Class Warfare Blog

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?

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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