the reasoning be related to the job and not the category one wishes to stuff the employee into?

June 2, 2020

I Repeat . . .

Filed under: Culture,Morality,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
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A simple rule change is all that is needed to proscribe the actions of police officers. As I have suggested before, the actions of police need to be limited to the penalty were one convicted of the crime alleged. So, if someone is accused of passing counterfeit money, the most that infraction of the law can impose is a short stay in prison. If a police officer uses lethal force, it should be clear to everyone that that is not allowed and must be prosecuted. If someone is being arrested for the crime of passing counterfeit currency and they resist arrest, what is the penalty for resisting arrest? A short stay in jail. Anything imposed by police in excess of the punishment were the person being arrested convicted of the crime, is a violation of the law and must be prosecuted.

Using lethal force to arrest someone for jaywalking, or an equipment violation on a car is ludicrous and needs to be addressed and this way makes the police and prosecutors accountable for their decisions.

That someone is killed because he was selling cigarettes one at a time illegally, is ludicrous and no prosecutor should be given the option to “file charges against the officers involved or not.”

This is simple, easy to learn. If an officer is ignorant of the law, a quick call to dispatch can inform them of the amount of force that can be applied. (Come on, they do not have to memorize all of the penalties of all of the crimes, they just need to know which qualify for the death penalty. Any other infractions are covered by excessive force regulations.) When someone is arrested for selling single cigarettes, a scratch on the wrist from when handcuffs were applied is an acceptable amount of force. Remember these are the people who protect a detainee’s head when getting into a patrol car to be taken in to be booked. When they show extreme neglect of such care must be prosecuted.

Okay, if someone holds up a gun and seems to be going to shoot, can cops shoot back? Considering the police’s track records at shooting kids with BB guns, even an adult in a store shopping for Christmas and holding a BB gun, I think the police need to be trained to take cover and be authorized to return fire, not shoot “because I was afraid.” Being afraid and doing a good job is part of the qualifications for the job. It should not include the current “if you feel fear, open fire” dictates so often employed.

Interestingly police in other countries, some of whom are not armed with firearms, seem to do a better job at this than our police, so we know it can be done.

And, yes, all of the other recommendations about psychological testing, more training, and a national registry of police officers fired for cause being kept are all good, but I think the limits of the behavior of our police are good ones. And hiring police departments should be required to search that database before hiring.

February 19, 2020

Whoa! Really … Whoa!

An article in the most recent issue of Scientific American had this title and subtitle: Will Past Criminals Reoffend? Humans Are Terrible at Guessing, and Computers Aren’t Much Better A new study finds algorithms’ predictions are slightly superior but not under all circumstances

I don’t give a rat’s ass about the predictability of recidivism. Even if we had perfect predictions, what would we do with those predictions? Keep someone in jail because our AI says that he is just going to go out and commit another crime? Is it no longer “three strikes and you are out?” Is it is one strike and a computer’s say so?

So, a person gets picked up for littering or vagrancy and the judge was feeling grumpy and sentences them to a month in county jail. Then the counties AI says there is a 100% chance this guy will go out and commit another crime. Then what? Then fucking what?

Why is any one investigating this ability? Are we going to go all in with precogs like in the Tom Cruise movie The Minority Report?

Where are the small government people screaming to get the government out of our lives? Is this another situation like the anti-abortion people being also pro-death penalty? Life is sacred until somebody pisses me off? We’re in favor of small government except. . . .

Does anyone seriously want this ability?

January 21, 2020

Public Funding of Religious Schools?

One could ask why charter schools are resisting government oversight so very vigorously, but one would question that only if one didn’t realize who is behind the charter school movement as it is currently constituted. These movers and shakers are conservatives looking to make money, a great deal of it, in a deregulated business. After having hoovered up as much money as could be made in the private sector, they looked at the pile of money that was being spent on public educations and said “I want me some of that!”

But these blood sucking assholes are not just out for #1, they are also a stalking horse for the public funding of private religious schools.

Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a crucial case called Espinoza v. Montana. The goal of the Espinoza plaintiffs is to strike down state laws that prohibit public funding for religious schools. This is a case that could not only erase the line between church and state but could actually compel states to fund religious schools. It would require states to fund religious schools of every kind, and no one knows who will determine what is a legitimate religious school. It would divert funding from public schools to support students enrolled in religious schools, now and in the future.” (Source: Diane Ravitch’s Blog)

To my mind, there are a number of ways that this could occur and that would be if all religious schools were included in the deal (Ashrams, Yeshivas, Catholic schools, Sikh schools, Scientology schools, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ schools, Evangelical schools, etc.), that would eliminate showing some of the favoritism which is expected and government wouldn’t be sponsoring a religion, it would be sponsoring all of them. And, of course, the cost of accepting the funding would also include accepting government oversight and complying with the national hiring laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc. This is under the well-attested constitutional principle of “He who pays the piper names the tune.”

Oh, the religious schools are no longer interested? Ah!

SCOTUS

You’d think that the evangelical Christians behind this effort would be more aware of Church History. These folks seem to be quite anti-intellectual, and that includes with regard to their own documents. That notwithstanding, the Christian Church of the time, the “Orthodox Church” as it came to be named, even later to be called the Catholic Church, made a deal with the Devil by accepting status within the Roman Empire, first as a official state religion of Rome and then the official state religion of Rome. Think about this . . . Rome, represent Jesus’ executioners in this corner, and the relatively powerless nascent Christian Church in the other corner. A marriage made in . . . Hell.

The Christian Church officials of the time, like those behind this case, drooled over the prospects of exerting Roman state power in support of their religion. When they first acquired it, it was applied to the extermination of pagan cults (aided by Roman officials cashing in by claiming the confiscated lands and buildings of those cults). Once the pagan cults were vanquished, they took on the heretics. Of course, the definition of heretic was actually anyone who opposed the power of this or that ambitious prelate. (There was no central authority in the church at the time, there were just ambitious church politicians looking to claim it. Are you at all surprised that the church in Rome won that contest?) Those prelates used theological wars to provide the basis for greater power acquisitions.

Oh, and the cost of having state power at their beck and call? Well, it was steep. Most of the practices of the Christians of the third and fourth centuries no longer exist. They have been replaced by formalisms urged by Roman cult officials. (The separation of laity and priests, heck—priests and preachers, music in church, funny robes being worn by presiding officials, oh—presiding officials, funny hats being worn, you name it.) All adopted because of the Romans.

So, if the religious schools would sign on to play by the rules every other public school has to play by, then I might not oppose this move. Of course, the religious would be getting in bed with secular types who might just strangle them in their sleep. We can only hope.

 

October 26, 2019

Over and Over and Over. . . .

In the news yesterday were a couple of stories showing that our “justice systems” are anything but. The first involves a trial concerning the actions of a group of Catholic peace activists, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7. In April 2018, they broke into the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia, where they carried out what they claimed was an act of symbolic disarmament in protest against the U.S. military’s continued possession of nuclear weapons. As Sam Husseini wrote in The Nation, “[they] brought hammers, small bottles of blood, spray paint, and crime scene tape, which they strung across the facility.” Charged with several federal crimes, they face more than twenty years in prison if convicted. (Source: Rewire News web site).

The second item, well the title tells it all “Video shows officer shooting fleeing Fresno teen in the back of the head.” (Go ahead, guess what color the teen was . . . I’ll wait.)

In the first case . . . twenty years in prison for vandalism? The focus of the piece was on whether a religious exception for their behavior should be allowed, but I say it should be on whether the possible sentences fit the crime. No real property damage, just a janitorial bill, and no people were hurt. What say we publicly shame them for their poor choice of actions and make them clean up the mess, while video taping it for public distribution? How about putting them in a situation where if they do it again, they will be automatically punished more severely. Twenty years of someone’s life for an act of vandalism is bizarre.

In the second case, police officers seem to be willing to employ lethal force at the drop of a hat. The oft-cited reason for this is that if an officer fears for his life, he may use lethal force justifiably. This, “fearing for one’s life,” is a bogus justification for anything as it cannot be verified by anyone outside of the officer him/herself. Plus this creates a legal standard based upon a fear level that cannot be quantified or even examined. Plus, isn’t the job basically to manage one’s own fears to keep society safer? In this case, the 16-year old victim was a member of a small group already in custody, so it should have been a priority of those officers to make sure they were unarmed, no? Then the kid bolts and runs away, only to have one officer calmly put a bullet in his head from 35 feet away, then walk up to his unmoving body and handcuff him.

There is a very short list of criminal offences for which the death penalty can be applied (after due process, of course). Why then do we allow police officers to mete out the death penalty for trivial offences? In this case the young man was wanted for “questioning.” We need to change that rule for justification of lethal force. Lethal force should only be available for crimes for which the death penalty is available. If that kid had pulled out a gun and shot at the officers, they would be justified in shooting back because he would have been attempting to kill an officer of the law, for which the death penalty is available in many states. Running away from the police should result in him being chased, not shot and killed.

How many of these cases showing our criminal justice systems are really quite broken must we see before we take reformation of these systems as a serious priority?

October 11, 2019

Something is seriously wrong with this system.

Filed under: Economics,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:04 am
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Over at the Naked Capitalism site there is a significant post on the costs of healthcare insurance—Wolf Richter: How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance.

It is no secret that the healthcare insurers figured out that union-negotiated healthcare insurance was a spigot to tap the wealth of the nation so as to flow into their coffers.

The unions thought that they were negotiating a “fringe benefit,” a non salary-based benefit and that this would make sense for one and all. Everyone needed access to healthcare services, so making it a fringe benefit made sense. It also allowed a larger “purchase” to be made, thereby holding down the costs.

But insurers recognized that the prices they charge were made invisible to the employees and so they used the specter of employee unrest to jack up prices wholesale. Even employers were caught off guard.

Here’s a taste of the article, check out this graphic. It covers only a 20 year span, in which healthcare “costs” increased at a substantially higher rate than, well, anything else. (Why? Because there was no one in charge?)

As a contrast to this consider the school textbook market. All states buy textbooks for their schools. Some states, like Texas and California, are so large that textbook publishers cannot lose sales to those states, so they cater, fawningly over the states with the most buying power. Imagine if there were one giant healthcare insurance customer. Imagine the buying power. Imagine the ability to oversee this entity (as there will be only one customer, with only one suite of paperwork, one set of reports, etc.). Imagine the pressure on drug manufacturers and all of the rest to make sure they get their piece of the pie.

Can’t possibly work, you say? Well it is working . . . in numerous places around the globe . . . and even right here in River City. In the form of Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration.

 

 

 

August 16, 2019

A New Slant on the Second Amendment Debate

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
(Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Quite a few people are unaware that until quite recently most people and most Supreme Court Justices viewed the Second Amendment as addressing other than an individual right. Since its ratification, Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation. One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights (of militia members), while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

Until quite recently, this was considered mostly a collective right, not an individual one, with few Supreme Court cases addressing that matter (in effect, they were hiding from an definitive decision). That all changed with District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. (Yes, 2008, eleven years ago, peeps! Pay attention!) The case centered on Dick Heller, a licensed special police office in Washington, D.C., who challenged the nation’s capital’s handgun ban. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Empahsis mine. SR).

So now the Second Amendment addresses the government’s ability (inability, actually) to control an individual right. And that will be the case until a reversal of this opinion is had, so basically forever.

But, consider this. If you strip out all of the militia verbiage (which creates the collective vs. individual brouhaha) and just look at the rest of it, it says:

“. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Keep and bear. “Keep” refers to people who already have an “arm” and that they are to be allowed to keep (store, house, etc.) those arms and “bear” means to carry and, in this case, use the arms involved. But it says nothing about the government infringing upon the right to acquire firearms. (None other than Antonin Scalia stated in that 2008 decision the opinion that for him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry.” And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom, “to bear arms,” which meant to belong to an organized military force. But this was only a possible import of the phrase, not its core meaning. So, while establishing this new individual right, he also established with the terms “keep” and “bear” were in this amendment.)

So, while the government cannot infringe the right to keep and bear arms, it is free to legislate who can acquire arms and for what purposes. We can limit what arms can be acquired, how many, how much ammunition, etc. and the conditions that need to be met to be able to acquire them, which includes having a license, passing a training program, being sane, providing insurance against criminal use, etc.

Well, what do you think?

July 24, 2019

We Don’t Need Regulators, Corporations Would Never Do Anything to Harm Their Reputations

Filed under: Business,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am
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The Big Lie is a lie so obviously untrue that people would not accept it unless it became “common knowledge” which it does if the BL is repeated over and over and over.

We have been told by the “De-Regulators” that all of these regulations and regulators are unnecessary, that “The Market™” will take care of all of the bad actors. And, certainly major corporations would never, ever do anything to harm their reputations.

How many times do we need to see this is not only not true, but very, very false?

Read this!

Capitalism gone wrong: how big pharma created America’s opioid carnage

The biggest drug epidemic in the U.S. created not by human weaknesses but by the profit motive. (Read this sentence again!)

April 21, 2019

Jail Birds Fly Free … Well Some Do

One of the parents who conspired to get their kid into an elite college the old fashioned way (cheating, bribery, influence, etc.) has been on trial and that trial is in the sentencing phase. The prosecution wants something a little less than a year in prison and the defense wants something closer to a month in prison.

So, this is the justice system we have. People go to jail for cheating on college admissions requirements, for possession of small amounts of marijuana, etc. but if you do something really big, like bring down the financial system of the U.S. and the world, or defy the orders of a federal judge, you get swept under the rug as being “too big to fail” or, gosh, you get a presidential pardon. I understand that some banks might be too big to fail but are they too big to be broken up and sold off? Are the executives too big to go to jail? Do we need bigger jail cells? We used to send bankers to jail and did so as recently as the savings and loan debacle in the 1980’s. But now, gosh, it would be just so sad to do that, so let’s just give those executives a bonus and let them retire or, heck, just let them keep doing what they have been doing.

Obviously justice in this country has always been predicated upon the color of your skin and your socioeconomic status. If Bernie Maddoff had bilked a bunch of poor people or a bunch of people of color, would he have gone to jail? He had the bad taste to bilk white people who had been rich, so his fate was sealed.

This is sad.

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