Billionaire Heiress Lashes Out at Unions Because Her Fortune Didn’t Buy Election

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Speaks To Media After Visiting Students At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

 

Betsy DeVos is furious!

 

She and her family spent boatloads of money this election cycle and few of their candidates won.

 

Instead, lawmakers were largely selected by these things called… ew… voters.

 

She was so enraged that she used her platform as Secretary of Education – another prudent purchase by her family – to lash out at teachers unions for – get this – having too much influence!!!!!

 

She told Fox Business Network:

 

“The teachers union has a stranglehold on many of the politicians in this country, both at the federal level and at the state-level.”

 

That’s rich coming from her, but one can see where she’s coming from.

 

In the midterms 23 states had double-digit percentage-point increases in turnout compared with 1982-2014. That resulted in a blue wave in the U.S. House – one of the largest and most diverse groups of freshman Congresspeople ever.

 

This is the third-highest turnover since 1974. We showed 104 incumbents the door.

 

DeVos didn’t pay for THAT!

 

How dare those Joe and Jane Sixpacks come out to the polls and upset the plans the billionaire class had plunked down their hard-inherited wealth to ensure!

 

How dare teachers and school employees pool their nickles and dimes to have a say about their own professions!

 

The only people who should have a voice in public policy are the… uh, public?

 

No.

 

Parents and students?

 

No!

 

Plutocrats like DeVos and family?

 

Yeah! That’s right!

 

You can’t spell Democracy without DEMOnstrative Wealth!

 

We can’t let our schools be run by parents or students  or the people who work there. Decisions can’t be made by just anyone. It has to be by the BEST people. And who better than the rich?

 

That’s why this election cycle has DeVos so irate.

 

She spent $1 million through her affiliated Students First PAC to elect Scott Wagner Governor of Pennsylvania – but those darn VOTERS spoiled everything by re-electing Gov. Tom Wolf instead!

 

The DeVos family spent more than $635,000 to keep Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin, but those naysaying nellies who pay taxes decided to go with Democratic challenger Tony Evers, instead.

 

I mean, come on, people! That’s just not fair!

 

We’re making her waste her enormous fortune without getting any return on the investment!

 

And she DOES expect tit-for-tat.

 

She famously wrote:

 

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

 

Her boss – and philosophical soul mate – Donald Trump feels the same way. He once bragged at a rally:

 

 “I’ve given to everybody because that was my job. I gotta give it to them, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”

 

DeVos doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk.

 

One of the most infamous examples of quid pro quo was when the DeVos family gave Michigan Republicans $1.45 million over a seven-week period as an apparent reward for passing a no-accountability charter school law in 2016. That’s $25,000 per day! The editors of the Detroit Free Pressdescribed it as a “filthy, moneyed kiss.”

 

Yet somehow it’s unions that have a “stranglehold” on politicians and policy!?

 

Let’s get one thing straight – money should not be able to buy political influence. Period.

 

That’s union money. That’s billionaire money. That’s anyone’s money.

 

But that requires major reforms to how we finance political campaigns. It requires several Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United to be overturned. It requires additional regulations and transparency from our legislature.

 

Until that happens, no one can afford to stop making these campaign contributions.

 

In Buckley v. Valeo and several additional rulings that built on it, The Supreme Court wrongly ruled that money equals speech and thus any limitation on political spending would violate the First Amendment.

 

Therefore, no one can afford to limit their voice by voluntarily closing their pocketbook.

 

People with truckloads of cash – like DeVos – cry wolf when the unwashed masses pool their resources to the point where they can come close to matching the wealthy.

 

But make no mistake – with the rampant economic inequality in this country, the rich can outspend the poor. And they often do.

 

It doesn’t take a political genius to see that our national policies invariably favor the wealthy and ignore the poor. That’s no accident. It’s the rich getting what they’ve paid for.

 

If anyone has a “stranglehold” on politicians it’s silver spooned magnates like DeVos who can transform the whims of winning a lottery of birth into political appointments and massive influence on policy.

 

But DeVos wasn’t done whining to a sympathetic audience on Fox Business Channel.

 

She continued:

 

“…they [i.e. teachers unions] are very resistant to the kind of changes that need to happen. They are very protective of what they know, and there are protective, really protective of adult jobs and not really focused on what is right for individual students.”

 

Really? How would you know? You never sent your kids to public school. You never went to public school, yourself. You’ve only ever visited a handful of public schools after purchasing your position in Trump’s cabinet (Check the receipts to the Senators who confirmed her!).

 

Moreover, it takes a certain level of ignorance to claim that teachers get into the classroom because they DON’T care about children. That’s like saying firemen don’t want to protect people from fires or lawyers don’t want to serve their clients legal needs.

 

Having a well-educated, experienced, caring teacher in the classroom IS what’s in the best interests of students. That means having a teacher with collective bargaining rights so she can grade her students fairly without fear of political ramifications if someone complains to the school board. That means being able to blow the whistle if classroom conditions are unsafe or policies handed down by functionaries (like DeVos) aren’t helping kids learn.

 

Teachers want change. They’re begging for change – just not the kinds of change DeVos is pushing.

 

But she went on:

 

 “One of the most fundamental things again is focusing on individual children and knowing that all students are different, they learn differently. I have four children, they were all very different, very different learners.”

 

This is not exactly a news flash to any teacher anywhere. We’re constantly differentiating our instruction to help students with different learning styles, kids in special education, kids who are gifted, kids on the autistic spectrum, kids with dyslexia, etc. It’s just too bad that policy mavens like DeVos keep pushing more standardized tests and Common Core. Sure today she’s saying all kids learn differently. Tomorrow she’ll be pushing us to assess them the same way.

 

But she went on:

 

 “We have to allow for more kinds of schools, more kinds of educational experiences, and to do that we need to empower more families to make those decisions on behalf of their students.”

 

And there it is! Her obsession with school privatization – charter and voucher schools! She’s selling them because her portfolio is heavily invested in them. She is not a philosophical believer in a certain kind of pedagogy. She’s a privatization pimp, pushing schools without transparency, accountability or regulations so that public tax dollars can flow into private pockets – and to Hell with what that does to the students enrolled there!

 

To enable her scheme, she needs to attack teachers:

 

“We have a lot of forces that are protecting what is and what is known, a lot of forces protecting the status quo. We need to combat those, break them, and again empower and allow parents to make decisions on behalf of their individual children because they know their children best.”

 

Betsy, charter and voucher schools are not reform. They ARE the status quo. They’re the same crap championed by Obama and the Bushes and the Clintons.

 

Republicans are famous for their privatization advocacy. But most Democrats are in favor of it, too.

 

Sure most career Democrats will argue against school vouchers while quietly approving Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC), Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) and a host of other Trojan horse programs that do the same thing under a different name.

 

We’ve been increasing school privatization and standardized testing for decades. It hasn’t helped anyone except investors.

 

More than 90% of parents throughout the country send their children to public schools. That’s not because they have no other choices. Every time – literally every time – there is a referendum on school vouchers, voters turn it down. Civil rights organizations from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to Black Lives Matter and Journey for Justice are calling for a moratorium on charter schools. In fact, for the last three years, charter school growth has stalled. It’s  dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.

 

That’s because people are sick of these far right and neoliberal policies. If we listen to what parents and students really want, it’s not the garbage DeVos is selling.

 

This whole unseemly tantrum from our Education Secretary is just sour grapes.

 

Her stranglehold is loosening. And she doesn’t know how to regain her grip.

 


 

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!

book-1

Supreme Court Paves the Way to Taxing Churches

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 11.39.13 AM

 

Finally some good news!

 

A U.S. Supreme Court decision yesterday pokes a hole in the separation of church and state. But that hole goes both ways.

 

Justices ruled 7-2 that Missouri could not withhold tax dollars to resurface a playground at a church preschool simply on the grounds that it’s a religious institution.

 

Therefore, one can expect any day now a ruling that the church can’t be exempted from paying taxes for the same reason.

 

Here’s the key issue.

 

Traditionally, the government doesn’t pay for the church. But now our highest court in the land has ruled that’s discriminatory!

 

Never mind that Missouri actually relented in this case and paid for the concrete anyway making the entire ruling moot and something that no other Supreme Court in history would have voted on because doing so would expose justices as being activists legislating from the bench.

 

No. Now that Republicans stole the seat of President Barack Obama’s rightful nominee, Merrick Garland, with President Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch (i.e. Scalia 2.0), the court is a decidedly fascist institution.

 

In other words, it’s no longer a body of scholarly justices dedicated to interpreting the law. It’s now a shell corporation of paid corporate lobbyists issuing justifications to support the mandates of the billionaire class.

 

The five wealthiest people in the country have as much money as 750 million people – each. And most of these mega-rich want to destroy our public school system so they can hoover up tax dollars into their private portfolios. (Once you’ve got that much money, it’s just a game where you’re playing against other multi-billionaires to see who can get all the money, flip over the board and proclaim themselves King.)

 

To do this, they need school vouchers to help destabilize the system. Chop it down, remove any pretense of accountability to taxpayers about how that money is being spent and then sweep up that sweet, sweet money.

 

It also has the added benefit of ensuring the next generation is dumb enough to – I don’t know – continue voting for reality TV stars as President.

 

But that’s just the most obvious implication.

 

Now that the state has been shown to be responsible to support the church, the reverse has also been proven: the church has responsibilities to support the state.

 

That’s right. No more tax free status for houses of worship.

 

Get ready to dig deep into your pockets, parishioners. Uncle Sam needs a new pair of shoes.

 

Who’s paying for all those needless wars of aggression? The Church Lady! That’s who!

 

Where are we going to get the money to keep up the counterproductive war on drugs? The collection plate!

 

Yep. The assembled flock is about to get fleeced!

 

What conservatives seem to forget is that the wall of separation between church and state wasn’t erected just to protect the state from influence by religion. It also was set up to protect religion from the state.

 

Once you have money flowing from one to the other, regulations are soon to follow.

 

Expect your cute little parochial school to put away the Bible and replace it with “The Origin of Species”.

 

What? Your faith compels you to believe in the Creation of Man by God and not scientific evolution of organisms through heritable traits? I guess you’ll just have to teach the controversy.

 

 

Some people in America still think that there’s value in having both public and private schools. They seem to think that it’s actually a benefit having school systems where people are taught differently. But this new ruling paves the way (pun intended) to breaking down the walls between each type of institution.

 

Yes, public schools will become more like religious schools. But religious schools will also become more like public schools.

 

The entire education system will become one big watered down whole. And – giggle – those pushing for it actually call the process “School Choice”!

 

Oh the plutocrats will do their best to cover it all up with culture war nonsense. You’ll hear hours of cable news blather about poor conservative bakers fighting not to make cupcakes for gay people. But behind this high profile grist for the mill will be active efforts at homogenization, government overreach and oligarchy.

 

There’s one way in which this is good news. Some people have always thought churches were getting off easy, that they were being allowed undue influence on politics without having to pay the entrance fee of taxation like the rest of us.

 

However, this was only ever true at some houses of worship. Others were dedicated to spirituality, community and charity while eschewing affairs of state altogether.

 

This new ruling rips away protections from those authentically beneficent congregations as it does those more politically inclined. It exposes the preacher and the partisan equally.

 

Moreover, anyone who doesn’t want their tax dollars supporting someone else’s religious beliefs can expect their cries to fall on deaf ears. Christians will fund Muslims and Jews will fund Christians and all will pay for the Church of Satan and whatever sect is formed to take advantage of this brave new source of tax revenue. Religion is now decidedly in the public domain and all that goes with it.

 

The results are bound to displease everyone – except the mega-rich.

 

In short, you can’t tear down the rules that were set up to protect everyone without opening us all up to ruin.

 

America’s religious people are about to find that out.

 

It’s almost poetic justice.

 

Get ready to reap what you sow.

Judging the Judge: What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love

antonin-scalia-26

I am not sad Antonin Scalia is dead.

Wow! It feels so good to say that out loud!

Come on. Admit it. You probably feel the same way.

I know. I know. Everywhere you turn, people are going out of their way to talk about the ramifications of the 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s death without passing judgement on him.

“Let’s keep it classy,” they say.

Oh. Stop it.

In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people. And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.

The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it. And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.

So please curb any shock you may feel at my thesis. And spare me the false praise of a truly reprehensible human being.

He was against women controlling their own bodies, efforts to desegregate our schools, an individual’s right to love whomever they choose, refraining from executing mentally disabled or teenage prisoners. Heck! He was even against police reading suspects their Miranda Rights!

This was a person who said black people should go to “slower” colleges, homosexuality was the same as murder or bestiality, sex discrimination is constitutional, and maybe we have a right to all carry around rocket launchers in public.

If it is outrageous to feel relief at the death of this man, you may call me outrageous.

I’m not usually the kind of person who celebrates someone else’s death. Not even a famous person.

But you have to admit that the people we love are a lot better off without Scalia in the world.

It’s not like he kept all this to himself. He wasn’t some lone drunkard in the back of the bar mumbling sexist, racist views. He wasn’t your ancient uncle who you only see twice a year making people uncomfortable at the dinner table. He was a judge in the highest court in the land, and his demented and warped world view drove public policy impacting… well… everyone.

He was the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions that – if they had gone differently – would have greatly benefited every person in this country.

You can thank him for the Presidency of George W. Bush and Citizens United. Let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine all the horrific blunders of the Bush Presidency – easily the worst administration in my lifetime. If the Supreme Court hadn’t given the highest office in the land to Dubya, arguably we wouldn’t have had the Irag War, the Great Recession, No Child Left Behind, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina – maybe even 9-11.

And if you hate what our elections have become, imagine if we didn’t have the Citizens United verdict. Campaign donations would have to be made in public with some limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute.

How much better the world would have been without these terrible decisions!

I’m not saying Scalia wasn’t a good man in his personal life. I have no idea what he was like to the people he loved. For all I know he may have been a good friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He probably had people he cared about and who cared about him. And to those people I send my condolences.

However, he did great harm to just about everyone else. And for that I feel nothing but relief at his death.

Who am I to bask in such schadenfreude?

I am a father and public school teacher.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and several classes full of mostly impoverished and minority students.

And Scalia’s death is good for everyone I care about.

If he were still alive, there was so much more damage he could have done. Take the Friedrichs case, an important one for teachers like me.

The case is an attempt to strip teachers unions of the right to charge members for their services. If the court rules in favor of Friedrichs, it would overturn decades of established law against free riders. People would be allowed to be in a union, enjoy higher salary and benefits negotiated by that union, but not pay dues. It would be absurd. Yet with Scalia still on the bench, most court watchers seem to think we would have had another terrible 5-4 decision.

However, with Scalia’s death, the best anti-union forces would probably receive is a 4-4 decision – not enough to overturn established law. True the case has already been heard by the justices, but a ruling has not yet been handed down. According to the Supreme Court blog, even if Scalia had already written a ruling on this matter, it would be void. Any rulings he wrote that have not yet been made public don’t count.

So the most likely outcome now is that millions of people will continue to be protected from unfair labor practices. And you expect me not to have a big ‘ol smile on my face!?

So where do we go from here?

President Barack Obama will select who is to succeed Scalia. Numerous excellent choices have been floated. If Obama chooses any one of them, he would probably tilt the court fractionally to the left.

Before the body was even cold, Republicans vowed to block any nominee Obama makes until the next President is sworn in. Some are trying out the talking point that Supreme Court Justices have never been sworn in during an election year. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have Justice Anthony Kennedy who was confirmed during the last year of Reagan’s presidency.

Funny. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the President has the right to nominate Supreme Court Justices with the advice of Congress. Yet so many of these right leaning partisans who considered themselves Constitutionalists last week suddenly find themselves against that revered document today.

I wonder how Scalia would have argued such a situation.

Not really. He was the one who taught the rest of his party how to twist the words of the founding fathers to mean whatever the far right favors this week.

Obama still has more than 300 days in office. If Republicans try to block his nomination until a new face tops the Executive, it would be the longest such obstruction in a century. Of sitting justices, the longest confirmation period was for Clarence Thomas who took 106 days to be approved by Congress.

And that brings us to the 2016 Presidential race.

Scalia’s death is likely to have a huge impact on whom becomes our next President.

If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, it would probably increase voter turnout. Whenever that happens, it favors Democrats since they have more registered members than the GOP.

Either way, Scalia’s death is probably beneficial to whomever the Democratic nominee will be. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders get the nomination, supporters of the defeated candidate are more likely to support the reigning Democrat.

Even if voters don’t like the winner’s policies as much as their preferred candidate, they’re likely to support the nominee in order to continue tipping the Supreme Court to the left. After all, three additional justices are 70 or older. Stephen Breyer is 77, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82.

We have had a long haul these last 15 years. Much social progress has been stalled.

But now that Scalia is out of the picture, the future looks bright.

Maybe things really will turn out alright. Maybe we’ll actually have a chance to build that better world we’ve all been dreaming about.

Rest in Peace, Scalia. The nation can’t wait to move on without you.

What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love

antonin-scalia-26

I’m not sad Antonin Scalia is dead.

Wow! It feels so good to say that aloud!

Come on. Admit it. You feel exactly the same way.

I know. I know. Everywhere you turn, people are going out of their way to talk about the ramifications of the 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s death without passing judgement on him.

“Let’s keep it classy,” they say.

Oh. Stop it.

In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people. And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.

The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it. And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.

So spare me any shock at my thesis. Spare me the false praise of a truly reprehensible human being.

He was against women controlling their own bodies, efforts to desegregate our schools, an individual’s right to love whomever they choose, refraining from executing mentally disabled or teenage prisoners. Heck! He was even against police reading suspects their Miranda Rights!

This was a person who said black people should go to “slower” colleges, homosexuality was the same as murder or bestiality, sex discrimination is constitutional, and maybe we have a right to all carry around rocket launchers in public.

If it is outrageous to feel relief at the death of this man, you may call me outrageous.

I’m not usually the kind of person who celebrates someone else’s death. Not even a famous person.

But you have to admit that the people we love are a lot better off without Scalia in the world.

It’s not like he kept all this to himself. He wasn’t some lone drunkard in the back of the bar mumbling sexist, racist views. He wasn’t your ancient uncle who you only see twice a year making people uncomfortable at the dinner table. He was a judge in the highest court in the land, and his demented and warped world view drove public policy impacting… well… everyone.

He was the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions that – if they had gone differently – would have greatly benefited every person in this country.

You can thank him for the Presidency of George W. Bush and Citizens United. Let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine all the horrific blunders of the Bush Presidency – easily the worst administration in my lifetime. If the Supreme Court hadn’t given the highest office in the land to Dubya, arguably we wouldn’t have had the Iraq War, the Great Recession, No Child Left Behind, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina – maybe even 9-11.

And if you hate what our elections have become, imagine if we didn’t have the Citizens United verdict. Campaign donations would have to be made in public with some limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute.

How much better the world would have been without these terrible decisions!

I’m not saying Scalia wasn’t a good man in his personal life. I have no idea what he was like to the people he loved. For all I know he may have been a good friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He probably had people he cared about and who cared about him. And to those people I send my condolences.

However, he royally screwed just about everyone else. And for that I feel nothing but relief at his death. If only it had come sooner.

Who am I to bask in such schadenfreude?

I am a father and public school teacher.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and several classes full of mostly impoverished and minority students.

And Scalia’s death is good for everyone I care about.

If he were still alive, there was so much more damage he could have done. Take the Friedrichs case, an important one for teachers like me.

The case is an attempt to strip teachers unions of the right to charge members for their services. If the court rules in favor of Friedrichs, it would overturn decades of established law against free riders. People would be allowed to be in a union, enjoy higher salary and benefits negotiated by that union, but not pay dues. It would be absurd. Yet with Scalia still on the bench, most court watchers seem to think we would have had another terrible 5-4 decision.

However, with Scalia’s death, the best anti-union forces would probably receive is a 4-4 decision – not enough to overturn established law. True the case has already been heard by the justices, but a ruling has not yet been handed down. According to the Supreme Court blog, even if Scalia had already written a ruling on this matter, it would be void. Any rulings he wrote that have not yet been made public don’t count.

So the most likely outcome now is that millions of people will continue to be protected from unfair labor practices. And you expect me not to have a big ‘ol smile on my face!?

So where do we go from here?

President Barack Obama will select who is to succeed Scalia. Numerous excellent choices have been floated. If Obama chooses any one of them, he would probably tilt the court fractionally to the left.

Before the body was even cold, Republicans vowed to block any nominee Obama makes until the next President is sworn in. Some are trying out the talking point that Supreme Court Justices have never been sworn in during an election year. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have Justice Anthony Kennedy who was confirmed during the last year of Reagan’s presidency.

Funny. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the President has the right to nominate Supreme Court Justices with the advice of Congress. Yet so many of these right leaning partisans who considered themselves Constitutionalists last week suddenly find themselves against that revered document today.

I wonder how Scalia would have argued such a situation.

Not really. He was the one who taught the rest of his party how to twist the words of the founding fathers to mean whatever the far right favors this week.

Obama still has more than 300 days in office. If Republicans try to block his nomination until a new face tops the Executive, it would be the longest such obstruction in a century. Of sitting justices, the longest confirmation period was for Clarence Thomas who took 106 days to be approved by Congress.

And that brings us to the 2016 Presidential race.

Scalia’s death is likely to have a huge impact on whom becomes our next President.

If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, it would probably increase voter turnout. Whenever that happens, it favors Democrats since they have more registered members than the GOP.

Either way, Scalia’s death is probably beneficial to whomever the Democratic nominee will be. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders get the nomination, supporters of the defeated candidate are more likely to support the reigning Democrat.

Even if voters don’t like the winner’s policies as much as their preferred candidate, they’re likely to support the nominee in order to continue tipping the Supreme Court to the left. After all, three additional justices are 70 or older. Stephen Breyer is 77, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82.

We have had a long haul these last 15 years. Much social progress has been stalled.

But now that Scalia is out of the picture, the future looks bright.

Maybe things really will turn out alright. Maybe we’ll actually have a chance to build that better world we’ve all been dreaming about.

Rest in Peace, Scalia. The nation can’t wait to move on without you.

The Best Way To Honor Tamir Rice is by Reforming Our Broken Justice System

Memorial for Tamir Rice, 12-year-old shot dead by Police in Cleveland

Michael Brown – no indictment.

Eric Garner – no indictment.

Sandra Bland – no indictment.

And now Tamir Rice.

How many times will our justice system refuse to charge police with killing unarmed black people?

What will it take for our courts to accept the responsibility for at least attempting to seek justice?

When will our judicial system deem the death of people of color at the hands of law enforcement to at least be worthy of a trial?

Brown had no weapon but was shot to death by law enforcement.

Garner had no weapon but was choked to death by police.

Bland had no weapon but was found hanged in her jail cell after being assaulted by police during a traffic stop.

Rice had a legal pellet gun that was not pointed at anyone yet he was shot to death two seconds after police arrived.

This is not justice. This is a national travesty that continues to be played out daily. How many more human beings will be ground under the boot of a system that finds no value in their lives?

And don’t give me any of your excuses! Police were just doing there job! These people should have listened to law enforcement! Rice shouldn’t have had a pellet gun!

Listen to yourself. Lethal force is the only option!? Police have no tasers anymore, no pepper spray? Their guns only fire death strokes? They can’t hit non-vital areas meant to incapacitate but not kill?

What a bunch of cowards we are if we don’t demand police publicly explain themselves when they kill another human being – especially someone who posed them no bodily harm! How morally and spiritually bankrupt a nation we are not to weigh the evidence and decide guilt or innocence! “Freedom and justice for all!?” What a sham! What a lie! What a farce!

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of it. I refuse to put up with it for even one more day.

But what can we do?

No. Really.

When reading about these government sanctioned murders, I feel helpless. I’m just one person. What can I do to stop it?

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Ban Grand Juries in Fatal Shootings by Police

Connecticut and – most recently – California already have laws to this effect. District attorneys should have to decide whether officers face criminal charges when they kill people in the line of duty. This decision should be made in the light of day in full view of the public and not behind the closed doors of a grand jury hearing. These hearings involve no judges or defense attorneys and the transcripts of these proceedings are almost always sealed.

The problem is that district attorneys work closely with police and depend on them for political support. Sending cases like these to a grand jury gets the DA off the hook so he or she doesn’t offend the officers.

If the decision had to be made in public, voters could hold DAs accountable. With the grand jury system, there are no consequences because we have no concrete evidence about what happened during the proceedings, what arguments were made, by whom and who made what decisions. That’s a poor breeding ground for justice.

2) Construct a National Database on Police Killings

Right now there is no way to tell exactly how many people are killed by law enforcement in this country every year. Moreover, there is no way to tell if officers involved in these killings were ever charged.

Information can be compiled state-by-state, often through unofficial and anecdotal sources. However, this does not nearly give the full picture of what is going on. The people of this country deserve to know the full scope of the issue. That’s why apologists often claim these sorts of incidents are relatively rare and blown out of proportion by the media. But are they? A national database would prove the matter one way or the other.

Federal law from 1994 already calls for just such a database, yet it has not been funded. This may be due in part to the cost. A pilot study found that it would take a decade and cost $1 billion.

Certainly this is not a quick fix. But don’t we deserve to know this information? And isn’t it suspicious that nothing is being done to compile this data now?

3) Overturn Graham v. Connor

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to seeking justice for those unnecessarily killed by police is a precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court 25 years ago. Graham v. Connor effectively ruled that police can kill you if they feel you present a “reasonable” threat to their own lives.

The problem is the word “reasonable.” What does that mean? In court, it can be almost anything. It’s a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to police for wanton murder. Justice Sonia Sotomayor calls this a “Shoot first, think later” approach to policing. She says this violates the Fourth Amendment which stipulates what counts as “probable cause” for police actions including arrests. However, Sotomayor is the only sitting justice publicly to take this stance.

This is why without more robust protections for citizens and more realistic expectations for law enforcement, even when cases like these go to court, they rarely result in police convictions.

But courts change. Public opinion can move mountains if given enough time. We need to start putting on the pressure.

Organize, people. Start writing letters. Write petitions. Hold rallies. Meet with your Congress-people. Make some noise.

In the meantime, let us grieve for all the Browns, Garners, Blands and Rices.

Their lives matter. And the best way to prove that is to get off our collective asses and do something about it.


NOTE: This article also was published on Commondreams.org.