Tag Archive: Justice

Our Kangaroo Court

Wikipedia defines Kangaroo Court as a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority that intentionally disregards the court’s legal or ethical obligations.

Wikipedia defines Kangaroo Court as a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority that intentionally disregards the court’s legal or ethical obligations.

I recently watched the movie Inside Man Most Wanted. Approximately three quarters into the movie, two key characters had the following conversation:

You know what was clever about the Nazi Diamond Heist?” Ariella Barash questioned.

Tell me,” Agent Dr. Brynn Stewart replied.

They robbed a whole bank the way a pickpocket lifts a wallet, or a magician hides a card. They toyed with perception. You distract the brain, the prefrontal cortex, with a complex problem, like, say, a bank robbery. Focus attention on the big picture and then, bam, create an unexpected event that steals attention. And you can’t resist. The brain’s primitive sensory cortices light up with the distraction. You change the framing of someone’s perception; you change their reality.”

Bingo,” Dr. Stewart replied.

It’s what makes sleight-of-hand so effective.

The GOP doesn’t care about the plight of the children crossing the border, our relationship with North Korea, rising sea levels, or human rights. The GOP cares about only one thing and one thing only: Catering to Donald Trump and ensuring he remains in power. Therefore, the Senate Impeachment is likely to become one great sleight of hand.

Republicans already admitted it: The Senate impeachment trial of Trump will be a total sham. Back in December, the Republicans wanted to hold “a short impeachment trial that would include no witnesses and quickly vote to acquit.” Senator Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham indicated they would not be impartial.

The tactic is a broader issue of inequality. If you’re rich, you’re above accountability. America picks who goes to jail when it picks whom to investigate—which is one of the reasons so few people involved in the 2008 Wall Street debacle went to jail. In recent history, look no further than Epstein, Trump, Weinstein, Paul Manafort, Papadopoulos, Gates, and Flynn.

What does it all mean? Jack Goldstein summarizes America’s dilemma:

Donald Trump is testing the institution of the presidency, unlike any of his 43 predecessors. We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his party), and even senior officials within his administration. Trump is a Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ worst attributes: Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.

In 1796, George Washington warned us to “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” That’s what the current administration does: pretend patriotism.

The President claims that Article 2 of the Constitution allows him to do whatever he wants. In 2017 Stephen Miller, Trump’s top White House aide, claimed the ‘Powers of the president … will not be questioned.’ In that mind, I think of Matthew 22:21, where Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” We might have to change that to, ‘Give all things unto Trump.’ I fear a Senatorial Kangaroo Court will create a shift to autocracy.

Therefore America, I say unto you, your Kangaroo Court is in session.

‘Hear’ the Unheard.

ThreeWhen Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired, the world took little notice, except to ponder how long Rod Rosenstein and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller would remain employed. Yet most have failed to learn some key leadership lessons from the “Trumptonian” era of management.

First, we have to distinguish between obtaining a leadership position, and actually being successful in a leadership position. The political steps Trump took to become leader of the free world will not make him successful. Reality T.V. tactics may retain audience participation, but the real lesson is that all television shows eventually get cancelled. Second, if one’s claim to fame is leadership, having to fire 55 of your hand-picked staff in less than two years is not a confidence booster. No fortune 500 company would clear such an individual to ascend toward a Presidential position, but here are.

Research on “ideal” styles of leadership suggest the ideal leader should possess intelligence, is hard-working, honest, and compassionate. Trump overwhelmingly fails in all of these qualities.

So what does Trump have? Trump is a master of media and messaging. He knows his target audience and speaks to them effectively. Trump was able to identify gaps in America, empathize and provide unexpected solutions. If you were unhappy or afraid about something, a solution was presented for your pain. Need an enemy of the ‘state?’ Media. Need a broader ‘evil?‘ Democrats. Black people lack intelligence, women are ugly, lie and bleed … well from everywhere. In the world of presidential politics, marketing separates winners from the losers.

In Trump’s world, the shoes of responsibility for the Russian Investigation lay at another door. In this case, Sessions. Therefore, the King summarily executed (figuratively) his advisor and picked an “unqualified” partisan to protect himself. Unfortunately, both Trump and Sessions willfully ignored leadership’s greatest responsibility – the ‘unheard’ moaning from the wilderness.

The Sound of the Forest

Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.

When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.

When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings communicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”

Prince T’ai’s lesson remains the same. All should learn it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a baker, clinician, banker, factory worker, school teacher, pilot or homemaker. You are the leader of yourself. If you want to lead, you have to ‘hear‘ the unheard.

Just as 12 people were shot and killed in a California nightclub, the National Rifle Association declared war against the medical profession via social media. Apparently, the war was triggered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having the gall to release new figures showing gun deaths on the rise, indicating latest data for large metro areas are reaching levels not seen since 2006-2007.

Among the 50 largest metro areas, 43 (86%) reported rate increases when compared to 2012-2013 total. The report states a likely factor in both homicide and suicide rates is access to a firearm. According to previous studies, the decision to harm yourself or another person take as little as 10 minutes or less. Persons who make such decisions tend not to substitute use of a firearm when one is unavailable or difficult to access.

“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves. https://t.co/oCR3uiLtS7

— NRA (@NRA) November 7, 2018

The NRA is right. We need a consult.

In July 2017, the Emergency Management website ran a story indicating initial hospitalizations involving firearm injuries cost $734.6 million a year nationally. The story, written by reporters Jennifer Smith Richards, Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune followed two gunshot victims – Annette Johnson and Leo Leyva.

The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000.

Can anyone guess the average cost of branded and top grade shotguns? $500 to $800 dollars. Likewise, can anyone guess the average cost of a decent 9MM weapon? $250 to $400 dollars.

The Emergency Management article continued. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune revealed that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars annually.

Also in June 2017, NBC News published “Journey of a Bullet” followed six people endured the physical force, paid the emotional toll and found a path to recovery. the most interesting quote,

“… the gunshot wound may heal, but the bullet remains embedded in every facet of the survivor’s life.” For a fleeting moment, the thrust of the bullet bonds these survivors before their stories pull apart, diverging in directions where their futures are thrown into turmoil: Some are left paralyzed or must undergo years of reconstructive surgeries or are so shaken up, they can’t walk down a street without glancing over their shoulders.

What the NRA’s social media war fails to comprehend is that for clubgoers, rescue staff, police, heath care clinicians, and victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting are forever bonded. That will never change. In the meantime, Trump ordered flags to half-staff, Democrats demand action, and relentless prayers. All those damned prayers. “Prayers and condolences” for all.

Having made a living in the medical profession, both as a former rescue man and paramedic, police officer and now consultant, I can attest that the physicians are right. However, maybe the NRA’s concern, that “… the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves” is valid. As such, I sarcastically propose the following scenario during the next major trauma. It’s not very Buddhist, but it feels right.

Doctor: “Gunshot wound. Oh my God. I need a consult.” Picks up phone. Dials.

Voice: “National Rifle Association. How can I assist you?”

Doctor: “This is Anytown ER. Need a consult. We have a well-developed, well nourished, white male, 70 inches tall, weighing 138 lbs, and appearing the stated age of 39 years. Present in the right upper chest, 13 1/2 inches below the top pf the head, level with the jugular notch, just below the clavicle and 2 3/4 inches to the right of the midline, there is a gunshot wound of entrance. Initial examination of the wound reveals it to consist of an oval-shaped, seared and blackened wound, measuring 5/16 inch vertically x 1/4 inch horizontally. Partially burned grains of powder are present in this wound. Lying slightly above this wound and enclosing three-quarters of it, there is a circular contusion ring, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. This ring measures slightly less than 1/16-inch-wide and has a reddish color. The bullet, after passing in between the clavicle and 1st rib, struck and perforated the right brachio-cophalic vein and the right internal thoracic artery. The bullet then went through the apex of the upper lobe of the right lung and struck the antero-lateral aspect of the 3rd thoracic vertebra. The bullet went through the body of this vertebra in a posterior path, creating a tangential wound of entrance into the spinal canal.”

So, ah, NRA? It’s your gun and your bullet. How should we proceed?”

How’s that for a consult?

Scales of JusticeSeveral days ago, the Republican-led House passed an anti-abortion bill conservatives saw as a milestone.  Democrats condemned the measure as yet another example of the GOP war on women.

Everyone agrees that adult human beings have the right to life. Some people would say that the fertilized cell resulting from conception does not have the right to life. Therefore the right to life occurs sometime later between conception and birth. For others, the exact point a fetus reaches a right to life cannot be determined. Thus, society should assume it does have the right to life.

Allow me to sidestep the right-to-life or right-to-choice decision.

Personhood Ballot Initiatives would give legal rights to newly fertilized microscopic embryos (i.e., when life begins). Thus, for the moment, let’s presume abortion becomes illegal. Should the fetus have a “right” to life, how should we punish expectant mothers who are presumed to drink, eat, and participate in life events that may directly impact the health and safety of the fetus? For instance, when you’re expecting, what you eat and drink influences your child’s health, possibly forever. Some everyday foods and beverages take on new meaning, as some presents a danger to a developing child.

What if an expectant mother suffers heat stroke during a hot afternoon?  Should she miscarry, would she be required to prove her miscarriage was natural or face felony charges? For Christine Taylor, an Iowa mother of two girls and pregnant with her third child, a feticide law enacted in that state because of anti-choice efforts has wreaked havoc on her life. Being distraught and distracted, she tripped and fell down the stairs. Ms. Taylor found herself arrested and sent to jail for admitting uncertainty about her pregnancy and fear about raising three children on her own.

What if you’re a pregnant teen in the rural south?  Rural Americans live with the burden of poor health than those living in suburban or urban communities. There are fewer primary care physicians and emergency room doctors. Treatment options are often nonexistent and exacerbated by a lack of transportation. And using health care can be difficult, where tight-knit communities can amplify concerns about moral standing and confidentiality. Should society punish a mother for not ensuring their child receives the benefit of adequate healthcare? Should she be punished for simply not traveling long distances to a quality health facility? In the “personhood initiative” era, all of this basically means “… sucks to be you.”

So how do we police potential mothers and the rights of a fetus? How do we police every expectant mother fairly, equally? Who’s going to be the judge? Will a Buddhist or atheist be allowed to judge? Can a deeply conservative judicial system fairly and morally judge all?

Another thought? Do we punish those million or so women who had an abortion each year? As of 2008, there were 2.8 million people in jail. So what’s another 1 million more a year, right? For all the fighting over abortion, criminalizing women is not the solution; never has been. But then again, if abortion is equated to murder, should not the offender be adjudicated?

So when a national religious or political leader claims a woman should be criminally punished for having an abortion, questions must be asked and answers must be given. Does second hand smoke harm an unborn child? If so, do we punish the mother for harming the child or punish both the mother and smoker?  Here’s another; the automobile is great for personal freedom, but exhaust fumes are toxic. Should a car owner be punished for assault if their vehicle passes a pregnant woman? If “personhood initiative” backers really want to be fair, should we not ban air fresheners, ammonia, bleach, antifreeze, drain cleaners, laundry detergent and oven cleaners? Do we jail company executives who make, local stores that stock and sell and friends, family and neighbors who use such products? If a pregnant US citizen travels overseas and experiences a miscarriage in another country, how do we investigate and apply proper jurisprudence? Or do we simply perform extradition back to the country where the crime occurred? Can abortion doctors be tried for crimes against humanity?

So what’s the solution? The solution does not easily fit the into the black and white world of pro-life or pro-choice. Real solutions never do.