Posts Tagged justice

Things to Think About: Food Justice

For reasons I’ll explain at another time, I’ve spent the last few weeks alternating between a vegetarian (melted cheese is tempting – evil and possibly addictive) and a vegan diet.  There have been some almost immediate benefits, not the least of which is that I feel better and I’m saving money at the grocery store.  In making this change, I’ve noticed how easy this kind of change is – if you have the resources.  It’s not just an awareness issue.  It’s an economic and environmental justice issue.

What we choose to eat and where we purchase what we eat is a justice issue.  Things like cost, access and quality are connected to economic justice. 

Cost is more complex than what you see on the price tag. Buying in bulk, which is often cheaper per unit, is ultimately unaffordable for many low income households. 

Access is equally complex.  If you use public transportation, its more difficult to transport large quantities and you often limited by schedules in terms of where and when you can shop.

Quality is often a function of both cost and access.  If I have access to high quality food but can’t afford it or can’t transport and store it, I might as well not have access.  If I don’t have access, cost doesn’t matter.  If it’s free but I can’t get it, it might as well be a million dollars. 

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Judge Orders “Eye For an Eye” Punishment: But was it justice?

The story itself bothers me.  Two teenage girls befriended a 3 year old while she was at a McDonald’s playland, then cut off a huge chunk of the three year old’s hair.  They were identified and sent to juvenile court.

Where the story takes an interesting turn:

[Judge] Johansen ordered Kaytlen to serve 30 days in detention and 276 hours of community service for the incident and for making months of threatening phone calls to a Colorado teen.

Then the judge said, “I will cut that by 150 hours if you want to cut her hair right now.”

“Me, cut her hair?” Bruno asked.

“Right now,” the judge responded. “I’ll go get a pair of scissors, we’ll whack that ponytail off.”

Moss was in court that day and can be heard on an audio recording demanding that more hair be cut off.

“You satisfied?” the judge asked.

“No,” Moss replied. “She took that much off. My daughter’s hair that had never been cut, that was down to here, was cut up to here.”

Judge Johansen said, “Take it off clear up to the rubber band.”

The teen’s mother is upset about what happened – she claims she felt intimidated into cutting off her daughter’s hair and now wishes she hadn’t complied.  (Did she have an attorney present?  The article doesn’t say.) 

I’m struggling with what I think is a basic question – has justice been served?  The teens in question have been punished.  But punishment isn’t the same as justice, is it?  There’s the notion of restorative justice in which the offender makes whole the offended.  So in this case, we have to ask –  what exactly was the crime?  They were charged with assault – well they did something else in the process.  It wasn’t that they cut off a little girl’s hair – they violated her sense of safety.  They taught her to feel unsafe in the world.  Having their hair cut off won’t restore he sense of feeling safe.  At the same time, the Judge’s lesson was that those in power can do what they wish to those not in power.  Was his sentence an abuse of power?  We grant judges wide latitude for good reason – there are so many variables in any given charge that judges need to be able to exercise discretion.  But there are also boundaries.  We wouldn’t let a judge horsewhip a defendant found guilty.  We don’t let judges execute prisoners. 

I’m not sure I agree or disagree with the Judge’s decision, but I’m sure it raises lots of questions for me.  I’m not sure if the judge overstepped his bounds or not.  He saw to it that the ofender was punished – I’m not sure he saw to it that justice was served.

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Jury Nullification. Every Juror’s Right

Juries are the last line of defense against bad laws and have the right to refuse to convict based on the law itself being unjust or unjustly applied.  However, most juries are completely unaware of the power they have.  You have heard judges say, “The law is not on trial here”? When a judge says this they have violated their oaths of office and are attempting to take away the rights of jurors. The law is on trial in every court proceeding in this country.

I don’t know how many times I have heard a juror, after the fact, say they would have voted to acquit but the law tied their hands. They did not understand what it means to be a juror.

As a juror you are not an officer or agent of the court. You are an agent of the people themselves and thus given the power of the people. Your voice is stronger than the judge,  the Congress, the President and even the Supreme Court. You are independent of the government and the courts.

It is a usurpation by the government to not fully disclose to the jury their rights and worse yet to give them instructions that go against their rights. For a judge to instruct a juror they cannot evaluate the law itself is no different than if a judge orders the accused to testify against themselves.

If you are called to jury duty know and understand your rights and don’t let any judge take them away. There is a movement in this country to require judges to inform jurors of their rights. This is a good idea.

Fully Informed Jury Association

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Cry me a river: Wall Street paychecks may wither

H/t to the Big Picture.

Here’s the problem with various officers and employees at banks and financial institutions and other corporations making insane amounts of money:

It is one thing when the best-paid people seem to be the smartest and the most accomplished. Those who make much less may not like it, but the differential seems understandable. It is another thing when those people are shown to have committed huge blunders that would have driven their companies out of business, and them into the unemployment line, but for government bailouts.

Executives in the financial sector have been grotesquely over-compensated for the quality of their work. The “smartest people in the room” were every bit as venal and short-sighted as the rest of us, and now they’re using our tax dollars to figure out how to continue to live a life of luxury.

It should piss us the hell off.

They won’t disappear overnight, of course. The sad story of how Merrill Lynch bosses handed out bonuses just before the Bank of America takeover was completed — and just before about $15 billion in losses materialized from Merrill’s portfolio — reinforces the suspicion that Wall Streeters see themselves as entitled to outsize paychecks even if their companies are failing.

But there’s hope:

Are financial workers overpaid? And if so, will it continue?

The answers, according to a new study by two economists, are yes, they are overpaid, and no, it will not last.

There is a systemic problem – a lot of institutions were doing bank-like work without the banking regulations. They created inside these firms an environment in which workers came to believe that they deserved the massive, insane amounts of money they were making because they were making the firms massive, insane amounts of money. If I were a cynic, I’d suggest that problem really lay in a social world that valorizes profits above all else, that sees making money as the highest order goal a person can have. I’d suggest that the problem is found in a business world that has been willing to mortgage everything in the pursuit of this quarter’s profits.

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