Category Archives: Legal Stuff

Five Proposals Local Activists Should Pursue To End Police Misconduct And Militarization After Ferguson

Darren Wilson's "Fractured Orbital Socket"

Darren Wilson’s “Fractured Orbital Socket”

In 1992 I was a small child watching cartoons when Dan Rather suddenly interrupted to alert the country to the riots in LA. At the time I understandably had no concept about what was going on (I was living in Alabama), nor did I have an ability to comprehend what may have caused the uprising. However even then I felt that the response wasn’t entirely irrational. Today we look over the devastation “caused” by people who supposedly lack the moral clarity to “remain civil” in the face of a system that continues to give a full legal endorsement to killings motivated  by white supremacy. Thus it is time to undeniably and defiantly assert that our political and judicial systems remain throughly infested with the virus of racism. However at the same time, recognizing the reality of this problem is an incomplete political awakening. If we truly do not want Michael Brown to have died in vain, it is time to forcefully push for a dramatic re-envisioning of what we desire our Police Departments to look and act like in the years ahead.

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I used to work in the legislative department with the City of Long Beach, a “majority minority” locale with a political system that is structurally biased in favor of the whiter, higher-income suburbs. As a result of this arrangement (and an insanely powerful Police Union), public safety costs continue to fluctuate anywhere between 50 to 75 percent of the annual budget. This figure also does NOT include special allocations for extra (many times federally subsidized) appropriations for materials that the City Council more or less rubber stamps whenever they are put forth for a vote. Whenever this problem of the metastasizing Police budget comes up, labor groups largely defend the costs, as they are cognizant of the politically tenuous place that all public sector workers face in our Prop 13 strapped city. Meanwhile despite or perhaps because of record low crime rates (which I personally believe are achieved via the tried and true practice of “juking” the stats), the white suburbs of Long Beach are more than content with retaining our garrison state at the expense of any other form of community investment.

What I have described above is not in anyway a unique political reality. In fact across the US despite massive cuts to the public sector as a whole, the Police and other “first responders” retain a special ability to grow and solidify their place as the supreme concern for municipal constituencies. In fact in some places, including Ferguson, the Police are helping to assist cash-strapped local governments in collecting revenue through what are essentially regressive forms of taxation against people with no real means to properly defend themselves against this obvious form of discriminatory theft. Additionally with people of color losing their influence as a political block thanks to voter suppression, corruption amongst their local representatives, felony voting rights laws, and gerrymandered districts (etc), there is little hope for the ballot box to act as the ultimate solution to this problem.

You can see the problem of political regulatory capture locally in Long Beach. For example 9th District (and LBPOA endorsed) Councilman Rex Richardson can write & receive praise for a stirring letter relating his own experiences to Michael Brown, that never once mentions the role that the police had in Brown’s death, nor did Richardson offer any substantive reforms to our own very flawed Police Department. Yet that same councilman probably represents the best hope that activists have towards engendering some change for police policies.

So what do we do? Well being an eternal optimist I do see a few major sources for statutory reform to the police that can also function as very good points for political organizing. None of these proposals will end “steroidal over policing” overnight, but I think that effective and well financed campaigns in support of these goals could advance the overall agenda of disarmament, and a re-balancing of community interests over those of the Police Industrial Complex.

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1. Local Hire Provisions For Police Officers

Essentially a law like this would require that police officers who are employed by a particular locality must also be full-time residents of that same place. In a perfect world I would require that Police Officers patrol the same neighborhoods where they live, but as local hire requirements are only tenuously constitutional I’ll settle for a civil service reform that upends the current idiotic system where Police Officers enter a city each day as essentially an occupying force. Bridging the gap between the community and its sworn protectors requires instilling a congenial familiarity that the present tactics of “cruise around in your patrol car until something happens” inherently avoids.

2. Independent And Empowered Civilian Police Review Boards

An elected official whom I used to work with once gave this assessment of Long Beach’s beleaguered citizen review board; “it is toothless and useless”. In my city the Police Department and City Manager cynically use the CPCC process, which according to the City Charter itself has no real punitive power over the cases it examines, to essentially whitewash any investigation into Police misconduct. Every local police authority must have a separate, independently appointed and overseen entity, with actual demonstrative and statutorily defined ways of punishing officers who are found to have abused their power or acted negligently in the field. If Michael Brown’s death has shown us anything it is that the current judicial system makes it next to impossible to even obtain an indictment for an officer because of the way in which the district attorney office and police department rely on each other to work.

3. Statutory Caps On Police Armaments

I saw a tweet (but sadly didn’t screenshot it) from Long Beach Councilman Roberto Uranga in August that expressed some concern over “police militarization”. Frankly I don’t know why every politician in the country, regardless of their ethnic or political background, isn’t jumping on this growing resentment over the Police and their toys. If you are a public cost-cutting   Republican or a Progressive Socialist mad at decreased resources to the poor this is an easy issue to address. Black, brown, and white folks all have their own reasons for getting uncomfortable when we start seeing tanks rolling around in our neighborhoods. That said there is a powerful economic lobby behind this arms race, and the insidious way in which these expenses creep into local budgets rely on continued fear and/or complacency amongst average voters.

So if we are to reverse this trend we need to re-imagine what purpose our Police Departments serve. Are the Police essentially the local military wing of the state, serving the interests of whomever is in charge at the time with some varying degree of restraints depending on the circumstances? That description of our current reality might make people feel uncomfortable to acknowledge, but to blindly assert that people dressed for fighting ISIS exist to “protect and serve” is patently absurd.

Instead let’s take a cue from Firefighters, entities with a shared purpose that has radically changed from their original mission (fighting fires), to a more general raison d’être of responding to medical emergencies. Perhaps our we can require our Police to think less of their job revolving around their weapon, and focus more on their secondary role of being the first responders to incidents of domestic violence, the overuse of drugs and alcohol, and quality of life crimes. Police who see their jobs as “social workers with a badge” are far less likely to kill unarmed civilians, and we can engender this sort of conceptualization for their job ONLY IF their is a political will to do so.

4. Citizen Participation In City Attorney Races

The City of Long Beach has paid millions of dollars to families whom our Police Department improperly killed in the line of duty. We could have paid far less money, but our City Attorney (possibly at the behest of the LBPOA who endorsed him for re-election) decided to litigate instead of settling and admitting liability. And despite a record amount of money spent on this race in 2014, not that many people really seemed to care about who filled this incredibly important position. The result of this complacency should serve as a reminder that community activists, especially those who seek to influence public policy at the local level, of the need to bring a broad awareness of ALL positions of power to the voters in every cycle.

5. Body Cameras

This is the short-term, but potentially very powerful policy solution to this problem of officer-involved violence. Body cameras can be expensive and there is a legitimate privacy concern about creating yet another facet of our surveillance state, but like the effort to tape all police interrogations I can’t see a particularly powerful argument against using technology to force a new degree of openness and transparency between the police and the people they serve. Additionally the Police themselves are protected by these cameras when their actions are being unfairly misconstrued by an understandably upset criminal, and given the free-wheeling way in which Police Departments accept public money for new toys it could be relatively easy to make receiving more funds for men and materials conditional on adopting these devices at large.

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These five proposals are just a sample of the major reforms that are necessary at the local level to prevent another tragic altercation like those between the Police and Mike Brown or Douglas Zerby. None of these proposals will immediately undo the “occupation” mindset of our Police, or stem the racially based fear that allows the political system to uphold this sort of violence against people of color. However with effective, well financed campaigns that address specific fixes like these, we can start the long overdue process of deescalating this war on the poor that has claimed way too many people in the last few years.

On the other hand If we are unwilling to pursue this new course of action, the alternative is to become comfortable with “Fergesons” occurring with an increased regularity and tenacity.


On Holder And Blackness

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After watching this segment on Maddow last night I immediately felt like a moron for tweeting this in response to Eric Holder’s resignation.

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My twitter bud @Chet_Kincaid justifiably called me out on it, and as the litany of far smarter analysis than my dumb cartoon shows, both Holder’s heart and his actions display someone who genuinely sought to reverse discrimination and end the systemic evil within our justice system.

But despite his efforts to directly address these problems to the best of his ability, he largely failed. Most of this blame can be directly set on the drooping shoulders of our unhinged and deranged Supreme Court, but (and this is not to imply that I was conscious of this argument BEFORE I made that ill-advised tweet) some of the failure can indeed be linked to Holder’s well-documented recalcitrance to holding our economic and political elites accountable for their transgressions. And that failure of consistency is a reflection of modern race relations in this country.

Like Scott Lemieux said in this piece, Holder’s policy decisions over at the DOJ largely reflected the values of his boss. Thus (along with Holder’s past as a corporate attorney) I think that it’s fair to say that the obvious blind spot that the Obama administration has had concerning economic justice and class-based discrimination permeated into how Holder designed his attacks against the racist power structures within this country. Non-controversial issues like voting rights, and evolving political positions on police brutality and the drug war presented Holder with avenues in which the DOJ could at least attempt to create good solid precedent for lasting positive change. However by failing to perhaps take on the more difficult actors behind our 2-tired justice system, Holder’s (and I honestly do not think this was intentional on his part) greatest legacy remains vulnerable to attacks from future administrations. In other words, time remains a flat circle.

If anything Holder, like Obama, personifies the problem that the 21st Century “Talented Tenth” have had once they reach the halls of what were (very recently) lily-white halls of political power. The death of class consciousness within certain segments of the black elite after the 1970’s has had a demonstrable and sad effect on the ideologies for these individuals (regardless of their political party). The expectation that every major liberal must have a “Sister Souljah” moment (where the candidate takes a steaming shit on poor/black people under the guise of addressing negative “cultural” traits , presumably in order to appease nervous white people), as well as the genuine surprise that white progressives like myself have that Barack Obama can’t say things in public like Alan Greyson for his own personal safety is itself the legacy of systemic racism and violence in this country. The fact that Eric Holder has to frame an embarrassing and illegal stop by police on his body in terms of “and I was a Federal Prosecutor at the time” shows how far we still need to go as a society.

So to sum up Eric Holder’s legacy, it is perhaps obvious at this point that in order for a person to be in a position of power AND simultaneously be an ideologically consistent progressive, he or she must be white.

Or be Barbra Lee.


How Does This Keep Happening?

 

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The most recent edition of Radiolab focuses on the nouveau fascination with nihilism, or at least the extreme form of pessimism exhibited by people across traditional political lines as we enter the waining years of the Obama era in this county. From the legal standpoint we can also see a developing genre in popular books finally recognizing the inherent meaningless of our criminal justice system. Works like Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”, Greenwald’s “With Liberty and Justice for Some”, and Taibbi’s “The Divide” all highlight the now inherent (and incredibly harsh) biases within our penal system at large.

The continuing theme behind all of these works is the problem of consistency, and the recognition that a certain segment of the government is behaving without any semblance of accountability. What makes the lack of a policy-based response regarding police overreach is how broadly appealing this cause for concern is (and perhaps how undeniable it is when faced with the evidence) . This is a truly “bipartisan” matter, with progressives and liberals voicing their dismay over the discriminatory impact of police overreach, and conservatives identifying with the inherent unease with “big government” (just look at this remarkable post from CNN’s disgrace Erick Erickson).

But almost month removed from the Ferguson uprising, nothing of note is changing. Locally the grand jury case is getting almost intentionally buried, and Dana Milbank identifies one horrifying reason why this might be the case:

One might give [St. Louis County prosecutor] McCulloch the benefit of the doubt, if not for his background. His father was a police officer killed in a shootout with a black suspect, and several of his family members are, or were, police officers. His 23-year record on the job reveals scant interest in prosecuting such cases. During his tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.

Locally here in Long Beach, a community far more diverse that St. Louis County, but with it’s own rather horrible recent history of officer involved shootings, we’ve recently elected a new progressive Mayor and passed a new budget. However at this time it seems highly unlikely that either actual structural changes to the police force, or the mechanisms necessary to ensure true accountability will be implemented anytime soon. As Retired LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing wrote in the LA Register, our City Charter and budget have produced massive procedural blindspots that reduce the public’s necessary ability to properly regulate our police force:

The city of Long Beach is of such a size and complexity that supervision of the police department and authority over the police disciplinary process by the city manager are outdated, ineffective and subject to the many conflicts that arise with respect to the city manager’s relationship with the city attorney, police union, liability concerns, campaign contributions and the like.

What the [Mayor’s] Transition Team should have recommended in addition to status quo governance measures is fundamental reform to the charter that will bring the city and its Police Department out of the Dark Ages. At the very least, the Transition Team should have recommended establishment of a blue-ribbon committee to study and recommend changes to the city charter that will accomplish – at minimum – the following reforms:

• The authority, powers and duties of the police department should be outlined in the city charter and the chief of police given disciplinary authority over all members of the department subject to civil service or court appeal.

• The chief of police should be made subordinate to a board of five citizen police commissioners, selected from residents, who serve as the policy head of the Police Department.

• The mayor, subject to City Council ratification, should appoint the board of police commissioners.

• The board of police commissioners should have hire-and-fire authority for an executive director and an inspector general, each provided with the necessary authorities and personnel to investigate, audit and make publicly transparent recommendations to the board related to all police functions, with special emphasis on use-of-force and shooting policy.

• The chief of police should be hired from a list of three candidates selected by the police commission and forwarded to the mayor. The mayor must select from the list of three, subject to City Council confirmation.

• The chief of police should be hired under contract for a five-year period, subject to renewal by the police commission for one additional five-year period and no longer.

• The board of police commissioners should have the authority to terminate the chief of police for cause, subject to mayoral and City Council approval.

• The City Council should have the power to remove the chief of police for cause by a two-thirds vote.

None of these reforms can in anyway be thought of a “pie-in-the-sky” hippy bullshit. Neither are they anti-union, “fuck the public sector workforce into the 1880’s” policy recommendations. As the grandson of a Boston Police officer (one that benefited directly from reforms brought on by this long forgotten Police strike), and a citizen of this wonderful city, I see no legitimate reason why these ideas are not being discussed on the 14th Floor. This is a basic discussion of instilling accountability for all- a concept that no one can deny in terms of its legitimacy and necessity.


Hobby Lobby and the BuzzBomb of the Beltway

The Supreme Court is hearing the insanely ridiculous “Hobby Lobby” case this morning, so it’s not entirely surprising to see some hearty concern trolling from the smarmy side of the internets:

 

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I apologize for employing the cliched term “problematic” in describing this half-assed analysis of one of the most dangerous (and specious) legal arguments of our time. However this sort of remark is emblematic of the chronic issue within corporate journalism of political reporters attempting/failing to comment on legal issues. The Plaintiff’s argument in Hobby Lobby case is a ramshackle assortment of transparently idiotic right-wing policies, combined into a Frankenstein of a case that should never have been given cert. However BECAUSE of the nature of bad political journalism, this of dumbass idea made the jump from 1L con-law hypothetical to the point where it now could essentially nuke 60 years of well established public accommodations law. (The Clerks and Justices on SCOTUS pay attention to the same terrible news shows everyone else does).

Any of us who believe in a well-regulated workplace, sexual privacy, healthcare, and yes ACTUAL religious freedom (and not the legal recognition of Christian Sharia Law) should be horrified that this case wasn’t laughed out of court at the outset. The proponents of this mutant strand of fundamentalist christianity and anarcho-capitalism will never be satisfied with their unjustified inflated power in this country. Folks like Coppins who insist that we listen to these fever dreams and give them credence as a legitimate ideology are complicit in the creeping force of totalitarianism that the right wing is consciously attempting to instill.

And one last thing- the reason that Buzzfeed is (probably) so legitimately pissed at obvious right wing media like Breitbart is because the latter is much less effective than the former at convincing people of the tenants of their shared ideology.  Dumb normal people are more likely to embrace the Kocthtopus through the magical power of cat .gifs than braving the insanity of the comments on a Brietbart post. Media outlets like Buzzfeed and the Daily Caller are two sides of the same extremist coin, it’s just one of the parties has more or less mastered the art of subtlety.


Jehuda Reinharz: The Jackass In The Living Room

Ex-Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz

Ex-Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz

Almost ten years ago I received a thick blue envelope from Brandeis University signifying that my underachieving high school ass had by some miracle (cough cough LEGACY) been admitted to the Class of 2008. Brandeis was my first choice, and I would be the third member of my family to go to the school. To say that I throughly enjoy my four years there would be an understatement. Between meeting my best friends,  having my entire social consciousness overhauled, and trolling Alan Dershowitz, it is fair to say that I received my money’s worth.

My pride for the school persisted beyond Waltham as well. During my term abroad in Dakar, Senegal, people stopped me when I wore my Brandeis t-shirt to tell me about the great programs that they had for international students. After I graduated four more members of my family enrolled in the school, including two current juniors. My wedding in 2010 was almost entirely made up of Brandeis grads (which made for an awkward scene at communion in the Episcopal church).

But while I love my alma mater, there was something amiss in the institution, or more precisely someone. Then President Jehuda Reinharz was a persistently awful manager and human being during my tenure at Brandeis, so much so that I vowed never to give any money to the school until he was fired. His sins included (to name a few)

  • Snubbing Jimmy Carter (he panicked when I confronted him about it)
  • Removing artwork by Palestinian Children depicting their experiences with the occupation
  • Hiring Tom fucking Friedman to teach a course about how awesome Tom Friedman is
  • Being the worst customer in all of Brandeis dining services. His favorite thing to do was order all the food on the menu on his corporate card, eat nothing, and then bring it all home. AND HE NEVER FUCKING TIPPED.

When he stepped down in 2010 I conceivably could have resumed donating, if not for my rather glaring lack of money. Today I’m glad I didn’t. As it turns out ye olde Jehuda is still collecting checks so big that would make Jimmy Swaggart feel guilty;

When Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz stepped down three years ago, he moved back into his old faculty office.

But unlike most history professors, Reinharz does not teach any classes, supervise graduate students, or attend departmental meetings. He did not bother posing for the department photo. The chairwoman for Near Eastern and Judaic Studies said she did not even know whether he was officially a member of her department.

Yet Reinharz remains one of the highest paid people on campus.

He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor.

“There is puzzlement from faculty about why he gets paid at all” by Brandeis, said Gordon Fellman, a sociology professor at Brandeis. “His term as president ended.”

Good fucking question Gordy.

For some context Reinharz first got into some trouble NOT for his persistent disregard for student life and blatant hatred for the faculty. Rather Jehuda’s fall from grace began in 2009 when  his “prolific fundraising” career of “asking the same two Bernie Maddoff victims for money” turned out to be terribly misguided. That then led to Reinharz’s brilliant idea of raising money by disposing the contents of the University’s Art Museum at the pawn shop, something that a) exposed Brandeis to massive civil liability from the art donors who gave the pieces in good faith, and b) made us a fucking laughingstock across the country. So needless to say that it was less then surprising when Reinharz decided it was time to end his career as President the next year.

But if anything about the lives of the rich, powerful, and stupid have taught us in the new millennium, it is that the 1% can only fail upwards:

Some Brandeis officials defend the deal with Reinharz, saying it was crucial to retain his expertise to help with the transition to a new president who had not previously worked at Brandeis. They also wanted his help to maintain relations with major donors.

“He knows how to raise money,” said Jack Connors, who was vice chairman of the board when it signed an agreement to keep paying Reinharz after he stepped down….

“I am compensated according to my accomplishments,” said Reinharz in an interview at his Brandeis office. “It’s the way America usually works.”

Goddamn right it is Jeuhda, man of the people. So what is it that you do exactly?

“I don’t punch a clock,” said Reinharz, adding that his main job is to help the 92-year-old chairman, Morton Mandel. “I work when my work is needed.”

Reinharz was equally noncommittal about how much time he devotes to Brandeis, where he mainly works as an adviser to president Frederick Lawrence and other staffers. “I’ve never worked at Brandeis by the hour,” he said. Lawrence “asks for advice. I give it. And I don’t look at my watch.”

However, Reinharz confirmed that he spent the entire first year of Lawrence’s presidency on sabbatical, when presumably his advice would have been needed the most.

Must be nice. How much are you making exactly through this “unprecedented” deal where you are  “half time professor” and head of this Mandel Center thing where to talk with an old ass man all day?

He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor….

The foundation, which pays for half of Reinharz’s office expenses, did not make it easy for the public to discover Reinharz’s pay, listing him as an unpaid board member on forms filed with the IRS, while staff said his compensation was confidential.But reports filed by three related Mandel family foundations suggest he earned a total of $800,000 in consulting fees in 2011, more than double what chief executives of similar-sized grantmaking organizations normally earn.

HOLY FUCK MAN. Well I guess living in Taxachusettes is pretty expensive all with the Romneycare and all. Your mortgage alone must be unbelievable right Jehuda?

The university also let him remain in the Brandeis president’s spacious home in Newton for six months after he stepped down.

And Reinharz could have earned even more if Brandeis had not clarified the agreement in 2012 to limit him to half time as president emeritus after 2011. Otherwise, Reinharz could have reported working full time in the position and collected $575,000 a year.

Well going to law school to balance my unpaid internships with $15 per hour jobs was obviously a big mistake on my part. I guess I should have followed the path of Reinharz and just followed my passion of grifting money from suckers and writing books about donkeys:

The one area where Reinharz was specific about how he spends his time was his own research, including a book he is co-writing on the history of the donkey in literature, arguing that the animal is often used as a substitute for people.

“There are smart donkeys, stupid donkeys, evil donkeys, etc., and no one has ever contemplated this on a large scale,” said Reinharz, who commissioned an artist to make a wood carving of a donkey that stands proudly on his desk. “It’s probably the most ambitious topic I have ever contemplated.”

That last sentence is entirely accurate.

In all seriousness this is downright disgusting. The official explanation that the school has issued since the release of this article is incomplete at best, if not deliberately obtuse. To say that Reinharz’s compensation package was justified due to the insanity of other institutions in granting these golden parachutes makes no sense. A tenured faculty member does have some leverage when they are asked to leave by the board- in that they can’t be entirely forced out of the institution. However nothing prevents the board from fulfilling their main fiduciary duty of care to the school when negotiating the salary and role of an ex-adminstrator who is returning to the faculty. To  literally write a a blank check to the man who torpedoed the endowment of the school so he can satisfy his late in life donkey fetish demonstrates an amazing disregard for the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the university I love.

The alumni I know are beyond pissed off right now. If Jehuda was a lawyer who was provided this amount of money with only “services rendered” on the invoice he would be disbarred, and the board that hired him would be dismissed. Unless a full and detailed accounting of Reinharz’s duties, schedule, and expenses is released, this controversy should serve as sign to all future applicants to Brandeis that the institution is not to be trusted with their tuition.


“Fuck You Pay Me” As The Clarion Call Of The Unemployed JD

“Shit. You gotta be rich in the first place to think like that. Everybody know the poor are always being fucked over by the rich. Always have, always will.”

-King, Platoon

Three years ago I left a moderately shitty dead end job with a privatized government agency collecting child support from people who were barely able to cover their own meager expenses (much less make up for the chasm of the non-existent social safety net for poor children in Tennessee). My personal intentions in going to law school were objectively admirable, but also relatively practical. I am someone with a strong social conscience, but (especially at that time) I also lacked the concrete skills necessary to make the sort of specific changes that I believe society needs. Law school was by no means a panacea to my own personal need for a career, but it was the logical next step for someone in my position and with my background.

So I went to law school. I busted my ass for three years, spent money I did not have, and as a reward for that labor I am not once again thrust into an epically bad labor market where my skills are seen as extraneous and my person expendable. Fucking great.

Seemingly everyday there is a new segment in the news delighting in reporting that the mighty law school bubble has burst into thousands of new grads working service jobs with six-figure debt loads and little to no hope for a future in the career they chose. The most annoying of this brand of false hindsight comes from baby-boomer relatives patronizingly  recounting (with their usual brand of myopia and self-agrandizing hagiography) their own “menial jobs” and humble origin stories. These are the same folks that spent their lives either voting for or participating in the destabilizing of every redistributive or protective measure that engendered the middle class, and who are now  shocked that their own children are on the receiving end of the giant dildo of neo-liberalism.

Like the bubbles before we are now seeing the proliferation of the usual brand of sociopathic “told you so” economists who present just loads of creeping determinism, but whose solution to this issue follows the well-worn path of “shit happens”, “there is nothing we can do”, or my favorite “two year law school!”

Bullshit. The problem with the legal profession is the exact same problem facing almost every other sector of our economy. There is plenty of work to do, but no one can or wants to fucking pay for it.

Today I was the victim of a rather brazen bait and switch con pulled by a local law firm here in Long Beach. It started when, following the advice of my career services and countless other attorneys, I responded to a Craigslist ad for legal assistant work. Using my “Resume C”, the third of my six specialized resumes where I highlight my admin work but do not (unlike in Resume’s D-F) omit my JD, I was able to secure an interview. It was there where I was promised 15 hours a week at $10 per hour; shitty but not the worst I can do under the circumstances. A few days later the “job” suddenly turned into an “internship” and my “wages” were now a “possible stipend” of significantly less than what I was promised. Needless to say I was not amused and we went our separate ways.

This sort of bullshit is not a rarity for my fellow unemployed JD’s on the market. Everyone from my class, regardless of their ranking or other academic achievements, is presently working an unpaid legal job while desperately trying to find something else to pay their bills until the day when their job lottery pulls their number. We are told “this is the way things are now” or “grit and bear it”- as if this bullshit Horatio Alger work ethic will also apply those expecting to collect the  massive student loans representing our wasted youth.

This is not some evolution in the law caused by an influx of locust-like “takers” who naively thought that law school automatically “entitled” us to a position in the middle class. No, this is fucking theft. These are employers and an entire industry that is succeeding in convincing people in my position that we need to endure not just the entire inflated cost of our education, but our practical training as well, further subsidizing the delayed retirements of older members of the bar. My generation was far and away beyond the 1980’s fantasy of becoming members of “big law” and spending our days writing motions and picking cocaine boogers from our nose while receiving road head from our mistress in our Corvette. Most of my class wanted jobs in the government and public interest realm- where we would receive a living wage and perform a necessary service for the people whom society has pissed upon for the last thirty years. Now we are told that our scaled-back, well tempered dream of moderate success is analogously greedy as those silly black people who wanted homes in the housing crisis.

Fuck those Randian assholes. There is plenty of lawyering to go around. Like our crumbling infrastructure that begs for construction workers and civil engineers, there is a great need for lawyers in contemporary society.

The rampant abuses in the employment, credit, and real estate markets beg for the attention of the thousands of well trained and socially conscious lawyers out there who can represent clients or draft decent laws to prevent further harm. However with the 1% managing to grab even more capital since the great recession, the public sector has contracted beyond what we previously imagined. While non-profit agencies and the government see the great need for more public defenders, legal aid lawyers, or legal policy experts, there simply is no money to pay them as the very idea of publicly subsidized legal services is now akin to communism thanks to the teahadists in the positions of state and federal power.

The need for the more mundane work of lawyers has also grown exponentially in the last few years. Folks still need to draw up wills, get divorced, or sue their piece of shit neighbor for letting his dog poop in their lawn. However corporations have successfully devalued the entire idea of professional legal services through “self help” bullshit like LegalZoom. Now lay people are under the incredibly dangerous and false perception that the only thing separating their dumbass from Perry Mason is paying for and filling out a few downloadable forms to file with the overwhelmed city clerk. Of course when this idiotic strategy backfires due to the influx of shitty motions and intelligible claims it is the tax payer that pays the costs of delayed court proceedings. Meanwhile this clusterfuck of amateurism allows LegalZoom to get even more money from their pseudo-client by “referring” them to- guess what- A REAL FUCKING ATTORNEY (albeit a desperate independent contractor who is making a third of what they are actually worth).

Ridding the option of seeking professional legal services is a direct threat to the agency of people to avoid being fucked over by the rich and powerful. Bad jokes aside, we as a profession are fucking necessary to the health and well being of society, and depriving us from doing our job is an intentional act of class warfare. Would we tolerate this amateurism and deregulation of a medical practice? Well not now but rest assured that those fuckers are next.

The “problem” of the legal profession will not be fixed by gimmicks like two year law school or some badly designed apprentice program that is  half-heardetly subsidized  by AmeriCorps. Yes some of the problems can (and really should) be addressed by a more intensive Federal regulation of law schools, if just to end the trend of schools treating their students like open cash registers of non-dischargable government backed debt. However the main issue is the same fucking thing holding back manufacturing, teaching, the porn industry, and virtually everything else in this country: rich people have all the fucking money and are not being forced to fork it over. Once middle and lower class people have the expendable cash to use on a lawyer when they need one, or when he government has the revenue to start hiring lawyers to write/enforce laws that aren’t from the ALEC playbook, we’ll be self-sufficent again.

Until that point though I urge every similarly situated law school grad to remember the most important lesson from Goodfellas:

Now if you excuse me I have to work on “Resume G”


Why Is The Long Beach Police Department So Scared Of Applicants Who Have Tripped Balls?

Snozzberries

I’m usually beyond cynical that politicians will ever embrace public policy based on sound scientific evidence (EX: my most recent twitter spat with Dana Rohrabacher), but I’m a bit optimistic that there might be some drastic change in our societal conceptualization of drugs. Unlike even a decade ago, it is becoming acceptable for the square community to acknowledge what everyone’s college stoner roommate proclaimed every time someone from a keg party trashed your house; that illegal drugs like pot or mushrooms are much less dangerous than FDA approved and regulated tobacco or alcohol.

A switch in drug policy from the ridiculous “The War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs” to actual evidence based harm-reduction is probably not on the imminent horizon. However it is encouraging that mainstream media sources like Sanjay Gupta or the Economist feel that it necessary to alert their audiences to new scientific findings that define the specific variations in the effects and consequences of different types of drug use. This slow trickle of relatively positive news regarding the health risks and addictive properties for certain drugs can and hopefully will turn the tide of a generation of misinformation and ridiculously hysterical anti-drug advocacy that defined much of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, something like this is particularly discouraging:

LONG BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT DRUG POLICY
The Long Beach Police Department hiring standard concerning drug usage is as follows:

  • Marijuana – any use of marijuana in the last two-years from the application deadline (September 13, 2013) will result in disqualification from the current hiring process. This is not a life time disqualification; just until a two-year period of no marijuana use has passed
  • Other illegal drug use (other than marijuana or hard drugs listed below) in the last three-years from the application deadline (September 13, 2013), will result in disqualification from the current hiring process. This is not a life-time disqualification; just until a three-year period of no illegal drug use has passed.
  • Any use of hallucinogenic drugs (PCP, LSD, mushrooms, etc.), illegal intravenous drugs (heroin, methamphetamine, etc.), or bath-salts is an automatic disqualification from this process. This is a life-time ban.

All other drug use will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and a determination will be made based on the applicant’s overal qualifications.

Alright so the Long Beach Police Department wants to exclude any applicant who has used one California’s largest cash crops and one of the least harmful drugs on record for two years because of some ephemeral law enforcement related interest. That makes no fucking sense whatsoever but it is not exactly surprising given the federal pressure on California to stop treating weed like it is entirely legal.

What is absolutely insane however is the lifetime ban for hallucinogenic and intravenous drugs while providing a mere three year ban for other illegal (non-pot) drug use. How in fucks name does that make any sense? In fact let’s break it down.

  • Take Psilocybin mushrooms, the least dangerous illegal drug according the recent Lancet study, or LSD (the 3rd least dangerous) and you are banned for life from becoming a member of the LBPD. Why? Because fuck you hippie that’s why.
  • Do you like Cocaine, Methamphetamine, or Heroin? Have you ever wanted to get super-ripped like your hero Ryan Braun? Well if so make sure you ingested those drugs by smoke, pills, or anal cavity ingestion because if you used a needle for whatever reason you are banned for life. Why? Is it the increased risk that the user may have contracted a blood borne disease like hepatitis or HIV through a dirty needle? Because that is the only real difference in harm between freebasing your heroin and injecting it.

This sort of badly constructed hiring guideline is dangerous. It shows that the very agency enforcing the incredibly muscular (and well-funded) anti-drug laws has absolutely no fucking idea of the reasoning behind their immense power, and that arbitrary and non-sensical distinctions hold more sway within their own offices than any evidence based-developments in social policy. Not to mention the fact that most Long Beach residents would probably rather have a Police Officer working their neighborhood who understands the relative harmless nature of a pot or shroom user compared to a cokehead or boozehound.

But by all means lets continue to exclude otherwise qualified applicants from important civil service jobs because they spent an afternoon in college staring at waves crashing out of a persian rug. That sort of intransigent stupidity just screams responsible government.