The only thing certain about the death of Philando Castile at the hands of a cop is that procedures need to be changed…

June 23, 2017

 

NOTE: On July 16, 2016 Philando Castile was shot and killed by a policeman in St. Anthony, Minnesota during a traffic stop in an incident that appears to have been a tragic mistake. The officer was charged with murder, which is unusual, but was recently acquitted. He did lose his position on the force, though. One man is dead and maybe another man’s life is ruined.


 

The only sense I can make out of watching videos of the killing of Philando  Castile, a black man pulled over in a traffic stop, is that there needs to be better police training and a better way to handle things when an officer expects trouble (or maybe when he does not, but comes across it).

And some way in which the shooting of side arms multiple times rapid fire can be put somewhere down on the priority list, still keeping officer and public safety first in mind.

I have watched and re-watched multiple times the police dash cam video and have watched a video taken by Castile’s  female companion and can make no sense of exactly how and why it all went down.

And that is the trouble, most everyone who forms an opinion does so from limited knowledge. My opinion is not whether officer Jeronimo Yanez was justified in shooting or whether the victim was in the wrong, but just that something seems obviously wrong with police procedures or at least the way the officer handled it.

In fact he was charged with murder but was acquitted.

The fact is that Yanez was really pulling over the car because he suspected that at least one of the occupants might be a robbery suspect. But he went with the ruse of telling the driver that he was stopping him for bad tail lights, so as not so make him nervous.

But right off the bat I think that was wrong. I mean I have never had any police training but I’ll be doggoned if I was a cop and I thought someone might be a robbery suspect and I was pulling them over I would just casually walk up to the car and say I was stopping him (or her) for bad tail lights. I’d get on the PA system if I had one (most cop cars do I think) and direct the occupants of the car to carefully get out with their hands in the air.

And I’d want backup. And indeed officer Yanez did have another policeman helping him. No offense to the other officer, but the video I saw does not show that officer doing much of anything helpful. What he could have done considering the way Yanez approached it I do not know.

You have to see the available videos for yourselves — all on the internet. But what I saw was Yanez casually strolling up to the car, telling the driver he was stopping him for bad tail lights (and strangely using the future tense or something — like “it’s goona be your” such and such tail light). And then the driver, who we never see on the police dash cam video, but hear on audio, politely informs the officer that he has a gun. The officer responds something like: “ok, don’t pull it out” and then before you can even think the officer is firing his hand gun into the vehicle yelling don’t pull it out, and repeating that even after he begins firing his seven shots, more than one of which pierced Castile’s heart.

The problem is that we never can see what Castile, the dead man, was actually doing when he was shot. The officer claims he thought Castile was reaching for a  gun. Castile’s girlfriend says he was complying with the officer’s directions to produce I.D. Castile’s last recorded words were that he was not reaching for the gun. A gun was later found in his pocket with a loaded magazine.

The victim’s girlfriend made a video of the aftermath in which she seemingly professionally narrated it, despite the obvious stress she seemed to be in. And it is worth noting there was a four-year old girl in the car too.

Reports have Castile not as a robbery suspect but a well-liked cafeteria worker at a local school. And he was licensed to carry a gun (not sure why, but just a citizen’s right I suppose).

And there’s a lesson or message: guns can protect you but they carry an awesome responsibility and they can put you in danger too.

I think there has to be some better protocol to avoid shooting into cars with children inside.

One thing the dash cam video seems to show is that officer Yanez was in way over his head and panicked. If one is fair, one must feel almost as much sorrow for him as the victim.

Again, we cannot see the victim just before he was shot, but the officer’s testimony was that he felt Castile was ignoring his instructions or commands. He also gave testimony to investigators that he smelled what appeared to be marijuana, but right off hand I don’t see much of what that might have to do with a decision to shoot.

Even though the victim was black, I don’t think in this case it is a racial thing necessarily. Officer Yanez is I presume Hispanic (and that has nothing to do with anything either I would think). And even though we keep hearing about white officer’s killing black people during traffic stops, there was a recent incident where a black officer was the shooter.

But no matter what your race or skin color, you would be advised to comply with an officer’s instructions and use body language perhaps to demonstrate (but no quick moves) to save your own life. Complaints can be made later when you are still alive to make them.

(And what good would police be, really, if they could not exert legitimate authority and people complied? Just the other day I witnessed an incident at a truck stop between a security guard who was small in stature — I don’t think he was armed — and a larger and belligerent and uncooperative man. The guard said he was going to escort him off the premises. The man just told the security guard to basically get out of his face. The security guard backed off. We don’t want to put our police in that position. I felt sorry and embarrassed for the security guard.)

And shooting first and asking questions later needs to be taken off police protocol.

 

 


The danger of crazy men with guns versus the need for self protection…

June 18, 2017

At the news of the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice I began a post one way and then another incident happened and it seemed to reinforce in me an understanding of why so many people support the right to keep and bear arms (and that  sometimes reluctantly includes me).

But first, my initial reaction:

Automatic assault rifle gun fire at a Republican baseball practice, several injured, including the majority whip. And yet the Republicans (and many Democrats) still feel they must be absolutists against sensible gun control. I mean they are locked into that position because they depend upon the support of the gun lobby and citizens who are in no mood to compromise on the Second Amendment and their belief that it guarantees every man woman and child the right to pack automatic weapons. Never mind that the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen the advance in weapons technology centuries later and that the Second Amendment speaks more to a citizen’s army than simple citizen gun ownership.

But still, I support the Second Amendment. And for now I will go along with the notion that the consensus seems to be that it does indeed give citizens a right to tote their own guns. However, the courts have allowed some forms of gun control nonetheless.

I don’t have an answer as to how we on the one hand preserve our right to keep and bear arms and on the other how we protect ourselves from mad men with weapons that spray hundreds of rounds per minute.

Some suggest that if we all packed weapons like on those old TV westerns the nut cases would not be so emboldened. First, I doubt that. They are nuts, remember? Secondly if we all packed guns, given the temper of the nation now — you have been out on the interstates? it would be mayhem, more than it already is,

(At the congressional ball practice the congressmen and others at least had some Capital Police on hand who bravely faced the gunman and shot him dead, even though they were outgunned in firepower. And isn’t that horrendous that bad guys often have more fire power than our police?)

No I don’t have an answer. But I do know the free flow of automatic weapons primarily benefits the arms industry and is a detriment to our personal safety.


And then there were those two animals out of a Georgia prison who murdered two guards on a prison bus and escaped, going on a rampage of carjacking and one incident where they terrorized an elderly couple. Finally with the help of two citizens — two civilians as it were — with their own firearms, they were apprehended. As I read it (and the reports seemed to be somewhat vague) the two were lying face down held at gunpoint by the good citizens when the police arrived.

If you saw the photos of those two desperadoes you might agree with me that there was something chilling about them.

The police cannot be everywhere and see everything all the time and we would not want it that way. But with animals like that on the loose it could be a comfort to be armed thanks to your Second Amendment rights.

Still, there is a likelihood for it to backfire, so to speak. You cannot be wide awake all the time and it might not be legal nor practical to have a firearm on your person at all times. Often the bad guy, the intruder, is likely to get the drop on you.

And we often have incidents in which innocent people, often young people or lost foreigners, are shot when a homeowner misperceives a threat.

So this uniquely American notion of every citizen’s right to keep and bear arms often presents a conundrum.

I can only say: preserve the Second Amendment, support reasonable gun control, and stem the flow of automatic weapons.

p.s.

I did not go into gun safety. There are so many tragic incidents of children getting their hands on firearms and accidentally shooting themselves and others, often siblings. And far too many of these incidents happen in households of policemen. But there are a lot of deadly dangers we all face every day. But yes, gun safety courses for all ought to be a requirement of gun ownership.

One more note: I think in the incident where the citizens apprehended the escaped convicts the bad guys had lost their stolen weapons at that point.

 

 

 


Technology may push us into increased socialism…

June 12, 2017

If you still have work years ahead of you something serious to ponder is: what happens when the robots take over? And they will.

It won’t be Robert the Robot, something you would have to be at least my age to recall from the 1950s, and it will not be R2-D2 from Star Wars, although those characters might be included, but it will be (already is in many instances) smart phone technology, self-driving vehicles, drones, computers figuring your every need and delivering it to you almost before you think of it. It will be artificial intelligence replacing those once thought-to-be-safe thinking/analytical jobs.

One problem will be that only engineers and various computer wizards will have good employment — they will still be needed. And some capitalists of the upper echelons will hire these people or make investments in companies that do.

But most of the rest of us, regardless of education level or special training, will find there is not much out there.

Of course the labor market will be so flooded that the upper classes will be able to afford to hire more people for menial work or at least will pay menial wages for all types of work.

We indeed may be forced into some kind of socialist state where the government takes on an even bigger role in supporting the populace. The upper classes, made up of those engineers and capitalists, will be willing to support it in order to keep what might otherwise turn into a hungry mob at bay.

I was having my late afternoon meal at a taqueria and at one table young men were eating and joking around with each other the old-fashioned way, at another some not-quite-as-young men were staring at their smart phones. Almost kind of counterintuitive, that is it would seem the younger they are the more they might be addicted to the phones.

But, whatever, I thought the ones without the phones seemed to be enjoying life. Those staring at the phones had dour expressions.

Back to Robert the Robot. When I was a little boy my best friend at the time had his own Robert the Robot toy. It spoke. What made it or allowed it to speak we both wondered. Finally he took a hammer and smashed it open.

There was a tiny vinyl record inside.

The robots of today just have an updated version of that.

But they have no soul.

Well, not yet, as far as I know.

We are fast becoming a society with no soul, addicted to our smart phones, afraid perhaps we will miss out on something.

What we may be missing out on is life, humanity.

I am always with mixed emotions when it comes to technology. All those decades ago now when I was a working newspaper journalist I experienced the ups and downs of it. Going from pounding on a manual typewriter to word processing to laptops, things got easier and more fun and far more efficient. What we did not grasp at the time perhaps is that this technology spelled the demise of newspapers as we knew them. Journalism is not dead but the newspaper journalism I knew is all but dead. And then I moved into the trucking world. I used to have to stand in line to use a pay phone. I used to have to hunt up a pay phone to make check calls with dispatch and of course to get dispatches. There used to be this phone booth out in the middle of nowhere on U.S. 97 that I would use. And what did we do when we broke down out in the middle of nowhere? I was in that transition stage from the old-time trucking world to the more modern. The old guys, mostly retired now, would tell you: “We helped each other”. If a trucker saw you in trouble he (usually it was a he back then) would stop and assist you. But today, no one has time. And with all the meanness out there it might not be safe. There are exceptions of course, and I have been both the beneficiary and benefactor a time or two.

Anyway all of our communication is via cell phones. And dispatch no longer has a big map with pins in it. It’s all in the computer. But when the computers crash, they are lost until they come back up again. Warehouses come to a standstill when computers crash. In the old days they just looked in their inventory lists and knew where things were. But overall of course things are far more efficient and rapid.

But technology moves on at warp speed. Driverless or autonomous trucks will likely eliminate all or a majority of driver jobs over the coming decade or so if not sooner.

Where is the line between making life easier and better with technology and throwing us all out onto the street?

Leisure is great I am sure. But humans I think need productive activity. It’s in our DNA.


Your arms hangin’ limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin’ to do
Some machine’s doin’ that for you

(from the song “In the Year 2525” written and composed by Rick Evans)

 


How deep is the Russian interference with our elections? And is Trump et al. profiting from it at the peoples’ expense? Those are the important questions…

June 9, 2017

It’s so easy to get lost in the forest of this ongoing Washington Russiagate scandal or whatever you might want to call it. One can hardly see the forest for all the trees.

Is President Donald Trump a liar? Is former FBI Director James Comey a liar?

Well, yes would seem the obvious answer to the first question, but an answer with little relevance. Truth is something nebulous and subject to change at a whim in Trump World. But everyone knew that all along, way before perhaps he was even a candidate for president.

Comey. Don’t know much about him except he has a reputation for being a straight arrow. But he seems to have a penchant for not being able to keep things confidential, something that is often important in crime investigation. First he goes and throws a monkey wrench into Hillary Clinton’s campaign for presidency by announcing she is being investigated over the email controversy. I personally don’t see how that was in his purview as a top cop and not a prosecutor — and prosecutors, unless I am wrong, don’t usually make announcements until there is an indictment. Anyway, then he strategically leaks info (by his own admission) so that it will go out in the news media and force the appointment of a special counsel to look into the Russia matter.

I do not feel sorry for Trump, but it shows one does not speak in confidence to Comey. If it would seem to benefit him, he will reveal. And Comey admits that the first of the two times he met in private with the president (then president-elect) it was his (Comey’s) own idea.

Now the idea stated or implied by Comey is that Trump tried to pressure him into dropping the Russian investigation and that when Comey refused Trump fired him.

Meanwhile the official line from Trump is that he never did try to urge Comey to drop the investigations.

While Comey supposedly took notes, despite an off-hand remark by Trump, there at this time seems no evidence of a tape recording of what was said between the two. Trump had, perhaps jokingly, suggested that Comey better hope there was no tape recording and Comey now in turn has said: “Lordy, I hope there is…”

“Lordy”? who says that anymore?

But getting away from the he said, he said, stuff, what we need to know is the extent of Russian involvement in our elections, everything from misinformation campaigns, to embarrassing (but true?) leaks from campaigns, to most sinister and dangerous of all, manipulation of the actual voting. While we have been assured at the federal level and by various state voting officials that no irregularities have surfaced, there was at least one story a few days ago that U.S. investigators have uncovered evidence of Russians attempting to hack into a voting program. And it does not take much to steal a presidential election (some electoral votes in the right states and you win the prize).

The focus should be on the integrity of our voting system. And I think it is in doubt.

And along with this, while it is unclear if there has been actual collusion between Trump and his supporters and family with the Russians, it seems the relationship with the Russians is all too cozy and is intermingled with politics and private business. To Trump et al. politics is just an extension of their own private business fortunes.

I’ll leave it to the lawyers to figure out whether Trump obstructed justice. I mean I have read that legal scholars differ on what the evidence shows so far.

Trump most likely did urge Comey to back off the Russia investigation but that alone is not necessarily obstruction. It might take more pressure than that. And yes, Trump did fire Comey. But he had the legal right to do so, even if he has told different stories as to the reasoning behind the firing.

Perhaps if the Russia scandal deepens and more substantive evidence shows collusion between Trump and his minions, then the Comey firing might be seen as obstruction of an actual high crime and misdemeanor and result in impeachment. And remember, “high crimes and misdemeanors” are not defined in the Constitution.

P.s.

Russian interference, to the extent there is, seems to have nearly brought down both the governments in Washington and London by way of stirring up some strange and misguided populist revolt — misguided in that it seems to have no clear direction other than tearing institutions down and the security that comes from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hillary did not lose the election as much as the Democratic Party did; Electoral College is weird but has some logic…

June 6, 2017

It’s a little late maybe but I’m still trying to figure out the exact mechanics of the Electoral College and the rationale behind it.

Yes I recall in school it was said it was a way to even up the representation between the bigger or more populous states and the smaller states. And then there is that regional interest thing, which in the early, early years was mainly the industrial and small farming North versus the plantation/slave labor economy of the South.

Okay, without going into the pesky and to me somewhat mind-boggling detail, we already know that we don’t directly vote for the president and vice president like we do for, say, our senators and congressmen, or even dog catcher in some places.

Instead, in all but two of the 50 states, whichever candidate wins the majority of the popular vote gets all of the state’s electors, each state being allotted one elector per congressional district and one for each of its two U.S. senators. Nebraska and Maine have a slightly different method, but the only thing that happened this last Fall was that even though Hillary Clinton garnered the majority of electoral votes from Maine, Donald Trump did get one electoral vote there.

(I won’t bother to go into whether an elector can or cannot vote for whomever he or she chooses, although I think clearly that is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. But the reality is that almost all the time they vote for whoever gets the most popular votes in their respective states.)

So back to the idea that minority or regional interests would not get a fair shake in the presidential contest and it would be the tyranny of the majority — it seems the way it turned out in 2016 is that we succumbed to the tyranny of the minority, with Clinton receiving way more votes than Trump but losing nonetheless. Al Gore lost to George W. Bush that way too, but the count was more even, but confused due to some strange or shaky system of voting in Florida — remember the hanging chads and butterfly ballots.

Ever since Nov. 8 I have cursed the whole concept of the Electoral College for making the unthinkable happen, not so much that Princess Hillary was due her spot on the throne as Queen, but that someone so openly ignorant and so boorish as Donald Trump would be president of the United States. I could have put up with Queen Hillary.

But looking at a CNN map of the results, which I provide a link to after this sentence, I see a pattern of voting throughout the regions of the U.S. that indicates Trump had wide support (albeit wide but not deep?), whether I like it or not. Unfortunately not everyone thinks as I do. And, I imagine right about now some are re-thinking it all — but it’s too late.

http://www.cnn.com/election/results/president

So, just for the record, and as I guess is shown in that link, it seems to me that Trump won over a large cross-section of the nation, looking at the pattern of the red dots. Using our system, such as it is, both sides knew the rules going in. And while Trump received some 3 million fewer votes he did get nearly 63 million, and that is no small number. Clinton garnered almost 66.

I think it is a bit unseemly now how Mrs. Clinton is going around blaming everyone but herself  (admitting only that she made some mistakes) for the loss. Oh, she does have reason to feel aggrieved, no doubt. But even Richard Nixon when he lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960 was gracious in defeat. Subsequently of course he famously was not gracious when he lost the governor’s race in California in ’62. But, he got over it and came back to win the presidency in 1968.

Unlike Nixon, perhaps, it is doubtful Mrs. Clinton will have a chance to return to fight another battle, but she is all but making that impossible with her snide remarks now.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight analysts can now determine they think why she lost to Trump. Should have spent more time in Wisconsin, and so on. I always thought the spectacle of the movable rope line to protect Queen Hillary was a bit much, but then how accessible was the thuggish acting Trump with all his hooligans around him, stirring up trouble and ready to brawl with protestors (who for their part probably egged it all on themselves much of the time)?

It’s perception and how it plays on the airwaves and over the internet — not so much in the papers these days I guess. Hillary’s fake smiles (it seemed) and her will-not-suffer fools attitude, and even a hint of feebleness, all hurt her.

The news machine could not seem to get enough of Trump. Did not seem to matter if his antics were good or bad. As the old saying goes, there is no such think as bad publicity for entertainers, and even if he was not entertaining to me, apparently he was to others (sad, I know).

And for sure there is a double standard: if a man acts tough, he is being a man. If a woman acts tough she is not being a lady. If a man is strident in making his point, he is respected. If a woman is strident, she is shrill.

Unfortunately for Hillary, although she is clearly intelligent and well informed and well versed in politics and governing, she does not always seem to have, for lack of a better description on my part, that smooth and graceful yet forceful style of say: Dianne Feinstein, or Madeleine Albright, or Condoleezza Rice.

But more than Hillary I blame the Democratic Party, so lacking in leadership and so disconnected from the people it claims to represent, that it could not have come up with a better candidate. This time the Democrats took a cue from the old GOP playbook and gave the nomination to the next in line, while the Republicans chose the outsider of outsiders.

Yes we do have primary elections, but the party apparatus it has been shown favored Hillary over Bernie Sanders, or anyone else.

And I am not at all sure primary elections are such a good idea — maybe the parties should be stronger and take back control and present their own candidates. Trump seemed forced upon the GOP establishment.

But even so, the choice between Hillary and The Donald should have been seen as experience (Hillary) over ignorant bluster  (Trump).

Let’s look ahead to the mid terms and let’s hope that Democrats can get back in the game by taking one or both houses of congress. The GOP needs the competition in order to save the nation and itself.

p.s.

Impeachment and/or resignation of Trump I think is still a possibility but if you recall the Nixon affair took time. Nixon served a year and a half into his second term until the Watergate scandal proved too much.

Meanwhile we have the spectacle and extreme danger of a mad man at the controls with no one able to immediately do anything about it. The nonsense of the presidential tweets alone would seem enough to judge Trump in an unfit mental state to hold office and subject to removal under the 25th amendment. Swallow your pride Republicans and do something to save the nation. We’d all be proud and thankful to you for it.

 

 

 


Pollution and climate change be damned! We need jobs… (what good that will do once we spoil our nest I am not sure) …

June 2, 2017

And he made it sound so right and good.

I heard enough of President Trump’s speech on why he decided to withdraw the U.S. from the so-called Paris Climate Agreement to get the message that his justification is that it put an unfair burden on the U.S. while allowing other nations to continue on their polluting ways.

(Is this true? I don’t know.)

He further contended, I think I heard him say (I was cooking dinner and my computer audio is on the fritz — it goes in and out), that even so the U.S. will continue to be a leader in a clean environment, or something like that.

Is that why I see all the trash up and down the roadways? I just usually figure it was left by Trump voters and supporters (and probably liberals and all to be fair).

It does seem to me that the mainstream press has not done much to explain the Paris accords, or maybe that is just my lazy excuse for not becoming more informed.

Ultimately we cannot ignore environmental concerns just because we think taking corrective measures would eat into profits. For one thing, if we destroy our environment, profits will no longer be an issue. And for another, could it be the rest of the world will move beyond us in adapting to the environment and leave us behind, choking from our own inability to adapt?

And if those Paris accords are really unfair to us, why so? And could we take the lead or take back the lead we are about to abrogate or squander and renegotiate?

If I thought Trump et al. knew what they were doing I might say hooray!

I doubt that is the case.

For congressmen and all politicians it is easier to simply go along with lobbyists protecting their interests than to balance the good of the people as a whole and the concerns of certain sectors of the economy and job market. But real statesmen defer to the good of the people as a whole.

Statesmen are nearly extinct. They are an endangered species.

p.s.

Still searching for a story to explain this all to me, not in a partisan way, but in an objective manner.

 


We pay the most, field the most in NATO, and that has added to our power…

May 31, 2017

My personal take on NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is that it is a convenient cover for projecting United States power, plain and simple.

It gave us an excuse to install our own military bases in places such as Germany, Spain, and Italy after World War II, allowing us to have forward staging areas in our face-off with our ally (from World War II) turned enemy, the old Soviet Union.

A side benefit was that the Western European democracies got an almost free ride being relieved of the cost of maintaining strong national defenses of their own. In turn they were able to rebuild from the rubble of WWII, with the added help of our monetary assistance through the Marshall Plan.

So why were we willing all this time to let them slide? And yes, the European nations did (do) supply their own troops and equipment and some monetary contribution, but way below that of what the U.S. did. The answer is obvious. Since we paid the biggest bill, we held the most power.

Having those European bases came in handy when we needed to respond to crises in the Middle East, as an example.

But now President Trump has chastised member nations for not paying enough dues and although finally indicating continued U.S. membership in NATO, has previously questioned its relevance in the post Soviet world (of course Russia is still expansionist, particularly in bordering East Europe).

All I am saying is that I always figured NATO was just a convenient method for the U.S. to project or maintain its power.

Even though I am not big on interventionism, I continue to believe it is in the best interests of the United States to maintain its power.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned her European neighbors that they can no longer depend upon the United States alone.

Right now the economic power house in Europe is Germany. Germany is no longer militaristic (over time that could change), but is does take part with us in our Middle Eastern conflicts.

President Trump has criticized Merkel and Germany.

I personally think we ought to stay on Germany’s good side.

And there is an argument for dropping out of NATO, but we ought to consider what we will lose in the form of the strategic staging of our military forces.

As far as pressing other members of NATO to pay their fair share, well that is fine, but it could be done more quietly.

And why are we complaining about being king of the hill?

Sadly, under Trump, the U.S. is losing its status all over the world at this time.

The emperor has no clothes and there is no real method to his madness.