Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oh What a Lovely War

As we all ponder the meaning and impact of the massive release of 70,000 or 90,000 secret documents on Wikileaks this week, I can’t help but focus on just a few elements: First, the activity of drone aircraft in seeking out and killing “targets”; and second, the mistakes inevitable in relying on massive airstrikes to simply kill whatever moves in an area selected by troops on the ground. Both of these expedients—the certain result of the impeccable military logic that annoints high-tech equipment as a god capable of removing casualties from war and making its soldiers invulnerable—combine to justify massive killing to prevent any threat to Americans, even American forces armed to the teeth and invading another country.

Before looking at a few samples of the wikileak trove, it’s important to recall a June 2, 2010 report by Agence France Presse conveying a UN special rapporteur’s report on the CIA’s use of drones. Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said that the CIA’s droning amounted to “a license to kill without accountability.” Alston worried that the U.S.’s claimed license of targeting individuals anywhere in the world runs the risk of “doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.” He especially complained about the fact that the criteria used by the CIA to justify its targeting of individuals was shrouded in official secrecy. In other words, not only were U.S. operatives assassinating individuals with impunity, but by offering no justification for their selections, they were judge, jury and executioner all in one: “In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated.” To add that the human agents in the drone killings were youthful pilots sitting in dark rooms in faraway Nevada and tracking shadows on a computer screen only makes the executions more macabre.

These drones, though, are the latest and apparently the most beloved of the military’s death toys. No human need enter a danger zone. The drones fly above battlefields or villages or wherever they choose, operated from afar, carrying lethal weapons that are precisely fired. They never complain, do not get tired (drones can stay aloft for 24 hours without a break), or bored, or distracted. They are the ultimate killing machine. Except, that is, when they get lost. This is what happened to one of the Air Force’s prized drones, a Reaper (don’t you just love the names the military comes up with? surely not to evoke thoughts of McCormick’s wheat reaper, but rather the euphemism for death as “the grim reaper”—though cutting down humans as the reaper cuts wheat is no doubt what animated the metaphor in the first place). As the NY Times explained the Wikileaks report:

“Equipped with advanced radar and sophisticated cameras, as well as Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs, the Reaper had lost its satellite link to its pilot [the one in Nevada]. No matter how he tried, the pilot couldn’t regain control [of his toy, only with a 66-foot wingspan], so his superiors ordered an F-15E fighter jet to shoot down the $13 million aircraft before it soared unguided into neighboring Tajikistan.” (NY Times, 7.25.10)

This grim comedy continued when the jet struck the drone with a Sidewinder missile, destroying the drone’s engine, just as the remote pilot regained satellite control. But it was too late. The comedy ended when the pilot steered it “into a remote mountainside for a final fiery landing.”

Imagine. Millions in equipment crashed into a mountain—because far worse than losing a measly $13 million would have been a landing that resulted in the Taliban recovering our secrets, our technology, our technological advantage.

Imagine, too, the terror of being on the ground pursued by one of these things. Death from the sky. No protestation of innocence. No begging for mercy. No warning even. Innocent or guilty, the Reaper seeks only to complete the death sentence ordered from half a world away. By some 20-something dweeb in a bunker in Nevada.

Or by some dweebs on the ground, those Special Forces killers until recently commanded by their killer-in-chief, General McChrystal. Another Wikileaks document, from June 17, 2007, details one of their missions gone awry. Of course, they were trying, via five rockets, to dispatch Abu Laith al-Libi, reportedly a top commander for Al Quaeda, said to be hiding in the targeted compound in Paktika province. But when helicopters dropped commandos from Task Force 373 to finish the job, they found no al-Libi. Instead, they found a “group of men suspected of being militants and their children. Seven of the children had been killed by the rocket attack.” When the men tried to flee, six of them were also killed by encircling helicopters. The rest were taken prisoner. But the good Americans did try to save a child still alive in the rubble, and performed CPR.

Unaccountably, news of the attack resulted in “a wave of anger over the region.” But not to worry, with a list of “talking points” drawn up by the Americans, the local governor explained the mistake: the Americans had been after an Al Quaeda leader and no one told them women and children would be in the compound. Indeed, the attack was really their own fault, caused by the “presence of hoodlums,” he said, and “could have been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”

Finally, a Sept. 3, 2009 report, from Kunduz province, described yet another mistaken airstrike, this time attributable to a slight mishap on the part of JATC, the Joint Terminal Attack Controller team responsible for ground communications and guidance for pilots and airstrikes. Responding to a police report saying that “2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE STOLEN BY UNK [unknown] NUMBER OF INS [insurgents]” who planned to cross the Kunduz River with their booty, the JTAC claimed to have seen not only the trucks, but “UP TO 70 INS” at “THE FORD ON THE RIVER.” [As to how JTAC “saw” this, the Times account speculates that the JTAC may have received live feed to their computer from infrared video cameras in some aircraft]. Then a German commander got involved, assured everyone that “NO CIVILIANS WERE IN THE VICINITY” and “AUTHORIZED AN AIRSTIKE.” An F-15 fighter plane then dropped two 500-pound guided bombs. Naturally, those killed were “56x INS KIA [insurgents killed in action],” 14 more fled northeast, and the two trucks were also destroyed. A good night’s work.

Only that the initial report was wrong. In fact, the trucks, apparently abandoned, were surrounded by civilians trying to remove fuel. This was learned only when the military reported that “International Media reported that US airstrikes had killed 60 civiians in Kunduz.” Those dastardly Taliban, having stolen the truck, had invited civilians in the area to help themselves with fuel. Seen from above, civilians were clearly INS [insurgents].

You get the picture. War is not lovely. In the best of conditions, it is messy, gruesome, murderous to those who have the misfortune of being in its vicinity. In this case, it is Afghan villagers who most often feed the grisly appetite of the war machine. And in Afghanistan, increasingly, the machines are in control. Trouble is, machines have no sense. They are inhuman by definition. When that inhumanity, as it inevitably must, reaches back and infects the humans ostensibly in control, they too become mechanical. That is what, overall, one discerns from reading the Wikileaks material. The United States, in attempting to maintain its tottering global empire, has become a killing machine. Far from protecting us as its champions claim, that transformation imperils us all.

Lawrence DiStasi

NB: For those of you too young to recall, the title of this piece comes from a 1963 musical composed by Joan Littlewood; it premiered on Broadway in 1964, and though it’s ostensibly about WWI, it applies to other wars rather nicely.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Real People v. Corporate “People.”

(Note: The following is a piece written by Doug Pibel in Yes! Magazine, 6/8/10. It expresses the position and history of corporate “personhood” and the fight against it so well that I thought it should be reprinted in full. The piece is reprinted on the movetoamend website, www.movetoamend.org. I would urge everyone to go to that website, sign the petition, and pass it on. LDS.)

In 2009, Riki Ott was on the road for 252 days educating people about the dangers of “corporate personhood.” That’s the legal doctrine that says corporations have constitutional rights, just like human beings. She mostly spoke in academic settings, and there was some interest in the idea, says Ott, but not much.
All that changed on January 21, 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Now interest has skyrocketed, and Ott finds people eager to volunteer, to organize, to meet, to do anything to reverse the Court’s decision.

Rallying Around Citizens United

Supreme Court cases are usually interesting to lawyers, scholars, and those directly affected. Occasionally, a decision makes the news for a few days before disappearing from the public eye. But sometimes there’s a game changer—a decision that is so clearly wrong that it becomes a rallying point. David Cobb, former Green Party presidential candidate and longtime activist on corporate personhood, points to Dred Scott v. Sandford as one such decision. Citizens United, Cobb says, is shaping up as another.

The two cases are mirror images of error. In 1857, the Dred Scott decision said that a flesh-and-blood human being had no constitutional rights because he was black. On January 21, 2010, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, used Citizens United to declare that corporations—legal entities with no human attributes—have the same constitutional free-speech rights that humans have.

Dred Scott was the most notorious Supreme Court decision of its time. It was not a groundbreaking case—it simply took existing law to its logical conclusion. But it so clearly violated both logic and human decency that it forced people to look at what slavery really meant. Rather than legitimizing the status quo, as it was intended to do, the decision galvanized the growing abolitionist movement, and set the stage for the end of slavery. But it took the 14th Amendment to overturn Dred Scott.

Citizens United also takes existing law to its logical conclusion. And, like Dred Scott, it is generating tremendous discussion and debate—this time about corporate power and about what role, if any, corporations should play in the political process.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken February 4–8, 2010, found that 80 percent of Americans oppose the Court’s ruling, including 65 percent who “strongly” oppose it. Opposition cuts across the political spectrum: 85 percent of Democrats oppose the ruling, as do 81 percent of Independents, and 76 percent of Republicans.

Within days of the Citizens United decision, groups formed to undo the Court’s damage. They are pursuing remedies ranging from local ordinances to federal legislation to a constitutional amendment.

Why Should We Care?

Citizens United says that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising. The Court declared more than 30 years ago that spending money is a form of speech, and that corporations had a First Amendment right to speak that way. But there were still limits, particularly in the area of political speech, where there is a century-old tradition of controlling the influence of corporations on the electoral process. Citizens United takes away those limits. According to the Court, if human beings are allowed an unrestricted right to free speech, then corporations must have the same right.

The Court overturned a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law that prohibited corporate- and union-funded campaign advertising within 90 days of a federal election. Now, corporations can spend unlimited money influencing our elections right up to Election Day.

More than $5 billion was spent on the 2008 campaigns with the McCain-Feingold law in place. If that seems like a lot of money, wait for the next election cycle. Citizens United was a case about a corporation spending money to advertise and air a movie that amounted to a hit piece on Hilary Clinton. There are now no limits on the funding of that sort of negative campaign material. Any candidate who doesn’t toe the corporate line can look forward to a flood of opposition cash.

The "Humanity" of Corporations

Just as Dred Scott was only an extension of existing law, Citizens United merely extends law that has been developing for a long time. But, like Dred Scott, the Court’s conclusion makes clear to most people that the law is wrong. To say that a corporation with billions to spend on advertising is no different from a human being with one voice and one vote goes beyond what a large majority of Americans are willing to accept.

But this is the logical conclusion of the doctrine of corporate personhood, a legal theory that has been developing since the 1800s. Until 1819 the law was clear that corporations had no constitutional rights. In that year, the Court held for the first time that the Constitution applied to corporations. The key moment was the 1886 case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific, an unremarkable case about taxes on railroad property. One of the railroad’s arguments was that the tax they were challenging violated the then-relatively new 14th Amendment to the Constitution—the Amendment that specifically overruled Dred Scott.
The railroad claimed that it had been deprived of “equal protection under the law,” which is one of the guarantees of the 14th Amendment. The problem with the argument was that the Amendment said, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” There is nothing in the language of the Amendment that makes it apply to anyone but humans—it uses the words “person” and “citizen.” The railroad’s argument was that, since a corporation was a legal entity, it was rather like a person and, thus, should enjoy the rights granted by the 14th Amendment.

The Court made no official decision on that issue, and it is discussed nowhere in the Court’s opinion. But in the headnotes (an unofficial summary of the case, not written by a judge), the court reporter, a former president of a small railroad line, quoted the Chief Justice as saying that the Court did not want to hear arguments on whether the 14th Amendment applied to railroads because “we are all of the opinion that it does.”

A lawyer who based an argument on a headnote would be laughed out of court. Yet the headnote in Santa Clara has been treated ever since as a statement of the law. From that crack in the door, the Constitution has been broken open to gradually provide corporations more of the rights granted to humans. We have gone from a Constitution that nowhere mentions corporations, let alone grants them rights, to Citizens United, which says that the Constitution cannot tell the difference between General Motors and a member of the general public.

Corporations are now a sort of super-being: They can live forever, they cannot be jailed, they have no conscience—yet they also enjoy virtually all the rights that humans have.

“[T]he Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense.” But for the style, those words might have come from one of the activists working to abolish corporate personhood. They are actually the words of Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the four dissenters in Citizens United.

A Turning Point

Eighty percent of Americans agree with Justice Stevens, and they’re ready to demand a return to common sense. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), founded by Thomas Linzey in 1995, has long championed abolishing corporate personhood. Citizens United “opens peoples’ eyes,” says Mari Margil, CELDF’s associate director. “Very often we walk into communities and they’ve never heard of corporate constitutional rights, or they think it’s an academic concept that’s not important for their lives. So we have to show through stories, through examples, through breaking down how our structure of law came to be and how it works,” says Margil. “Now Citizens United allows us to speed that process up a bit.”

Riki Ott and David Cobb are working under the banner of Move to Amend, a coalition that launched its Web site the day the Citizens United decision came down. In less than three months, says Cobb, without coverage in a single mass media outlet, more than 77,000 people have signed the group’s online petition for a constitutional amendment to reject the Citizens United ruling. Move to Amend now counts among its growing steering committee and key partners more than 20 progressive organizations, including Black Agenda Report, the National Lawyers Guild, Velvet Revolution, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

A partnership of Voter Action, Public Citizen, the Center for Corporate Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance launched Free Speech for People (FSFP), also on the day of the decision, and also seeking a constitutional amendment. They worked with Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) on the amendment she has introduced in the House, which restores the right of Congress and the states to regulate corporate spending. They have collected about 50,000 signatures on their petition.
John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action, has participated in FSFP presentations. “It’s pretty clear that the public is ahead of Washington,” Bonifaz says. “Washington, D.C. is looking at relatively modest reforms. The people around the country are very clear on the idea that corporations aren’t people. They believe the Citizens United ruling is a threat to our democracy and to the First Amendment.”

Still, all of these activists caution that this is a matter for the long haul. Amending the Constitution is not an overnight process—Dred Scott was accepted law for 11 years; the fight for women’s suffrage was multi-generational. Cobb says that although we’ve been told that this is a land of liberty, justice, and equality, people are realizing that it’s not. “Rather than just get caught up in despair and anguish, we can make it that land,” Cobb says. “We are going to force this country to live up to its promises and its best ideals. Are you with us?”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"To Let the Punishment Fit the Crime.."

The line is from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado (My Object all sublime/ I shall achieve in time/ To let the punishment fit the crime…), and as always in G&S, it is said with a bit of irony, if not sarcasm. The same is true here. Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed African-American Oscar Grant on New Year’s morning in 2009, has been convicted of “involuntary manslaughter.” And so, though Oscar Grant’s murder was caught on several video cameras, and though the video showed that the unarmed Grant was not only lying face down when shot, but also had his hands bound behind his back, the jury concluded that Mehserle’s act was unintentional (his lawyers insisting, as did he, that he thought he was using his taser), and therefore deserved only the lesser conviction of involuntary or negligent manslaughter, not murder. The conviction carries a sentence of 2 to 4 years—though the judge could add up to 10 more years for the added offense of using a gun. He could also sentence Mehserle to probation—no additional jail time at all.

Now here, without going further into the rights or wrongs of the jury’s decision (no Blacks were seated on that jury; the judge ruled out first-degree murder), it is important to understand this verdict in context. A black man is shot to death by a white man who has pledged to protect the public. The black man is bound and face down on the ground. The murderer’s culpability is undisputed. And yet, the killer is looking forward to a sentence that pales in comparison not simply to sentences in other murders, but in comparison to millions of convictions of black men in America for non-violent crimes like drug possession. To get some sense of the outrage this inspires in the African American community, it is necessary to read The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander (New Press: 2010). In fact, reading the New Jim Crow should outrage any American, even absent the Mehserle verdict. But in the context of this flagrant example of the differential “justice” in our system, well, outrage simply doesn’t cover it.

Here is some of what Michelle Alexander tells us. First, the system of mass incarceration of African Americans—a system put in place mostly as a result of the War on Drugs initiated by the Reagan Administration in 1980 and more specifically in its 1986 and 1988 legislation—is no less than a modern system for controlling black (and brown) men. It is the New Jim Crow—the old one having been ended, finally, by the 60’s Civil Rights movement and the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. So, of the approximately 2.3 million people in American prisons and jails, about ½ million are there for a drug offense (compare today’s 500,000 to 41,000 drug-related felons in 1980). Further, of the more than 31 million!!! people arrested for drug offenses since this “war” began, most are NOT charged with dealing drugs; in 2005, for example, “4 out of 5 drug arrests were for possession, and only 1 out of 5 for sales.” So what, you may say, that’s justice: use drugs and go to jail. But it’s not that simple. As Alexander writes,

…in the drug war, the enemy is racially defined.…Human Rights Watch reported in 2000 that, in seven states, African Americans constitute 80 to 90% of all drug offenders sent to prison. In at least 15 states, blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from 20 to 57 times greater than that of white men….Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, three-fourths (¾) of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino.

What’s more, the penalties for “crack” cocaine (used primarily by blacks), as opposed to powder cocaine (used primarily by whites) are biased in the extreme: 500 grams of powder gets a 5-year mandatory sentence; 5 grams of crack gets a 10-year mandatory—a 100 to 1 ratio (500 grams to 5 grams). Judge Clyde Cahill of the Federal District Court of Missouri, himself an African-American, ruled in the case of Edward Clary, that this ratio was discriminatory, but his ruling was struck down by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The result was that Clary, the 18-year old first-time violator in the case, was given and served 4 years by Judge Cahill, but upon the reversal by the Circuit Court, was forced back to jail to serve out his ten-year mandatory sentence.

The story of how this “war” got started, including the accompanying penalties for “felons” that renders them literally second-class citizens (5.1 million now on probation or parole), makes for fascinating reading, and I would recommend Alexander’s book to anyone who wants reality instead of TV propaganda. Here, I want to focus on the inequities in sentencing because that is what’s behind the rage hurled at the Mehserle verdict. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, for starters, initiated those mandatory minimum sentences for “distribution of cocaine, including far more severe punishment for crack—associated with blacks—than powder cocaine, associated with whites.” The 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act upped the ante even more, including the death penalty for serious drug-related offenses and a new 5-year mandatory minimum for “simple possession of cocaine base—with no evidence of intent to sell.” These mandatory sentences for possession were new, writes Alexander: up till that time, one year in prison was the maximum for possessing any amount of any drug.

The effects were immediate. And were immediately carved in stone by the Supreme Court. In 1982, “the Supreme Court upheld 40 years of imprisonment for possession and an attempt to sell 9 ounces of marijuana.” Somewhat later, the same Supreme Court in Hamelin v. Michigan upheld a life sentence for “a defendant with no prior convictions who attempted to sell 672 grams (approx. 23 ounces) of crack cocaine.” Though these two cases involved drug sellers, most of those hit with mandatory minimums, according to Alexander, are not the “drug kingpins” we are led to imagine. Weldon Angelos, for example, a 24-year-old record producer who possessed a weapon he did not use or threaten to use, was “sentenced to life for 3 marijuana sales, due to the mandatory minimum of 55 years under the law.” The judge noted even as he sentenced him that it was “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.” Another judge, William Schwarzer, “choked with tears” over the sentence he had to impose on Richard Anderson; Anderson, a longshoreman and first-time offender, got “10 years in prison without parole” not for selling or even possessing drugs, but for “what appeared to be a minor mistake in judgment in having given a ride to a drug dealer” who got caught.

That’s 10 years in prison for giving a dealer a ride! Johannes Mehserle is looking at 2 to 4 years for killing an unarmed black man. Punishment to fit the crime?

And yet, the Supreme Court, our court of last resort, the great arbiter of fairness, upholds this kind of savagery, this out-and-out racism. Consider, as Michelle Alexander forces us to consider: Professor David Baldus, of the University of Iowa Law School, (in the interest of full disclosure, Baldus was a fraternity brother of mine) led a study comparing sentencing in murder trials in Georgia. The study discovered that:

…defendants charged with killing white victims received the death penalty 11 times more often than defendants charged with killing black victims. Georgia prosecutors seemed largely to blame for the disparity; they sought the death penalty in 70% of cases involving black defendants and white victims, but only 19% of cases involving white defendants and black victims…and that defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times more likely to receive a death sentence than defendants charged with killing blacks. (p. 107)

A trial appeal, by Warren McCleskey in Georgia, used the Baldus study to claim racial bias in violation of the 14th Amendment to try to reverse the death penalty conviction. The case, McCleskey v. Kemp, reached the Supreme Court in 1987. But the Supreme Court “ruled that racial bias in sentencing, even if shown through credible statistical evidence, could not be challenged under the 14th Amendment” unless McCleskey could prove that the prosecutor in his case “had sought the death penalty because of race, or that the jury had imposed it for racial reasons.” That is, the Court said that clear statistical evidence, as provided by the Baldus study, did not prove unequal treatment, and thus did not violate the 14th Amendment. This meant that the prosecutor or the jury would have to openly admit they were racially biased—an impossibility not only because few would admit such a thing, but also because litigants are barred from even attempting to discover the prosecution’s motives. In short, statistical proof of racial bias was allowed and is allowed to stand under the court’s ruling.

Add to this the consistent rulings of the Supreme Court in allowing racial profiling by police officers by giving them “discretion” in deciding whom to stop and search without a warrant—using “pretext stops” where a minor traffic violation becomes a pretext to search for drugs (where the driver “looks” like a dealer); or “consent,” where police who get a driver’s consent (most people fear refusing) can search for any reason or no reason at all—and you get rampant violations of 4th Amendment protections, and American jails filled to capacity with black and brown drug violators. In the Ohio v. Robinette case, for example, where police stopped a black driver for speeding, turned on a video camera, and asked whether he was carrying drugs and would consent to a search, the driver consented. The police thereupon found a small amount of marijuana and a single meth pill. In reviewing the case, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the conviction, saying police must advise motorists of their right to refuse before asking them for consent to search their vehicles. At the Supreme Court, however, this “advise” requirement was struck down as “unrealistic.” No one needed to be informed of the right to refuse before being solicited for consent to a search. And in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, the Supreme Court went even further, ruling that even when a motorist does refuse to consent to a search, the police can arrest him anyway.

What results is what pertains in Illinois, where an amazing 90% of those imprisoned for drug offenses are African-American; where “the total population of black males in Chicago with a felony record (including both current and ex-felons) is equivalent to 55% of the black adult male population and an astonishing 80% of the adult black male workforce in the Chicago area.” Nor are the effects limited to the streets. Politically, African Americans are being disenfranchised at a staggering rate, with 1 in 7 black men nationally having lost the right to vote as ex-felons. Socially, moreover, black people, especially black men, literally define criminality, and crime is defined as a black problem. However, since we live in a putatively “colorblind” society, (there are, after all, that small percentage of whites imprisoned for drugs; there is, after all, that African-American President) this entire problem can be suppressed, ignored and denied. ‘It’s not black people we target; it’s criminals.’

Only when we get to see, graphically, how white murderers like Johannes Mehserle are treated do we begin to notice that something is rotten. Only when we are exposed, chapter and verse, to the way the system is constructed to exploit every avenue for targeting black and brown men, and how that targeting is continually sanctioned by the highest court in the land, do we begin to understand how obscene it all is—how obscene for TV commentators (like those commenting on the “riot” after the Mehserle verdict) to wring their hands about a few windows broken while they ignore the broken lives, the broken families, the broken cities, the deliberately broken system that allows and encourages racism to maintain its death grip on millions, so the rest of us can prate on about democracy, about our revered system of “equal justice for all.”

Lawrence DiStasi