Archive for April 2015

And Your Point Is?

The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet gave us this gem this afternoon:

Police killings of black men over the past year have sparked protests nationwide, but federal data suggest only a slight uptick in police killings (though they’re not kept track of well). The New York Times reports that by the FBI’s count, the number of police officers’ justifiable homicides ranged between 397 and 426 annually since 2009. Though experts say the estimate is too low, “that data suggests that any perception that higher numbers of unarmed African-Americans are being killed by the police in recent months is driven by the fact that citizens are posting unsettling cellphone videos and pictures,” the Times reports. The states with the lowest per-capita killings by police include New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York, while Oklahoma, Montana, and New Mexico are among the highest.

Now there are two conclusions you could draw depending upon how you “want” to see what is going on.  One is that “this is just an overblown few isolated bad apples and we as a nation can ignore all this foot stomping by those ungrateful … .” Or if you are me you could draw the conclusion that the police have always been trigger happy when it comes to black men.  

But to really answer the question, it depends on what your base meteric is.  That is, what should be a reasonable number based upon the threatening situations police face.  If you think police killings of anyone are a bad thing then roughly 400 per year seems  really bad, and If you compare it to European statistics, it is way out of line.  I think the only way you can make real sense out of this number is to compare to other country’s norms and to different state’s norms.  And I like I said, what this tells me is that the police have been trigger happy around black men for a long time.

The Nature of the Problem

The Daily Beast had a great article about how Martin O’Malley’s rush back to Baltimore might have just sunk his 2016 chances, if he had any.  Apparently:

A former mayor/governor/turned potential presidential contender cuts short a series of paid speeches in Europe to return to the still-smoldering city he once governed and where he still lives. I just wanted to be present. There’s a lot of pain in our city right now, a lot of people feeling very sad,” O’Malley said Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. “Look, we’ve got to come through this together. We’re a people who’ve seen worse days, and we’ll come through this day.”

But as he hopped in and out of a black Suburban that ferried him from neighborhood to neighborhood torn apart by fire, looters, and poverty, he just became a joke. Worse, for some people, he revealed himself to be a root cause of Baltimore’s problem.

No, he was there for the photo op, and his take no prisoners, tough on crime approach to the city set the police at war with black neighborhoods, and while it did reduce crime, it did it by depriving black citizens of their rights as human beings.  They were treated as a class, criminals. So being oblivious to the real problem or how he might have had a hand in it, he is back to confort them in their time of pain.  And of course an interview on CNN.

Anybody who is that oblivious to what the problem is and what role he played in creating the problem should be running for president on the Republican side where he would fit right in.    

Some Morning Observations from an Oxycodone Clouded Mind

I am taking good medical advice and keeping my pain level down so I can move my knee more.  I would rather gut it out, not get that loopy (thank you Alice) feeling that comes with the pain relief, but yesterday kind of indicated that that was not really a good plan.  Two steps forward, one step back.  So under that cloud of medication, here is what I am seeing this morning:

  1. Why is the Baltimore Police Force investigating itself?  It is kind of like asking a person who does not believe racial prejudice exists investigating racial prejudice.  Worse, the police protect their own, and add to that a culture that nothing they do is wrong, it’s a tough job, and what is it you expect to find?  Right.  Freddie was breaking his own neck so he could make the police look bad.
  2. In case you missed it, the young man who we all saw destroying a police car is being held on half a million dollars’ bail and may face years in jail after his stepfather persuaded him to turn himself in to authorities.  That is what you can expect for the system that is “unbiased” and we should all resprect.  Anybody see a whole dysfunctional system here besides me?  It’s that “let’s make and example” and punish rather than reward behavior that builds a giant wall between police and the community.
  3. I watched Andrea Mitchell interview Bernie Sanders trying desperately to pick a fight.  That would be our news media doing what it does best, inventing news where none exists.  Bernie was too smart for her.  Just as an aside, what Bernie brings to the Democratic debate are real issues that could get glossed over if someone (Hillary) were to run a middle of the road, rock no boats campaign to try and attract the independents, which has never worked,  See 2014 and the Democrats failure to draw a clear distinction about what they were for.
  4. It would seem to me, fuzzy brain and all, that what we are seeing up close and personal is a failure of conservative policies.  It should interesting to see how they address this violence and what their solutions are for our way forward.  If they continue to pander to their base it will be more of the same policies that got us here.
  5. When real street people from Baltimore are interviewed you do get a good look into how we have ignored the problems we have basically created and then sent in a militarized police force to solve.  Saddly most are very poorly spoken (poor education) and a view of police that would be alien to most of us.  That should tell us all we need to know about the two realities we have created and what seems totally sensible policy in one is just lunacy in the other.  Guns anyone?
  6. Finally I want to point out that the really big take away here is that going to the right* did not unite the country.  It just pushed really big problems under the rug for them to explode later.  I am specifically talking about Bill Clinton here.  Political pundits though Bill was a genuis for his more conservative approach which led to the repeal of Glass Stegall and the eventual crash of Wall Street.  Bill was right in there with let’s get tougher on criminals policies toward drugs that are now packing our prisons with black men, and finally his Don’t Ask, Don’t tell compromise.  Yes it got him elected, but is genius getting elected, or putting in place polcies that will actually solve our problems, not set us up for a blow up later  Some would argue that Bill at least created a surplus and raised taxes, but this fails to take into account that we were having tech bubble that also later collapsed.

I have no idea what is really happening in the rest of the world because we are 24/7 in Baltimore.  As I opined yesterday, we already know what happened there and we know what the problem is.  The real question is how do we reform policing across the country, and how do we start to deal with a whole class of citizens who are denied any hope of partaking in the American dream.  Don’t here much about that.

*Conservative ideology has been taking a stronger and stronger hold of the country since Ronald Reagan as we quit investing in America, thought greed was good, and government is the problem.  Probably at the root of all the issues we are seeing in our country today is economic inequality and all the policies enacted by both Democrats and Republicans that favor the wealthy in the false belief that as they benefit by these policies, the rest of us also benefit.  So Bill comes along after Reagan and Bush and invents a new Democratic Party, while not crazy right, continues these policies being business friendly (deregulation) and holding those who have little ability to control their circumstances, responsible for their circumstances.  The country was already far right, and Bill just continued that drift by making Democrats more to the right pushing the middle even further right.  Sadly the solution to most of these problems require a real move back to the left where most of the real solutions reside.  But our worthless media describes this as the radical left on par with the Tea Party fruitcakes instead of practical solutions that have worked elsewhere in the world.

The News that Isn’t

Yes, I am a bit crabby tonight.  I wanted a miracle revovery from my knee surgery and guess what?  I am like everyone else, good days  and bad ones.  And today is one of those bad ones.  So to distract myself  I turn on MSNBC and there is Chris Hayes, sans a tie and in his “field” shirt, in Baltimore interviewing a local politian out on the street.   I think the topic was what do you expect to find in the report that is due  on Freddie Gray’s death, blah, blah, blah.

How is that news? The Report will be what it will be and that is the news when we get it.  Quite frankly it is kind of like the arguments in the Supreme Court on Gay marriage.  It is all noise and pussy footing around the obvious.  In the Court’s case, Gay people are people too, and in Freddie Gray’s case, the cops induced these injuries by inappropriate man handleing.  Hell, you have seen it on every cop show on TV.  Smash them up against a wall of throw them to the ground with an inappropriate use of force to show them who is boss.  Except this time they killed someone. Someone who made eye contact.

We all know that is what happened and the footdragging and covering up is obvious.  So here is my question to Chris Hayes and all the rest of the ambulance chasers.  Is the story really in the streets of Baltimore anymore?  Could I have not seen all those interviews a thousand times over the last couple of days and still not get anything remotely resembling actionable news?  It is not a 24/7 event and making into one just turns everyone off from caring.  You would think with all that young talent they might understand that and fine more interesting ways of telling the story so we know our way forward (actionable news).

But wait!  I can wear my “on the scene” outfit and be one of the movers and shakers who is making the news.  Oh, and I can interview one of my fellow “on the scene” reporters (I hesitate to use the word jounalist) because we have now become the story.  Isn’t media in America great?

Give Me Your Money!

Ah, politics in America.  I just got a mailer from Nancy Pelosi, expressily “selecting me” to identify the issues for the Democratic Party as a representative of my little community!  “I will be on the forefront of how we will take the country back from the Tea Party.  Oh, by the way, how much would you be willing to give ($) besides giving us your opinion to move the party in the right direction?”

You know I don’t think they give a crap about what I think, but it is an excuse to try to get more money out of me.  If they cared about what I think they could read this blog once in a while.  It might do them some good.  I am starting to see a whole other side to why people no longer participate in politics.  Am I an overburdened middle class (actually I am not in the middle class, but closer to the top 8%) working man that they are going to fight for, or am I a dollar sign they need to harvest?  The message they are sending is loud and clear, I am that dollar sign.

It is becoming marketing 101 that if you order anything on the internet, you are then that store’s best friend for life with emails that never end.  Log into Facebook and the advertisements are carefully aligned to your last purchase.  You know if they really valued us as a customer they would not do that shit.  And it is also true in the political world.  But we are catching on fast and turning off in record numbers.  I wonder how long before they figure that trend out?

Baltimore Improving

Some very promising things in Baltimore.  The community, including reportedly the gangs, really are taking charge and holding law breakers responsible.  There was not the “justified” rioting and everyone condemed them as criminals.  The police and National Guard seem to be differentiating between protestors and law breakers.  That is a real start.  Seeing you black men pick up rocks and throw them at the police is seeing an act of criminal behavior and everyone is treating it that way, including our President who basically told us what we needed to hear about what the problem really is and no excuse for those with crowbars.

I watched a video of a Mom slapping around a masked boy for his rioting and looting.  After watching this I have to say I have a great deal of hope.  Also I would never want to piss off this particular Mom.  So we are starting.  We need to end the war on drugs and start community policing with police real partners with the community.  For some police forces this is a bridge too far and they will probably have to be disbanded (Ferguson?).  

But I fear that for some, this will just be excuse to condemn “those people”.  A good friend of mine was over visiting and delivering some delicious enchiladas for dinner and she told me a story about being at the gym on a cardio machine and her neighbor was doing the same thing and watching the news.  When scenes of the rioting and looting were displayed she said angerily that they should just shoot “those people.  My friend pointed out that we live in a country of due process and you can’t just shoot looters, and asked just who were “these people”?  Her neighbor pointed at the screen and said “those”.

So we have a very uphill road to travel, but maybe this time instead of victimhood, blamming the system, and using police to deal with a very socially unfair system, we look inward, reform our system of systematic bias, and hold law breakers accountable.  Maybe, just maybe, we are entering a new era.  Of course we could elect one of those clowns running for president in the Republican Party and we can just go back to getting tough with “those people.”

Sign My Petition

I get a lot of these from various political organizations and some of them have real merit.  I would like Congress or the President to know that me and many of my fellow Americans feel strongly about something.  But there is a catch.  It puts you on a donor list and then you receive endless emails about donating or supporting your favorite cause.  Now maybe some of those are worth it, and why shouldn’t you put your money where your mouth is?

Well there are two answers to that question.  First and foremost I would like to stand up for a particular cause and not feel like I have just opened up my checkbook to that cause.  If you want real people to sign up to support a particular issue, make it clear you will now not be getting endless emails about how you need just x dollars to run another ad.  Secondly, is that the way democracy works (Yes), you have to buy a voice in Congress?  Why does standing up for something important mean handing over your checkbook?  

Okay, the grousing of an old man, laid up, and tired of reading emails that think I am a bottomless pit.  Sadly where words should be the currency, dollars are.

Supremes

Anybody think these guys are equipped to decide gay marriage?  Here is what we know.  Gay marriage does not threaten traditional marriage.  Religious organizations will not be forced to perform marriages within their faith that is outside of their faith.  Gay married couples are excellent parents.  Gays should have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the rest of us.  The country has moved on.  So what exactly is the issue for these black robed Neanderthals?

The issue is conservative religious politics and the fact that the Supreme Court has been polarized around these politics.  This is not a legal argument in any real sense.  If it were it would be a no-brainer.  Half the nation has moved on and the legal question is can half of those other states discriminate based on religious nonsense.  In other words does your religion determine what rights your fellow citizens have?

Other than religious beliefs, why should government care?  Why should government regulate sexual conduct?  Or more importantly, what is a legitimate reason for regulating sexual conduct?  The principle here is that if the government wants to regulate sexual conduct that regulation must meet rational-basis review—it must rationally further some legitimate government interest.  Here is where the polygamy and animal arguments comes in.  If we say there is a right to marry, then can’t four people marry?  Can’t you marry a duck?  The test would be what the anti-gay group has been arguing about gay marriage, that it hurts institutions critical to our society.  The trouble is they can show no harm in gay marriage and many social benefits.  On both the duck thing and polygamy, you can show where the practice can have very negative impacts on children, other partners (including non-consenting ducks and teenage girls), but not for gay couples.

So what is this argument all about?  Getting the court into the 21st century and out of our bedrooms.  Getting private religious beliefs out of regulating our daily intercourse (no pun intended).  The vote is being clouded by all these “concerns” they have about dictating morality and moving the country forward too fast and it is all bullshit.  There are simply those on the court who want their religious morality forced on the rest of us and the only people they are fooling are themselves and the media.  Can we get on with it?

Madness in Baltimore

I can not help but follow the events in Baltimore and am apalled.  Young black men may be angry, but they are sabotaging any good that could have come from the mistreatment and death of Freddie Gray. The burning and looting simply hardens the hearts of those who believe they are part of the 47%. Watching a young black man destroy a car because he could even makes me angry.  It is like a wild orgy of violence that simply exacerbates the problem.  That kind of wanton destructiveness simply alienates the nation.

Oh, I know I don’t understand their anger over generations of mistreatment.  There will be plenty today who will surely explain it to me, but I think of Palestein and the bad behavior on both sides no matter how justified, and they have gotten nowhere.  This lashing out, looting, and burning is everything Dr. Martin Luther King tried to teach his community would not work.  Now I fear they may have set back their efforts many many years and hardened the hearts on both sides of the divide.

Finally, I saw the beginning of the blame the system defense which, while somewhat true, has failed over and over and will simply embolden those that hate them anyway.  While condeming the violence and looting, the story line went that these people are victims of a school system that has failed them, and of course, police brutality.  Okay, but like the rioting, it fails to accept some responsibility for the situation and do something about it other than rioting and destroying things.  As Martain Luther King preached, that was not the way forward.

I understand anger at inequality and mistreatment at the hands of the police.  I understand the rage they must feel at the injustice.  But like terrorism, that does not justify returning the favor in kind.  In both cases violence and destruction are brought on those that did not perpetuate their condition.  But it ensure that the cycle is repeated and it will be tit for tat into the future.

I am really heart broken that this was the reaction in Baltimore.  Blacks are calling for whites to hold those accountable for police brutality and they should, with the necessary reforms to turn this nation around.  But everyone should be calling on the black community to hold those accountable that started this cycle of violence again.  There is no excuse and making one perpetuates the problem.

UPDATE:  Here is an example that appeared in the Atlantic Magazine.  While the author’s logic is correct, it is counter-productive.  Did the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed fix anything?  Was the nation already enraged at the handling of Freddie Gray and investigations were starting?  Does this rioting further focus on the issue or does it detract from getting people to be sympathetic to it?  History tells us the latter.  I sympathize with everything he (the author said), but I know that they are just making the issue even more intractable.

What are They Thinking?

My posts may be irregular for the next couple of days.  I just got home from knee surgery (full knee replacement) and when I take the Oxycodone for pain, it makes me luppy.  Slows down my reasoning process which I am sure some of you think, could not possibly be any slower.  I will say one thing in regard to my medical procedure.  Kaiser Permanente has their shit together and my care was exceptional.  So much for the fear of socialized medicine because Kaiser is as close as we are going to get until we actually get the real Thing.

Okay, that was not my topic today, but conservatives that are gay or transgender are.  What the hell are they thinking?  I saw Bruce Jenner interviewed the other day and indicated he was a conservative.  Add to that Log Cabin Republicans, gay and lesbian Republicans that works within their Republican Party to advocate equal rights for gays and lesbians in the United States, and level of denial is just mind blowing.  Do they think Republicans will ever represent their interests?  Do they not get that the party has become mired in religious conservatism that will never accept their lifestyles?  What is it about Democrats (Progressives) are they so against?

Well I am not sure.  Are they economic conservatives and big government haters?  Do they get the hyprocrisy of this in that “big” government is the only tool for them to get their rights?  Do they think the 47% are really takers and not connect the dots between that false belief and the idea that gay lifestyles are a threat to traditional marriage?  Do they really think trickle down works and that the job creators (who are not creating jobs) deserve the massive flow of wealth from the rest of us to the few?

I guess I can understand this massive level of denial from Republicans who have theirs and want nothing to change, while getting all their news from Fox News.  But when quite possibly the most important thing in your life, your basic rights, are being wrongly denied by your party, wouldn’t you start questioning some of your other assumptions?  Yeah, I know.  They say the party is moving forward which is another sign of some kind of very deep seated denial as we see “religious freedom” laws being pushed by, who else, Republicans, which is just another attempt to deny them their rights.  All I can really say about any of this is that something is going on instead of logic and reason and may help explain why so many Americans vote against their own best interests.  I wish I could just figure out what it is.