…taking myself too seriously again…
They can lead, or the people will ….
Law enforcement officers have many tools at their disposal for the wide variety of situations they may find themselves in at any given time. Some of those situations may be dangerous or life threatening, some are not, but all must be approached with an awareness of that potential. While keeping in mind that various representatives of the media have their own perspectives and agendas, some incidents that we see on the news clearly show interactions with the public that seem to violate the limits of common sense and necessity. It is difficult to defend pepper spraying an 84 year old woman, or Tasing someone simply because they fail to follow an officer’s orders, which may be yelled in a threatening and traumatizing manner. Certainly, in the science of achieving rapid control of dangerous situations and dangerous people, the “shock and awe” ploy is highly effective and probably saves lives. As a former substance abuse counselor and staff member on a psychiatric unit, I have used the verbal components of the technique myself to distract and gain control. What seems to be missing in those incidents when the behavior of the police tends to raise eyebrows, however, is reasonable restraint on the part of the officers.
I suspect the propensity for the pile on first and assess later approach is due to a combination of culture, training, and the absence of consequences for actions that exceed certain limits that would undoubtedly result in prosecution for a civilian.
Simply reaching for the service weapon or Taser when an addled octogenarian or a non-threatening secondary party fails to “sit-down-turn-around-get-on-the-ground-walk-backwards-show-me-your-hands” in a timely manner is unjustifiable.
Adrenaline is a powerful force, opening a direct line to our most basic and primitive survival instincts. Much has been said about the need for law enforcement personnel to be extraordinarily aware of this and to develop procedures for preventing the phenomenon from affecting behavior in their interactions with both the offending and non offending public. I seriously doubt if any of these officers would Tase one of their own children for failing to obey with military precision. That example is not as ridiculous as it may sound to some. I recall an educational film from my Behavioral Health days that told the story of a Marine officer that was unable to change roles when he was at home and how his demeanor and conduct affected family members and the family as a unit.
When a police officer gets a call and heads for the scene, he or she references a vast mental library of training and experiential learning to pre-assess the situation, and, when arriving on scene, has to reassess and prioritize responses and intervention options. This is, or should be, a major part of the training they receive, and it should be an unending process of regular retraining to keep it fresh. While there are significant differences between a police officer’s job and the ones I did, my experiences on the psychiatric unit and some of those encountered by police officers do share some things in common. Whenever we entered a new space, we consciously assessed the environment and the people in it. This was even more acute when summoned to an incident. Appropriate interventions needed to be second nature to us. However, If I had thrown an unruly or disruptive patient to the ground and repeatedly beaten him or her into submission, I would still be in prison, and rightly so. Yet we hear of such actions by police officers on a regular basis. Some incidents are even captured on video. Departments invariably jump to the defense of officers involved, almost as a matter of normal procedure, and either deliver an empty “We’re looking into it,” or state that the officers were justified in their actions. Horse manure. If anything, police officers should be held to a higher standard, not given a pass.
How do we change this? By “we” I really mean you, me, and every other concerned person in any given community. We need to be aware, observe, ask questions, participate in local meetings or government, and insist on the establishment of appropriate standards along with review and response procedures for incidents where those standards are not met or are violated. Training often hits the cutting room floor when budget time rolls around. This must be assessed and corrected. When one is dealing with human lives, training is indispensible.
I once was a trainer of intervention techniques at the hospital where I worked, a member of the team who not only were first responders, but who strived to ensure that any staff member who had direct contact with patients or visitors was properly trained in the arts of de-escalation, communication, redirection, and effective but appropriate physical restraint techniques when needed. I dare say I have observed news clips and selected videos on line where subjects I would have tried to deescalate, and probably could have done so, were Tased, beaten, or even shot. No unarmed person who is not clearly presenting a threat of immediate lethality should ever be subjected to lethal force. Ever. Gaining obedience or compliance should never be held as justification for hitting, either with a closed fist or an implement such as a service baton, throwing to the ground, Tasing, pointing a service weapon at, or even shooting, a subject by a police officer. Vigorous, redundant training in making split second differentiation between whether a person is holding a cell phone or a gun should be a matter of course. Perhaps it is already. If so, do it more.
Are there times when a subject wielding a knife can be justifiably shot? Sure. If the subject has physical control of another person and an assault is believed to be imminent, I would be inclined to shoot the knife wielder. If the knife wielder was within reach or striking distance of another person and I believed the person to be in immediate threat of harm, I would be inclined to shoot the knife wielder. The preferred tool for intervening with someone wielding a knife, stick, or some other non-firearm weapon should almost always be a Taser or other non-lethal weapon.
In recent years, especially since the events of September 11, 2001, non-federal law enforcement interests have been progressively militarized. This is a mistake. Even during the violence of the sixties, police forces were generally armed and uniformed like traditional police officers, and when responses of a military nature were deemed necessary, National Guard units were activated in their respective states.
For the past twenty years or so, we have had a constant stream of combat veterans returning home to civilian life, and police work is an easy segue for many of them. They are well trained, experienced in handling dangerous situations, and combat experience today tends to earn a kind of lay beatification. One should not interpret my words as suggesting I don’t support our military. My extended family is full of retired career military personnel, my daughter is a veteran of Desert Shield-Desert Storm, and my son-in-law is on active duty with nearly 25 years in. More than combat readiness is required by a local police officer, however, and in fact should be a secondary skill for when nothing else works. And if the returning soldier carries any unaddressed, lingering effects from being in a combat area, they might not be ready to work in a field where they could easily be “triggered”.
I have an abiding respect for police officers and others in public service who risk their own safety for the well being of others. That doesn’t mean I condone the bad apples, overlook the shortcomings in some departments, or wear one of those “My country Right or Wrong” hats. It is in the best interests of our country and our local communities to deal with problems when they arise, not to cover them up because they are unpleasant or may require “politically incorrect” statements and actions. I’m not afraid to call things as I see them.
People wonder why the police in troublesome areas have such negative relationships with the local citizens. They shouldn’t. They need only observe the equipment readily available and often used in some areas. They need only observe and understand the culture and battlefield mentality that dominates so many men and women whose job description is a bit of an Orwellian “Newspeak” version of “Peace Officer”. The iconic “Officer Clancey” is a myth of questionable validity from the distant past.
This needs to change. It won’t change by increasing the violence and “Storm Trooper” methodology. It will begin to change when law enforcement blinks first and opens the door to reestablishing a civilian relationship with local populations. The police must lead, and it is up to the rest of us to lead them in turn.
This will be no easy task as the entire nation has taken on a decidedly military demeanor since 911. Government has become more centralized, more warlike, and more prescriptive in its dealings with the citizenry. We have a President who prefers to “rule” by Executive Order rather than “lead” through traditional statesmanship. We have a do-nothing Congress more interested in maintaining their seats for life and, apparently, extending their power, than in taking the risk to do what they were elected to do.
We have work to do, you and I. The year 1776 came and went a very long time ago, but I hope the spirit that drove it is alive and preparing to come out of hibernation, view its surroundings, inhale and assess the air, and………
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…and, this would be very sad.
It can change, and there’s a lot of talk about that going around these days, from both sides of the issue. So, right now it looks like the question seems to be, who’s going to blink first? Who should blink first?
If you think the street folks need to clean up their act before the police can ease up, you’re wrong.
That’s expecting an awful lot from a group that is, by definition, incapable of, or unwilling to play by the rules. These are angry, powerless people. The “good guys” have been unable to get them under control for decades, in spite of ramping up procedures and equipment so it’s hard to distinguish your friendly neighborhood Officer Toohey from a grunt getting ready to go plink a few Taliban. And some people expect a jaded public to trust these guys and feel safe?
These are not safe times. I want my local police to be trained to handle violence if it occurs, but I don’t want them to look or act like they’re trolling for it.
My critical rhetoric does not mean I’m anti-law enforcement. I’m not. I am ant-unnecessary violence and peacekeepers with chips on their shoulders operating in a culture of superiority, power, and unquestionable authority. That has to change, and it has to change yesterday. The onus is on the ones with the power and pseudo-control to blink first. Only then can they achieve real control to any extent.
I was never a police officer, but I worked with a difficult population myself. I worked at a local medical center where they had residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, as well as a detox unit, and a locked, inpatient psychiatric facility. I worked in all aspects of the substance abuse modality…the detox, the residential treatment program, and the outpatient department. I worked with what we then called “dual diagnosis” patients, those with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. I also did educational lectures, spoke at some local colleges, and was a “trainer” in de-escalation and non-violent restraint and control methods for a time. For the last seven or eight years before I retired, I worked on the psychiatric floor. Have I looked down the barrel of a gun? Yes. Have I had to defend myself? Yes. How many of those who discount me or my opinion have sat with a phone in each hand, one connected to the local police and the other connected to some guy sitting in a motel room with a fifth of whiskey and a loaded .357 magnum trying to decide which to stick in his mouth? He lived. He got treatment. I don’t know what happened after that.
I didn’t have any weapon but my brain. While I am sure law enforcement personnel would vigorously state that they also have a brain and that it is their first line of defense. I’m sure it is. I don’t dispute that. I worked with some excellent police and probation officers. But the news has far too many stories about incidents where the responders drew their weapons first and then decided what to do. An awful lot of the suspects killed or seriously wounded by gunshots turn out to be unarmed. It is a culture problem, not an individual problem.
If you live in an environment where the norm is to say “Gimme the f—— potatoes” at the dinner table, you’re most likely to say the same thing at the church supper. If police shootings were prosecuted and investigated without bias, the culture would change.
When I entered a new room or area at the hospital, I “assessed” continuously, looking for body language, facial expressions, and movement that signaled potential trouble. When it occurred, I tried to de-escalate the situation first. I tried verbal interventions, some of them bizarre. I once distracted an out of control man by walking up and asking him if he had change for a dollar, which enabled a coworker to restrain him. As a next-to-last response, I might use physical restraint, or call a “code” to summon security and trained staff from around the hospital. As a last resort, we’d call the police if the subject was especially large and/or dangerous.
I often wonder if some of the techniques we used wouldn’t work for law enforcement. If you can de-escalate, you have control. If you jump right to physical intervention in order to gain control, de-escalation is a moot point.
Why do police officers draw their weapons as a matter of course? At point-blank range, facing a single subject, why not start with a Taser? How about when facing a man approaching with a knife, without knowing if he is deranged rather than a felon? Is it acceptable to shoot and kill him? Wouldn’t it be better to disable him with a non-fatal tool first? If someone was shooting at me or appeared ready to do so, I would shoot back, or even first. I really don’t think firearms are necessary or justified most times when they are drawn. They are drawn to intimidate in, order to gain control. It may or may not work. There are other ways to get control, without firearms. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
But they should be used first.
The secondary gain from this change in culture and thinking on the part of the police very well could be the improved community relations and diminishing violence that is being talked about so much.
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with 7 billion unique versions….
One Bill of Rights, 324 million equally qualified beneficiaries………..I’m neither the first one to say it nor is this the first time I have said it myself, language is one of our greatest barriers to peace and harmony. It isn’t guns, Liberals, Democrats, conservatives, Republicans, spics, niggers, kikes, chinks, the rich, the welfare community, or any of those that are the only things to get more index finger time than the average human nostril.
First of all, language is an imprecise tool for communicating, even between individuals who know each other quite well. My wife and I have been married for twenty five years, we are “best friends,” and hardly a week goes by when one of us doesn’t wear that blank look and say “What do you mean?”
What am building up to is saying without reservation that one of the most misunderstood and miscommunicated words in the English language today is “equal” and its several cognates such as equality, equity, equalization, and so forth. We are not equal. People, even identical twins, are not, and cannot be equal. Different individuals interpret and understand “equal” differently, and in the political arena, it goes downhill from there.
Politics dominates the air like low tide in July, generating many exchanges regarding preferred interpretations of “equality”. I saw a comment on line the other day that inspired my thinking about this topic. A young woman was angrily insinuating that females, people of color, and several other prime qualifiers were treated unequally because of their unique claims of identity. Think about that for a moment. Not quite O’Henry, but delightfully ironic. We see this often; someone roars about their unique qualities which they believe entitle them to special consideration, yet in the same sentence will rail against being treated differently than the average non-affiliated person. She had demands about “equality”, yet was immovably adamant that white males did not, and cannot, get it. What does she want? What do the other people with similar views want? Of equal importance, potential pun acknowledged, how do other people interpret and respond to what they are verbalizing?
Since this is my rant, that is probably about as much leeway as I am going to grant those who fit the profile to which I will be alluding here. Essentially subjective comments ensue.
No See-Saw stays level for long
We are not equal. On some as yet unknown sub-atomic level, perhaps there is a state of pure “equality”, but we’re not talking about physics or even philosophy. Ask Stephen Hawking about such things. We’re debating the meaning of “equality” in the context of a society, a culture, personal experience, and dozens of other factors that may affect an individual’s concept of self and how he or she compares or relates to others. Trying to select and sort the factors in some meaningful arrangement and of standardized measurement and valuation is like trying to pick the winning lottery number, except with a lottery there is a genuine possibility of picking the right number. In the drama of humanity: whenever someone comes up with “the” answer, the question changes.
Demands for equality are unrealistic and misguided, not necessarily because they are unreasonable but because of the difficulties inherent to the process of whittling away the material that doesn’t belong and arriving at a finished product that represents the nearest common denominator of our maximum concessions. Imagine a dozen people given one block of wood, some tools, and tasked with creating a sculpture that is satisfactory to each. That sculpture is entitled:
One concession that has not yet been seriously considered, apparently, is simply accepting that we are different, We do have unique qualities. We simultaneously admire the exotic and covet the qualities therein that we believe give the exotic an edge. I think most understand that, but the ones in the media give the impression that they might have confused equal with identical, need with merit, want with deserve. Revisiting Stephen Hawking for a moment, I think some believe they live in a quantum universe, wherein if they say they want to be somewhere, then they are, if they want to be something, then they are.
The human species has survived for a rather long time, in spite of our penchant for not playing well with others and recreational homicide, so it is clear that concession is an actively practiced social skill. It is, however, quite rudimentary in that we clearly still prefer killing each other, literally or symbolically.
Perhaps we, as a species, are maxed out in our ability to simultaneously compromise and play King of the Mountain.
Athletic competition is as old as conflict, perhaps initially born as a natural animal process of determining pecking order and so forth. Perhaps it grew out early methods of training for organized fighting among groups. Eventually, it came to actually replace battlefield “combat”, an interesting development of “concession” and “compromise” that allowed our predecessors to retain the requisite violence, while reducing the level of mortality involved in conflict resolution. Well, this occurred in some circles, but not all, and the “give me your stuff and your obedience or I’ll kill you” gene is still looking for an acceptable mutation to try on.
Mankind saw birds and wanted to fly, and the species decorated many an escarpment with its physical essence before someone invented aeroplanes, a reasonable and universally accepted substitute for the unachievable Real McCoy, and significantly less fatal.
Similar adjustments need to be made in the way people are learning to coexist in a world that has metaphorically “shrunk” while the population has grown without sacrificing our individuality, and without enslaving or killing each other. There have been estimates offered that 8,000 years ago, there were about 5 million people on the earth. Wow! Everyone had his or her own 7,360 acres! By the time the North American continent was being infested with Narcissistic colonists, it had jumped to anywhere from about 500 million to about 578 million. “America” had about 4,700 people in 1630, but, of course, “people” referred to Europeans. Depending on where one looks, estimates of aboriginal peoples would be an additional one million to 18 million.
I researched the following for my grandson back in 2010 and still find it interesting:
When my grandfather was born, the population of the United States was 50,189,209. There were only 38 states in the Union then, and the US Cavalry was still fighting with the Apache, Sioux, Nez Pierce, Cheyenne, and other native peoples of the far west.
There were no automobiles, airplanes, radios, or televisions. Goods were transported by horse drawn wagons, rail, or by sea. Although steam was coming into use on the ocean, sailing ships were still the primary vessels of commerce until after my grandfather finished school and began his first job. I recall one of my grandmothers remarking how she found it amazing that she had gone to school in a horse drawn cart and did her homework by the light of a whale oil lamp, yet lived to see the television broadcast of a man walking on the moon. A lifetime can seem rather short when we look at it from a different perspective.
Try looking at it this way:
When my grandfather was born, the population of the country was 50,189,209.
When my father was born, the population of the country was 100,546,000.
When I was born, the population of the country was 138,397,345.
When my daughter was born, the population of the country was 205,052,174.
When my grandson was born, the population of the country was 303,202,683.
The population of the USA this morning was about 309,620,000 (2010 figure. The current 2016 figure is 324, 158,869).
Or, how about this?
The World population when my grandfather was born was about 1.4 billion.
The World population when my father was born was about 1.8 billion.
The World population when I was born was about 2.4 billion.
The World population when my daughter was born was about 3.7 billion.
The World population when my grandson was born was about 6.65 billion.
The World population today is about 6,854,834,551 (6.85 billion).
Remember the estimate of 5 million for a world population ten thousand years ago? We’ve gone from that to 7 billion in 10 thousand years
The world population was still less than a billion when the Colonists said sayonara, and few other things, I’m sure, to the British back in 1776. It has grown more than 614% since then. No wonder things get noisy!
How about population density? Using the present day 7 billion population figure and the 197 million square mile estimate of the earth’s surface, there is a “mathematical” density of 35.53 people per square mile. Start subtracting uninhabited places like Antarctica and the middle of the ocean and that figure quickly jumps to 130 and more. The numbers aren’t really important, though. What is important is that even when there was only .03 of a person per square mile (odd, I shouldn’t think .03 of a person would be much more than a smirk before the fact), they’d find something to disagree on, so it is no wonder we have problems today.
Not that everybody is running around in loincloths carrying bludgeons and looking for somebody to talk to about Jesus, or oil, or anything else like that. An awfully large number of people are really basically OK. The fact that John may annoy his neighbor Bob doesn’t mean diddly squat, unless, of course, Bob happens to be one of the rest of the population who I haven’t talked about yet.
Again, I’m not trying to suggest that anybody is defective just because I find it in my heart to critique their lifestyles and favorite vegetables (more O’Henry), but they could be. They also could just be deeply concerned about personal space and personal safety in this bumper to bumper universe. Methodology is everything. Some people measure the integrity of their personal space by measuring the integrity of their personal space, and assess their personal safety by assessing what everyone else is doing. Some measure the integrity of their personal space by checking the “infrastructure”, though I haven’t a clue what that metaphor refers to. Basically, I guess, they assess their own well being by assessing their own well being. Safety, of course, requires awareness of one’s surroundings and those who pose a threat, but there are 7 billion other people on this rock and that’s a lot of other people’s business to keep track of. Various counselors and other mental health professionals are afforded a lucrative market by those who assess their own wealth by checking to see how much the other guy has in his pocket. Nothing new. I’m sure the Shamen, et al, of yore were similarly engaged.
Things are decidedly different in some respects, though. Being afraid the nut-ball in the adjoining cave might make spaghetti out of your head with a rock is a little different than worrying that some schmuck in a knock-off Giorgio Armani suit made out of C-4 might decide to shop at your favorite mall. *** Okay, Tipperary and my original point about communication and the word “equal” are both a long way off, so perhaps I should return to the business at hand, though I believe my meanderings do serve to set the table, so to speak. So, equality as we know it is the flattened quiche of good intentions. This much misunderstood quality refers, in the Constitution, to the equal RIGHTS of all people to the benefits laid out in that document, and equal ACCESS to justice and to the freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution of the United States of America doesn’t say pfffft about hurt feelings, insults, No Child Left Behind, or any of that home made horse puckey. Besides, what if some Child didn’t want to go in the first place? Offering a leg up to someone in need is an admirable quality; turning it into a career can be indistinguishable from exploitation. It is opportunity that is promised, not achievement, not a shortcut, not a free pass. Achievement, like eating, is a first-person activity. Along those lines, we have a sub-population of people who really believe they have the right and an obligation to micromanage my life, and everyone else’s, for the “common good” or some other such Neolithic rationalization for taking control of the galaxy, usually for a lucrative fee and generous retirement benefits. Sometimes just because of some compulsion to “count coup” or act out some other pathology on friends, family, and anyone else who fits the need of the moment. Humanity is not likely to play nice with others as a species characteristic any time soon, and certainly not if self-anointed Play-Nice Police grab those who don’t know their Company Song by the throat to “teach” them. We may evolve into it some eon down the road, but I really would prefer that the peers among whom my descendants dwell carry a gene that thinks it’s a dandy idea to help out the neighbor in need of some help as well as the gene that tells them that nothing else about that neighbor’s life is any of their goddamned business. ~-~* * *~-~
Things are decidedly different in some respects, though. Being afraid the nut-ball in the adjoining cave might make spaghetti out of your head with a rock is a little different than worrying that some schmuck in a knock-off Giorgio Armani suit made out of C-4 might decide to shop at your favorite mall.
Okay, Tipperary and my original point about communication and the word “equal” are both a long way off, so perhaps I should return to the business at hand, though I believe my meanderings do serve to set the table, so to speak.
So, equality as we know it is the flattened quiche of good intentions. This much misunderstood quality refers, in the Constitution, to the equal RIGHTS of all people to the benefits laid out in that document, and equal ACCESS to justice and to the freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution of the United States of America doesn’t say pfffft about hurt feelings, insults, No Child Left Behind, or any of that home made horse puckey. Besides, what if some Child didn’t want to go in the first place? Offering a leg up to someone in need is an admirable quality; turning it into a career can be indistinguishable from exploitation. It is opportunity that is promised, not achievement, not a shortcut, not a free pass. Achievement, like eating, is a first-person activity.
Along those lines, we have a sub-population of people who really believe they have the right and an obligation to micromanage my life, and everyone else’s, for the “common good” or some other such Neolithic rationalization for taking control of the galaxy, usually for a lucrative fee and generous retirement benefits. Sometimes just because of some compulsion to “count coup” or act out some other pathology on friends, family, and anyone else who fits the need of the moment.
Humanity is not likely to play nice with others as a species characteristic any time soon, and certainly not if self-anointed Play-Nice Police grab those who don’t know their Company Song by the throat to “teach” them. We may evolve into it some eon down the road, but I really would prefer that the peers among whom my descendants dwell carry a gene that thinks it’s a dandy idea to help out the neighbor in need of some help as well as the gene that tells them that nothing else about that neighbor’s life is any of their goddamned business.
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….Imploring Justices to do their jobs…..
I’m not sure what the correct procedure is, so I will proceed in the manner which I sense is appropriate. After 72 years, I suspect I’ve waded through enough nonsense to find the high ground when I need to.
I implore the Court to review the appearance of the “hate crime” on the American judicial doorstep in recent years. I’ll be blunt. This is among the deepest examples of nonsense to which I referred above. It violates the First Amendment in so many ways. It is entirely constructed as one of those “add-ons” to provide extra leverage and with which to apply our fundamental laws of person and property differently at will.
I’m no lawyer, but I’m reasonably bright and “hate-law” doesn’t sound very American or very constitutional to me.
If I am pummeled into pudding, or worse, the resume and mood ring results of my assailant is irrelevant. Whether an assailant abuses me because he wants my stuff, because I beat him to the last parking space, or because he despises everything about me including my genealogy matters not one whit. A man murdered in 2016 is no more or less dead than one who suffered the same fate was long before the concept of using the presumed thoughts and feelings of a defendant to elevate the significance of a spitball to that of .357 magnum came into fashion.
If I had been prosecuted for every antisocial, rude, nasty, terrible thought that I have harbored over my lifetime, even Hell would turn me away when my time comes. Most of us would. The rest are lying. I was taught that behavior was what one had to manage. If my sister and I became embroiled in a name calling melee, which was known to happen from time to time, we were apprised of what was appropriate and what was not. Foul language taught me the taste of Ivory soap. The government taught me nothing, nor should it have
I knew the traditional profanities by first grade, and I learned the broad lexicon of nicknames and put-downs for every nationality and ethnicity by the time I reached high school, and I continued to learn of new ones as I moved around the country over the years. I am not unique.
Despite my internal shortcomings, I have managed to avoid legal entanglements, except for a few adolescent missteps, earned a commission in the USNR, graduated from college, and retired from my eventual career as a counselor at the local medical center. I have fully supported the idea of changing how our social and cultural differences are handled, and we have come a long way. The problem is, we have gone too far and some of the methodology has had paradoxical effects.
The “hate crime” idea has unsavory parallels on many fronts, past and present
Review the “hate crime” trick. It is wrong. It breeds resentment and division rather than tolerance and unity. Condemn it. It’s bad law. Please.
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In this season of more than the usual level of political brain sewage, it’s no surprise that the opposing “Gotcha” snipers are taking a few shots at Melania Trump with the same energy the Tabloid crowd would go after a 75 year old woman giving birth to quintuplets during a zip-line adventure. Don’t interpret my remarks to mean I support Mr. Trump. I most certainly do not. Nor do I support that woman with a voice like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz.
This is a bizarre election year, to be polite about it. I don’t know which would be the least harmful for the United States, but I’d have to guess that would be Trump, simply because he isn’t a politician and doesn’t know the ropes. Congress may have appeared mummified for the past few years, but I think they could come to life if they had to keep him out of any serious trouble. Anyway, he’s more likely to at least try to undo the damage perpetrated against the country by Obama administration. It’s no wonder Bernie Sanders thought he could just strut up to the plate, spit, grab his junk, and somebody could be required to hit a home run for him.
Anyway, Mrs. Trump apparently got busted quoting the current First Lady without footnotes, so the Democrats deem it appropriate that her head be removed. As a dedicated curmudgeon and once-upon-a-time editor, I’m no apologist for bona fide plagiarism, but please. Politicians haven’t said anything new in a hundred years or so. They’re all still chewing the same wad of gum Taft stuck under a barstool somewhere. Heck, even plagiarizing something that at least has some entertainment value would be a Giant Step for Mankind compared to the unending barrage of slander and character assassination that has been considered acceptable fare thus far.
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…and contemplating Liberty….
Happy Third of July, everyone!
No, I haven’t made a mistake. I think this is a day worth contemplating, if not celebrating. The Third of July, I imagine, was a day of excruciating contemplation and decision making 240 years ago, while the Fourth was a day of action.
On this Third of July, many are conflicted and discouraged by the atmosphere of the 2016 election process. Every election year that I have experienced has had a certain “locker room” aura of anticipation, trash talk, and adrenalin, but 2016 is uniquely ugly, misdirected, and empty of substance.
I would like to think that we, as were our predecessors, are on the precipice of great changes, though I would also hope that “revolution” is a metaphorical reference this time. We have legitimate processes available to us through our Constitution to replace a dysfunctional government if we have the courage to use them. Our government is supposed to be robust, but it is not supposed to be chaotic and self-serving. It’s now time to access that vestigial courage and act.
We need changes, Big changes. We need to take back the power that has been ceded to those who have been elected to public office through legitimate as well as not-so-legitimate means. The “people” are supposed to be a “check and balance” with those given temporary permission to represent us, but complacency has perverted that relationship and we, the people, are now like cattle manipulated and moved around for the convenience of an elite ruling class.
Part of this mutation is basically a predictable outcome of human nature left unchecked. When well “fed”, people are wont to leave the details to those who are more than willing to take them on. When given the authority and responsibility to provide for others, it is human nature for those so endowed to seek to consolidate and enhance their power. The Founders clearly understood this and created a system of government that could maintain the balance between the people and those who have been lent temporary power. Unfortunately, those empowered to handle the details have also been empowered through complacency to serve as their own “check and balance” and the “people” are either basking in the sun at the beach or squabbling and competing for favors like animals at feeding time.
We are not cattle. That will not change if we politely ask those to whom we have ceded our responsibility and authority to self-management to disempower themselves. We should know by now that “pretty please” is an impotent gesture. By the same token, we have the authority to take the power back if we have the courage and determination to do so. The challenge is to understand that Liberty is not as enticing as Free Lunch, until the people discover that they have become the lunch.
Happy Third of July, everyone!
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……and the would-be emperor’s new clothes
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich popped off a public letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders the other day.
In response to Reich’s A-Cappella (no violins) letter to his “friend” Sen. Bernie Sanders to prop him up with a few “atta-boys”, I would like to offer, not cynicism, as anticipated by Reich, but a bit of realism. Couldn’t hurt.
While I appreciate that each of us has an opinion, and that which ones are valid depends upon whom one asks, I don’t ask that anyone accept mine unless, after having read it and thought about it, they happen to agree with parts of it. And so, my opinion follows.
I thought Robert Reich was full of crap when he had a certain amount of secondary relevance from working with a few Presidential administrations, although neither the Ford nor the Carter visitation was exactly stellar, and Clinton’s was marked by scandal, so it doesn’t surprise me that he enjoys being Bernie Sanders’ shoe-shine boy.
Reich’s letter was certainly in character, as I recall his earlier oratory, and he still seems to be marching to the beat, in the economic sense, of self-described albeit other-funded artists reaping lucrative grants to sculpt religious icons out of fecal matter, etcetera. I’m not saying such a message isn’t clever, …heck… it may even bear an element of truth, but efforts like that should be do-it-yourself projects from start to finish.
Anyway, Reich started off by acknowledging Bernie’s numbers didn’t carry the day, but then clarified any potential or heretofore unnoticed nuance by putting lipstick on the loss, redefining it as having been brilliantly executed, and having accomplished just so golly gee whiz much. (Vintage Reich). He continued, delivering a dripping “atta-boy” to Bernie for having thusly written on the bathroom wall of the disaffected “without SuperPACs or big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires. ” The subtlety of demonizing, or at least discounting the humanity of anyone boasting more than a Walmart lay-away account, was not lost on me. Also not lost on me was Sander’s “in your face” intention to tax the hell out of those same Untouchables in order to fund his Pie in Somebody Else’s Sky visions for the future of America.
I must be cautious when teetering on the precipice of criticizing another man’s past, my own having more than a few “redacted” pages and “Oh, God” moments itself, but then, I don’t claim otherwise, and I’m not running for President. I’m no financial wizard or success story either, but then, I’m not claiming to know the magic words for turning the United States into something out of Peter Pan. I only took one college level Economics course, and I seriously disliked it. In spite of that, I learned enough to understand that building a healthy, sustainable economy does not mean taking other people’s money away from them and doing some “really neat stuff” with it according to one’s own estimation.
Reich segued from his opening schmooze to note that Bernie had won his faux-gold medal in spite of being “a 74-year-old, political Independent, Jewish, self-described democratic socialist… ”
Alright, this thing’s got flies on it already and the sun isn’t even up yet. Again, vintage Reich.
Okay, Point One:
I – “Age 74.”
First of all, how is being 74 a default handicap, unless one expects to do a mid-term move to the sunless side of the lawn. We have two living former Presidents old enough to be Bernie’s father. (Barely, but it’s there.) Besides, like I tell my 34 year old step-son, “in your thirties, you may have knowledge, but it’s in your seventies that you know how to use it.”
Yeah, I know….He doesn’t buy that one, either.
II – “ Political Independent”
In these times, Independence would normally be considered an asset, philosophically and politically, other than for a certain innate impotence that tends to come with swimming against the tide. Sanders took care of that handicap by strapping on the requisite accoutrements for getting his Democratic Party Pledge Pin. The bottom line is though, Bob, he can’t legitimately use that one on his resume.
III – “Jewish”
Of course. How can one get anywhere these days without a “card” of some sort? Proving membership in a population, ethnicity, or culture, that currently is, or whose ancestors were at some period in the past, certifiably “marginalized”, is a socio-political asset in some circles. Heck, I used to get tripped in the halls and find weird shit in my locker in junior High school because I was skinny and didn’t shave until after I had to register for the draft. Why didn’t I get free college and a boat? Or at least a card? It’s called the “WASP” Syndrome ….(White Anglo Saxon Protestant). I couldn’t get elected to cross the street and pick up my mail on those credentials. The fact is, NO such “credentials” should have more than yawn value. Ever. When it is discovered that something being done is causing harm to someone, the proper response is to stop doing it. Being a victim is a terrible thing, but perhaps the greatest harm that can be done to a person is to damage his or her spirit by turning the misfortune into an identity and a career track. Acknowledge the harmful cause and effect; eliminate the causative factor; move on.
IV – “self-described democratic socialist”
Alright, I understand why this one is held out as a handicap. Running for President as a socialist is nothing new, of course, but it is sort of right there in the “nice try, pal,” department with a coke dealer applying for a job as Director of the DEA. I mean, last time I checked, we were still having kids cut out construction paper turkeys and stuff like that so they can learn all about the tough individualism, independence, and ingenuity that built this place. While the people have always pulled together, especially during difficult times, I don’t think we’ve ever collectively been willing to lay down our lives so we could exist as a “hive” or emulate the BORG of Star Trek notoriety.
V – “Then you won 22 states.”
This is a sad kudo, actually. I mean, a lot of people my age are in nursing homes, poor things, and I feel badly for their circumstances. Being able to outrun them in a local Marathon (assuming I could) wouldn’t be much to brag about, though, and I can’t imagine anybody holding a ticker-tape parade for me should I actually lose…well, maybe one person… In any event, this is just another one right out of the “every kid gets a trophy” play book.
The eyebrow raiser for me, however, is not that Sen. Sanders stirred up as much attention as he did, but that we are living in a social-economic-political environment where he could. Also, while Reich may read it all as proof-positive just how wonderful The Bern is, and amps up the old Kazoo accordingly, I see it more as an indicator of just how leaderless our country has been for much too long, how incredibly angry people are, and how hungry they are for CHANGE… anything….as long as it is different.
So, I have to say, Mr. Reich, that you get the Great Raspberry for your unctuous Ode to the Socialist Bern, but then, both the raspberry and the ode format are old hat for you, aren’t they?
The selling points of the Senator’s campaign, and the schemes you wax all goosey over…
free tuition at public universities
$15 minimum wage
busting up the biggest Wall Street banks
taxing the financial speculation
…are all completely dependent on the use of force. None of them is the result of free exchange. None is the reward for creating or producing anything unique or original oneself.
I must say, with a net worth estimated at more than $4 million, a salary 36% greater than that of the average CEO, and a going rate of $40K for a one hour speech, you are an odd one to be hate-talking the rich and blowing in Sanders’ ear.
Sanders is not so much of an enigma in this regard, from what I have read. He putzed around for most of his “productive” years until he could wriggle into a Senate seat and pull down some serious bucks, and where his name plate proudly reads “I don’t have as much money as you”. His resentment of the driven, the successful, and the wealthy is an honest expression of his having spent his life having to look up at people who were too busy to look down at him. And this guy thinks he can lead a nation?
Mr. Reich, in spite of your specious lauding, Senator Sanders lost, and therefore was the loser. Those who borrowed a quarter of a million dollars to spend eight years getting a four year degree in Origami might appear to love him; and those who want to do the same on somebody else’s dime sing his praises too. Similarly, those who stand to make dandy living, with benefits, for doling out his Free Lunch, or serving as salaried Knee Breakers to “secure” the requisite finances for same claim to be fond of him as well. But, these aren’t winners, Mr. Reich. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Even yours.
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One thing, among many, that history teaches us is that once an ax gets ground three more show up to boast their dullness. Another is that we, as a species, rarely give a shit about what history reveals. This is not to say that axes should not be ground in the literal sense, but that there is a tendency to stretch metaphors way beyond their reasonable tolerance.
Take “rights,” for example. There is a 99% chance that two men standing toe to toe debating where the rights of one end and those of the other begin will be resolved when one kills the other, claiming he had the right to do that “because”…..
Metaphor abuse is part of the DNA in some places, like New York City where the police are being criticized of “profiling” homeless people and thereby violating their “rights”. According to a lawyer who is hitching her BMW payments to their wagon via the local Civil Liberties Union, “We have the right to not have the police interrupt our daily lives. ”
“We? ” I understand the value of inclusion as a tool for building relationships, but I seriously doubt the lady lives on a steam grate. Besides, getting back to that bit about where the rights of one end and those of the other begin, certainly “we” as citizens have the “right” to the sanctity of our homes (“places of residence”….notice the stretch?), but in the generally understood meaning of the word “home”, public property like sidewalks, or property belonging to another, even if that “other” is a big ol’ rich guy or a corporation, is not on the Free Lunch Menu. I mean, I don’t have much, but it’s MINE, and you can’t live there. I might let you camp out there while resolving a tough time, but you’re going to have to mow the lawn, paint the garage, or something. You’re not just going to lay around smelling my roses and grooving on medical marijuana or whatever.
Anyway, this Civil Liberties Union lawyer has an interesting take on things, not all that unusual these days, actually, but I prefer more traditional and time tested methods of filtering to sort out the flakes of reality hidden in the rest of all that sludge. You know, kind of like panning for gold. I’m not into the new fad of grabbing the first handful of convenient crap to come down the line, calling it “gold”, and suing anyone who disagrees and especially if they refuse to pay the going price for it.
We DO have the right to be secure in our homes. Normally, a home has four walls and a roof, and the resident either owns the property or has permission from the owner to be there. Public property supposedly belongs to the “public”, which means it is held for the benefit all as a community. That doesn’t automatically mean one, albeit a bona fide member of the “public”, can “live” there. City hall is “public property”, as are the parks, schools, highways, sidewalks, and so forth. If someone opts to stake a claim on what he calculates is his “fair share” of the public domain and to guard that as his own, he is effectively interfering with the rights of everyone else, even if they neither know about nor complain about his behavior. Since most of us aren’t into roaming the streets in the middle of the night and fighting bad guys, we employ specially skilled people to do that stuff. That’s not all the police do, of course.
Therein lies another member of the Much Hackneyed Word List. Profiling is one of those terms whose meaning is more a matter of degree rather than of substance. Profiling is just one of numerous references developed to describe the human behavior of observing one’s environment, assessing the nature of what is seen, and making decisions accordingly. Whether or not one acts upon ones conclusions is a separate matter, but even if one does, it is not necessarily a constant or a predictable quality.
In fact, “profiling” is but one part of a broad family of behaviors that all animals engage in to enhance their chances of survival. That’s why we are more likely to eat meat than rocks, and why a toddler is more likely to try out a bug or two, or even some things of unmentionable heights on the Disgusting scale, while the adults in his life won’t. Grandparents may occasionally regress…
We assess our environments and the people in them to obtain information that will help us remain safe in that environment, and for other intents. One may enter an environment for many purposes, perhaps to identify people who need help, as a nurse might do. When I worked on the local psychiatric unit, I profiled the hell out of new environments, for many reasons. Thus, when a policeman is accused of “profiling”, I’m tempted to say, “Yeah, and he ate supper, too!….What’s yer point?”
Homelessness has always been an issue, in large and small communities alike. There is a preponderance of mental health factors in play here, but having a problem does not absolve one of the need, and responsibility, to remain within the boundaries of the society’s limits and requirements. Telling a person to stop violating those limits is not violating their rights; how one tells the person may need improvement at times.
Certainly, the process can be abused, and has been, on occasion. Ergo, the issue at hand. But truth will be better served if one applies judgment rather than agenda when drawing conclusions from observation. This can be an understandable challenge for anyone in a watchdog role, just as it surely is for members of the law enforcement profession. Human nature factor #115A: we tend to see what we are looking for.
So, what about the accusations of “profiling” aimed at the NYPD for their interactions with homeless people? That is an impossible question to answer with the information provided in the news item, largely because modern “news” items are crafted to induce adrenaline surges rather than to inform, and the necessary monotonous details are missing.
Is approaching a group of less than nattily dressed and groomed men lounging about on a street corner and asking them to “move along” an instance of inappropriate bias because perhaps the encounter plays out differently than it might had it been a group of men in pinstriped suits holding leather valises? I say no. And I say further that the CLU lawyer needs a hobby, if that’s the best she can come up with. Might I suggest she explore the possibility of more productive fodder in Washington, DC?
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- Animal behavior
- behavioral stuff
- Bernie Sanders
- capital punishment, homicide
- Donald Trump
- everything else
- fire in the streets
- global stuff
- Great Society
- gun control
- Health care
- health reform
- just blowin' off
- law enforcement
- politically correct
- POLITICS: talking out of one's ass and face at the same time
- Right to Work
- Society in general
- Sunday School Truancy and other moments of Epiphany
- tax protest
- the arts