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  • Police Shootings

    I hate the shootings.  I hate the protests even more.  I might be losing my mind.  I might even be a racist.  (But I don't think so.)

    At, or near, the bottom of this post, will be an excerpt from a CNN report this morning.  That's in case you want to know what set this off.

    So anyway.  Is it racist for me to think -- just think, not assume -- that most of the protesters hurling rocks at police cars and shouting "Black Lives Matter" are black?  As I say, I don't think I'm a racist, because I really and truly believe that I have no proof, and no opinion, and don't even care, what the skin color is of the protesters.  I have no objection whatsoever to nonviolent protest, but attacking police, not to mention looting and burning down businesses and all of the other craziness that has followed shootings in Ferguson, MO, or Baltimore, MD, or more recently, Tulsa, OK, and Charlotte, NC, is NOT going to solve the problem of wrongful police shootings of unarmed black people.

    I repeat.  It doesn't matter what anyone's skin color is.  I say I'm colorblind, and I say it proudly, and I've been told I'm wrong, and maybe I'll learn why Oct. 1 and 2 when I attend a two-day workshop called "Dialogue:  Racism."  Cherry Steinwender, founder of The Center for the Healing of Racism, Houston, TX, and Marcy Jolosky will be the facilitators.  As for why colorblindness is supposedly wrong, my hunch is that the blowback comes from the perception that I'm unaware of the scars left by slavery and Jim Crow.  And I AM aware.  That's not what I mean by colorblind.

    Back to my "racist" thoughts.  I hate the fact that I say almost the same words as some right-wing nutcase said the other day when she said that black people ought to take responsibility for their behavior.  The difference is, when I say it I'm saying it with love and concern and respect.  At least I think I am.

    When a drugged-up, non-compliant "victim" gets shot (undeservedly) dead by a cop who was too hasty with the trigger finger, I'm all for a requirement that the cop be prosecuted.  (Note:  a judge or jury still gets to decide.  But do prosecute the case.)  I do feel that such a policy can be awfully unfair to a cop who is simply trying to make sure that he finishes his shift alive.  But we who back the law enforcement side of this issue have to put SOMETHING on the table.  And I've just put forth my offer.  And another part of my offer is that even if a jail sentence is deemed unwarranted, a cop who shoots under questionable circumstances should be barred from continuing in that profession.  That's plenty harsh enough, in my opinion, in cases where the shooter is "not guilty enough" to be convicted.

    But I am not only on the law enforcement side.  I'm also on the Black Lives Matter side.  And we have to put something on the table as well.  And that something is to take responsibility.  The mother who is heartbroken over the death of her drugged-up, noncompliant son should be saying, "I should have done a better job raising him," in addition to demanding justice for the shooting.

    What bothers me is that nobody (except that right-wing nutcase) is saying that the victims and their mothers should take some responsibility.  

    Michael Brown and Sandra Bland didn't deserve to die.  (Brown was shot; Bland committed suicide in her jail cell.)  But neither of them was compliant when directed by a police officer to be cooperative.  That doesn't make the cops right.  But it doesn't make Brown and Bland right either.

    Here's an incident from my personal past.

    Thirty years ago, I was working my 4 a.m. to noon shift at the Horseshoe Club in Las Vegas, NV.  At about 10 a.m. we learned there was an active shooter at the California Club two blocks away, which is where I had happened to park my car when I arrived for work.   After I got off work, I tried to get to my car.  By that time, the shooter was supposedly inside the California Club, holed up, not yet apprehended.  A city block had been roped off, and as I attempted to cross the street to get to the Club's parking lot, a police officer ordered me to keep away.  I told him I needed to drive myself home, and he repeated the order.

    Guess what.  I complied.  What else could I do?

    I walked back to the Horseshoe, found a coworker who lived near me and he gave me a ride home and the following morning, I found someone else willing to drive me downtown so that I could be reunited with my vehicle.

    I admit.  If I had been a black person and a white cop denied me access to my car, I might have had reason to be even more peeved that I had been under the actual circumstances.

    It doesn't matter.  If you don't comply with a policeman's order, you're asking for trouble.

    That's all I feel like writing for now.  Here's what I promised.  More about Charlotte, and a brief mention of Tulsa. 

    ******************

    From CNN:

    Violent protests erupted overnight in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a police officer fatally shot a black man while trying to serve a warrant for a different man at an apartment complex.

    Police said the man killed, Keith Lamont Scott, had a gun. But his family members said he was carrying a book.

    Several hundred people gathered outside the complex Tuesday night, chanting "no justice, no peace!" and carrying signs reading "Black Lives Matter."

    The officer who killed Scott, Brentley Vinson, is also black, the mayor's office said Wednesday.

    The Charlotte case is the latest shooting involving an officer, and racial tensions are high nationwide following a spate of others.

    Last week's fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sparked protests after video of the killing appeared Monday. Protesters have been demanding justice and an end to police brutality for months.

    In Charlotte, police went to serve a warrant Tuesday and shot and killed a man in the parking lot of The Village at College Downs apartment complex in the University City neighborhood.

    Scott was not the person authorities were looking for, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said.

    Scott died at Carolinas Medical Center. A gun he was holding was found at the scene, police said.

    ***********

    Friday Update:

    I'm not sure what CNN was talking about when it said that the "shooting of Terence Crutcher ... sparked protests" because more recent reports indicate a calm response to the Tulsa shooting.  At any rate, the shooter is being charged with first-degree manslaughter, so that's a definite news update of the blog I posted two days ago.

     

  • A Day in the Life of Twoberry

    Not a Typical day, exactly, but it's a lot More typical than I wish it was.

    Translation:  My ambition is to have a day with no responsibilities whatsoever.  But that will never happen.

    ******************

    So here's what yesterday was all about.

    I work 6 to 8 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. six days a week.  Unlocking office buildings in the morning, locking them up at night.  And a few other duties, such as changing trash can liners and picking up trash left in parking lots and parking garages.

    Alan had invited me to his house 40 minutes south of where I live.  Show up at 11 a.m., play two games of Scrabble, have lunch, play three more games.  I can do this, I told him.  Thank you.  But I do have to leave by 5:20 p.m.

    Those were not the only thoughts on my mind as I arrived home at 8 a.m. from the morning rounds.  There were six dogs in the house:  my four (Dagmar, Margie, Max, and Daisy Mae) and the two guests Deacon, a Jack Russell, and Sophie, a toy poodle.

    On my Friday morning schedule were to call Deacon's owner to let him know that Deacon could be picked up after a week at my house, and to cross my fingers and hope that the lawn guy showed up in time for me to open the doggie door for my animals to use while I was at Alan's house.

    So the first thing I did was check phone messages (Barbara's in Orlando for the weekend at the NAACP convention), and a geriatric dog I know whose name is Happy is owned by an equally elderly lady who's recently been having physical difficulties and we were walking Happy twice a day until just a few weeks ago when the owner felt well enough to walk Happy without our assistance.  But Friday's phone message was urgent.  Serious complications, sleepless nights, could Barbara or Bob please come over and walk Happy?

    I called.  I explained my tight schedule, and was told that the morning duties had been taken care of and could I come over in the afternoon.  I said I might not be there till 6, and that was OK.  I do have SOME flexibility in my work hours.  Not much, but enough.

    So the lawn guy showed up at 9:50 a.m. PERFECT!!  I let Sophie out to pee right before I left at 10:20, and got to Alan's at 11.  The games went well and lunch was delicious.

    One slight problem.  Alan's housekeeper had recently quit and he desperately needed to arrange to hire new help.  And when a call came into his cellphone at 3 p.m. or thereabouts, that turned into a 45-minute timeout while they talked and negotiated.  I had had my hopes up that I could head home in time to change clothes, take care of my dogs, take care of Happy, and get to work not too late.

    We were done and I was on my way at 4:50 p.m.  Fortunately, I have a tile floor throughout my house and Sophie's messes were easy to clean up, so I was able to drive straight through to Happy, get him walked and relieved, and the day would end satisfactorily.  I revised my schedule so that after I locked up my first two buildings, I could go home and feed the dogs (and let Sophie out) before going to the last building to lock up.  I TOLD you I had some flexibility, see?

    This morning, Saturday, also needed some careful schedule revisions, and Happy's owner was finally able to get some sleep, so she's doing better, but still needs help.

    I'm there for her.

    And I'm here for my readers.

  • Colin Kaepernick

    I only wish I had Colin Kaepernick's courage.

    Was just listening to Roland Martin on MSNBC, and he nailed the problem:  Instead of talking about Black Lives Matter ISSUES, critics of Kaep are talking about HIM, and his SOCKS, and their outrage that he won't stand while our national anthem is being played.

    Missing the whole point, as Roland says.

    When the anthem does get played -- at any events I attend -- I stand right along with everyone else.  But usually, it's not because hearing the anthem makes me feel patriotic (I generally do feel patriotic, anthem or no anthem, but at the same time I often feel as Kaep does:  namely, I wish my country would live up to its ideals more than it does).  No, the usual reason I stand when the anthem is played is because I'm afraid of what the reaction around me would be if I didn't.  I'm too cowardly to remain seated.  So I stand.  Proudly.  But I wish I didn't feel as if I have to stand.

    Good for Kaep.  All he wants is for us to talk about the fact that too many cops are shooting blacks to death and getting away with it when they shouldn't.

    It's not that simple, of course, which is why we have to talk about it.

    We have to talk about IT.  And not about Kaep's socks (which have pictures of pigs with cop hats on, in case you didn't know).

    Oh, by the way, Kaep has announced he's donating the first million dollars of his pay this season to charitable organizations, and I'm sure he means orgs like NAACP or some such.

    I'm not anti-police.  And neither is Kaep.  One of the reasons I stay active on our local BLM committee is to keep my friends from acting crazy in the streets.  Law enforcement personnel here in Indian River County act very responsibly when it comes to their duties.  I'm proud of them.  And I don't want them getting hurt in the exercising of their job any more than I want innocent people of any color to get shot.

  • I still play Scrabble

    I call myself "semi-retired" from Scrabble these days, because I no longer compete in 10-15 tournaments a year, as I used to.  I don't even compete in ONE tournament a year.  Or at least, not until lately.  A hardy band of Florida players unafraid to try the international word list (we call it "Collins," after the dictionary that publishes it) have started to meet semi-regularly in Orlando and I'm happy to join them.

    And we have a certified director friend who shows up, which makes them "rated tournaments" so I guess I'm back in action.

    It occurred to me this morning (while I was driving to work) that it might be useful to rename letter combinations such as "ORIENT+D."  There's no seven-letter word there, which is why I've been calling it that.  But why not think of it as "DETRION" or even "TERNOID?"  Here's why:  if TI is on the board already, I can play DETRITION through that two-letter word and get the 50-point bonus for emptying my rack.  I didn't know the word DETRITION until a few moments ago.  I found it by using a program on my computer that tells you all the nine-letter words that consist of ORIENT+D+two blanks.  I looked for two-letter words inside of that seven-letter stem, and found DETRITION, DETRUSION, and TERPENOID.  (PE is also a valid word.)  Not only that.  I learned the word UPTIES, which is the third-person singular for the verb UPTIE, which I also just learned.  The end letters of UPTIES are U and S, just what I need for DETRUSION.  Next to the end letters are P and E, just what I need for TERPENOID.  And the center letters are T and I, just what I need for DETRITION.

    Such is the joy that studying Scrabble words brings me.

  • I was just reading a column written by Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe, and I'm not even finished with it yet, but I wanted to share with you one of the early paragraphs.  By the way, she's describing Kellyanne Conway's job as Donald Trump's new campaign manager as "Mission Impossible."

    Here's that paragraph, and it's what I'VE been wanting to observe ever since the Trumpster started accusing Hillary Clinton of lacking stamina.  Vennochi writes:

    "Of various credible avenues of attack against Clinton, generating doubts about resilience is not one of them. She has endured years of interrogation about numerous alleged scandals, not to mention 11 hours of aggressive congressional questioning just a year ago about the Benghazi attack. Not even Clinton’s enemies think of her as weak. After all, you can order a Hillary Clinton “nutcracker.” It’s not meant as a compliment, but it does speak to a certain toughness."

    YES!!!!  That's exactly what I was thinking when the idiot Trump opened his mouth about that.

  • An American Hero

    Eric Bradner of CNN has written:  " 'It is a moral obligation -- history will not forgive them,' [Khizr] Khan said of Ryan and McConnell on CNN's "State of the Union. 'This election will pass, but history will be written. The lack of moral courage will remain a burden on their souls.'
    "He told CNN's Jim Acosta those GOP leaders have a 'moral, ethical obligation to not worry about the votes but repudiate him; withdraw the support. If they do not, I will continue to speak.' "
    ******************
    Thus spake Khizr Khan to CNN in commenting about Donald Trump's comments and the reluctance of GOP leaders to repudiate their candidate for the U.S. presidency.  And Khizr's wife Ghazala is finding her voice as well.  Their son, Capt. Humayun Khan, died in Iraq saving the rest of the men in his squad from a suicide bomber.
    This could be interesting.
  • Politics (and the economy): ALREADY rigged

    I promised I'd next be arguing that "law enforcement" and "Black Lives Matter" activists need to stand side by side, publicly and loudly, in order to quash the wave of "black on cop" and "cop on black" shootings that seem to be engulfing the country.  Yeah, it seems to be only three times a week lately (note:  possible sarcasm there) but once a year is way more than too much already.

    But I'll leave it at that.  Partly because I've already said what I need to say, and partly because I want to address the latest hot political news:  according to WikiLeaks, Democratic National Committeepersons sent out at least 20,000 internal emails in an attempt to sabotage Bernie Sanders' primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

    Big shock.  The system is rigged.

    No, it's not a shock.  We already knew that politics is rigged, and the economy, too, for that matter.  Sanders never had a chance, because of the rigging.  That same rigging favored Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008, but Obama had sufficient talent, organizational skills, charisma, and more.  Sanders had none of those advantages.

    Heck, Sanders isn't (or at least wasn't, until and unless he had to join the party to be eligible for its primaries and caucuses) a Democrat.  So complaining that the party was rigged against him seems just a little weird.

    Then there's Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I confess there are a few things I like about her.  I agree with her on "the issues."  And I like that when a reporter asks her a question, she answers it most of the time.  And when, like all politicians, she wants to avoid answering, she at least smiles when she gives a stock, canned, phony answer, so that the reporter can give up quickly and move on to something else.

    But Debbie is also one of those people who are going to do what they want, regardless of rules.  I know that from personal experience.  We both went to the 2004 Democratic state convention in Florida.  Because there were delegates to the convention in favor of various candidates, the first day of speeches were supposed to be free of favoritism toward any one candidate.  Debbie flouted that rule.  (And she and I had a personal discussion about the flouting afterward.)

    So none of this news about her being behind this latest email scandal surprises me in the least.

    (Hillary's not big on obeying rules her own self.  But I have to vote for her because she's the only reasonable choice being offered.  Voting for a third-party candidate is wasting a vote, especially when the stakes are this high.)

    I remain optimistic that the current flap will subside, and that the Democrats will coalesce in Philadelphia this week.

  • "Black Lives Matter" and "All Lives Matter"

    I changed "vs." to "and" in the title because I didn't want the misunderstanding that "conflict" is any part of my thinking.

    What this essay is about is the fact that when some people say "All Lives Matter" in reply to any conversation about "Black Lives Matter," they mean no harm.  They simply mean that all lives matter and black lives are not the only lives that matter.  We "Black Lives Matter" people simply reply, "Of course, all lives matter."  The name "Black Lives Matter" was chosen to emphasize that a few (very few) cops are killing black citizens AS IF black lives don't matter as much as other lives.  And that, obviously, is wrong-headed thinking on the part of those very few bad apples that every police force (or any other group of people) has.  A few bad apples in every barrel..  Of course.

    And there are also some people who say "All Lives Matter" and they DO mean harm.  I'm talking about the racists who defiled the sign in front of our Unitarian Universalist Church.  They scrawled "All Lives Matter" over our "Black Lives Matter" wording not innocently but meanly.  We have a lot of rednecks here in Indian River County in Florida.  I met them while campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  And we have a lot of vehicles driving around displaying confederate flags and those drivers are delivering a message and it isn't a pretty message.

    I hope I said all that clearly enough.  I intend, in my next post, to address the need for "Black Lives Matter" folks to stand side by side, publicly and loudly, with supporters of law enforcement personnel.  I'm in both groups.  Sadly, some people are not.  And that's not to criticize. It's simply to state a fact.

  • Police Murders

    I noted with mixed satisfaction today articles by two black writers:

    Trey Ellis http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trey-ellis/the-police-hunting-and-mu_b_10859868.html

    Roxane Gay http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/opinion/alton-sterling-and-when-black-lives-stop-mattering.html?_r=0

    The murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were indeed tragic, avoidable, inexcusable, and outrageous.  The killers are unfit for careers in law enforcement.  I believe that only about 99%, because I don't know all of the facts of either killing.  But it seems highly probable that neither killer had justifiable reason to fear harm to himself.

    However, I don't agree with Rev. Al Sharpton that jail time is necessarily appropriate for either officer.  It's tough being a policeman, especially when encountering an armed citizen who is not being compliant.  It's obvious from the video that Sterling was not being compliant.  Castile apparently was even less deserving of being killed, but in his case, it seems entirely possible that neither he nor the officer followed proper protocol.

    When you're armed with a deadly weapon, as Castile was, it's imperative to make it clear to the officer that he is in no danger.  Castile immediately admitted he had a gun, but then apparently he reached into a pocket to pull out a driver's license instead of asking the officer how he should proceed.  And the officer should not have fired a gun into Castile's body until visibly seeing a gun (a fact I gleaned from hearing an interview on All Things Considered earlier today).

    I have more to say but Barbara just came home.  It's nearing 9 p.m., our bedtime.  More later.

  • Rebuttal to Jonathan Rauch's article in the Atlantic

    Another Jonathan to be heard from.  Chait rebuts Rauch.  Chait's article (reprinted below) is from New York Magazine.

    In other news, I just discovered that there's a "Visibility" menu that offers me the option to "stick this post to the front page."  Let's see if it works.

    THE NATIONAL INTEREST
    June 22, 2016
    9:31 a.m.
    Why American Politics Really Went Insane
    By Jonathan Chait Follow @jonathanchait
    It’s plain to many people that American politics has gone badly off the rails if we have reached the point where a bigoted and hyperbolically unqualified reality-television star can win a major-party nomination. But what, exactly, has gone wrong? One answer is that the presidential system is inherently unstable, because it pits the legislature against the executive. During the 20th century, the system worked because the ideology of the two parties overlapped heavily, but polarization has turned the mechanism designed by the Founders into a doomsday machine. Another answer specifically blames the extremism of the Republican Party, which, by the nature of its uniquely extreme ideas about the role of government, is unable to share power in a rational way. (These explanations are not mutually exclusive, and I find each somewhat persuasive: The design of American government is vulnerable to collapse under the weight of a radical faction like the modern GOP.)

    Jonathan Rauch’s Atlantic cover story, headlined “How American Politics Went Insane,” offers up a third answer. Rather than the presidential system, or the Republicans, Rauch instead blames the demise of what he calls the “informal constitution.” American politics used to have practices like political machines, pork-barrel spending, powerful committees in Congress, and centralized fundraising, which drained the confrontation from the system and, even though it was ugly and sometimes corrupt, made things work. Reforming those practices has led to a more open form of politics that people hate, resulting in “reflexive, unreasoning hostility to politicians and the process of politics.” Rauch cites not only Trump but also the two major-party runners-up, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, both of whom ran as purists in opposition to the corruption and inefficiency of normal politics.
    Rauch has some things right. Large numbers of Americans fail to understand the source of partisan conflict, find gridlock inexplicable, and retreat to a simplistic populism to make sense of the mess. But Rauch also fails to adequately or correctly explain the causes of political dysfunction. The trouble with his theory becomes clear if you run through his examples of government dysfunction. “House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year,” and then hard-liners revolted against the Speaker’s budget deal; members of Congress are worried about “being the next Eric Cantor,” the House leader who lost his primary to an upstart tea-partier; it’s “hard to raise the debt limit or pass a budget”; the Senate has refused to consider any nominee at all for the Supreme Court vacancy; annual appropriations bills often fail to pass; the government has shut down, and Congress has threatened not to lift the debt ceiling; a grand bargain on the long-term deficit failed in 2011; plus, of course, Trump, whose nomination is the most important factual premise of Rauch’s essay.

    The links between these failures and the causes that Rauch identifies for them are tenuous at best. More pork-barrel spending would not mollify the angry activists who drove Congress to shut down the government and oppose various deals; Congress banished pork-barrel spending because it enraged the activists. Nor is it easy to see how giving committees more power, or reverting to older forms of fundraising, would tamp down the populist uprisings that have scared members of Congress away from deal-making. Grassroots demonstrators have effectively scared away members of Congress from compromises that were struck in the open, behind closed doors, in committees, between the leaders of Congress, or anywhere else.

    The link between the design failures of the presidential system itself and these failures is clear enough. The worse things go for the president, the better the chances for the opposition party to regain power. Cooperating would merely give the president bipartisan cover, making him more popular and benefiting his party as well. Republican leaders have openly acknowledged these incentives. In the Obama era, this has forced the Republican leadership to mount a scorched-earth opposition, demonizing the president as an alien socialist who threatens America’s way of life. That opposition has raged beyond their control, resulting in displays of anger like the shutdown, or birtherism, or the nomination of Trump that hamper rather than enable the party’s political interests. It is hard to see how Rauch’s list of small-bore process changes would have much impact one way or another on the basic incentive for the opposition to oppose.

    The more serious problem with Rauch’s argument is this: Virtually every breakdown in governing he identifies is occurring primarily or exclusively within the Republican Party. Democrats have not been shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage, overthrowing their leaders in Congress, revolting against normal deal-making, or (for the most part) living in terror of primary challenges. Rauch is right that Sanders has encouraged unrealistic ideas about a revolution that would make compromise unnecessary, but the signal fact is that Sanders lost. And Sanders’s notion of a purifying revolution, while thrilling to a handful of left-wing activists, has no influence over Democrats in Congress — arguably not even with Sanders himself, who votes more pragmatically than his stump rhetoric would indicate. The disconnect implies a fatal flaw in Rauch’s analysis. Since he identifies causes of illness that afflict both parties equally, while the symptoms have manifested in only one of them, what reason is there to trust his diagnosis?

    Indeed, the more closely we look at the composition of the two parties, the more obvious it is that only one of them truly exhibits the tendencies he describes. Over the last decade, writers like me, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, and Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have written about the growing asymmetry between the two parties. The GOP, but not the Democratic Party, is fully identified with an ideological movement. The almost-all-white Republican Party is far more ethnically monolithic than the polyglot Democratic Party, and more ideologically monolithic, too — more than two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservative, while fewer than half of Democrats call themselves “liberal.” (Self-identified moderates and conservatives comprise a majority of the party’s supporters, albeit a shrinking one.) Democratic voters rely on news sources that, whatever their unconscious bias, strive to follow principles of objectivity and nonpartisanship. Republican voters mostly trust Fox News and other party organs that merely amplify the party’s message.

    The political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dave Hopkins have found that Democrats tend to conceive of their policies in concrete terms, while Republicans present theirs in ideologically abstract terms. The pragmatic deal-making Rauch venerates is simply far more compatible with the style of the modern Democrats than the Republicans. (This is why the two-year period of Democratic control of Congress and the presidency from 2009 to 2010 produced several important reforms that brought together a diverse array of stakeholders, from business to labor, environmentalists and consumer advocates.)

    A series of polls have all found that Democratic-leaning voters want their leaders to compromise, while Republican-leaning voters do not. Many Democrats feel frustrated with the system, but they want to make it work. Republicans do not feel this way at all. Rauch believes that restoring the kludgy legislative structures of the postwar era would bring back the same results those systems produced. But the 20th-century party system worked because the parties of that era were qualitatively different. Rauch’s proposal is merely one more in the latest of a series of well-intentioned but doomed plans to bring back a world that can never be restored.