Question of the Week: August 24, 2015

According to AP:

“Ferguson Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin issued an order on Monday that attempts to address some of the damage caused by St. Louis County’s practice of issuing arrest warrants and harsh penalties for minor violations, a revenue-driven approach the Department of Justice criticized in a March report. ”

This is a highly unusual action by the judiciary to remedy systemic abuses by law enforcement.

About Gene Howington

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19 Responses to Question of the Week: August 24, 2015

  1. Michael Beaton says:

    This only affects the court system, if I read the article correctly. Not the police as the term “law enforcement” might be taken. Your statement about “correcting the abuses of Law Enforcement” seems to be misapplied. It may have that affect…maybe the police may stop arresting people for these petty infractions; maybe the city will change its policy of funding the budget from the abuse of the powerless… maybe a whole lot of thing may change as a result of this ruling… Still the abuses of the police were sanctioned and enforced by the court.

    Which gives rise to an old question of mine : how is it that Judges , who are supposed to be wise and understand not only the law but the purpose of the law , allowed this behaviour in the first place?

    It has long puzzled and angered me that our “Justice” system is not. Not in any serious degree – at the point that it matters. Meaning, at the point where the rest of the system would abuse the citizen and the law. It is Law Enforcement, for sure. It is effective in controlling the Citizenry, it is very good at applying and enforcing power, but Just? Wise? above the fray of politics? An advocate for Justice and a bulkwark against the abuse of the power of the state against the Citizen? Not so much.
    And yet that is what it is supposed to be. Justice.
    So we have failed , I believe, in this most essential , vital part of the function of government. And as is well known through out history, and especially in the founding of this Republic, the court system is the appeal of last resort to the abuse of power. When that gets corrupted all hope is lost.

    Unjust judges.

    There are many ways to take this thought…And I would wish that there would be a healthy discussion and response fr those here who know the system from the inside who may even challenge and destroy my assertion. I welcome it.

    My point at this point is simply… why didn’t this happen before? Why did judges, the ones who are supposed to be be the final appeal to what is right and stop what is wrong and straddle the very difficult line between the needs of the state for order and lawfulness and the citizen and the needs for a fair application of the law… how is it that they issued all these warrants and sanctioned this systemic abuse for so long?… at all? The fact it is happening now proves that it could have been done at any time. So it is not a matter of “we had to follow the law” and “we had no choice”… (Arguments and retorts I have heard and expect in response to my accusation.)

    The only answer that seems to fit all the facts is the one most obvious is also most odious and thus most avoided : our Justice system is not just, and the principles that it is actually governed by are rife with racism, elitism, a sycophantic relationship to power, and at the root, profound inequality.

    Examples abound. I trust this point is not at debate.

    I am reminded of the end of the movie “Judgement at Nuremberg ” w Spencer Tracey… The German Judge attempting to justify his actions (all of which are implicit and sometimes explicit in this Ferguson case, as well as jurisdictions all across the country) said “…you have to believe me , I did not know it would come to this…”. To which the powerful retort was given – a clear statement that has resonance for much of our current state of affairs, here in Ferguson as well as jurisdictions throughout the country… (this is not a local problem)… “…it came to this the first time you sentenced an innocent man … “.
    So it is. Our “Justice” system aka Law Enforcement system is abusing the citizenry… and it has already “come to this”. I believe until we understand and grapple with the predicates of the events at this level there is no way the issues can be resolved and changed. At best covered up…deferred, as we usually do, until they will not be deferred any longer.
    I believe that assertion is exampled by the still open wound exemplified by the Confederate Flag debate. One could also simply introduce Katrina into the conversation. Never having integrated the deep structure of our national history as pertains to race, slavery, the Civil War and etc… the wars and conflicts never cease. I believe this matters that are now percolating into the public square after all this time are simply the coals that have been banked but never extinguished.

    The one hopeful note in all this is that , after all, there is some long term movement towards Justice… MLK talked about the “arc of history bending toward Justice”. And so it is. Not fast enough nor deep enough to attend to current events, but at least not extinguished as a counterpoint to the lesser angels of our nature. We’ll see if it is enough. In that light this edict by the judge is welcome. It is barely a first baby step however, and we should not over praise it as if something amazing has been accomplished. It quite literally is the least that could have, and should have , been done.

  2. Aridog says:

    I know I’m likely the odd ball out on this topic. My first remark would be that populations are ultimately responsible for their local justice systems….in short you get the governance and the police your deserve, either by action or more likely inaction. So I voted “Other” because the other choices are too presumptive of blaming others rather than the populaces involved daily.

    Next, I favor the “Broken Windows” theory of policing, including “stop & frisk”…e.g.,stop immediately any violence or suspicious appearance and make it well known. I’ve been selected for a “Terry Stop” and was not offended…I’ve joked that it may have been a rare instance of “driving while white” by good, dedicated, black police officers in Detroit who had cause, IMO, to stop a white guy in a suit in a known drug and prostitution area at near 3:00 AM … e.g., in a 95% percent black neighborhood with crime problems what was this white guy doing in a suit driving there at that hour? Fair question IMO. My reason was I had just closed a friend’s saloon (while he was on vacation), after my day in the federal building on my day job, and was driving home. I was treated with utmost courtesy and found the observations of the officers legitimate….often suburbanite fools visit the area late for Lord knows what. We parted with chuckles on both sides. Attitude makes all the difference…on both sides. Their efforts appear to have worked as a relatively small condo in the same area today costs $300K or so…and up from there for larger units…and are populated by a rainbow of hues and ethnicities…including my kid who is half Asian.

    Detroit has come a long way since 1967…noteworthy in one sense for the lack of rioting when the rest of the country seemed to jump at the chance…whenever the race baiter crowd yelled “fire!” due to something far removed from here. We’ve now had three consecutive good Mayors, two black (a former federal judge and a former business man who provided many inner-city jobs) and now one white (a former head of the Detroit Medical Center who he rescued from near bankruptcy), elected by the 85% black population of the city…who were both tired and angry with the antics of the last idiot Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick (now serving 28 years in a federal pen) and wished to proceed with positive changes. It’s working and even my daughter now happily lives in the city core area where once few dared tread. She walks to work without fear. Said another way, I have faith in ordinary people who have much to gain and nothing to lose.

    Do we still have issues? Yes, of course, but it has been progressively better since 1967…the riot I lived in and through back in that day…working full time days and gong to Wayne State University at night (armed to the teeth so to speak)…when I could no longer afford the U of Wisconsin. Guys and girls like me had no choice, we had to work to go to school and weren’t about to be deterred by idiots….and we were an amalgamation lot of sundry races, hues, sexual preference, etc…we had one important thing in common, we needed the education and insisted on getting it. I’d like to think we had at lest a minor influence on those around us. So far it seems so…or the populace just acquired our values on their own…likely the latter because they had families at risk if not positive, so say it was a common value whether or not influenced by our little group. Today Detroit has a police chief who advocates everyone be armed simply because it slows down the cowards who’d rob and murder otherwise. I like his attitude and he’s a “Stop & frisk” advocate as well. Why is anyone afraid of a stop & frisk if they’re doing nothing wrong? Just be honest and keep any “:attitude” you might have sublimated…the cop who stops you isn’t trying to start a fight and is relieved when one doesn’t happen…they have families and kids to go home to as well. I can’t speak for Ferguson or Baltimore (except to say Baltimore is now where Detroit was 45+ years ago)…may they figure it out sooner than later. You get he government & police policy you deserve, period in my not so humble opinion.

    An aside are the several notorious “speed traps” in Michigan, such as in and near De Witt, Michigan, where if you speed even just a bit you WILL get a ticket and the local library thanks you. Add in others like Taylor, Dearborn Heights, Dearborn, and Redford Township…folks in all those places drive like they would in Ohio state…another place a traffic ticket is assured if you break any traffic law, even a minor one…amazing how much better manners those Ohio drivers have (even if we like to mock them for hesitancy 🙂 ). It is very simply…really v-e-r-y simple…obey some simple laws and don’t sweat it. I get it that many minority folks, mostly impoverished, are arrested for minor violations, but over time the cause can be remedied by jobs … and jobs come when large & small business doesn’t fear fools who’d tear them down. Detroit, regardless of its ugly media representation, even now ignorant of true history, is well on the way to this goal. I’d agree with Mr Trump that Ford should build that 2.5 Billion dollar new plant here ( or even Nashville, et al…) and not Mexico…and there are good reasons to do so. His position may just change Ford’s mind and I’d hope so. If not this time, then the next time.

    When I see a cop, a police officer, working I am re-assured they are there to protect me and are the main reason, here, that I’ve never even touched my side arm (I have a CPL) for 40 odd years. The locals even went out of their way to help me rescue and save a semi-feral dog who needed a batter place and did so in the middle of the night. If they can do that, then they may stop & frisk me whenever they think its necessary…I won’t resist. More likely I’ll thank them for their observant conduct.,,,I mean, seriously, the FNX-45 I carry is a big lump on my hip and if any officer wants to know more I am pleased to explain it in simple terms. Might even buy them a donut 😀

  3. mhbtest says:

    @AriDog : not that you asked, and not that there is much going on on this blog it appears… but I’ll take your post as a opportunity to engage because you speak not odd ball ideas, but exactly the sort of non sequitur statements easily found around the media/public square.

    I know I’m likely the odd ball out on this topic.

    not so much odd ball, as irrelevant to the point or the discussion. And even so pretty mainline non-responses as best I can tell. “Never affected me…heck I haven’t even had to pull my concealed weapon…”.
    Your experience , so well and long expressed, has little to nothing to do with the experience of those in question. Or… your experience does not trump nor change theirs. Or… your experience almost establishes the point in the negative : there are not many black men, pulled over by the cops who end up “chuckles on both sides”.
    If I were to use stronger language I’d say your response is witless.

    It is very simply…really v-e-r-y simple…obey some simple laws and don’t sweat it.

    What is very simple is your comment. How would you explain the Sandra Bland case in light of your very simple perspective? Do you see any racism, any abuse of power, any illigitate force in this example? And do you suppose this incident is rare? And if not rare, then how do such things fit your very self serving prescription? “Hey you people, just shut up, take whatever we dish out, and don’t speak back… eventually we may change….” But hasn’t that been the context of racism for generations now? And has it actually changed? The way you suggest in this v-e-r-y simplistic proposition?

    My first remark would be that populations are ultimately responsible for their local justice systems….in short you get the governance and the police your deserve, either by action or more likely inaction.

    I’d love for you to support, substantiate, or even defend this assertion. I cannot tell exactly what angle from which you would make such a simple statement…but it at least doesn’t seem to account for the facts. But it seems more borne of the ignorance of realities … systemic as well as anecdotal.
    You redux this theme a few times in your post, attached to some coda of ” just give it more time, it will all work out if you just keep your mouth shut.” … A strategy of silencing that has worked well over the years to maintain the status quo, but is now breaking down….badly…. Or good if you take the perspective of healing : that the first step toward healing is to know the disease and treat it.

    These are complicated matters, with roots that tangle throughout our history and strangle insight and wisdom to the present day. One of the hallmarks of a ignorant response is to be unwilling, thus unable to see what is right in front of them. The climate change is a prime example of this point. And not seeing, we cannot respond. Comments like your, sadly, are not oddball, but are right down the majority middle of the unseeing mindset.

    Being able to see starts with being willing to see.

    Michael Beaton.

  4. Aridog says:

    mhbtest … we are all entitled to our opinions, and yours is no exception. I live in a real world and that informs my opinions. you can mock it, or agree, it really doesn’t matter…see, I initially acknowledged my odd position…and YOU did not yours. Have a nice day.

    You presume yours is rational and maybe it is within your world, but not mine. If you believe you are not responsible for your own governance and policing, then I can’t fathom who you believe is responsible. Surely it cannot be you. Right?

  5. Aridog says:

    mhbtest … BTW…I did NOT say ”… just give it more time, it will all work out if you just keep your mouth shut.” so your use of quotation marks is disingenuous…e.g. a figment of your imagination.

    • mhbtest says:

      Your right the quotes were misapplied in the formal/technical sense and I should be more careful… However I do/did think I am quoting the sense/meaning of your argument and that is why I “quoted” it this way… Do you dispute that?
      But I take your point, and will be more precise going forward.

      As to your other point, I was not mocking. I was , in this now seemingly anemic environment, trying to have a conversation and exchange hopefully by challenging the logic and thinking presented by you in the context of the original post and referenced article. Perhaps, as a result , actually come to learn and know something more at the end of the process.

      What is clear to me is that these are hard conversations to have, especially in the “comment to a blog” format. It is too easy to be led astray in the thread, as any number of examples even in this space will attest. Including yours , which I felt to be fine in itself, but off point.
      I obviously disagree with you as far as there is anything to disagree with. As you correctly say, we all have our opinions. In particular I dispute your assertion of being an “odd ball”. I don’t think you are , and that you think so I believe is a problem. Rather than “odd ball” your “opinion” seems to be obvious and general, as I said before. Not to discount you but try to get more details from you. It seemed, and still does, that you mean to trump the experience of many by wondering why you haven’t had that same experience as them, all the way to packing and sharing giggles with the cops… and thus come to the conclusion the experiences of those who don’t have this are in the wrong. As if the injustices are at root cause their fault somehow.

      Maybe you think they deserve the “Justice” they received because they didn’t just keep their mouth shut, or have a job, as you prescribe?

      I get it that many minority folks, mostly impoverished, are arrested for minor violations, but over time the cause can be remedied by jobs

      You specifically acknowledge the problem of injustice and then don’t speak to the systemic system, or even the anecdotal one as cause…but jobs? A fair enough point, but off point as to the original post and the question of Justice. You suggest that just a little more waiting will make it work out eventually.
      Try that logic in other situations. I hope you see how flawed it is in the context of Justice. And hasn’t there been enough waiting anyway? It has been 150 yrs since the civil war after all.

      Opinions? yes, I suppose, but hopefully informed and substantiated rather than simply stated as solipsistic fact. To the elements of your story I have no problem, and in fact found it interesting in parts.

      As to your last

      You presume yours is rational and maybe it is within your world, but not mine. If you believe you are not responsible for your own governance and policing, then I can’t fathom who you believe is responsible. Surely it cannot be you. Right?

      I don’t presume anything. In fact I specifically invited demolition of my argument by people more acquainted w the legal system.
      My “opinion” at least is presented with reason , rationality, and in the context of the original reporting and not simply personal anecdotal stories. I hoped to solicit more of that.
      At the level of ideas and systems and context and Justice and Citizen I do think these issues matter a heck of a lot. I say we need more clear eyed thinking and more banging about to work out the thinking. Ultimately we need to be willing to see what is there to be seen,… Else just continue to be blind and surprised , as has been the case in Ferguson, when it finally blows up.

      This willful blindness is a national pattern historically.

      As to the specifics of your reply : I believe we are speaking about 2 different levels of the issue and in the conflation loosing the point. At the personal level, which I take to be the level you are speaking about, yes, we are responsible for our selves, our principles (governance) and how we behave (police) ourselves in accord with those principles.
      My point is addressed at the level of the Justice system, which we do not have direct responsibility for. Nor do we for the policies and behaviours of the police.
      We can act in various ways to attempt to influence these principles/policies and behaviours but we don’t have the authority to directly set them and thus we don’t have the responsibility.

      We have, in our system, authorized Congress and other parts of the government to implement the precepts of the Constitution in a way congruent to these principles. As such, at this level, the “authority” and responsibility resides there and with these officials.

      We do, as citizens, however, have the responsibility to speak up and act/advocate for change in those policies and principles when they are found to be out of congruity. To the degree the officials are elected, to elect those who will do the right thing(s) in the matters of governance and enforcement. And this has happened, both on the ground in Ferguson and elsewhere.
      (For what it is worth, I consider these posts/exchanges, to a much smaller degree, a worthwhile contribution to the conversation in the public square. And in that regard it is worth doing, even though in real terms none of this back & forth on this site really matters.)

      More to delve into. Your posts are full of particulars to be examined in light of these injustices. Likely this is not a useful excersize, not useful. It would be great to have a robust exchange on this board about the matters raised.

      I hope it happens. But not really hopeful.

  6. Aridog says:

    mhbtest … I will get back to this post later…have to run out now. However, you seem to misinterpret almost everything I said…from the “odd ball” remark (there was no answer in the quiz I could affirm) and throughout. I don’t deny injustices occur, in fact I’ve witnessed a few, but I feel that we the people are who determine our government’s conduct by action or inaction. I made the remark about what you refer to as giggles with Detroit police because I’ve grown to respect them after years of not so much. Detroit has changed and it is the people of Detroit who called up leaders who made it happen…those who ran for suburbs didn’t contribute much. For what it is worth I agree the subject deserves discussion and analysis, and time permitting I will try to respond to your points as a start. I do think conversation on this site matters because we have our discussion and then go out and relay information to others…several people here and elsewhere have caused me to modify my thinking or outright change my mind. When I first came to this site there was some ridicule, which was moderated by several here who asserted I wasn’t “trash” simply because of another site I read and comment on. I appreciated that since I came here out of curiosity and to find different views than my own.

  7. Aridog,

    I am going to have to both agree and disagree with the notion “people get the government they deserve”. While it is true under the social compact theory of governance that ultimately the governors only rule with the consent of the governed, governments can run amok, making democratic-style uprising difficult or even impossible in times of oppression. While MLK may be right in stating that the moral arc of history is long and tends towards justice, it is not a smooth curve in the slightest. People may eventually get the government they deserve, but the price of maintenance once obtained is constant vigilance, understanding your rights and robust participation. While humans are perfectly capable of this, complacency, ignorance and laziness are also features of our species collective psyche.

  8. mhbtest says:

    The NYTimes article below is, I think, relevant to the underlying point I originally proffered in response to the poll and the underlying article spawning this thread (and for which , surprisingly?, did not provoke any sort of response? Oh well… ? )
    This article shows there is some dimly dawning sense of the un-justness of what has passed for justice for far too long.
    But not good enough.. Not until the issue is dealt with at the systemic level. (The piece closes with the quote below, making this point.) Justice that is capricious is no justice at all. And it seems incontrovertible that one of the essential properties of our “Justice” system is its capriciousness.
    “Justice” that is not based in principles deeper than fear, retribution and a foundational xenophobia is ruinous to a society. A Justice that purports to be “blind” but in fact is very much disseminated with one eye open to who is before the bar is the essence of corruption.

    I wonder what it will take to rehabilitate our Judicial system? I doubt we are quite ready to address the issue principally much less historically just yet.
    We are, in contradiction to Edward Murrow, a fearful people…It has serious influence on this issue. To Airdogs point, we have gotten the “justice” we wanted… a retributive, harsh, unjust system that deals unkindly with “those people”. It is just not the system we applaud ourselves for having…

    To open another angle on the point… I say it is this very thing that is the energy behind the Trump surge. To the degree that point has validity, what does the Trump phenom say about the deep psyche of the nation?
    At least, I suggest, it says we are a troubled and fearful lot and it will be hard to overcome in any part of our public community; but more so in this foundational matter of “Justice” and the Justice system.
    The article also illustrates this point.

    “As a society we really need to have a serious conversation on this subject of people with convictions’ never being able to work again,” Judge Gleeson wrote in an email. “A strong argument can be made that the answer to this problem should be more systemic, through legislation, not on a case-by-case basis in individual judges’ courtrooms.”

    • Poor quality drafting practices in crafting legislation are at the root of many a problem. Add lobbying interests drafting laws wholesale for pols and you have a recipe for dysfunction.

  9. Aridog says:

    mhbtest said…

    To Airdogs [sic] point, we have gotten the “justice” we wanted… a retributive, harsh, unjust system that deals unkindly with “those people”…

    Right there in that sentence is why you and I won’t find accommodation on the subject. Where I said “responsible [for]” you interpret it as “wanted”. I’d suggest “deserve” would be a better interpretation….the one Gene Howington made in fact. Further, he said:

    People may eventually get the government they deserve, but the price of maintenance once obtained is constant vigilance, understanding your rights and robust participation. While humans are perfectly capable of this, complacency, ignorance and laziness are also features of our species collective psyche.

    That is almost exactly what I meant. Said better in fact. I don’t disagree that governments can “run amok” and that the curve of history is not smooth…my position is that to avoid that we cannot be complacent and lazy with some kind of “I got mine” mentality. In short, it is a continuous task to prevent, or correct, injustice to anyone, including “those people”, whomever you mean. One day anyone might find themselves included among “those people.” That is the price of complacency.

    I also agree that poorly drafted, even vague, legislation is a root of many of our problems…and as a long time DOD & DA “Fed” I have seen quite a bit of that where senior bureaucrats (SES & higher) and lobbyists shape rules & regulations to suit their desires…and the vagueness of the foundation law enables those “rules” to be treated as law with penalties without a court venue…and that is injustice.

  10. Aridog says:

    mhbtest & Gene Howington … I’ve cited Detroit as an example of what complacency can create and how action to take responsibility can improve it. When Detroiters elected Kwame Kilkpatrick as mayor they elected a corrupt man [now serving 28 years in a federal prison] who served no one’s interest but his own. The people of Detroit finally woke up and elected some good men and the beginning of improvement was almost instant. Investment returned and quality of life began the slow progress to return as well….although there is still a long way to go, at least there is hope. My hope is that the progress continues.

    I’d hope my tendency to defend Detroit when I hear or read it lumped in with Baltimore [and its difficulties] in today’s terms is understood. Baltimore today is where Detroit was in 1967-2008…not where it is now.

  11. mhbtest says:

    Perfect. I have no quibble with Deserve vs Responsible vs Wanted. I’d posit that they are different facets of the same point.
    But since you focus on it: What is the predicate of “Deserve”? Why do “we” ( or the ‘people’ or whoever the object of the deserving is…) deserve “it”. What have we done to ‘deserve’ it?
    Do we ‘deserve’ it as a consequence of our behaviors/actions/non-actions – that we let the lobbiests and the “pols” determine these things? Thus we get the dsyfunction we deserve?

    Or do we “deserve” due to the core principle of “All men are created equal / inalienable rights… ” sort of way?

    And what is the IT?… Justice of course… Which puts me back to mind of the first question – What is justice?
    — for the purposes of this conversation I suggest it is the core principles of “equal before the law” and other well known principles, actually applied by judges who have the ability to make a “just” distinction and apply the law to the moment.
    Any controversy re that? (I know it is not complete)

    And if deserve is to be taken in the 2nd sense, why do we “deserve” this? I have my thoughts, but I’d like to hear more from Gene/Airdog re that question.

  12. Aridog says:

    mhbtest by jove I think you are getting it. You said:

    What have we done to ‘deserve’ it? … Do we ‘deserve’ it as a consequence of our behaviors/actions/non-actions – that we let the lobbiests [sic] and the “pols” determine these things? Thus we get the dsyfunction [sic] we deserve?

    What many have done is not vote or vote & advocate superficial issues…not caring, or caring only on divisive issues, is a disease and when we do that we get what we “deserve.” We really can make a difference one by one of us.

    What I witnessed in Asia, Central and Southeast, in war, living there for a while, is what gave me the idea. Fear driven complacency drives dictatorships. Never met a rural Asian who didn’t want to be left alone and when confronted with multiple negative choices…we should not be surprised by the reactions…e.g., picking the least worst among many worsts. We have a habit of that in our own politics do we not?

  13. mhbtest says:

    Thanks, but/and I never didn’t have it. … My points were addressing different aspects of the problem and specifically was attempting to contain the discussion in the framework of the original question and post. At least until had been acknowledged, if not addressed (but it does seem apparent that that doesn’t happen much here now… so I will cease to want/expect it) . When we got to this level or detail then that aspect of the conversation was able to be explicated…
    I take this to be a limitation of the medium here – discussion via comment thread – it has its place, but it is subject to be derailed pretty easily.

    So saying.. you still only address one side of the point…the point of action of the citizenry to have in fact , in life, what they ostensibly have. The deserving as I take it from yours, is the action or non action and by these definitions the outcome is “deserved”.
    I think so too.
    However , I ponder that there is a foundational level of the point that I tried to surface: To wit that there is a thing to be “deserved” (I am using the vernacular of the state of the conversation thus far). This I take to be the reason, or more properly (to me) the principle by which we “deserve” anything. I tried to make that distinction in my prior post.
    Without understanding what they are and what that means there is no way to sustain the notion that anyone “deserves” anything.
    This is where the appeal to Rights comes in vs, say, simple untethered power. (and the ‘golden rule’ : he who has the gold makes the rules.”)

    To restate the point then, from my POV,
    We deserve Justice because we are a society (ostensibly) rooted in the notion of law, precepts, in short : of inalienable ideas sometimes known as Rights. In our system they are not granted as a privilege they are a condition of simply being Citizen. Or in a larger context, of being a human being. (and a different, perhaps larger sense, even , if one is so inclined : the context of sentient beings. But that leads the discussion into much deeper waters… So I’ll stick with the level of Citizen in America for now.) As such no government, or individual is justified in taking them away from a Citizen without doing substantial damage to the entire substrate of what it means to be American.

    To loop back to my original post… it seems evident that a Judge is established in our system to ensure Justice is done. It is their one major role, to deal with the issues of power Justly. When the Judge condones manifest “not-justice” , and that in a large scale and systematic way, profound damage is done. Not only to the individual , but the system known as society. And further in that case, when they (unjust judges) finally are forced – through the actions and efforts of those same citizens who demand the “rights” that are our common heritage – thus deserving , by your comments , to have them operational (as opposed to given. cannot ‘give’ a right’ ) , when they do this in a half assed way… I personally do not give them praise for the half ass beginning but wonder why they don’t do the whole.

    Deserve then is a multiple faceted notion. As I see it anyway. I would wish we would be governed more obviously by our principles and not our whims.

    (As a meta point : I believe this is the framework , the structure , of so many of our issues to day. Ie, the notion of the point, and the underlying point / idea/ precept / axiom that gives the “point/idea” under discussion meaning and force. And that the mis-understanding… or more often, simply no-understanding of this distinction between the “thing” (in the case of this thread Justice) and the predicte, or principle of the Thing (in this case such axiomatic, defining beliefs as “All men are created equal” , “Every one is equal before the law”, “Nobody is above the law” . These are a few of the axioms of our society by which we can say we ‘deserve’ justice, for example.
    Muddling these 2 levels leads to shallow thinking : emotional?: yes, certain of itself?: yes absolutely, dogmatic? : definitionally (because there is no appeal to any truth deeper than ones assertion) ; lacking in nuance : of course, because the conversation by now is substantiated not rationally, but by appeals to group, tribe, demagoguery, convention, or custom: “my opinion” and facts. In these ways and times reason , rationality, and even the quest for good thinking may be seen as suspect, sometimes an enemy, if they don’t confirm ones assumptions. )

    To close: I know we are having 2 different conversations in this thread. I have tried to hew to the main point, but that doesn’t seem to be possible…maybe not even desirable.
    I hope there is ,at least ,some clarity of what I mean/meant by my first comments. Though, as the nature of these things is, they have likely already passed into the grand stream of the internet consciousness….


  14. Aridog says:

    mhbtest yousaid…

    I have tried to hew to the main point, but that doesn’t seem to be possible…

    Could you please concisely cite what you believe was the main point of this post? It was a poll regarding justice, with “other” as a choice…which is what I chose. My impression is that you chose to dwell on injustice, as irrefutable, more than a remedy.

    • mhbtest says:

      click the link to the underlying article
      and the summary is in the intro paragraph:

      “Ferguson Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin issued an order on Monday that attempts to address some of the damage caused by St. Louis County’s practice of issuing arrest warrants and harsh penalties for minor violations, a revenue-driven approach the Department of Justice criticized in a March report. ”

      This is a highly unusual action by the judiciary to remedy systemic abuses by law enforcement.

      I extrapolate from this presumably heroic effort on the part of this judge to deal with some of the legal racism instantiated in the local system there (which if you read the article closely , even the order he gave is anemic IMHO) to contemplate the institutionalized injustice that allowed the condition to happen in the first place. And not on there in Ferguson, but by extension nation/society wide. It is not difficult to find more examples.
      I posit that it was/is an unjust Judaical system, [which at the core is a collection of Judges and the law they are meant to apply – and the principles (Constitution et al) that they are meant to be governed by in the process, ] , that in no small part enables whatever Law Enforcement abuses may be inflicted upon the citizenry.
      To me this invites a deeper discussion than whether to send flowers of praise to this fellow, and ponder the underlying issues, including the need for such an order. When I ponder this it seems to me that the underlying issues have to do with Justice in the most essential ways, even though the detail of the case may be considered of lesser moment.
      Thus my original citation of the power of small injustices leading to major ones. I believe we have also experienced this progression and continue to do so.

      My take off is on that point.

  15. Aridog says:

    mhbtest Given your “take off” I’d be interested in what misdemeanors and petty crimes you think are unjustly stopped for, charged, and prosecuted. A discreet list, if you can muster one…and I’m sure you can do so.

    I’d agree there are some “cash cow” citations among them, but even then I’m not sure abolishing them would serve public safety. I’ve mentioned a Michigan town & township, DeWitt, MI, (be warned y’all, seriously) that has been a notorious “speed trap” for at least 50+ years now…go much over (say 3 mph) the limit there and you will be stopped and ticketed…all of us who must pas through there know this and slow down. Doesn’t that improve traffic safety? Elsewhere in Michigan 85+ mph in a 55 or 70 mph zone is ignored by police. Think I-96 between Brighton and Farmington for example…drive the speed limit there (70 mph) and you’ll be passed, tailgated, or threatened by swerving vehicles, as if you are parked…and they have some really ugly lives lost crashes as a result.

    Not sure where you live, but “attitude dudes” strolling down in the middle of a street rather than a sidewalk is an outright challenge to residents and police (do you dare try to push them off the street if you are driving through?) , as are strong arm robberies and/or bully-shoving and intimidation in public places. How do you segregate these behaviors with certainty? Are those not serious enough to warrant intervention? When does “broken windows” policing fail to be productive? Where I live it was a frequent occurrence, not so much anymore due to police intervention. When is a “Terry Stop” to see what weapons these challenger folk might have not worthwhile? BTW…I am not defending Ferguson MO, where I know a couple people who say its “over done”…Ferguson is NOT the issue…the locals can remedy their problems without a national outcry. In other words, they can make changes or not…ambivalence is not a virtue. The incident in Ferguson that made national news was not without justification for the officer IMO…and the DOJ determined that to be the case, while still citing over doing things. I’d agree based upon what I’ve heard from Ferguson residents.

    In short, just where do YOU draw the line? What misdemeanors, or worse, do YOU think are too much? This would advance this discussion. I realize my growing up and living in Detroit causes a bias in me, and so does my time living in Asia….where at times the pressure was police/political depending upon the leadership. South Korea needed the autocracy at first and then the population decided democracy was better (which is what I’ve advocated as citizen responsibility)…and then they flourished. All I can surmise today is that we don’t manage it well, and the recent incidents with police assassination seems to support my viewpoint. How would you handle it? I’d hope it wouldn’t be “pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon”) It isn’t an either/or issue. There is a line…I’d like to hear how you’d draw that line?

    Then we can go on with discussion from there. I can dismiss you periodic condescension toward “folks here” if you can explain you position in detail. I agree with you that the discussion is worthwhile…if all sides can have their say. I’d not be spending time reading this list of comments, and saying my bit, if I didn’t think so. Ball is in your court now…what do you think, in detail?

    • mhbtest says:

      Re yours: last things first
      You close w/ an accusation of condescension and at “folks here”, neither of which feels right to me. I don’t feel that, and have only respect for folks here… so not sure what your picking up. I do wish more of the promise of this gathering was manifest; something more of the robust, systemic, elucidating engagement on substantial topics/questions would happen. But such things cannot be demanded, only hoped for. This thread for example I though might solicit something more than it has. I would wish, as you say, that all sides would have their say… So far no sides but you and me have anything to say. And we don’t disagree so much as find different levels from which to have the conversation…(I think?) But so it is. If there is something more than this, please expound.

      To your points:
      I think any “disagreements” we might have are to be found in the starting points we take to engage the discussion. It seems to me you are consistently starting at the level of “facts” and obvious truths and in particular look at the outcomes of various policing tactics , deem them an obvious good and deduce from there that a few bad apples are to be expected in any batch, but look at these positive outcomes – as a way to not so much justify perhaps, but to explain why it is ok. Take care of the bad apples, but don’t mess with the formula that gives such good outcomes.

      In particular you cite the broken windows theory of policing. You might be interested in this article by David Simon on the subject
      An excerpt is quoted below. On this point which you specifically introduce : “Broken Windows Policing” and cite it as an effective and proper use of police power… I cannot do a better job of explicating than this article. I hope you read it in light of your comments and current events and see how your thinking might be challenged on this point.

      While you point to positive results for the good god-fearing citizens of the city… it comes at a cost. And the age old trope of citing “those people” for being unable to simply keeping their heads down until they get jobs and do the “right thing” , and “wait for it … it will get better … (eventually)” is the standard justification for the relentless petty oppressions inflicted on people and is exactly what you proffer in your comments.

      I say your point is perfectly valid and makes perfect sense. I mean this. Especially if one happens to not be one of those people consigned to perpetual oppression and petty indignities, corralled in their own zones so the rest of us can live peaceful and without “broken windows”, safe from having to even be aware of “them”.

      You ask “just where do YOU draw the line? What misdemeanors, or worse, do YOU think are too much?” And at the level of that question we have no disagreement. Those crimes need to be addressed by the system as a foundational requirement for a thriving vibrant society. My point in this thread starts at a different level, I think it is a more fundamental level…. Not argument from outcomes, but underlying principles:

      1. That we must address all these crimes from the principle of Justice, and the principles of the relationships of Citizen/State that are enshrined in our founding axioms of not only our country but our civilization:
      – not retribution
      – not ancient racisms that are rooted in the very beginnings of our nation and culture and still thrive
      – with some deep understanding of just how monolithic our “justice” system is to those who suffer its injustice and how complete that context of injustice is. How this point is worked out in our “Justice” system as well as our Policing system is my point…. Not to excuse misdemeanors or worse..but to understand systemic roots and address the problem there.
      – with some eye to the purpose and intent of any punishments and the system of justice that might meet out these obligations and punishments.

      2. And the principles of Justice are entrusted into the care of those we elevate to the august position of “Judge” who must execute justice justly.
      – And when a Judge supports and condones injustice, and particularly when it is done systematically verses simply anecdotally – as was reported in the original article from this thread – then the rot of injustice has infiltrated the system and it creates the very outcomes that require the tactics you laud as effective to keep it in check.

      – I feel like I have made the elements of that assertion/accusation pretty clear… so I won’t recapitulate all that.

      Except maybe to address what may be the break point between our perspectives on this question:

      You say these minor injustices, these “cash cow” events, these policing tactics that are supported by these Judges are acceptable and to the good because of the outcomes… And I say that these petty edicts and oppression’s by the police and the judges are also “broken windows” level crimes inflicted on our society but by the “legal” (read that powerful) authorities.
      These injustices have the same pernicious effect on undermining the substrate of peace and tranquility of the society as do any of the myriad of pretexts that we afflict on those deemed necessary to be kept in their place. Not the same. Worse.

      I suppose that statement sounds foolish..It seems that there are no real negative effects from these behaviors of our system. Look at the more broken windows and people are safe now. All those bad people are finally in jail now… (Just one example of the extremes this level of injustice has to go to maintain “safety”, America – as is well known – has the largest prison population in the WORLD! This is a natural outcome of systemic injustice inflicted on the citizenry…)
      And if you scoff at my example as being trite… how will you address the inexplicable case of Sarah Bland? Pulled over and then incarcerated for the most unimportant of infractions on the most flimsy of reasons. Sure the police was an idiot…but I say the “Justice” system that enabled him to put her in jail was the primary culprit and the fail-safe that failed which was supposed to check such abuses. It wasn’t and didn’t. And in this case the victim of the unjust system died. And just as telling, no one has indicted the justice system for its complicity. Hers, you must realize, is simply an extreme of what goes on with less fatal outcomes, by the thousands every day in this country.

      And so it seems to be, until times like ours, where the accumulated weight of these oppression’s finally manifest and metastasize like some unexpected surprising cancer. Like someone who seemed so healthy just “last week”, now is bed ridden and facing extreme measures to save the patients life, so we are in the era where our social past is finally catching up with us; the cancer it breaking out all over.
      The cancer has been inbedded in our culture and woven into the fabric of our Justice/Law Enforcement system for a very long time. These days it can no longer be suppressed and the cancer is manifesting in very public moments/events like Ferguson et al and the many more that do not reach the level of the national awareness.

      Notice that when these things happen there is now an instant call to study the system and make changes. Good. It examples my point. The judge who threw out the cases from before 2015 and reinstated the drivers licenses was making an attempt to rectify an injustice that should not have been inflicted in the first place also examples my point…

      But these conditions and petty oppressions were imposed in the first place when it should not have been
      that is my point…
      and they were imposed by people who are supposed to know better…
      and that is my point…

      and in the inflicting of these petty injustices we created the social conditions we were trying to escape. And now these petty things have manifested as major reactions. People so oppressed cannot and will not take it forever.

      Back to your writing: You cite strolling down the middle of the street as a challenge to the police and residences. And I agree. Without qualification. I suggest that this would be less of a problem if the system being disrespected in that moment was just and did not systematically disrespect its citizens. You cannot take examples of this nature as primary justification for the systemic status quo. It is like referee’s in a game only seeing the second swing and throwing that one out of the game, having completely missed the original provocation. (ummm… and notice how reviewing the video of the event gives a little more “context and thus , perhaps, justice to the situation… a better example than I first thought.. )

      So No. I don’t condone the crimes. And yes even if incubated in some septic brew of discontent and injustice they need to be dealt with on their own terms according the the law.
      I simply respond that if the powerful State lived according to its principles it would be in service to the Citizen, and not its primary oppressor and enemy. If we deal with them justly from the beginning – stop the petty oppressions it will reduce (not eliminate) the disrespectful and more serious crimes later. And then we can make distinction between real/actual criminals and ones created – and ultimately supported – by the system.
      I’ll go further to summarize : The “crime” of unjust judges inflicting onerous conditions on a helpless individual who, if he/she were someone else of means, or even of simply a different color, or even a different home address (“on the right side of the tracks so to speak ) would not be so dealt with.
      Whenever “justice” is dispensed by our court system where this statement is true… I say that is a crime just as certain as not signaling your lane change. Except it has massive consequences, even if they emerge slowly.

      I went much further in this than I expected. Even so, on rereading I see so many angles that remain unaddressed. Of course. it is a huge subject. I hope I have addressed at least the substance of your question…and hopefully made my foundational point, however inartfully. (I really need an edit on this first draft , but I don’t have the time for that…and the site doesn’t seem to warrant it.) I suppose I needed to work this out for myself, so the time thus far is well spent. I hope for but don’t expect any of the experts here to weigh in. I am interested to know at least if you think this addresses your primary challenge to me. I think it does.

      You ask “where I draw the line”. I draw the line not by reference to the details and outcomes, but principles and the structure of a system that enables and produces the details and outcomes. The details you wish to eliminate “pigs in blanket” ,the general disrepect, police assassinations, all these are wrong and are to be dealt with according to our jurisprudence, which is predicated upon our core principles, but dealt with Justly.

      Here is the opening bit from the Simon article.
      It goes into detail on the point you laud, but he does not, of “Broken Windows” policing. You owe it to yourself to at least read and ponder his points.


      Zero tolerance is exactly what it sounds like:Intolerance.

      And a broken-windows policy of policing is exactly what it means:

      The property matters. The people can stay broken until hell freezes over.

      And the ejection of these ill-bought philosophies of class and racial control from our political mainstream — this is now the real prize, not only in Baltimore, but nationally. Overpolicing and a malignant drug prohibition have systemically repressed and isolated the poor, created an American gulag, and transformed law enforcement into a militarized and brutalizing force utterly disconnected from communities in which thousands are arrested but crime itself — real crime — is scarcely addressed. To be sure, there are a great many savage inequalities in our society — no doubt we could widen this discussion at a dozen points — but now, right now, overpolicing of the poor by a militarized police-state is actually on the table for the first time in decades.

      And don’t for a second think that stabbing a fork through the heart of zero tolerance isn’t job one. Nothing else changes, nothing else grows in the no-man’s lands of a war zone, and our inner cities have been transformed into free-fire battlegrounds by this drug war and all of the brutalities and dishonesties done in its name.

      Yes, the charges came for the Baltimore officers and the city is now relatively quiet. But step back for a moment from the immediacy of each individual outrage — from Ferguson, from Staten Island, from North Charleston, from West Baltimore — and realize that while this systemic overlay of oppression will offer a moral exemption or two when the facts or the digital video demands it, charging an officer here or implementing a new training course for police there, the game itself grinds on. Even as they acknowledge an atrocity or two, the same voices of seeming reason continue to suggest that we needn’t abandon all the good that zero-tolerance enforcement has done for us.

      Why look at New York, can’t you? Safest big city in America. Zero-tolerance works, goddammit. It makes us all safer, and our cities governable. Fix the broken windows, write up all the small infractions, punish every minor offender and soon, you’ll see, the city becomes liveable again. If you have money, quite liveable indeed.

      Meanwhile, in Baltimore — as in every other city that doesn’t happen to be the recapitalized, respeculated, rebuilt center of world finance — zero tolerance has been a disaster. And the levels of police violence and incarceration that spring from this policing philosophy are proving more lethal to the American spirit and experiment than even race fear and race hatred, as ugly and enduring as that pathology is. No, this is now about class. This is those who have more using the levers of governance to terrorize those who have less, and doing so by using damn near nothing to keep the poor at the margins of American life.

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