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the USA’s presidential crisis – what will they learn from it?

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it really is this crazy

The USA has a tragic problem on its hands, of its own making. It now has, as its President, a career criminal, a narcissistic demagogue, a flim flam man who’ll stop at nothing to remain in power. Within a few days, though, his power will be curtailed and, I strongly suspect, and certainly hope, US law enforcement authorities will be rounding up some of his accomplices and generally turning up the heat. Everything about Trump tells me he would be prepared to destroy as much of the country’s political edifice as he possibly can, rather than go quietly.

But it’s the political edifice itself that’s allowed Trump, who isn’t a Republican, or a Democrat, or a politician or a businessman, to take over the ship of state and steer it on a bumpy ride to nowhere. This could never have happened under the Westminster system, which pertains in Britain and Australia, two countries of which I happen to be a citizen. 

The flaws in the US Presidential system have been unwittingly exposed by Trump, and this may be the one true gift he will have bestowed on his people, just as the horrors of the great European wars of last century left the one bright legacy of over seventy years of peace in Western Europe. 

So what are these problems? Well there’s one general problem of democracy, which is shared by all democratic countries, and that’s the fact that not everyone eligible to vote is sufficiently informed or detached to use their vote to the best advantage of themselves or the nation as a whole. Many are massively influenced by what is called ‘identity politics’, because they identify with a particular sub-culture, be it ethnic, religious, job-related, or special-interest-related in a host of ways. Many simply don’t understand much about politics and are easily swayed by political promises or the promises made by those around them on behalf of politicians. The intellectual elites, the cognoscenti, have no more weight to their vote than the more or less completely clueless. 

This problem is exacerbated in the USA by the fact that, every four years, they’re asked to cast a vote essentially for one person over another. In the run-up to that vote there’s massive fund-raising and lobbying, hype (short for hyperbole), overblown promising, and circus-like razzmatazz and bells and whistles. 

The one-against-one competition is, it seems, typically American, where the ‘great man’ who saves the world by single-handedly defeating all enemies is a staple of Hollywood blockbusters. In contrast, elections in the Westminster system are more like a blend of the American mid-term and presidential elections, but with much more of the mid-term than the presidential. People essentially vote for parties – a major party of the left and of the right, together with smaller independent parties and independent members. The two major parties and the smaller parties all have leaders, of course, and they’re elected by the rest of the elected MPs of their parties. They’re the ‘captains of the team’, and they work with them in parliament. The Prime Minister, the leader of the party elected to power in general elections, is thus in a very different position from the US President, who resides in and works from the White House, surrounded by staff and officials who are appointed by himself (though more or less vetted by others) without necessarily having been elected by the public to any office of any kind in the past. These include some very influential positions indeed – the 15 members of the Presidential Cabinet including Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Attorney-General and Chief of Staff. The President thus heads the ‘executive branch’ of government, which is entirely separate from parliament, or congress.

Under the Westminster system there’s no such separation. The Prime Minister does get to select his cabinet, but they’re all appointed from within parliament, and all of them work within the House, or the Senate. So the PM is literally ‘primus inter pares’, first among equals, and often has to defend his or her ministers and policies in the teeth of opposition sitting across the aisle. This creates much more of a team spirit, and if the PM ‘goes rogue’, as Trump clearly has, his party can organise a no-confidence motion to oust him. Such an event obviously has major repurcussions for the nation, but they are clearly nowhere near as disastrous as the ousting of an American President. Though, arguably, the difficulties involved in ousting the President are even more disastrous. 

In watching and learning about the US political system over the past year or so, I’ve been totally astonished at the power granted to the President, and with that power comes a sense of Presidential immunity, due to his ‘indispensability’. This is virtually a recipe for demagoguery and dictatorship. The current President has clearly utilised powers that previous Presidents quite probably didn’t know they had, because they grew up within the usual ethical guidelines of the vast majority of people, regardless of background. Trump has no such guidelines, and so has sacked appointed officials without replacing them, has used pardoning powers – and will continue to do so unless ousted – without restraint, and has issued executive orders in a manipulative and detrimental fashion. He has monetised the Presidency, obstructed justice by declaring war on the FBI and justice department officials, viciously and relentlessly attacked the fourth estate, and spread myriad falsehoods with impunity.

All of this has created a kind of internal paralysis in the US, while making the country and its President both a laughing stock and a cause for grave concern worldwide. Meanwhile the success of demagoguery and ‘power’ over ethics has had its echoes in elections in Austria, Sweden and Brazil. But the USA’s political problems are unique. The two principal problems are – How do you rid yourself of a rogue president? and, How do you present this from ever happening again?

Many concerned Americans are looking to the process of impeachment as the solution. I’m writing this on the day (in Australia) of the mid-term elections, November 6, though the USA is some 11-12 hours behind us in central Australia. It seems likely that the Democrats will take control of the House and possibly the Senate, though I wouldn’t bet on it – I usually get these things wrong. But impeachment is a political process and therefore highly partisan in a nation that has become partisan perhaps to the point of extreme violence. Impeachment doesn’t exist in the Westminster system, because there is clearly no need for it.

For a Prime Minister, under the Westminster system, to ‘successfully’ go rogue, as the US President has, he would have to carry the whole of his party with him, or a substantial majority, as the party system and party loyalty are deeply entrenched in the polity. A no-confidence motion in the Prime Minister can be put up at any time during parliamentary sessions, either from within the PM’s party or from the opposition benches. It’s easier for the President to become a ‘one-man band’ because he’s entirely cut off from congress. I don’t know if Trump has ever entered congress. There seems no reason for him to do so. This complete disconnection from what is is supposedly his own party and government is, I think, disastrous. 

The massive power of the President – veto powers, pardoning powers, executive orders, and apparent, if limited, immunity from prosecution – is no small problem for a country that is the most economically and militarily powerful in the world.  Rachel Maddow of NBC has highlighted the problem of prosecuting the President. If he is charged and placed in custody or let out on bail, does he still have presidential authority? If not, who does? This would not be a problem under the Westminster system – the Deputy PM would step up, as s/he does when the PM is overseas. And if the matter were serious enough, that deputy, or another senior cabinet minister, would take over the PM’s role permanently. And there would be no hesitancy, under that system, to arrest and detain. Why should there be? The law should treat all offenders in precisely the same way.

In the US there seems to be a lot of confusion on these matters. Many consider the President ‘too important’ to be charged with a crime while in office. This is truly ridiculous. If you have allowed one person to be so important within your political system as to be above the law, for even a second, then your political system sucks, to put it mildly. 

Another bizarre anomaly of the US system is this ‘hanging back’ by the federal authorities, in terms of subpoenas and indictments, during pre-election periods. This, it seems to me, is an interference, by a kind of stealth, of the judiciary by the political sphere. Where did this ridiculous idea come from? It seems abundantly clear to me that when investigating potential felonies of any kind, the political background should play no part whatsoever. Once investigators have ‘all their ducks in a row’, as Americans like to say, that’s when prosecutions should begin. I’ve no idea right now what will happen to Trump after these elections, but he has already been clearly implicated in campaign finance violations via his criminal fixer, so prosecutions should have occurred already. To not institute criminal proceedings when everything is set to do so, because of some election or other – that constitutes political interference. Am I missing something here?  

Assuming that Trump is indicted after these elections (though what I’ve heard is that the Mueller will only issue a report to congress, even if it includes indictable offences, which makes my head spin with its unutterable stupidity and dereliction of duty), is it likely that Trump will give himself up to authorities? Trump is a career criminal who has never spent any time in jail, though his tax crimes and various scams should have seen him incarcerated for much of his adult life. It’s hard to know what he’ll do when cornered, but I can’t imagine him giving himself up to authorities. The real crisis is about to hit the fan, so to speak. It will get very very bumpy over the next few months, no matter what the election result. 

The other major question is – what will Americans learn from the Trump disaster? Will they reform their political system? With their jingoistic pride, I don’t hold out too much hope. My guess is that there will be some reform around the edges – the emoluments clause might be ‘promoted’ to something more than a mere clause, for example – but their beloved but outdated Constitution will remain largely untouched, and they’ll still keep their POTUS in splendid isolation, a law unto himself and a potential threat to their nation and the outside world. But then, as some dipshit has often said, we’ll have to wait and see. 

 

Written by stewart henderson

November 6, 2018 at 8:52 pm

the latest summary of my battle for justice

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SA’s Supreme Court, a possible destination

I’ve written five posts recently on what I call ‘the big lie’ (see links below), and I might end up turning it into a book. It looks like I’ll have plenty of time on my hands to do so. My last post was on January 20, and since then there’s been no word from DCSI (SA’s Department for Communities and Social Inclusion) on the review of the decision, which officially commenced on October 31 2017 – 105 days ago. On the website for the Screening Unit of DCSI (or DCSE in my case), we’re told that a review will take 6-8 weeks or longer. Of course they don’t say how long longer is.

105 days is of course exactly 15 weeks. I have been suspended from work without pay since November 10. I’d been in my job as an educator in English for Academic Purposes for only four years. It was mostly part-time, and TESOL is probably the most lowly-paid job in teaching, which is already well-recognised as an under-paid profession. However it’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I miss my students – a lot.

I point all this out because I want to make it clear that I lack the financial resources to hire a lawyer to help me clear my name in a civil or criminal court, even if there were any avenue for me to do so, and at this stage it appears not.

However, if I can find an avenue, I will represent myself.

So, two weeks ago I wrote an email to the people responsible for my review. I used the same email address they gave me for sending any further information that might assist my case – personal/professional references or any other documents I might have unearthed. My email was essentially a begging letter about the personal and financial stress I was going through due to their delayed decision. I received no response, so last week I wrote a letter of complaint to DCSI about the delay. I received no response from that either, so yesterday I filed an official complaint about the matter to the SA Ombudsman, whose office looks into official complaints about state government departments, inter alia. After managing finally to fill out correctly their not-so-user-friendly form, I was told they would respond within a fortnight.

So that’s where things stand at present, but I worry that the longer it takes for the Screening Unit to decide for or against me, the less likely it will be that I’ll be reinstated in my job, whatever the outcome.

Meanwhile, as well as trying to turn my mind to other things, and to blog about them, I’ve been looking online for possibilities for clearing my name, taking action against wrongful arrest or wrongful prosecution, and so forth. And I’ve come up pretty well empty. DCSI provided me with a pamphlet on Procedural Fairness as part of their request for further information back in April last year. Under ‘further avenues of appeal’ it states: ‘You may also seek a judicial review of  an administrative decision in the Supreme Court’. If the decision is against me, I will do that, but that won’t be enough, though it may be that the Supreme Court, in reviewing the case, will accept that a nolle prosequi decision was unfair in light of the complete absence of evidence presented. In which case, the DPP and SAPOL may have a case to answer, a case that I would be keen to pursue.

The problem with this, though, is that first and foremost I want my job back, and I’m getting on for 62 years of age. How long would all this take? And it’s also clear that seeking redress for false accusations, and even for unjust convictions leading to deprivation of liberty, is no easy matter in Australia. My online research on this stuff just leaves me feeling depressed. It should be said that the case of Roseanne Beckett, linked to above, ended well for her after 26 years (and the injustice she suffered completely dwarfs my own, to put it mildly).

My concern in fighting this case is:

First, to find out if the accuser is still sticking by his accusation.

Second, to determine how the police can justify not visiting the so-called scene of the crime until after the case had been transferred to a higher court (thus necessitating the production of evidence, or at least verification of the boy’s story).

Third, how can the police justify arresting me without evidence? Their own justification is stated tersely on their charge sheet:

‘Accused arrested to ensure appearance and due to the serious nature of the offence’.

So, two reasons are given. To take the second one first – due to the serious nature of the offence. Is it fair to arrest someone solely on the basis of a claim being serious or extreme? Think of the term used in science: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Prima facie, I can’t see how you can justify arresting someone for a crime as serious as rape, with all the opprobrium understandably attached to it, and the damage to the accused’s reputation, without any evidence whatever beyond the story of the accuser. To do so would, IMHO, lack due diligence to an extreme degree. So now to the first reason – to ensure my appearance – that is, to ensure I wouldn’t ‘do a runner’. However, this makes no sense. For many weeks before my arrest I was aware that a serious allegation had been made against me. I also made the police aware of this because, after weeks of being kept in the dark, I made an official complaint to the Police Complaints Authority about my situation. It was Anglicare who informed me, by phone, that a serious allegation had been made, immediately after they had manoeuvred my new foster-kid out of the house on a false pretext. Clearly, the police had contacted Anglicare about the allegation against me, and they (the police) would have ensured that no other minor was in my care until this matter was investigated. So the police knew that I knew something was afoot, and they would have known, or should have known, from the Police Complaints Authority matter, that I wasn’t going anywhere. In short, neither of the reasons given by the police for my arrest bear close scrutiny.

Fourth, how the DPP can justify proceeding, when their mission statement is clear that no case will be prosecuted unless there is a reasonable chance of conviction.

But at first glance there seems no avenue for fighting the whole case, so I would have to begin by fighting the DCSI’s decision. This fight would mean questioning why the screening unit looks upon nolle prosequi so negatively. But here I must say that my researches have uncovered something which I may have written about before, forgive me. That is, that there are three possible way in which the prosecution could be unsuccessful, not two, as I’d previously thought.  They are: a finding of not guilty (i.e. acquittal), which would entail an expensive full trial, which was never going to happen; a dismissal before arraignment, in which the DPP recognises it doesn’t have a case; and a nolle prosequi dismissal after arraignment, because the DPP has somehow convinced the magistrate that the defendant has a case to answer. It is because the case was sent to a higher court at arraignment (or did the arraignment actually take place in the higher court? I’m not sure) that I’m in the position I’m now in, without a police clearance, and in danger of never being able to teach again, even in a voluntary capacity, at least not in a community centre, where these more stringent police clearances are now mandatory.

In any case, it’s time now to act, I can’t keep waiting, stuck like a rabbit in the headlights. I’ve been too passive in this case. I need to take it to the Supreme Court, if possible – regardless of the eventual decision of DCSI.

https://ussromantics.com/2017/11/11/the-battle-for-justice-part-1-some-background-to-the-case/

https://ussromantics.com/2017/11/13/the-battle-for-justice-part-2-the-problem-with-nolle-prosequi/

https://ussromantics.com/2017/11/14/the-battle-for-justice-part-3-is-there-any-way-to-clear-your-name/

https://ussromantics.com/2017/11/21/the-battle-for-justice-an-update-the-problem-with-documents/

https://ussromantics.com/2018/01/20/police-procedures-the-dpp-and-subtle-corruption/

 

Trump downfall update. The latest indictments of Russians obviously undercuts Trump’s claims about the ‘Russian hoax’ as well as the ‘tattered FBI’ and might have an affect on the Trumpets. They should have an undermining effect on the Congress Trumpets in particular – Nunes, Collins, Cotton and co. If, after this, the GOP Congress continues to deny or do nothing about Russian conspiracy to influence elections, including the coming mid-terms, isn’t this obstruction of some sort? Or some sort of passive collusion? It certainly is an outrage. Pressure should next be brought to bear on sanctions, and that would mean more pressure on Trump.

Written by stewart henderson

February 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

police procedures, the DPP and subtle corruption

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For personal reasons, I’ve become very interested in police procedures lately. I’ve always been sceptical, not to say cynical, about these processes, but it’s time to do some fact-checking and re-examining of assumptions. I’m particularly interested in the criteria for promotion, and here’s what I first read, probably from an American site:

To earn a promotion in just about any police force, you must successfully complete all necessary training and duty requirements with above average to superior ratings. You must have met or exceeded any quotas, directives, mission and conduct protocols required in your current rank to advance to the next rank.

The word that jumped out at me in this para, because it was the sort of thing I was looking for, was ‘quotas’. I’ve always had a suspicion that promotion is very much a numbers game – numbers of arrests and convictions in particular. Of course it might be said that arrests are a police matter and convictions a matter of criminal law, but it obviously would be a problem for a police officer/detective if the arrest-to-conviction rate was low. It would suggest over-zealousness in arresting, turning a brownie point into a black mark.

Try googling ‘police and quotas’ and you’ll immediately find it’s a hot issue, especially in such low-level crimes as speeding, DUI and other traffic offences, which generate revenue – though I’m not sure where that revenue goes, as  yet. But whether it’s explicit or not, I’ve no doubt that quotas are in the minds of higher-ups pretty well constantly as they assess the lower ranks, in all areas of policing. Here’s a local example from November 2011 – several years ago, but several years after my own negative police experience, in 2005-6. An article from The Advertiser, titled ‘Leaked email reveals police ordered to meet arrest quotas’, described an email sent by a Senior Sergeant at Holden Hill police station to patrol officers. The email set a five-week target for the officers:

MAKE five arrests and reports. ARREST or report two drink-drivers. MAKE nine traffic contacts, including on-the-spot fines, using mobile breath tests. ISSUE one drug-related fine or diversion (for minor illegal drug possession).

The email went on to say that though the majority of police easily met these quotas, and even ‘blitzed’ them, a small minority were ‘coasting along’ in terms of their ‘duty’. Though the email directive was quickly rescinded when they were caught out – it was admitted to be ‘outside of SAPOL’s policies and guidelines’, it was pretty clear from its contents that quotas such as these were standard. The only mistake here, from the police perspective, was to put them in writing. I’d be willingly to bet all my hard-earned (and that ain’t much) that Holden Hill police would’ve spent more energy seeking out the leaker of that email than in trying to improve their procedures.

Arrests for such crimes as rape and murder are of course much more rare, but any such arrest would be a major point-scorer, though of course rape arrests are almost entirely dependent on reports from members of the public, and presumably the arrest will take place if the accuser’s story is convincing, and if it’s corroborated by physical evidence and/or by witnesses. But there’s also the pressure to arrest from within the department – for kudos. In this case, as in so many rape accusations, there’s no physical evidence and no witnesses. So you might think that everything hangs on the convincingness of the boy’s story, but it’s not so simple as that, for you have also to take into account the willingness to be convinced shown by the police, which is affected by the benefit to them of making an arrest. Given the ‘he said he said’ nature of cases such as mine, and given the moral panic surrounding child sexual abuse in recent times, the police could safely bet, assuming the boy’s story wasn’t too wildly improbable, that the case wouldn’t be dismissed out of hand; that it could ‘go somewhere’, all of which would be to their benefit. And the further it might go, the better.

Now to use the term ‘police corruption’ is a dangerous thing, but corruption can also be subtle. That’s why police quotas are frowned upon (by outsiders) – because they can be subtly, or not so subtly, corrupting.

I’ve only recently discovered that the case against me all those years ago could’ve ended in any of four possible ways (but I may still have more to learn about this): my conviction, my acquittal, dismissal, or nolle prosequi. The nolle prosequi verdict (or non-verdict) was unknown to me before last year, so I’d always assumed just three possibilities, of which conviction was out of the question as far as I was concerned. Acquittal, I gradually learned through my court appearances, was also out of the question because it entailed the whole shebang of a trial with witnesses, or at least testimonial-type ‘witnesses’, cross-examinations, a  jury perhaps, and much wasted expenditure. So it was definitely going to be dismissal, to my mind, due to a complete lack of evidence, or the frivolous nature of the allegation – though frivolous is surely not the word. No frivolity here.

Now, back in those days I kept a folder of all the documents sent to me relating to my case. I called it ‘the big lie’. Unfortunately, between the case being dropped in early 2006 and last year when it came back big time via the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) and their adverse finding on my being a possible danger to children, which has led to me being suspended from my teaching job, that folder disappeared, presumably because I chucked it out, though I can’t remember doing so. Anyway I wish I hadn’t. So now I’m not sure if I ever received a final document reporting the nolle prosequi finding. I don’t think I did, because if I had I’m sure I would’ve looked up nolle prosequi and been concerned about what it entailed.

Anyway, nolle prosequi is what it is, and it isn’t satisfactory. In fact it lends greater urgency to the letter I sent to the DPP immediately the case was dropped. In that letter, which I composed well beforehand, just waiting for the inevitable dismissal, I argued tersely that the DPP had flouted the fundamental principle enunciated on its website, that they would only prosecute if they had a reasonable chance of winning the case. Of course, my argument depended on the idea that having no evidence whatever equated to having no reasonable chance of success. Maybe I wasn’t entirely sure of this at the time, but I have to say that I’m less sure of it now, as, due to more people knowing about what has happened to me, I’ve been offered a number of tragic stories of teachers or carers being falsely convicted of sex crimes. Presumably these poor souls, released but never quite exonerated after the accusers changed or dropped their stories, were not convicted on evidence, but on some supposed balance of probabilities. That’s to say, the probability that the accuser was telling the truth was (significantly?) greater than the probability that the accused was telling the truth. But of course, this wasn’t probability in any mathematical sense. In fact it would be difficult to say what the probability might be based on. But it’s obvious that the stories from both sides have to ‘check out’, as they say in TV cop shows. What seems to be happening with today’s moral panic is that, perhaps to make up for failures to take sexual abuse claims seriously in the past, the bar for acceptance of these claims is lowering, and the police will rarely find themselves in trouble for accepting, without too much analysis, the accusers’ stories above the stories of the accused. And this moral panic is apparently infecting the DPP too, by virtue of the fact that they’re more easily able to secure convictions without evidence, based on a balance of probabilities that has become subtly corrupted over time.

We need to push back against this, insistently, or more good people will become victims of the police-judicial system, and fewer males will feel safe to become teachers and carers of young people. It’s already happening, of course.

Written by stewart henderson

January 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Posted in arrest

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