Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year-End Wrap-Up: The Greek Thing and the Ukranian Thing Are Still Things, The Middle East Chaos Spreads, and Police Killings Have Increased, Not Decreased In 2015. What A World.

Greece and Ukraine have fallen off the media radar so that nowadays all you hear about Greece is that it is the arrival/transit point for the Muslim hordes invading Europe, if you hear even that, never mind that many Greeks live like refugees in their own country.

You don't hear about Ukraine at all except in the by now ritualized denigration and denunciations of Russia and especially that New New Hitler, Putin. Then it's only to yammer on about "Putin's Invasion" of Ukraine that never happened and his support of "separatists" and "rebels" that did.

Both Greece and Ukraine are economic disasters of immense proportions, made deliberately worse by the policies and programs of the very Europe that is supposed to be their salvation. Neither was in good economic shape prior to the impositions of the EU and its financiers, and in the case of Ukraine, prior to the Nazi coup -- which was partially enabled and funded by such luminaries as Pierre Omidyar. But what's been done to them over the past several years, as neo-liberal economic theories and policies have been given free rein, is grotesque in the extreme.

While I'm no fan of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald's and Pierre Omidyar's special-purpose media outlet, I was quite taken with Paul Mason's four part film examination of the Greek tragedy which is still playing out. The trouble with it is that, like almost all media coverage of Greece in the US, it stops with the September elections which confirmed Syriza's parliamentary majority. It wasn't so much that there was nothing more to say about the Greek Thing at that point as it was that the elections were seen as a full capitulation to the Berlin/Brussels axis, and there could only be more misery in store for the Greeks from then on.

So far as I can tell, more misery is what's happened -- compounded by the flood of refugees from the Middle Eastern Chaos that was triggered by and is maintained at a boil by the United States of America, Inc, LLC. The refugee situation is sometimes blamed on the Greeks -- for not doing enough to stem the tide or something. For cripes sake. As if they could do something about it given the lack of support that Europe has given Greece. It's nonsense, but there you are.

The EU and its financiers make their own reality, it would seem, aided and abetted by the Department of Madmen in the United States of America, Inc. LLC. We live in remarkably Interesting Times, no?

My access to information about what's going on in Ukraine is strictly limited, and so far as I can tell, essentially nothing has changed since the struggle between Kiev and the Donbass was sometimes in the news. The struggle goes on. Kiev's aggression against the people of the Donbass continues, and terms like "genocide" are waved around. The nonexistent invasion by Russia is still bruited as if it were real. The Nazis still control the government in Kiev, and the suffering of the Ukrainian people under their control is profound and increasing. This is all the implementation of policies thought up in Berlin and Brussels and the Department of Madmen in Washington, DC. It's insane on its face, but it is the New Reality being created before our Very Eyes.

The Middle East spirals further and further into utter Mad Max Chaos, as city after city is destroyed and their populations liquidated in pursuit of named and nameless phantoms. The policy is obviously to keep the Chaos in the Middle East boiling and spreading indefinitely, and if there are fleeing refugees, so much the better. Destruction and depopulation seem to be happening for their own sake, and horrors are committed by all sides -- as if there were sides -- with glee and abandon. A charnel house would be less appalling. Meanwhile, our Good Friends the Saudis, ruled by a Madman King, chops off more heads than ISIS (whatever it's called these days) dreams of.

The police in United States have killed more people this year than last year when protests began in earnest and spread nationally against violent and deadly policing. Well. Isn't that something? More killed since the protests began...

As of yesterday, the number of dead at the hands of American police was 1192, a nearly 10% increase over last year. If the protests are intended to reduce the use of lethal force by police, they're not working. In the meantime, the number of police killed by perpetrators in the line of duty has apparently fallen by 14%. These statistics ought to be a clarion call to Americans that something just ain't right, but as I've seen on the internets over and over again, a whole lot of Americans are just fine with more dead at the hands of police. Especially if they're "thugs," black or brown men who have been so demonized for so long it seems that there is now almost no way for rehabilitation in the minds of both the police and the general white population. I knew the situation was dire, but it seems to be worse than I imagined.

There are so many killings by police it's almost impossible to keep up, and the System defends them in an almost comical fashion (though it's not the least bit funny) such as was the case with Cleveland's Own DA McGinty claiming there was no crime, only a sad series of errors, in the shocking summary execution of young Tamir Rice that snowy day last year.

No, there was no crime. There can't be. If police kill be someone in the line of duty, it is by definition "justified," because, as we know, police don't kill without justification. They wouldn't dream of such a thing. Even when they do skirt the rules of engagement or the line between "justified" and "not," they almost always get off because they din't mean to, and besides, they are always, always, always "in fear for their lives and the safety of others", and according to the law, so long as they invoke that phrase, which they are trained to do, there is no criminal intent or act in anything they do. Kill, maim, torture at will. It is not a crime if the police do it.

No one I know of is surprised at McGinty's failure to get a GJ indictment of the officers responsible for Tamir Rice's death. He didn't act at any time as a prosecutor in the case, he acted as their defense attorney. The person indicted would have been Tamir Rice if he had survived his execution. This has happened in so many other instances, in so many other jurisdictions, where prosecutors use the GJ process to essentially defend police and impugn and denigrate their victims that it is obviously a general policy and procedure within the prosecutorial profession to do exactly that. Professional courtesy, I guess. The prosecutor is there not to prosecute cases against police officers but to defend them, no matter what they do.

The law is structured in such a way as to protect the actions of police even in those very rare instances that go to trial. It is so rare that a police officer is convicted of a crime in connection with his/her duties, no matter what s/he does, that it's national news when it happens. This blanket protection is due to court decisions and local and state laws that essentially give police free rein to do anything they think needs doing ("to keep us safe") in the heat of the moment, the legendary "split-second" police and their defenders are always invoking to explain this, that and the next killing or maiming.

The Supreme Court constantly reinforces this near blanket immunity from criminal liability, usually unanimously or on a very lopsided majority. As long as they do, police will be protected whereas civilians are not.

There is no law that protects civilians from police killing them at will -- and getting away with it. None.

Some wag might say it's a wonder then that the police don't kill more than they do. Right.

So what do we do? I've been studying this issue for many a long year, starting with my work against police brutality on behalf of the NAACP in Sacramento in 1996. That effort was a partial success, and the reason why it was even partially successful was that the police chief and the city manager of Sacramento were in agreement with the goals of the project to reduce police brutality. They wanted nearly the same outcome we did.

Police departments are strict hierarchies, and when the top people say "these are the rules," the rank and file either follow them or they are out. In most cities, the police department is under the command of the chief who in turn is accountable to the city manager, not to elected officials. This is something that still mystifies many activists. They think that if they sway elected officials, then the police will follow, and it generally doesn't work that way. Police departments were deliberately insulated from the influence of elected officials in most cities long ago, as part of the Progressive Movement, in order, it was thought, to reduce the level of corruption that police were (and many still are) notorious for.

In theory, the city manager -- a professional, a technocrat -- is accountable to the elected representatives of the people, but city managers are notorious for their defiance and contempt of their supposed bosses. Often, it is almost impossible to fire a city manager, and firing is frequently the only discipline that can be imposed. Because the police chief most often works for the city manager, not the mayor and city council, discipline of the police is just as difficult to accomplish. They too will defy electeds when it suits them, and there is very little the electeds can do about it.

So, what do you do? You convince the people who are actually in charge of the police, the city manager and the police chief, that the rules by which the police operate must change, and this is how the rules must change. This is basically what all those DoJ consent decrees do. They tell the city manager and the police chief that this is how things should be done, and there is a court appointed monitor to ensure compliance.

Had the city manager and police chief not agreed to most of our anti-police brutality reforms in Sacramento, going to the DoJ was the next step. But they did agree and they implemented rule changes which reduced police brutality substantially (police killings had been rare and still are in Sacramento).

In other cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, consent decrees or their equivalent have been defied by police departments, sometimes for many years, and this defiance makes it clear that there is no real enforcement mechanism for these reforms. There's no way the courts can make a defiant department (ie: the police chief and city manager) comply short of taking over the department through receivership. As far as I know, that's never happened.

Thus police reform is a chancy business. It may or may not work. I'm convinced that abolition is the better alternative. Abolish current police forces altogether and start over. They have reached the point where they are beyond reform or salvation.

The whole damn system is guilty as hell, which means the entire criminal justice system needs to be dismantled and reconstructed on a better, more humane, and ultimately more just basis.

I can hardly imagine what it will take to accomplish that, but that's what's necessary.

Maybe next year.

Pray for the victims. And act for a better future.

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