(In)justice wears blinders (update #3)

Updates

  1. Originally published, June 10, 2021, 1:28 pm.

  2. June 10, 2021, 5:59 pm:

    • So a funny thing happened with businesses that raised their minimum wage to $15 or more: That entirely bogus “labor shortage”[1] disappeared. Vanished. In a puff of smoke. It seems that improving working conditions helped, too. And price increases? Minimal, if any.[2]

    • I guess Milton Raiford didn’t have a plan after all. He has capitulated, asking to be restored[3] to the case he had refused to participate in,[4] citing white supremacy and systemic racism in a dispute that drew attention to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr.[5] There are a couple problems here:

      1. Zappala has not had to apologize and there has been no commitment to address Raiford’s complaints. White supremacism is, for all practical purposes and certainly in the eyes of those who defend the criminal injustice system of Allegheny County, “vindicated.”

      2. Raiford may or may not be able to resume his practice as before; to the extent he is, he will surely have to “behave” himself according to the white supremacist rules of a systemically racist system. He is being humiliated for trying to do a right thing.

      This stinks.

  3. June 10, 2021, 11:17 pm:

    • Okay, these coincidences are getting kind of spooky:

      The Imani Christian Academy, where Milton Raiford served as a pastor (I’m not clear if he still does), is to the southeast of 2200 East Hills Drive. The 2200 block is likely to the north (figure 1).


      Fig. 1. Screenshot by author of 2200 East Hills Drive from Google Maps. This largely covers the area south of that covered in figure 2, including all of Park Hill Drive, as well as the housing development I think is public housing.

      In theory, there’s no connection between the story largely focused on Park Hills Drive,[6] the Milton Raiford-Stephen Zappala, Jr., story,[7] and the shooting on East Hills Drive. None at all. They just happen to have cropped up all at about the same time.


Housing

Against the problems of gentrification in and around Pittsburgh,[8] there is the problem of blight and rot[9] that I have taken some photographs of. There’s some middle ground, but really not a lot.

While focusing on Park Hills Drive, this latest article[10] does not mention the problem of East Hills Drive (figure 1), scene of the most horrific potholes in Pittsburgh that I have seen and which would be a major access route to the area. Residents have told me the problem is that the road exists in disputed territory between Pittsburgh and Penn Hills with neither municipality being willing to fix it. It’s been like this for decades. The area that should be closed, since no one is willing to fix it, begins at the north end of Park Hills Drive and extends to Frankstown Road (figure 2). Alternative routes exist but are circuitous.

Fig. 2. East Hills Drive. Screenshot by author, June 9, 2021, from Google Maps.

Park Hill Drive itself has no shortage of potholes; the problem of municipal neglect goes far beyond the housing itself,[11] surely further deterring would-be buyers.

Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/


Taxes

There is a new blog post entitled, “We, the unemployed, the homeless, the evicted, and the wage earners can all sleep soundly at night knowing the political elite are very clear on their priorities.”

Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Paul Kiel, “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax,” ProPublica, June 8, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax

British Broadcasting Corporation, “US super-rich ‘pay almost no income tax,’” June 9, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57383869


Allegheny County

Y’all know I don’t doubt Milton Raiford’s righteousness,[12] and I have to assume he knows what he’s doing as he “refused Wednesday to participate in his client’s nonjury trial until Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. meets with him, resigns or recuses himself from all of Raiford’s cases” and “spoke [in court] for several minutes Wednesday morning about God, racism and the need for the legal system to repent.”[13] But damn, the man’s got balls.

“God saved me from cronyism and racism,” [Milton] Raiford said. “This system is systemically racist.

“Stephen Zappala has personally threatened me.” . . .

“Those of you who sit up there have to come in contact with your own brokenness and weakness and have respect for those who come before you who are broken and weak themselves,” Raiford said. “This building is a cesspool of white privilege.”

He told [Judge Anthony] Mariani that he holds young people of color, from neighborhoods like Homewood, East Liberty and East Hills, to a standard that many can’t meet.

“You’re holding them to your standard of responsibility,” he said.

Throughout the argument, the judge repeatedly asked Raiford if he would would uphold his oath as an attorney and represent his client, Vanessa Williams. She was scheduled for a bench trial on charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence.

Each time, Raiford said he would not.

“You’re asking me to stand by an oath you violate everyday,” Raiford said. He said that he can’t operate with any prosecutor who is “an agent of Stephen Zappala.”

“I’m trying to help get you guys cleaned up.”

The judge responded, “It’s not your job to clean us guys up. And I wouldn’t have the audacity to judge whether you needed to be cleaned up.”

Mariani reiterated his position that Raiford is a good attorney and advocate. Still, he said, he had no choice but to remove Raiford as Williams’ attorney.[14]

Raiford has served as a pastor at the Imani Christian Academy,[15] very near the south end of Park Hill Drive, a place the City of Pittsburgh has neglected, in attending to abandoned properties, the roads, even sewer service.[16] It’s one of a number of areas that Mayor Bill Peduto’s government just doesn’t give a damn about. The academy itself is located adjacent to what looks to me to be public housing, which is actually in reasonable condition (and probably run by the county). It isn’t a wealthy area by any stretch. Nearly everyone I’ve picked up there is Black; certainly all are poor.

Raiford himself seems to have come at least from this sort of background;[17] it’s possible to imagine these are his people. And I can’t help but believe that this has something to do with what we’re seeing here; everyone has a breaking point, beyond which they can take no more, and Raiford himself refers to people “who are broken and weak.”[18]

The judge just wants to get on with the case, to carry on with dispensing injustice according to the letter of the law,[19] which is itself not quite so clear cut,[20] and which misses entirely the original causes of crime,[21] and thus misses the reality of these people’s situations entirely.

Justice, we say, is supposed to be “blind.” It would be more accurate to say that the system of injustice we actually have wears blinders; it intentionally misses context and thus immediately fails a critical theorists’ scrutiny. It is a tragedy.

Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/



Gig economy

In some ways, this Washington Post story is merely catching up[22] with earlier coverage, most of it from other publications.[23] But it does add an important point that drivers aren’t seeing their share of higher fares in the not-quite-post-pandemic, which is certainly consistent with what I’ve seen.[24]

Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/


  1. [1]Eric Levitz, “5 Explanations for April’s Bad Jobs Report,” New York, May 7, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/jobs-report-explained-ui-childcare-seasonal-adjustment.html; Eric Levitz, “Letting the Economy Create Jobs for Everyone Is (Sadly) Radical,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/biden-full-employment-policy-labor-shortage-inflation.html; Heather Long, “It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/07/jobs-report-labor-shortage-analysis/; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/
  2. [2]Eli Rosenberg, “These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more,” Washington Post, June 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/06/10/worker-shortage-raising-wages/
  3. [3]Paula Reed Ward, “Attorney Milton Raiford apologizes for leaving client’s case during Zappala dispute; seeks to be restored,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 10, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/attorney-milton-raiford-apologizes-for-leaving-clients-case-during-zappala-dispute-seeks-to-be-restored/
  4. [4]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  5. [5]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  6. [6]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  7. [7]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/; Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/; Paula Reed Ward, “Attorney Milton Raiford apologizes for leaving client’s case during Zappala dispute; seeks to be restored,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 10, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/attorney-milton-raiford-apologizes-for-leaving-clients-case-during-zappala-dispute-seeks-to-be-restored/
  8. [8]Bob Bauder, “Pittsburgh settles court battle over Penn Plaza Apartments,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 27, 2017, https://archive.triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/pittsburgh-settles-court-battle-over-penn-plaza-apartments/; Tom Davidson, “Is there a crisis of ‘forced mass displacement’ of Black Pittsburghers? Residents, council divided on answer,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 6, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/is-there-a-crisis-of-forced-mass-displacement-of-black-pittsburghers-residents-council-divided-on-answer/; Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh is one of the most gentrified cities in the U.S.,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 4, 2019, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-is-one-of-the-most-gentrified-cities-in-the-us/Content?oid=14381722; Ryan Deto, “The displacement of Anthony Hardison from his Lawrenceville apartment is a microcosm of a neighborhood epidemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 15, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/the-displacement-of-anthony-hardison-from-his-lawrenceville-apartment-is-a-microcosm-of-a-neighborhood-epidemic/Content?oid=16556108; Rich Lord, “House hunters: How an anti-blight law has become a tool for ambitious landlords in Allegheny County,” Public Source, November 24, 2020, https://www.publicsource.org/conservatorship-allegheny-county-wilkinsburg-east-liberty-garfield-taiani-chaney-cp-development/; Kimberly Rooney, “How rising rents and renovations have displaced Pittsburghers and added to the city’s ongoing issues with gentrification,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 28, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/how-rising-rents-and-renovations-have-displaced-pittsburghers-and-added-to-the-citys-ongoing-issues-with-gentrification/Content?oid=19360553
  9. [9]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  10. [10]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  11. [11]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Stephen Zappala’s resignation would be nowhere near enough,” Not Housebroken, June 8, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/06/03/stephen-zappalas-resignation-would-be-nowhere-near-enough/
  13. [13]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  14. [14]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  15. [15]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  16. [16]Rich Lord, “Can East Hills residents reverse ‘blightlining’ and ‘rotrification’ on Park Hill Drive?” Public Source, June 9, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/east-hills-consensus-pittsburgh-blight-rising-tide-partners/
  17. [17]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  18. [18]Milton Raiford, quoted in Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  19. [19]Paula Reed Ward, “Black attorney demands apology from DA Zappala, calls Allegheny Co. courthouse ‘cesspool of white privilege,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 9, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/black-attorney-demands-apology-from-da-zappala-calls-allegheny-co-courthouse-cesspool-of-white-privilege/
  20. [20]John Hasnas, “The Myth of the Rule of Law,” Georgetown University, 1995, http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm
  21. [21]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  22. [22]Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  23. [23]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/uber-ceo-is-not-happy-with-driver-supply-pricing.html; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-and-lyft-need-a-sharper-turn-11618311794; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-05-28/uber-flexibility-prop-22; Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021, https://www.engadget.com/uber-lyft-surge-pricing-lack-of-drivers-035835230.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/07/uber-lyft-drivers/; Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021, https://www.curbed.com/2021/06/uber-lyft-expensive-new-york-city.html
  24. [24]Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/

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