On flying the confederate flag…

July 15, 2020

There are far more important issues right now — or issue. I mean isn’t Covid-19 really the only public issue that matters right now? But President Trump, ever the demagogue looking for a phony wedge issue, has taken to defending the flying of the confederate flag as a freedom of speech issue.

However one piece I read said that he had said it ought to be retired to the museum when he was campaigning back in 2015. Well whatever he needs to say to whomever to get votes or stir up trouble and take the eye off the ball that is Covid-19 and his mismanagement of the only real crisis he has faced in his first term as president.

But it makes me think. I have always been puzzled by the popularity of the Stars and Bars.

But up until recently, I just took it all for granted, feeling that despite what it might ever have stood for it had become relatively harmless. Of course that is easy for me, I am not a black person whose ancestors were held in bondage by those who flew it long ago in the Civil War or the War Between the States, the latter being the popular name for it the old confederacy.

And why would I think that way? One might suspect me to be a closet racist. No, it is just how I learned about it all as a child in elementary and high school, as well as from my neighbors who were from Texas.

I should mention that as a little boy I asked my mom if we had any ancestors in the American Civil War. She told me that she was always told that in her family, who had roots in Ohio, there was a young man who served as a drummer boy in the Union forces. My dad’s side of the family also came out of the old Midwest, Illinois (Land of Lincoln).

But starting in elementary school when we learned about the Civil War, we were always taught that when Gen. Robert E. Lee finally surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, in a gesture of forgiveness and grace, the band struck up Dixie, the anthem of the old South.

And so I grew up with this weird dichotomy of the southern half of our nation having in the distant past broken away in rebellion over their claim to the right to hold humans in bondage, losing the war, but then going on to celebrate that good old antebellum culture on the old plantation with the slaves working the fields. Somehow we were supposed to put slavery out of our minds and just appreciate the genteel traditions of Dixie. I mean slavery is anathema to our Declaration of Independence — I would add our Constitution, except it had that clause that counted blacks (who were the slaves) as 3/5 of a person each for purposes of representation in congress (of course they could not even vote). And that was later changed by amendment after the Civil War and after the slaves were declared free.

But how is it that so many white people were killed in that war on the union side but then the slaves who were freed wound up facing racial discrimination not only in the South but the North and everywhere? Perhaps the issue is a tad more complex. But importing slaves, no matter what color or origin, was always a bad idea.

As a little boy I had a best friend on the block who was from Texas, the far western frontier of the old Confederacy. He glorified that old Stars and Bars. But it seemed to me it was more like rooting for the home team (as an aside, his big brother was the star quarterback of the high school football team). We were just little kids; we just played games, like army (Civil War? I don’t recall) and cowboys and Indians (whoops, that is another touchy subject these days).

Back during the Civil Rights protests of the 1950s and 60s, during my youth, I heard more than one displaced southerner in my neck of the woods lament that back where they came from black people were more polite — if you were walking on the same sidewalk, they would step off and let you by.

So, yes, I began to learn that there was a lot of prejudice and racism out there. I was not brought up that way — save that as a white person you tend to just accept some things, even when you don’t agree with them, as just part of life you cannot change. And I do not mean to suggest that is right.

But you know, even if it is legal to fly the Nazi swastika (and I am not up on the legality of that) I would instantly take umbrage with it or actually recoil at its sight (well I have seen the symbols displayed in various forms from time to time — I reject it entirely). How can one support the Hitler legacy which in effect enslaved an entire nation and saw millions murdered over racial and religious hatred? The whole world was threatened.

And how, I must ask myself, can one honor the Stars and Bars if it represents enslaving other human beings? Some will tell you, oh, no, it represents a culture, a heritage that goes beyond slavery. But I am not at all clear on what that might be.

On the other hand, it seems we have to let bygones be bygones. We have moved on, although not as much so in race relations as we might have thought.

It may well be time to put the Stars and Bars to rest, except in museums. I don’t want our history to be erased. I see that the state of Mississippi has decided to redo its flag, which has retained the Stars and Bars within its design. About time, the Civil War ended in 1865, even though for much of my youth I would hear the slogan from time to time: “The South will Rise Again”. Again, the attitude is almost like a sports rivalry with many I think. There is a serious racist element in there too, unfortunately.

As far as confederate monuments, maybe leave them alone, as long as taxpayers are not paying for their upkeep. Or maybe it should be just community decision. You can tear down a statue but you can’t change history.

And all those army posts named after confederate generals, a lot of folks did not realize that they were — I think the only one I immediately realized was Ft. Lee, Va. (just did not think about it). But serving in and even making a career out of the military is quite a Southern tradition. Should they be renamed. That’s up to the congress I guess. It does seem like a slap in the face to so many black people who are career military.

And this Stars and Bars and NASCAR thing. NASCAR has officially banned it from their sport, and that has to be culture shock, since so much of NASCAR is concentrated in the South. I’ll leave it to those folks to work it out.

Oh, and there was that inane TV comedy Dukes of Hazard with the Stars and Bars I believe displayed on the souped-up car named the “General Lee”. I did get a kick out of Boss Hogg.

I often see the Stars and Bars displayed in car and truck windows. I’m pretty sure it serves as more of an emblem of rebellion, often displayed by people who have no connection with the old confederacy. And sometimes it is likely just decoration with no real message intended — except that banner carries with it a message that cannot be erased no more than a chilling racial threat can be from the swastika.

And I’ve seen Gone with the Wind, said to be one of the greatest films of all time, but some say it glorifies the old South with its culture based on slavery. Heck I forget the plot, really, except for a spoiled, impetuous southern belle and a gallant soldier’s relationship with her.

Somehow one has to accept history as it is or was and then deal with the present and move on with the goal of racial harmony.

‐——————————————————————

NOTE: I refered to the Stars and Bars as the Confederate flag. I know there apparently was more than one flag used by the old confederacy but the one we all know is that Stars and Bars.


Ok, I won’t just claim all lives matter but if I have to reject my past, what’s left?

July 6, 2020

NOTE: the following may be a bit of a ramble, so I will try to condense here. Activists push just causes but get carried away. News and opinion are melded together in the press confusing the issues. But in the end the silent majority will have their say.


In the current social/political climate it is dangerous to say things or make observations based on common sense and what you have witnessed in your own life.

And now you must question our forefathers and great people of the past because they were living in a culture contrary to new standards, and also, they were less than perfect, even way less (but who is? perfect that is).

Right now, if you are white you are assumed by the culture police to be racist and to in fact to have been complicit in the violation of civil rights of minorities, even if you did nothing (I guess that is the point, you did nothing).

Who are the culture police? There is no formal group, but I guess they are influenced by or part of what we call the intelligentsia, that is professors, political scientists, editorial writers and the like.

Usually the so-called “media” is assessed the blame on this one. We used to call it “the press” but that term is outdated. We have a generation or two who virtually have never seen newspapers that came off a printing press. But if you count talk shows and opinion pieces, you see that the intelligentsia is part of the so-called media.

And since so few people actually read traditional newspapers most of the news of the day is consumed either by way of broadcast or digital presentations on the web, commonly accessed now by way of our phones.

Once upon a time, the news consumer could pick up a reputable newspaper and get the straight news and then thumb through to the opinion section to read various viewpoints. But now, as I have pointed out countless times previously, news reports and opinion pieces or presentations seem melded together. Rather than being presented an objective account of the news, we get something of a crafted interpretation, often missing attributions, as if things presented were just known fact. This style has carried over now into such publications as the New York Times (which I nonetheless still have some respect for because it seems still there is some effort at factual presentation). It is difficult to be objective in the age of Donald Trump because he just tells bald-faced lies or misinterprets things, deliberately likely or just from ignorance. Fact is not what concerns him.

So the media or the press is left with either pretending there could be truth to his words or assertions and just printing “he said” or telling it like it is: “he lied”. Seems disrespectful, but so is Trump.

To add to the confusion, the internet, from which the majority of the populace gets its information, is rife with pseudo news sites or propaganda masquerding as legitimate sources.

Someone told me that a young woman, who was apparently a follower of QAnon, some kind bizarre conspiracy thing from a far-right fringe, said she was supporting Trump because Hillary and other enemies of the people were still at it, running child sex rings or something like that. She claimed to have done extensive research on the subject, but declined to reveal her sources. Well I imagine you could indeed find anything to support any claim on the web. Which leads me to the question: how do people figure out what and whom to believe? In some cases I think it is what you want to believe and that is about as far as it goes.

And back to the intelligentsia: I want their input. Without it you tend to get one-dimensional, shallow thinkers who cannot handle complex issues, and cannot think beyond their own self interest. But that intelligentsia is not foolproof.

Yeah, we need the intelligentsia, but we also need the common folk to keep them in check. It’s kind of symbiotic thing. Each has its role.

But a point that I want to make here is that a person now cannot say something like”all lives matter”, one must say “black lives matter”. And I get the argument that a current issuse is police violence against black people, so when someone says all lives matter, specifically in reaction to the assertion that “black lives matter”, it sounds dismissive of the problem. In fact I get it so well now that I will try not to say “all lives matter” in that context for concern of being misunderstood. But, see, in admitting that, I think I have presented evidence that the culture police are having their effect.

The other day I saw a sign that read: “black lives matter too”. I thought that was clever. Or does the “too” put them in second place? I give up.

Having once been a newspaper reporter I don’t like the term “media” as it is used so often. It is used as a pejorative by people who think the news has a slant or just does not please them. And it is used as if there was just one central force or bureau who controlled the news (well until Fox came along and saved us all with its right-wing populist slant, that is really nothing more than a hook to grab audience share, without any regard to accuracy).

But media is the popular term. So anyway, call it media or journalism, the populace has gone to primarily getting its news electronically. On the airwaves the news media has for the most part gone full-blown Hollywood. Style over substance. Whereas the old three major TV networks (pre-cable and internet) presented news originally as a FCC-required public service and a money loser, although somewhat of a prestige builder, for decades now it’s been all about the money. It’s about giving the audience what they want to tune in to over what they should tune in to in order to base their opinions and understanding of the issues of the day.

But back to the culture police: we still have freedom of expression in this country I hope. That is from the Bill of Rights.

But if you are a person of stature or influence, you might have to think twice about voicing what is on your mind. If you are, say an opinion editor, a vice principal, or executive, you need to heed the dictates of the culture police. More than one journalist has been let go for running afoul of the culture police. Some news people have been let go for seeing more than one side of a story when it comes to black lives matter. A high school vice principal is under scrutiny for daring to suggest that some people who supposedly are the victims of what is known as “white privilege” actually benefit from social programs that seem to afford them comforts others must do without or work for. High level executives have been canned for not being politically correct.

Now sometimes, depending upon your position and depending upon your desire to not offend and your desire not to insult potential customers, it’s just best to keep your trap shut.

But are we a free society free to have and speak our own thoughts or must we cower before the culture police?

Most of us want to live in a society that provides civil rights equally. We want to be free from violence issued out by the police, as is so common in under-developed nations or totalitarian societies, and we don’t want to have people suffering and going hungry. But sometimes we notice things that may have something to do with causing or exacerbating problems in society. We need to be able, in a responsible way, to point these things out. But under the unforgiving eyes of the culture police we might be in for trouble if we do. So we keep silent.

But the silent majority still has the power of the secret ballot.

Those who would try to silence free thinking to get their way should think about appealing to that silent majority.

And are we to abandon our forefathers because some of them, George Wahington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves? Also, we know terrible things happened to the native peoples of our hemisphere after Christopher Columbus and the like dealt with them and sparked the immigration of white Europeans. So are we to abandon our past? Should we surrender and go back to Europe, where we are no longer from?

Tearing down statues is going to spark a rebellion among some and possibly many.

The silent majority will or could once again awaken.

Except don’t think that you know exactly who they are.

In past elections it seemed to be conservative to reactionary.

Would that bode well for President Trump? Maybe not.

A lot of people who can’t bring themsevles to admit in public that Trump is unfit for office and that he has totally collapsed under his first genuine crisis as president, Covid -19, nonetheless may not vote for him again. They are not blind; they just painted themselves into a corner.

If by some miracle the pandemic were to subside or be over prior to election, I’d almost bet money, almost, that the silent majority would give him another go.

But those who push an agenda that looks like transferring privilege from one group to another and that seeks to downgrade the need to work and to excell academically face the rath and disgust of, yup, the silent majority.

Sincere backers of civil rights need to consider the silent majority and get it on board.

p.s.

Somewhere in all of that I meant to insert that although the intelligentsia is usually seen as progressive or liberal, there is also a conservative branch, and within that a subset called neoconservatives. They published a think tank paper (a study) that proclaimed the United States needed a Pearl Harbor incident to awaken it so it could project its power in the Middle East, lest the terrorists took over. And by gosh, wouldn’t you know it? They got their Pearl Harbor, 9/11.

They managed to persuade a not-so-deep thinker George W. Bush to go to war, not in the country from where the attack originated but another one (well isn’t one Middle Eastern country much the same as another?). Bush was an easy mark in that he wanted to clean up his daddy’s mess. The elder Bush you may recall failed to actually go all the way in Iraq. At least daddy was a real war veteran. Son W. was not. He was essentially a Vietnam draft dodger — Air National Guard, failed to show up for meetings or practice the story goes. But as president he did don a flight suit and pretended to fly a jet and land it on a carrier. Little Bush’s attempt to prove himself and make up for daddy’s indecisiveness cost thousands of American lives in a quagmire and trillions of dollars.

I think the media was stung by the perception that its unfriendly coverage of another fiasco, Vietnam, led to the USA’s defeat there. So it went the other way in the Gulf wars, at least initially, acting as cheerleaders for the home team. That can be a good thing in sports but war is not sport or should not be.

And somewhere behind all of that was a supporting intelligentsia, maybe along with a not-supporting intelligentsia, thus muddling the effort.

So yes, I think we need the intelligentsia, but we also need an informed, not indoctrinated, group of common folk to keep a check on the big thinkers.

.


This all will likely pass, and more likely sooner than later, but we won’t notice exactly when…

June 17, 2020

I have this theory about the Covid-19 pandemic and probably I am not the only one to have it — in fact I imagine most people have it (to some degree, if that makes sense):

Yes, it’s real, and it is far worse and more deadly than the common flu, and it transmits so much easier than seemingly anything we have ever known — well that is partly why it is so deadly — but eventually it will fade, call it herd immunity or whatever. Lots of people, that is a whole lot more, will die, many may well have been reaching the end of the line anyway, due to their age and/or underlying conditions. In other words they were either old or just too sick to begin with. And I do not mean to be cold about this, and I do not relish the thought — hey I’m almost 71, and I have an underlying condition, an incurable (but inactive) cancer. I think my original oncologist told me essentially the cancer won’t really get me, it will be some other condition, but the cancer will be a thing that will contribute, making me more susceptible to disease — gee seems like then the cancer will or would be the culprit.

And I got off the main subject slightly as I am wont to do.

But anyway, people are going back to work or will go back. I never left, being a long-haul truck driver (yeah this is my retirement).

But as I said, people, and in too large of numbers maybe, will continue to die. But I notice the masks are coming off. Some people never put them on in the first place — and this is partly just where I live or spend most of my time — I know where my sister lives, in the San Francisco area, the masks are more ubiquitous or should I just say ubiquitous (not sure one can qualify that word — kind of like that silly expression “most unique”. It’s either one of a kind or not).

The Covid-19 deaths my well become accepted as, well, that’s life or that’s death. We accept car accidents. And most could have been prevented.

And some of the protective measures — all that plexiglass and, yes, the wearing of masks, may just become the norm or continue in some venues. I began seeing photos of Asians wearing masks, I think, particularly Chinese, in the late 1960s with Mao’s Cultural Revolution in what we used to call “Red China”.

But over time, and maybe not so long, the disease will fade away. And in addition a vaccine is in the works, and we all just read that a form of steroids has shown promise in treating severe cases in hospitals.

Or, this could be nature’s way of cleaning up the planet — killing off the polluters.

With the shutdown of the economies of the world, pollution levels have dropped drastically in many areas. But of course once production ramps up it will return, but maybe not to pre-pandemic levels. And that would be because thousands (millions?) of people and their employers have discovered that they can work from home and therefore do not have to commute every day. Say what you will about the inconvenience and even horrors of public transit, it is absurd that we waste so much energy to fuel vehicles built for multiple passengers often with only a single occupant going to and from work. And so many people work in one place but live hours away in another. Poor public planning policy. If mass transit is so bad and even unsafe, improve it.

Yes, I’m the lone driver in a big truck. But in my now almost a quarter of a decade in the bizz, I’ve seen fuel efficiency vastly improved. Yes I got off the main point again but let me finish on this one. You know what forced or did the most to force the trucking industry to move toward and actually get fuel efficiency? No, not government regulation (well not by itself), not anti-pollution devices, not even Willy Nelson’s biodiesel. It was price. Once fuel got too expensive on the free market, truckers, both owner-operators and companies themselves, knew they had to do something to survive. I am neither, being a company driver, but I came along for the ride, so to speak.

I can recall long-time independents, those boys who had huge horsepower engines in those long-nosed Peterbilts, telling me that just because they could speed up the hill doesn’t mean they would waste precious diesel to do it. It was that fuel spike a decade ago, I guess it was, when diesel shot past $5 per gallon that did the trick. Before that I would hear them say that driving slow, 55, would actually waste fuel, that their engines ran more efficiently when they drove faster. But they quit saying that after the price shot up so high. And I don’t really see too many these days driving down as low as 55, even where it is the law, although I think for a while a lot did or at least much slower than they had.

Well I don’t know how I make all that connect to my original point, except life and time is a progression. We move from one phase to another and it is sometimes hard to see where one started and particularly where one stopped.

(Yes, we do know when this one began, about four months ago — or was it really a lot earlier?— but when will it end?)

Now I will really go far afield, but when did it become the norm to have single-parent households or mom working away from home? In my lifetime but off the top of my head I could not tell you the year it all began, it just moved in that direction and we all got used to it (regardless of whether we accepted it).

Bottom line, this pandemic will pass, more likely sooner than later, but we may not be able in the future to identify the time at which it quit being considered a crisis.

Or human kind has seen the beginning of the end.

Take your pick. I choose survival.

p.s.

Please don’t construe this as me being blasé about the pandemic. I am not. Just hoping for the best. And I try to take reasonable precautions.


Fear of cuffs seems to prompt resistance, then death…

June 14, 2020

Just wanted to add some new information (new to me) on the Atlanta shooting of a black man by police now in the news.

A New York Times updated account says the victim was cooperative with police until they tried to put the cuffs on him.

I think I could begin to understand this now. He was only suspected of being intoxicated, and he had been reportedly sleeping in his car, blocking a Wendy’s drive-thru.

Are cuffs necessary for these things?

I realize it is police procedure. Maybe it needn’t be.

Just a few days ago I heard a syndicated radio talk show host describing his fairly brief experience as a highway patrolman. He said people just don’t like to be handcuffed. That is the point at which they frequently become combative. And he didn’t say black people, just people.

I’m not likely to comment much more on this.

But now I feel I have a little better understanding of the man’s resistance.

Now I have to figure out the reason behind the use of lethal force and when it is justified and how police can make these decisions in fast-moving situations, which this one appeared to be, unlike what appeared to be the slow motion execution of the black man in Minneapolis.


Lethal reaction to resisting arrest should be avoided, but police need to have authority…

June 14, 2020

And now I’ve seen a second video presentation of the most recent killing of a black man by a a white policeman (same incident, in Atlanta, Ga). It seems to more clearly show what happened.

The man scuffled with two officers who had given him a sobriety test and broke loose after apparently grabbing one of the officers’ stun guns. One officer gave chase, firing his stun gun I believe. The man turned briefly and fired the swiped stun gun back at the pursuing officer. The officer then drew his service weapon and fired several shots, that proved to be fatal.

Would a white person suffer the same fate? I have no idea on this one. But the accepted narrative now is no.

Should the man have been shot? No, I don’t think so.

But I don’t think the idea that one should resist arrest and expect no consequences if he can be strong enough to take on the police should be promoted.

In this case one might say that the worst that might have happened had the man got away is that there would have been someone running around with a stolen police stun gun.

So, do we want police officers to have the power to enforce the law? If not, then we don’t need them.

And the Wendy’s where this happened was later burned down. How that helps the situation, assuming it was torched in reaction to the incident, I don’t know (except maybe the mob threat of violence to stop violence, but that seems likely to beget a dangerous and counterproductive backlash).

Yes, police need to concentrate on non-lethal methods of enforcement, but in the heat of the moment it is difficult and dangerous for officers to figure out what to do. The man might have been armed it occurs to me. I’m not sure the officers were ever able to ascertain whether the man was armed, although apparently he was not.

My original post on this follows:

There seems to be two main problems or facets to deadly confrontations with police.

One, lethal force as the go-to option for police facing resistance from suspects, and two, resisting itself.

How resisting arrest can ever seem like a good idea is beyond me.

But it also seems clear there must be found another option than a police officer firing a gun at someone. Unlike on TV or the movies, you don’t shoot to wing someone — all shootings can be lethal, and generally they are meant to be.

No person can argue about the need for an officer to take down, say, a gunman on the loose, one who is likely to kill people. Unfortunately, so many incidents are police using deadly force involving non-violent crimes.

As I write this, another black man has been killed by police, this time in Atlanta, Ga. His alleged crime, having his car parked in a drive-thru at Wendy’s while he may have been sleeping off a drunk. Details are still being sorted out.

But from what is known, two officers scuffled with him as they were trying to effect an arrest. A video shows the man resisting and running away. He reportedly had one of the officer’s taser. One officer ran after him. I have not seen any video of the final moments, but the end result was that an officer shot the man dead. Except possibly for a taser, the slain man was unarmed as far as has been reported.

I also read that as officers arrived at the scene several citizens jumped out of their cars and began taking videos with their phones.

While I am aghast at yet another police killing of a black man over a minor incident, the cynical part of me wants to say: yeah those people want the police to do something awful so that they can criticize. I hope I am wrong.

What are police to do? They get a call but then what?

We would have to know all the details here:

For one, was it necessary to attempt or to make an arrest over a minor crime or incident? And, are the officers given any other option?

Again, why do people resist arrest, and should they not expect a negative outcome as a result?

Or is compliance with the law and directions by police officers simply a discretionary option for some folks?

Even so, I do believe black people may well generally face more danger when confronted by police than do white people under like circumstances.

It should go without saying that all of this needs to be sorted out and quickly. We have reached the boiling point I think.

The police need more non-lethal tactics in their work. But if we hamstring the police in their most dangerous job, we will have a difficult time finding anyone who will want to be a police officer.

Those who make policy and those who direct police bear the most responsibility.

All of society is affected by this deadly turmoil, but it is the black community who bears the brunt.

The only hope here is that all of the rest of us are being forced to not look away and therefore one would hope that there would be a new awakening. Some evidence indicates there is.

But until we can get this settled we need to promote the idea of cooperating with civil authority. But I agree we can’t cooperate with an authority that sees violence as the only tool.


Why are police so quick to shoot? Why do people resist arrest?

June 14, 2020

There seems to be two main problems or facets to deadly confrontations with police.

One, lethal force as the go-to option for police facing resistance from suspects, and two, resisting itself.

How resisting arrest can ever seem like a good idea is beyond me.

But it also seems clear there must be found another option than a police officer firing a gun at someone. Unlike on TV or the movies, you don’t shoot to wing someone — all shootings can be lethal, and generally they are meant to be.

No person can argue about the need for an officer to take down, say, a gunman on the loose, one who is likely to kill people. Unfortunately, so many incidents are police using deadly force involving non-violent crimes.

As I write this, another black man has been killed by police, this time in Atlanta, Ga. His alleged crime, having his car parked in a drive-thru at Wendy’s while he may have been sleeping off a drunk. Details are still being sorted out.

But from what is known, two officers scuffled with him as they were trying to effect an arrest. A video shows the man resisting and running away. He reportedly had one of the officer’s taser. One officer ran after him. I have not seen any video of the final moments, but the end result was that an officer shot the man dead. Except possibly for a taser, the slain man was unarmed as far as has been reported.

I also read that as officers arrived at the scene several citizens jumped out of their cars and began taking videos with their phones.

While I am aghast at yet another police killing of a black man over a minor incident, the cynical part of me wants to say: yeah those people want the police to do something awful so that they can criticize. I hope I am wrong.

What are police to do? They get a call but then what?

We would have to know all the details here:

For one, was it necessary to attempt or to make an arrest over a minor crime or incident? And, are the officers given any other option?

Again, why do people resist arrest, and should they not expect a negative outcome as a result?

Or is compliance with the law and directions by police officers simply a discretionary option for some folks?

Even so, I do believe black people may well generally face more danger when confronted by police than do white people under like circumstances.

It should go without saying that all of this needs to be sorted out and quickly. We have reached the boiling point I think.

The police need more non-lethal tactics in their work. But if we hamstring the police in their most dangerous job, we will have a difficult time finding anyone who will want to be a police officer.

Those who make policy and those who direct police bear the most responsibility.

All of society is affected by this deadly turmoil, but it is the black community who bears the brunt.

The only hope here is that all of the rest of us are being forced to not look away and therefore one would hope that there would be a new awakening. Some evidence indicates there is.

But until we can get this settled we need to promote the idea of cooperating with civil authority. But I agree we can’t cooperate with an authority that sees violence as the only tool.


UPDATE:

Saw a second video that appeared to show the victim being shot, as he was running away and possibly after pointing what may have been a taser back at police. But I personally could still not make out what was happening. While I positively think deadly force appeared not to be the appropriate action I think we all have a responsibility to figure out what power our officers of the law need. You have to ask yourself and answer honestly: what would you as an officer have done? Officers who simply let people go would surely be the subject of ridicule and scorn.


Staffers take over opinion at major newspaper; lines between reporting and opinion blurred…

June 10, 2020

Contemporary American journalism has blurred the difference between so-called straight news, just facts, when available, and a balance of commentary, on one side, and unvarnished opinion, with assertions presented as evidence to support it, on the other side.

At some time in the past, I think decades ago when I was in college, the first time, newspapers (the old-fashioned ones on real paper with columns of print) presented accounts of the news of the day, generally referred to as simply “news stories”, and on one page or section, often labeled as “Opinion”, they presented points of view, not encumbered by rules of balance (although hopefully based on facts, rather than a big lie).

On the national scale at least, that seems to be all but gone.

While I still cling to the New York Times as presenting a more balanced approach to news, I see it has bent with the prevailing wind. Its headlines and story content often read like the left-wing answer to the misnomer that is the right wing Fox News’ slogan “fair and balanced”.

It’s so bad that the Times cowered under the pressure of news reporters whose senses were disturbed at a differing opinion from a right wing Republican senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

I read his piece, published digitally in the Times as an opinion piece.

I did not fully agree with his take, but, hey, he put in his two cents. One can judge it on its merits. Did he support his assertions? not with strong evidence I think, but that’s my opinion.

But the end result was that some of the news staff rebelled and the higher ups wound up disowning the opinion piece the paper had actually asked Sen. Cotton to write. They then moaned that they were sorry they ever asked for it and ran it. It had been supposedly edited for facts, but some senior editors apparently copped to not doing their job. Result: the opinion section editor resigned under pressure and his underling was demoted to the news room. Back to the beat.

As I am getting it, in this new age, unbiased reporting is seen as in fact biased, as a trick to preserve the status quo. You must report with a point of view.

Furthermore you simply need to report what is, rather than a sterile he said, she said tale.

But what is can be illusive. If you’re past, say 40, have you not seen that what you always thought you knew is maybe not square with reality? If you never have, maybe you’ve just had your eyes closed.

Personally, at almost 71, I want to read all angles and then I’m ready to read opinion pieces and see whether my views are validated or whether I actually might need to change my thinking.

But balanced reporting can be tough, and no good reporter should have to simply type “he said” when Donald Trump spouts off a bald-faced lie or unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, such as an old man protestor who was apparently, as seen on video, shoved to the ground by police, was in reality a set-up by a radical group.

Even so, there is a reason for the old-time rules of writers of straight news staying away from outright advocacy by the writer and that require attribution to assertions put forth.

But the Times, although far from perfect, has been such a stalwart in journalism. It’s losing its glow, but who else is there?

I have my doubts about a news organization run by the rank and file. What is it? A collective, the new Pravda, the mouthpiece of the old Soviet Communist Party in what has reverted back to Russia.

I’d prefer a clear dividing line between news and opinion. And reporters should report and opinion page authors opine.

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Senator Cotton too young to recall lesson of Kent State; peace is the answer

June 9, 2020

The extremes in politics and public policy are facing off almost like never before.

On the one hand you have the call to send in the military to quell disturbances over the George Floyd incident and on the other a call to essentially do away with police departments, and either to recreate them in some other form or, frankly, I do not know what. It seems vague at this time.

Sending in the troops on its face seems like a bad idea. Trouble is, a lot of folks who might advocate that today are too young to recall Kent State. Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is a strong advocate for sending in troops. But he was not even born yet when 13 unarmed college students were gunned down by National Guard troops at Kent State, Kent, Ohio, in 1970 during Vietnam protests. Four of the students were killed and nine wounded.

There could be a time, however, when sending in military troops would be appropriate as a last-ditch measure. But people disobeying a curfew or peacefully protesting in the wrong place is not one.

And then, one might ask, what if protestors or someone begins throwing rocks? Well I think that is what happened at Kent State. Troops opened fire, rightfully? I don’t know. But no one could have been satisfied with the outcome. Well except that and other things, i.e. the Mai Lai massacre, turned the silent majority against the war.

But back to the present: the slogans or calls to “defund” or “disband” the police do not seem realistic to me, except that I have to realize that it is more of a pressure tactic than anything else. And it is catching on. I think LA mayor Gil Garcetti got the ball rolling by deciding to cancel a budget increase for LA police and move the money into social programs. He did this under pressure of the Black Lives Matter movement, which itself is getting words of support from white Americans and others worldwide.

The power of seeing Mr. Floyd choked to death with a policeman’s knee on his neck sent a visual message hard to ignore. And it must be noted Mr. Floyd was unarmed, not resisting as far as anyone can tell, and was simply suspected of passing a phony $20 bill (suspected, I emphasize, and if so, did he even know it?).

I have to believe that most people, of all races and political persuasions, don’t want to do away with police departments, but rather change their tactics and above all weed out bad, violent cops.

Rules that protect bad cops backed by the police unions seem to stand in the way of reform.

Police unions, in the wake of the Floyd protests, are beginning to lose support of even Republican law and order types, according to some observers.

The unions need to win public favor back by becoming strong advocates of police reform.

With some cops and police chiefs and sheriff’s joing ranks with Black Lives Matter protestors, there is evidence the police themselves want to change their image.

We don’t want to lose our police and the police don’t want to lose their jobs.

And back to using force, by police or troops: force ought to be reserved for use against those actively engaged in violence, looting, and other and felonious acts.

It puzzles me why police seem to go after folks who are not threatening them, except perhaps with words or looks, if that.

Sometimes there is a halfway ground between simple protest and violent protest. And I imagine that is often where the trouble begins.

I can only say that the authorities have to be ready to act but willing to hold their fire as long as possible.

But I will also say that I give no support and hold no sympathy for those who would destroy public and private property and commit other violence.

Peaceful protest, sustained protest, and perhaps some non-violent public disobediance, will gain more lasting change I believe.


Why was George Floyd pulled out of the police car?

June 6, 2020

After a week of seeing photos and a few pieces of video of the confrontation with George Floyd in Minneapolis that led to his death I am perplexed as to why police officers felt he had to be pinned down.

Today I finally found time to watch a compilation of videos and parts of a police report with explanation about what happened when. I know this was only one take on it, but the main points seem to be without question, except for: why?

There are several videos. No one video shows the whole story, but it appears that they had Floyd in the back of a patrol car at one point, but then he is drug back out. One officer then puts his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. I could not see, but some observers say other officers also at times put their knees on his neck.

Floyd in all of this is pleading that he can’t breathe. One officer retorts that if he is talking he is breathing. Not so, I have read lately. You can have your breathing obstructed, yet talk.

But from what I could see, despite whether Mr. Floyd was cooperative, officers managed to get cuffs on him and get him into a police car. No real strong resistance and threat can be seen from Mr. Floyd.

And again, why was he removed from the patrol car?

What makes this all the more senseless is that Mr. Floyd was suspected of buying cigarettes with a phony $20 bill.

It hardly seems like something worth a man’s life. The man looked like he may not have been in a condition to explain things to officers. They should have requested medical assistance for him before he was apparently killed by both their actions and inactions, their careless and brutal behavior toward him and then failure to get medical help quickly enough.


Violence gets attention but the wrong kind; police reform urgently needed…

June 6, 2020

Most people, of all races, I believe, that if not out there with the George Floyd protestors are sympathetic to the cause. But any violence associated with the protests turns a lot of people off.

And more than one social observer has opined that the violence associated with civil rights demonstrations of the past, such as in the 1960s, is the reason we are still faced with racial injustice.

That violence so repelled the white so-called silent majority that over time various bits of civil rights legislation and programs were cut back or repealed.

I have always thought that the violence and looting was or is done primarily by those simply using civil rights as a cover for their lawlessness.

However, today, even among those who call for only peaceful demonstrations, there are some who have maintained that to some degree the violence has its place. They maintain it is the only way to make white people do more than shake their heads at police brutality against black people and others who are not white. Sadly there might be a kernel of truth there. And that is a shame. I mean this is 2020, and we still have police beating and killing black people, as was done decades ago, and after landmark civil rights legislation.

Why? we must ask, why police act the way that they do at times. Well for one thing there is often some slight or overt provocation, everything from words, from refusal to obey police commands, to actual armed or threatened armed resistance. And at other times there is no provocation, the record sadly shows. But if we are fair, we must realize that even with cell phone cameras and body cameras, not all of what took place is caught. There are the factors of camera angles and what the lens picks up. Also, when did the recording begin and when did it stop?

But even with the afore-mentioned cautions, it seems that the evidence is more than clear police in general use heavy-handed tactics with black people more than with whites (although I have not researched the evidence on this).

Those who administer police agencies really need to rethink tactics and attitudes.

A major, major problem we are finding out is police unions have pushed through regulations that apparently make it difficult to weed out bad cops.

When George Floyd is killed by a policeman who has 17 complaints against him with virtually no action taken I think that sufficiently provides evidence there has to be transparency. There is not as it stands now.

We often have to wonder why otherwise good cops hold back or even go along with bullying and murderous cops. I suspect they feel they have little choice. The bad cop is not going anywhere, protected as he is by an opaque so-called disciplinary system. And the good cop is reluctant to call out someone he (or she) may need for backup in a dangerous encounter on the mean streets

And, yes, there is just blatant racism too.

But the violence and looting that comes along with rightful demonstrations against police brutality must be condemned and guarded against.

Ironically the burning and looting hurts or destroys black-owned businesses or those operated by other non-white people along with white-controlled ones. And it hurts neighborhoods where the aggrieved citizens live.

But I, myself, can only hope that this time around there will be more than just words of sympathy and solidarity. We need concrete action.

Oh, and in all of this police are taking a lot of criticism, but we all must remember that some day or night we may need their assistance. Who will ever want to be a cop if he or she knows that all of his or her authority has been removed and self defense or defense of others is out? We have to be fair and logical and practical in police reform.

But we need police reform now.

We want police who will follow the law and respect the rights of all people. But we at the same time need individuals who can think fast and are capable of facing life and death situations that could turn into a threat to all of us.

And, it occurs to me that when a beat cop acts wrongly his or her superiors must be held accountable and not conveniently hide behind the excuse that officer records are secret.