Archive for December, 2014

Cops Killed and Killing, Outrage All Around

Wasn’t going to do it, wasn’t going to do it, but wingers’ hateful rhetoric drove me to touch on the nasty work that is the murders of Officers Liu and Ramos, on protests about dead young black men, and blaming the first on the second. The stupid hate-mongering of the likes of Rudy Giuliani (Mr. Gov. 9-11), NYC PBA prez Patrick Lynch,, and a raft of FOXnews braying heads was too much.

No, the protesters did not cause the police deaths. Neither did President Obama, AG Eric Holder nor NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. No, the answer is not to shut up and never, ever call bad police for egregious acts.

I kicked around several real solutions, some pretty easy and others difficult. There is first and easiest accurate, transparent reporting on all police shootings nationwide. There is refining the 10 or so styles of civilian review board around and creating templates for small, medium and large municipalities…and seeing they are put in place. Let the citizens have and feel ownership of the process to restore trust in cops.

There’s a medium-hard step of continuing to reduce the percentage of men in prison, mostly of color and mostly for non-violent offenses. There’s the hard of seeing all communities have access to decent education, training and jobs. There are others.

Don’t come around screaming we dare not criticize police, regardless of what they do. The prolonged, continuing, massive, widespread protests show we are past the tipping point here. The citizens want to have cops on their streets. They want to trust the police. We know what will make that possible.

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Transgender Inmate: Analysis

The strange and unfortunate decision by the full Appeal Court of the First District in the Michelle Kosilek case gets not only my thoughts yesterday. The insightful legal view today came from Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

She has been involved in the case and similar ones for a long time. She too expressed surprise and disappointment at the 3 to 2 panel majority’s finding that Kosilek could be denied sexual-reassignment surgery. That came despite the strong majority of Department of Corrections medical and mental health professionals saying such treatment was necessary.

Levi would not be backed into saying what the motivations of the three-judge majority was in denying treatment or in overruling trial judge Mark Wolf’s decision. She did concur with dissenting Judge Ojetta Thompson’s inference. That opinion noted the difficulty many have in thinking about what they find “strange…immoral…unfamiliar.”

See the scathing dissent to understand the legal issues and the flaws in Tuesday’s decision. The 117-page ruling, majority and dissents, is here. Fortunately, Judge Thompson in the lead dissent covered the content of the majority decision thoroughly. You can start on page 71. Judge Mark Wolf’s original 128-page decision from two years ago is here. He shows his work and analyzed all the ideas and details.

She discussed the dismal and daunting options left to Kosilek, who can appeal to the SCOTUS or live with the DOC’s solution of hormone treatments and cosmetics instead. No decision on appeal has been made.

She spoke of the implications of this ruling. Not only does this imply that the DOC can deny such surgery to transgender inmates, this can extend to other medical treatments. Largely, under Eighth Amendment standards, we provide necessary care for the likes of heart disease, broken bones and such. Yet, here the majority ruled that the DOC is not allowed to shop for doctors to support its denials (footnote on page 57), but can take a second, minority opinion if it chooses. Likewise, the majority ruled on what seems to be a red herring of pre- and post-operative security concerns for Kosilek. From her prison behavior and from the experiences with other transgender inmates, Wolf was correct in dismissing such arguments, I say.

Click below to listen in as Levi discusses both the Eighth-Amendment issues and the relationship between the district’s Court of Appeals panels. She does not see how this case even qualified for a full en banc review.

I’ll keep tabs on this case and follow up as necessary. It is a sad ruling.


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Slapping Down Transgender Inmate

In a Scalia-level travesty, the federal Court of Appeals here considered the case of Michelle Kosilek a second time and a 5-judge panel overrules both a 3-judge version and the US District Court trial judge, Mark L. Wolf. By 3 to 2, they denied sex-reassignment surgery to the transgender inmate. That decision rejected the previous courts’ reasoned findings that the MA Department of Corrections was violating Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment by denying surgery.

See the scathing dissent to understand the legal issues and the flaws in Tuesday’s decision. The 117-page ruling, majority and dissents, is here. Fortunately, Judge Thompson in the lead dissent covered the content of the majority decision thoroughly. You can start on page 71.

Judge Mark Wolf’s original 128-page decision from two years ago is here. He shows his work and analyzed all the ideas and details.

This is a real and serious blunder that will not understand. That is scant comfort to Kosilek, who has been fighting for surgery for over a decade into her life sentence. Her remaining hope is a SCOTUS hearing. Of course, as of today we don’t know her intent or if the SCOTUS would hear the appeal.

I spoke of the decision, but honestly, you can’t do better than reading Thompson’s dissent.

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Crippled Life After Prison

Forget the dramas of stage, screen and radio where the bad guys paid their debt to society. They walked out of prison and reinvented themselves as good guys.

We can’t have that and look to the Hester Prynne or Jean Valjean models. It seems Americans can’t stop piling on convicted felons, even long after their terms are over. State and federal laws work for perpetual punishment. Forget that limiting chances for employment keep someone poor and make them more likely to re-offend. One mistake is too many.

I kicked state and federal perpetual-punishment forms for convicted felons who have served their terms. While the feds claim to refer to state laws on this, they mandate a remarkable set of restrictions — juries, elections, holding office, federal employment or contracts and on and on. Some require getting a Presidential pardon, similar to many states that require one from the governor and sometimes legislature as well.

I wandered into Mark Walberg territory, as he has run afoul of MA restrictions and is about to beg for a pardon here. (Instead, he should lobby for reforms for the many thousands affected by perpetual punishment and not just himself.)

Finally there’s musing on the reasoning behind this vindictiveness against former felons. I’ll put it down to the Protestants who make the laws. One strike and you’re out. We could learn from the Catholics here.

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Perpetual Punishment Podcast

Just Mike this week talking post-prison punishment. Is there any validity to paying yoru debt to society? Instead, our laws and regs seemed vindictive and self-righteous.

Talk fundamental civic duties and rights, such as voting. Only two states let prisoners vote and only 13 let them vote right after they have served their terms. How about giving ex-felons a stake in and duty to the system?

Of course, there are criminal records that often mean former prisoners can’t get hired (and stay poor and again out of the society flow). There are restrictions, some somewhat logical like no gun permits, and others that prevent business ownership. (And, yes, I’ll hit on Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg’s plea for a pardon.)

If you can listen live Tuesday, Dec. 9th at 2:30PM Eastern, you might want to call in at 718-664-6966. I’m happy to take calls, but won’t connect those from blocked/private numbers. To catch the show, click this link.

The show will be on demand at that link, back here at Left Ahead and on our iTunes channel.


Timorous America Obeys

turtle cowardAs hard as it may be to reconcile today, our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, uses the words of Francis Scott Key, including, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Forget it.

What we see now is an authoritarian fetish. Do whatever anyone in uniform tells you…without question…without hesitation. We cede our liberty and change our motto to the provably irrational IN COPS WE TRUST.

I go on here about looking beyond the obvious tragedy of the deaths of Michael Brown and other young men of color by police bullets. The big dot to connect is to how many Americans hold that obeisance to cops and other authority figures is both necessary and wise.

Even our wishy-washy President announced ideas for reforming and maybe restraining rogue police, with the idea of arresting the history of police killing civilians and almost invariably being held as justifiable, a clean shoot in blue parlance. Yet, Obama’s tepid plans call for the likes of training — telling police again what they have heard so often about obeying laws — and equipping maybe 10% of the nation’s police with body cameras. Oh yeah, and he fantasizes that regulating military weaponry given to police forces will somehow do something good.

Neither of those nor his related sops will satisfy anyone or guarantee bad cops change their behavior or go away. Cops already know what they are supposed to do; they just don’t do it far too often. Body cams are easy to circumvent or not activate in times of ill intent.

Instead, we need some real measures, such as:

  • Real data from the smallest police force up to the FBI. We do not track death by police. We must and we have to see which are deemed justifiable.
  • Civilian review boards in every city, town and county. Police have a shameful history of not policing themselves. They need oversight with power.
  • Prosecution of rogue and misbehaving cops. What incentive does armed officers have to obey the laws when they know DAs, grand juries and judges will let them skate?
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