Seems we want police to use deadly force to save us but not themselves, but there needs to be an alternative to killing…

March 31, 2018

Let’s face it, being a policeman is a dangerous and often thankless job.

But that of course does not excuse reckless or unprofessional behavior.

On the one hand, we castigate a policeman who would hang back while people are being killed (the recent Florida high school massacre) and on the other hand laud the heroic action of a policeman who shoots and kills an armed attacker (the recent school shooting in Maryland).

But there are riots in Sacramento after officers shot and killed a suspect, purportedly fearing for their own lives and deciding to shoot first and ask questions later, perhaps fearing that if they didn’t take action first they wouldn’t be around to ask the questions.

While I certainly don’t know all the facts and will never know really because I was not there I do have a lot of opinions about the killing of Stephon Clark, a young black man in Sacramento, at the hands of police. The incident occurred on March 18, 2018.

And I wrote that last paragraph a day or so ago but realized I did not know enough to really post anything on this. And maybe I still don’t.

But the most important point is that there just must be an alternative orĀ  option away from deadly force. And all my other thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience among the races, are almost beside the point.

It appears that the young man was unarmed. All he had was a cell phone. But in the dark of night, perhaps, someone thought he had a gun and was pointing it at officers. And he had been running away from officers who were pursuing him as a suspect in car break-ins that had just been occurring, it was reported (I’m not even sure on that). The officers were aided in the search by a police helicopter.

But someone, a voice (you can hear on the body cam tapes), says “gun..” and then 20 — yeah 20, shots were fired. Mr. Clark died as a result. No gun was found.

While the official autopsy has not been released, the family of the slain man had their own private autopsy done and its results have been released. According to it, of the 20 shots fired, eight hit the victim, the first at least to the front of his body but most in the back. The theory put forward is that the initial shot or shots spun the victim around.

But 20 shots? It sure seems like overdoing it to me. And if they could not see whether he had a gun or not, how could they possibly justify the shots? All those shots.

So it was a mistake. But why do these “mistakes” happen disproportionately to young black men? That is the news we get.

(I understand one of the officers who confronted Clark was black. And the Sacramento police chief is identified as black.)

Well I could think of all kinds of reasons for the mistake or the jumping to conclusions, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that there needs to be an alternative to shoot first and ask questions later.

In this case there is the troubling situation in which for some reason officers at some point turned off the audio on the body cameras. I think this was after they realized a terrible mistake was made.

Also, so someone thinks they see a gun. Why couldn’t the officers take a defensive position and yell “drop the gun”? I know, if the man really had a gun he might just shoot before anyone could do anything.

And do we want Barney Fife-like officers who would cower in the face of armed danger?

A former Sacramento County sheriff has a talk show on radio. While he admitted it was a tragedy he felt it should be pointed out that Mr. Clark had a rap sheet that included two armed robberies and other crimes, while being careful to also note that still that does not justify his killing.

(I am fairly sure the officers had no idea who they were confronting.)

I personally have heard reports on this story on the radio and on television (via my computer) and read them on the print media (via computer of course) and do not feel I have all the facts. Even the police video is not clear. I mean I think the assumption is that the victim had been breaking into cars and may have tried to break a window of a house. He was eventually shot in the backyard of what was described has his grandparents’ home (again the police apparently did not know his connection with the place). And one report said something about his grandmother had told family members to knock on the back window if they did not have a key. All very confusing.

But the important thing here remains the fact that there is a continuing problem of what appear to be unjustified police shootings and they seem to fall disproportionately on black people, and more precisely on young black men, although I also heard statistics to suggest that something like 44 percent of police shootings nationwide are in error and all races are victims.

I was disappointed with a PBS Newshour report on the incident I watched. They seemed to ignore the victim’s criminal background and the black news correspondent used a leading question when she asked the black family lawyer of the victim what he thought of “white people” who say Stephon Clark should have complied with police orders to give himself up.

(The form the question took seemed to imply white people show their bias when they ask a logical and reasonable question. Asking that question does not automatically mean or even suggest one is racist or bigoted.)

While not complying with police orders does not justify a killing in and of itself — it was part of the situation that cannot be left out in the explanation of what happened. If you do leave it out, then you must not want all the facts that could lead to a solution of the problem.

Law-abiding citizens, no matter their race, know it is never a good idea not to comply with police orders. And I think non-law abiding citizens know this too most of the time — but they are risk takers.

The risk is not worth it.

But let’s find an alternative to deadly force to be used where it can be used.

 

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So far, the description of thuggery the only important news out of the Stormy Daniels affair…

March 26, 2018

There’s really not much immediate or new news out of the Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes Sunday evening as far as I can see, which is not to say there is no news somewhere in all that tawdry mess.

Maybe one exception might be her assertion that her life was threatened while she was diapering her baby in a parking lot and we are to assume it was by a thug in the employ of Donald Trump or his organization. She admits she did not report it to the police. She was scared, she said. And that is understandable. And we just are left to take her at her word.

She sounded reasonably intelligent and articulate (articulate enough), except I personally did not quite get what her position is. She claims on the one hand she’s not in all of this for the money and then in the same breath asks who would not take the money if offered — she took a paltry $130,000 to keep quiet about her liaisons with a billionaire, but she has not exactly kept quiet. I think she has claimed the other side did not either (not sure, it’s confusing). She through her lawyer claims the agreement was not valid anyway, but I am sure that is something that would have to be sorted out in court.

She claims she had sex with Trump only once but met with him several times under the enticement of getting TV time or something. She is in the porn movie business herself.

Oh, and one reason she gives for talking is that she wants to maintain her reputation. What reputation is there to maintain? Her work seems to be essentially prostitution, if not directly prostitution.

(She has gotten a lot of publicity out of it all, that is for sure — don’t know the value of it or how long it is good for.)

Well also if she is to be believed we got the conformation that Trump does not have a strong marriage (not surprising). In some respects that is entirely the business of he and his current wife. But it kind of becomes all of our business in that he aligns himself with and in some ways protects himself with the banner of the self-righteous religious right.

There is some talk that all of these shenanigans might be grist for the ongoing Russia investigation and that they point to campaign irregularities. The hush money paid to Daniels some consider an in kind campaign contribution because his lawyer claims he paid it out of his own pocket to protect his client. All that seems non-sensical to me, except it is interesting to me that the representative of the make America Great self-righteous crowd has to pay hush money to a woman from the world of porn. Not surprising, is it?

I admit all of this has me a bit confused as to its serious newsworthiness.

But going back to a thug accosting Miss Daniels (I know that is her stage name and I forgot her real name and don’t care at the moment, and wait, now I have found it — her name is Stephanie Clifford), now that is serious. If it ever could be tied to Trump then to me that would be a reason for him to be removed from office — hopefully not by a drawn out trial but just him stepping aside and getting out of our lives.

Partisans bend over backwards to make apologies for the man. I’m glad I don’t have their burden.

 


The new reactionary answer to gun control: learn CPR…

March 26, 2018

The response from the reactionary right to school shootings has been primarily shoot back.

And now erstwhile Senator and Republican primary presidential candidate Rick Santorum adds that students would be better served by “learning CPR” than getting what he calls “phony gun laws” passed.

To be charitable maybe I should say that perhaps Santorum has been so shocked by his electoral losses — lost his senate seat in a landslide and failed in his presidential bid — that he has been reduced to such babble.

And that is not to say that CPR training would not be valuable. I suppose everyone who is able to should get it. And I have to agree “phony” gun laws would be useless. But I had thought thousands of youth across the nation were demonstrating for genuine legislation to limit the availability of certain mass killing weapons and to help curb the proliferation of mass shootings, such as the recent one in Florida where 17 students were killed and several people wounded.

(And in recent years there has been a rash of mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut, where 20 children between 6 and 7 were murdered along with six adults.)

As loony as I think Santorum’s rant was I fear it may represent the attitude of hard-core gun rights folks who will defy all reason and common sense safety concerns to protect everyone’s right to build a deadly arsenal of any weapons he or she chooses. This precious right takes precedence over public safety.

But yes, if we are to do nothing to change the existing situation then we better learn that CPR and to shoot back with our AR-15s.

More level heads can see that the Second Amendment can be left alone and at the same time we can take reasonable safety measures.

But I wonder if the gun lobby is scared of the power of youth, and I wonder if the conservative political establishment is scared of youth way beyond the gun issue into politics in general.

Perhaps they had never counted on young people paying attention and getting into action themselves.

Oh, and Santorum said something that seems incomprehensible to me. He criticized youth for asking someone else (lawmakers) to do something for them rather than taking action for themselves (like learning that CPR).

But as I understand it while not in office Santorum as an adult has made his living by asking lawmakers to do things for special interests, such as the gun lobby, so his criticism of the protesting youth makes no sense whatsoever.

It may be that his nonsense was just for the shock value to drive up ratings; I understand he is under the employ of CNN to be a commentator.

I continue to be at least a luke warm supporter of the Second Amendment as a uniquely American thing that does protect the liberty of citizens to protect themselves, as well as to hunt and target practice. We do not sacrifice our liberty to government. But even our Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives, has thus far held that the Second Amendment has reasonable limits.

We can take measures to protect our children from gun violence and do not have to simply depend upon them learning CPR to save their classmates and a teacher reaching into his or her desk drawer to blast away at an armed intruder while children get caught in the crossfire.

p.s.

I agree with a CNBC commentator who criticized CNN for hiring Santorum to spew such drivel. I think this goes beyond free speech into an irresponsible presentation masquerading as a serious view on an issue. What is this? Fox News?

 

 

 


U.S. foreign policy: tough is good, threats not so much…

March 25, 2018

I see nothing wrong with America standing tough necessarily, it’s the unnecessary and potentially dangerous and self-defeating bluster or threats that are the problem.

Of course it is necessary from time to time to state the U.S. position — so do it in civil but forthright language and then shut up.

As much as I detest the very idea let alone the reality of Donald Trump being president, I am not so sure but what I don’t agree with him that the Iran nuclear deal was a poor one. I say that because as I understand it the agreement does not forbid that nation from developing nuclear weapons ever and there are not strong enough safeguards to prevent Iran from cheating and in fact Iran is probably cheating (although some say it is not, but how do we know since Iran limits where inspectors can go?). And, any nation that threatens to wipe another one off the face of the earth, as Iran has against Israel, should not have a nuclear weapon (well that might eliminate the U.S. with Trump as president, i.e., his threats of fire and fury against North Korea). And I agree on a tough stance against North Korea since it duped the U.S. into thinking it was not developing a nuclear arsenal.

Also, we (the United States) do not have to flatter Vladimir Putin of Russia (even though Trump eagerly did so) in order to work with him. I think I am correct in saying that his nation has the largest nuclear capability that might be used against us. So, we work with him where we can and where it is to our interests. But we don’t have to congratulate him on his victory in sham election. We just accept it.

And as anyone should know, threats can lead to being called on a threat — now waddayado? You might be forced into unwise action or be humiliated by not answering and thereby emboldening your enemy and bringing on dangerous actions that might not have otherwise occurred.

The president’s surprise appointment of noted war Hawk John Bolton as national security advisor and the ousting of the more moderate and diplomatic Gen. H.R. McMaster from the job at first seems rattling — but maybe give it a chance. Although since it is said that Bolton was one of the main proponents for the terribly misguided and ill-fated Iraq War, it could be dangerous in that it is said Trump often acts on information from the last person he spoke with.

And of course he ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson because he was too diplomatic I guess — oh, and no doubt because Tillerson referred to his boss (Trump) as a “moron”. I guess Tillerson suffered a lapse in diplomacy or that there is no such thing as a private conversation these days. And sometimes telling it like it is can be counterproductive.

Trump has proposed another war hawk for Secretary of State, CIA director Mike Pompeo.

So the prevailing thought is that diplomacy is out the window and raw power in.

To me, although it is a shame that previous administrations sat by and let North Korea build its military nuke capabilities, the thing to do now is to simply make it plain that we will do any and everything possible to defend ourselves — with the implication but not necessarily outright declaration that everything includes preemptive action. Don’t worry that North Korea or any other foe might not believe us — actions speak louder than words. Just try us (but I don’t mean we should dare them to try us — that might needlessly provoke an attack).

I think all the tough talk is more for domestic politics than for actual foreign policy. Trump feels he can retain his base with bluster. After all it got him the presidency.

Nuclear proliferation is a vexing problem. We let the genie out of the bottle with our Manhattan Project in World War II (but if we had not the Germans might well have or someone else would have eventually).

During the Cold War the world’s two superpowers of the time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, kept things in check by mutually-assured destruction. Neither side really wanted to use the terrible power. Only the U.S. has ever used it, and as devastating and horrid and inhuman as it was (the two drops on Japan) with modern capabilities it would likely destroy all life on earth or something almost to that degree. But now we have other lesser nations with nuclear capabilities and ones attempting or considering nuclear arms development — and who is to keep them in check?

Probably there has to be an agreement — probably one that goes unsaid — between the U.S. and Russia and I suppose China that it is in all of our interests to control this nuclear threat to the best of our abilities. Back in the day the old Soviet Union (now Russia) had its part of the world, itself and the Soviet Bloc nations of Eastern Europe, and the U.S., along with the Western allies, basically had the rest of the world. It’s a lot more complicated now, to say the least. We have to do what we can.

And just some thoughts: What do I know? As much as Mr. Trump at least. And probably more since I read and I consider the thoughts of others and I realize that I can always be wrong.

p.s.

It is feared by some that Trump is assembling a war cabinet. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail in congress and that congress takes back its constitutional duty to be the ultimate authority on declaring wars. And while I am at it, I would suggest that although the U.S. supposedly has not officially declared a war since WWII, in reality most or all of its battles since have been waged with some type of declaration or action by congress that is tantamount to one or in reality is one — subject for another blog post no doubt.

 

 


Trump behaving like a cornered rat…

March 18, 2018

Nixon had his Watergate and Trump is having his Russiagate and it could end the same. Not a new thought I realize. But not just a hopeful one from a Trump disliker (hate is such an ugly word and it reminds me of Trumpism). With Trump calling for the special counsel on the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, to end it all, the investigation that is, and the hint he might fire him, Nixon style, the end of the Trump nightmare presidency seems nigh.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham said dismissing Mueller would be “the beginning of the end of his presidency”. And Graham supports the Trump presidency, albeit sometimes reluctantly. He used to call Trump crazy and may still in private (but you know he is under pressure to support the team).

And I do realize that ever since Trump assumed office his imminent demise as president has been predicted only to be confounded.

And something else not original, the last paragraph of my last post:

<<Mr. Trump: Richard Nixon found that even though he was president he was not above the law. Hopefully you will find out the same. Right now you have your GOP enablers who are scared of you but are trying to make the best of things by using your cover to at least get some of what their fat cat contributors demand. But when the long arm of the law catches you they will desert you.>>

What’s got Trump bugged (well wrong choice of words, he claimed Obama bugged his campaign, didn’t he?) is that Mueller is now going after Trump’s personal business records. Trump may have no shame about consorting with prostitutes or porn stars (there’s a difference?) but he does not want to share with the world his questionable business practices. I mean we know a lot about them, but the actual records?

I opined in one recent post that in some ways the ongoing investigation dragging on through the Trump presidency could be seen as unfair and I think I was trying to say that it could set a dangerous precedent if forces counter to a president could interfere with a presidency by questionable investigations that turn up little to nothing. Actually we have already seen that movie — White Water on the Clintons. And in my last post I opined as how the FBI is right to investigate politicians but should not become part of the political intrigue itself. But I also closed the post with that paragraph I repeated in this post (above).

With all the staff dismissals and talk or threats of dismissals and the constant mad tweets, Trump acts as if he is a cornered rat.

After Nixon went down he was able to rehabilitate his image over the course of many years. I know I think better of him after reading about his upbringing and his life. But he let power go to his head, and he convinced himself that he had the right and the power to do things that for other people would be considered breaking the law. I believe he convinced himself that he was carrying out his patriotic mission. And maybe he did have a touch of evil in him (I cannot know).

It is hard to imagine Trump would be able to rehabilitate himself — there is just nothing to work with.

p.s.

And then there are people who are willing to forgive or at least overlook Trump’s terrible, uncivil, boorish behavior, and his trampling of accepted norms and his disruption of the very stability of our government as a tradeoff for some greater good, a greater good that I cannot possibly identify. If you are one of those people I cannot expect to interest you in anything I have to say — apparently our brains are wired differently. And as for the evangelicals who support the sinner Trump, well you should be ashamed and embarrassed for making a deal with the Devil himself.

 


The FBI needs to be separate from politics; one agent pays terrible toll…

March 17, 2018

The FBI should stay out of politics. I mean it has to investigate crimes and sometimes that involves politicians. But the agency itself should not be part of the political intrigue, just like it is bad when journalism or journalists become the story rather than the independent third-party observer (or the Fourth Estate, as they are sometimes called).

Certainly under J. Edgar Hoover the FBI overstepped its bounds, blackmailing or attempting to blackmail various people, including presidents. It was job security for Hoover.

In more recent times we would hope that it has improved. But evidence indicates that in the last presidential election some of its operatives seemed to be favoring one side over the other. Or in the case of former director James Comey publicly commented on an investigation still in progress to the possible detriment of one candidate.

(No one but Comey knows what his intent was, in that he seemed to both convict and exonerate Hillary Clinton at different intervals but, whatever, that was not his job. He should have kept his mouth shut.)

Now that I think about it, firing Comey may have been one of the only correct things President Trump has done (and he may have not done it for the correct reason, if that makes sense).

And now a top FBI official received a cruel punishment. Andrew McCabe has apparently lost his retirement just hours before he was set to retire. I don’t know all the facts in the case or whether the action was warranted. Seems awful drastic. But supposedly he withheld important information from the special FISA court which grants permission to conduct surveillance on private citizens.

He claims the Trump administration is using him to thwart the investigation by a special counsel, which seems to be getting too close to finding wrong doing by the Trump administration (and that is my interpretation of his words, not his exact words).

Whatever the case, even if the administration is breaking the law, the FBI cannot and expect to safeguard its credibility at the same time.

Meanwhile the special counsel seems to be unnerving the administration.

Mr. Trump: Richard Nixon found that even though he was president he was not above the law. Hopefully you will find out the same. Right now you have your GOP enablers who are scared of you but are trying to make the best of things by using your cover to at least get some of the things that their fat cat contributors demand. But when the long arm of the law catches you they will desert you.

 

 


Go figure: Democrat apparently wins in Trump country by appealing to voters…

March 14, 2018

A possible lesson for Democratic Party candidates in the time of Trump, run as yourself, appeal to the actual voters who have the power to put you into office, make it clear you are not just a go-along party hack. Don’t waste your time running against Trump — I mean why throw away the votes from people who may actually still like him but like what you say too?

From what I have read, that is what a congressional candidate in Pennsylvania did and as of this morning (3-14-18) with the results still too close to officially call, a few hundred votes, it looks like he won. In fact, he has declared victory.

It was two little known candidates in a special election for a seat in a congressional district that may be dissolved due to a state supreme court ruling on gerrymandering. But the election was seen as a bellwether for whether Democrats could hope to retake the House.

Former Federal prosecutor and war veteran Connor Lamb, as of this writing, had a 641-vote lead over his Republican challenger Rick Saccone.

All I know is what I read on the net, but it was said Lamb has youth and looks on his side. But just as good, he ran as his own man and fought the Republican attack that he would just be a slave to Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the congress, by saying he would not support her. He also took various conservative stances popular in his district.

And I thought he chose his words wisely (and I’ll even presume he was sincere) when he told voters in declaring his victory that he did not run against Trump and that he realizes that many voters in the district may well like Trump.

What I think this election might prove is that, sure, Democrats have a good chance. They always have. Elections are theirs to give away by forgetting to appeal to the actual voters who have the power at the ballot box.

I know I and others have run this into the ground, but I am still scratching my head over why Hillary Clinton went to coal country and promised to put coal miners out of business. Some say she just failed to choose her words carefully and that she was quoted out of context. Yeah she was going for alternative energy but promising to provide re-training for displaced coal workers. But I say: maybe the coal miners didn’t want to work at McDonald’s. And if I were them, I would say, hey Hillary, how would you like to be told you need to be retrained?

And to top it all, the whole reason for the special election was that the former Republican congressman declared himself to be anti-abortion and then got caught up in a scandal where a woman claimed that he tried to pressure her to have an abortion. Whoops.

P.s.

The Republican Party poured a lot of money into this one and Trump made his appearances in the district. But the voters have the last word.