For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law

The Daily Escape:

“Life in 2022” – 1962 painting by Walter Molino. A foretelling of COVID?

Attorney General Bill Barr thinks that there has been too much expression of First Amendment rights:

“Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.”

Break a window and go to jail for sedition, for conspiracy to overthrow the government through violence? Barr also went after the mayors:

“The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown…”

It used to be a Republican article of faith that “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” No longer. America is filled with king Trump’s enemies. They’re everywhere! By suggesting possible prosecution of a Democrat, Ms. Durkan, Barr is taking aim at an elected official whom Trump has attacked repeatedly.

Barr then jumped into the deep end of the pool on Wednesday. Addressing a Constitution Day meeting hosted by the conservative Hillsdale College, Barr suggested:

“…that the calls for a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ in history ‘other than slavery.’”

Would Barr also have been against food and gas rationing, and other measures necessary to help win WWII?

Health and safety regulations have always been around. And they are well established in American law, see Jacobsen v. Massachusetts, which said in a case about mandatory vaccinations, that individual liberty isn’t absolute, and is subject to the police power of the state.

Barr went on to say that the Supreme Court had determined that the executive branch had “virtually unchecked discretion” in deciding whether to prosecute cases:

 “The power to execute and enforce the law is an executive function altogether….That means discretion is invested in the executive to determine when to exercise the prosecutorial power.”

He was telling his federal prosecutors to start prosecuting protests as something akin to treason. And he can do all of the above, as long as he’s Trump’s AG.

The AG is a politician who is supposed to be apolitical in enforcement of the law. But not Bill Barr. He told a Chicago Tribune columnist that the nation could find itself “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if Trump lost.

Back to the sedition thingy. The federal sedition law is rarely invoked, but the wording has wiggle room. It says that sedition can occur anytime two or more people conspire to use force to oppose federal authority, hinder the government’s ability to enforce any federal law or, unlawfully seize any federal property.

That could include a plot to break into and set fire to a federal courthouse.

The WSJ quotes Jenny Carroll, a University of Alabama law professor, who says that turning to statutes like sedition would mark an escalation in the government’s effort to quell the violence:

“There are all these different statutes the government can use if they are worried about things like property damage….If you start charging those people, even if you don’t get a conviction, it may make people think twice before going out to exercise their right to free speech.”

Do yourself a favor, and don’t read the WSJ comments. There’s a fine line between the expression of antigovernment sentiment, which is protected speech under the First Amendment (even if it included discussions of violence), and a plot that presented an imminent danger sufficient to justify a charge of sedition.

No one can justify property damage, looting or killings, but more than 93% of the protests in the US this summer were peaceful, according to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which monitors political upheaval worldwide. They looked at 7,750 protests from May 26 through Aug. 22 in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But if Barr gets to define “force” his way, everyone will get to go to jail.

For Bill Barr, the crime is to oppose the regime. Those who enable Trump, by definition, can’t be criminals, and so do not deserve punishment. If they are prosecuted like General Flynn, Paul Manafort, or Roger Stone, they should be pardoned, or their prosecutions withdrawn. Accordingly, those who oppose the regime are the real enemy. They deserve prompt and merciless retribution.

Barr could have delivered his new testament in Minsk or Manila, not at an American college.

These people must go.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Saturday Soother – Conventions Are Over Edition, August 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge that connects Vermont and New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. Wrongo and Ms. Right crossed it many times a year when we lived in NH.

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! Both presidential conventions are over, and there’s just 65 days to go until the election. In his Thursday night acceptance speech, Trump turned and pointed at the White House, saying “We’re here and they’re not.” That sums up what’s going to be all-out, house-to-house fighting for votes by both Parties.

Trump is seeking to redefine the November election as a choice between Biden and himself, not simply a referendum on his first term.

A massive Republican attempt to scramble the narrative has already begun: No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America. If he wins the election you’ll have to lock your doors, or run for your lives, because those bad people from “Democrat-run cities” want to kill you in your beds.

They’re betting that the fear of violence in the streets will outweigh all of the other issues on the minds of a sufficient number of voters to prevent Biden from winning in the Electoral College.

But the reality is that Trump has done much to incite violence. The fact that the violence has overwhelmingly occurred in cities with Democratic municipal governments is framed as making Trump the “change candidate”, despite being the guy on whose watch all of this violence has happened. And, as presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway explained on Fox News:

“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order…”

And facts just don’t matter. Biden isn’t for defunding the police. In reality, he has called for increasing federal funding for police departments by $300 million, while Trump has proposed nearly half-a-billion dollars in cuts to law enforcement funding.

We should have expected the emergence of vigilante violence, as more and more protests turned into riots this summer. But this week’s killings in Kenosha, WI demonstrate how sinister vigilantism is when a 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse comes from another state, ostensibly to protect local Wisconsin property from local protesters, and kills two.

But he wasn’t alone. NYT reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Mr. Rittenhouse’s gunfire is mixed in with the sound of at least 16 other gunshots that ring out during this time.”

Apparently, Rittenhouse was responsible for eight of the 24 rounds, so other vigilantes were also roaming Kenosha’s streets. And since he’s 17, Kyle isn’t old enough either to own a gun, or to be open-carrying in Wisconsin, where you can’t legally own a rifle until you’re 18.

Immediately after Rittenhouse was identified as the shooter, the right-wing media characterized his actions as those of a dutiful citizen who had no choice but to take the law into his own hands, more Republican justification of vigilantism.

Returning to the context of the next 65 days: Once again, the big question is whether you are better off today than you were four years ago?

Since life is worse, how and why should voters focus only on violence when there are already 185,000 COVID dead? When 30 million Americans are unemployed? When 50 million face eviction, and our economy is teetering on depression?

There is no question that street violence is a major issue that must be on the table right along with the others. These require simultaneous solutions, and failure to solve any one of them will weaken the country for at least a decade.

They all urgently need to be solved, not spun, and Biden better have good answers.

It is a wonder that we haven’t seen more gun fights on our city streets. The police have all the tools and protective gear money can buy, but they look the other way when it comes to vigilantes. They need to intervene when these open carry vigilantes show up at protests, and bar them from entering into the immediate area of a protest, regardless of the First and Second Amendment consequences. Public safety should override the Constitutional concerns.

Americans can’t walk around afraid of armed and unregulated militias who think they have a mandate. And those militias can’t be welcomed by our local police. That’s the easy part. Solving the COVID pandemic so people can go back to work and to school can’t be left to Trump. He’s proven he isn’t capable of solving those problems.

Time for some soothing Saturday music. Here’s Yiruma, a South Korean composer and pianist, playing a short set of original music, live at a Korean Traditional House Village:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – July 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Alpine lake, High Uintas Wilderness, UT- 2020 photo by anteaterpinkytoe.

Which is better: Gorbachev’s Chernobyl response, or Trump’s COVID response? It’s a high bar for Trump’s response to be worse than Gorbachev’s.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed the Soviet government’s ineptitude to both the Soviet people and the international community. The reactor’s core meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of $billions in clean-up costs. It led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride. Thirty-four years later, the site remains a waste land.

Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

But Trump is up for the challenge! From Umair Haque at Medium:

“America’s in free fall. It’s having a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a social implosion, and a political implosion all at once. And all those things have been brought to you by Donald Trump, whose negligence, irresponsibility, recklessness have allowed them to flourish.”

Nobody in the world is in free fall like America. America has the highest number of new cases in the world, higher than Brazil’s 50K, or India’s 30K. Even individual Red States have worse outbreaks than many of the world’s poorest countries with far higher populations.

The EU has about 5,000 new cases. America has more than fifteen times the number of cases Europe has. Texas alone had more than twice the number of cases, (more than 10K) and the population of Texas is 7% of the EU’s.

Trump nails the win over Gorbachev with his most egregious action, putting armed secret police on the streets of Portland, OR. Dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters, threw them into unmarked cars, and took them for interrogation without specifying a reason for arrest.

It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (the Border Patrol), a US government organization that has no business conducting actions against Americans in Portland.

Both the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon have asked them to leave. A US Attorney for the State of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Now, the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is vowing to ramp up these actions both in Portland and elsewhere. This is Wolf on the DHS website:

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it. A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America.”

We’ve seemingly reached a point where Trump’s brown shirt police force is reality.

Could it be that Trump is trying to foment unrest? His campaign can’t be happy that protests and urban unrest have quieted down across America in the last few weeks. Is Trump hoping this action will spark a revival of what we were seeing in June?

The calculation would be that an upsurge in protest will divert the country’s attention from the ongoing COVID-19 disaster while scaring moderate voters. It allows Trump to keep playing the law and order president, someone who will protect white suburbanites from scary black/brown anarchists.

This is the same week when Trump claimed Biden wants to abolish suburbs.

We’ve heard this Republican tune before during earlier presidential elections. It’s a mash up of Nixon’s law and order strategy, and Bush I’s Willie Horton strategy. It’s important to point out that both won their elections.

Trump is using Executive Branch agencies that he controls. AG Barr knows there is nothing “Constitutionally” Congress can do about this. They’re trying out various actions to see what they can get away with: for now, it’s the dreaded ANTIFA. Before that it was immigrants and asylum seekers. Later, it could be any opposition.

Time to wake up America! This is who and what we have become. The only question remaining is whether enough non-authoritarian Americans will vote in November to stop the madness.

To help you wake up, here is Big Country’s “We’re not in Kansas” performed live in 1991 in Bonn Germany:

Sample lyrics:

What did you learn in school today
Did you learn to run when the teachers pray
Did they teach you enough to know the state you’re in
Not enough to get out, not enough to win

What did you learn at home today
Did you learn to hate in the proper way
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss

We’re Not a Failed State, We’re a Failed Society

The Daily Escape:

Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO – photo by exposurebydjk. These are the highest dunes in North America.

Wrongo has written quite a bit lately about America’s fracturing social cohesion, and increasing white grievance as the greatest threats to our democracy. Here’s Wrongo on social cohesion:

“In the past, we had a set of unwritten expectations that members of our society were expected to comply with, like voting, paying taxes, and displaying tolerance for others. Even those deminimus expectations are fraying today.”

The COVID pandemic has many here and abroad saying the US is a failed state. George Packer argued this recently in the Atlantic. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says calling America a failed state is:

“…not only wrong, it’s irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst…. So stop saying that.

Ok DHS, the US isn’t a failed state, but we may be a failed society. We seem to have decided that while we have the means to succeed, we no longer want to try. From Duck of Minerva:

“Failed states lack the resources, equipment, and government capacity to provide public safety and public services. States like Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen fit this description. The governments of these countries can often barely project authority beyond the walls of their government buildings.”

This doesn’t describe America. We are the wealthiest, most powerful country on earth. We’re home to more Nobel laureates than any country. Our universities are the envy of the world. Our technology sector is the world’s most dynamic.

We’ve lost the will to use our vast strengths to make America a better place for its citizens. If America had the will, we would have blunted the COVID-19 threat, as have New Zealand, South Korea and Germany. Those countries all have far more social cohesion than the US.

And while it’s true that Trump has failed the country, our society no longer feels that we have responsibilities to each other, or to the nation. We have lost the willingness to make personal sacrifices for the good of the community.

Individualism is a crucial part of our national ethos, but it has morphed into selfishness precisely when we need to see ourselves as all in this together. The result is that we’ve shown that we’re incapable of mobilizing the capacity to address the worst threat to public safety of the 21st century.

COVID is the just the third major crisis in the 21st century.

The first was 9/11. Back then, rural America didn’t see New York City as filled with immigrants and liberals who deserved their fate, but as a place that had taken a hit for the rest of us. America’s reflex was to mourn, and mobilize to help. The ensuing Iraq War and partisan politics erased much of that sense of national unity, and fed a bitterness toward the political class that hasn’t faded.

The second crisis was the Great Recession. Starting out, Congress passed a bipartisan bailout bill that saved the financial system. Outgoing Bush administration officials largely cooperated with incoming Obama administration officials. The lasting economic pain of the Great Recession was felt only by people who had lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Many have never recovered, and inequality has grown worse.

This second crisis drove a wedge between Americans: Between the upper and lower classes, between Republicans and Democrats, metropolitan and rural people, the native-born and immigrants, ordinary people and their leaders. Social bonds had been under growing strain for several decades, and now they began to tear. The lasting effect was increased polarization and discredited governmental authority.

Self-pity turned to anger. Anger at Muslims or Mexicans or gays or fancy-pants city folks (or all of them mashed together) offset by a group identity of white grievance. America’s tone changed to defiant anger and hostility.

This was the American landscape that the Coronavirus found: In the cities and suburbs, globally connected desk workers were dependent on the essentials, a class of precarious and invisible service workers. In rural America, it found hollowed-out towns in revolt against the cities. In Washington, Corona found a government that had lost its ability to rally, or work together for the common good.

In America’s president, Corona happily found Donald Trump, the perfect fit for this decaying society. When a corrupt minority rules a dissatisfied majority, there are consequences.

We have literally fallen on our asses. So much damage in a relatively short period of time. Our republic is much flimsier than we thought.

We need a second period of reconstruction in America. The first reconstruction failed because our society failed it. The second reconstruction must fix our failed society.

It will be long and difficult.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 21, 2020

Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020: Come because you love Trump. Leave with the Trump virus. Wrongo isn’t a futurist, but as this is written on Saturday, there’s reason to be concerned that there may be an increase in COVID-19 infections in Tulsa:

“Six of President Trump’s staffers, who were part of the campaign’s advance team for the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus…”

Wrongo has a bad feeling about the aftermath:

  • People are coming from several states, some with rapidly-rising hospitalizations
  • It’s indoors, with no way to effectively distance
  • There will be cheering, singing, and chanting
  • Some attendees will have spent hours, possibly days interacting with each other outside the venue, and will spend an hour or two in line just to get in
  • These aren’t people who have a belief in masking and distancing

Speaking of bad feelings, the Guardian reports that armed militia members and bikers are gathering outside Trump’s venue. The National Guard has been activated in Tulsa. What could go wrong?

On to cartoons. Bolton’s book inspires the rest of Trump’s team:

Trump says Bolton’s book is all lies, and they are state secrets:

They knew it and did nothing:

GOP complains about demonstrators:

LGBTQ ruling angers the elephant:

Chart shows COVID in the US, based on which presidential candidate won in 2016. Notice anything?

The cure:

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – June 15, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Bright Angel Trail, in the middle foreground, Grand Canyon NP – photo by glowrocks

The chickens are coming home to roost. Michael Flor was originally the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient. Somehow, he survived. He came close enough to death that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes.

Today, he’s recovering at home in West Seattle, WA. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he just got the bill. From the Seattle Times:

“The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus:…$1,122,501.04, to be exact. All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages.”

More from the Seattle Times:

“…the charge for his room in the intensive care unit was billed at $9,736 per day. Due to the contagious nature of the virus, the room was sealed and could only be entered by medical workers wearing plastic suits and headgear. For 42 days he was in this isolation chamber, for a total charged cost of $408,912.

He also was on a mechanical ventilator for 29 days, with the use of the machine billed at $2,835 per day, for a total of $82,215. About a quarter of the bill is drug costs.”

Those charges don’t include the two weeks of recuperating he did in a rehabilitation facility.

Since Flor has Medicare, it is unclear how much he will actually have to pay out of pocket. Further, since Congress set aside more than $100 billion to help hospitals and insurance companies defray the costs of the pandemic, it’s possible that Mr. Flor may not have to pay even the out-of-pocket charges normally billed by his Medicare Advantage policy, but that remains to be seen.

The insurance industry has estimated treatment costs of COVID-19 could top $500 billion, so unless Congress steps up with more money, co-pays for COVID will soon become injurious.

One outcome of the pandemic may be that America takes a closer look at universal health insurance. There are many detractors in Congress, but the sticker shock that so many families will see from COVID-19 cases may restart the discussion. Medicare for all could work: A single payer with a set system of prices would be good for employers and employees alike.

It will be hard. Universal health insurance is such a tough problem to solve that only 31 out of 32 developed nations have managed to do it.

A second issue for today is the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta over the weekend. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window. The man, Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks, was given a field sobriety test, which he reportedly failed…”

Brooks grabbed a cop’s Taser. More:

“…surveillance footage from the Wendy’s appeared to show Brooks turn toward the police and attempt to fire the Taser as he ran away. That’s when the officer chasing Brooks pulled out his gun and shot him…”

Tasers are a form of de-escalation instead of using firearms. The Taser momentarily incapacitates, but ultimately doesn’t threaten life. So shouldn’t it follow that if a suspect steals a cop’s Taser and threatens to use it, the cop can’t just shoot him dead since he’s being threatened by an ultimately harmless weapon?

The cops had his car, it’s likely they knew where he lived. They could have picked him up at any time. Instead, they killed him. The police tried to do something, the suspect resisted, and in the heat of the moment, the cop escalated to show that he’s in charge. It was a terrible reason to kill someone.

Time to wake up America! We have both out-of-control policing and out-of-control capitalism harming our society. To help you wake up, listen to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 song, “Everyday People”. This is Playing for Change again, along with Turnaround Arts students. Trust Wrongo and watch:

Sample Lyric:

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah, yeah

And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee
Ooh, sha sha
We got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do

Of course there was racism back in 1968, but the musicians were preaching integration. Despite the racism back then, people were optimistic. Compare that to today.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Will the Demonstrations Lead to a Wave Election?

The Daily Escape:

Lenticular clouds over Utah Lake, UT – 2020 photo by jephriB. It’s Utah’s largest freshwater lake.

One thing that is giving Wrongo hope amongst the (mostly) negative voices about the protests against police violence is how universal these protests have become. People have protested in all 50 states and DC, including in hundreds of smaller towns and cities that have not been in the spotlight during previous nationwide protests.

On Sunday, our little town of 25,000 had a demonstration supporting Black Lives Matter. Here are a few photos:

Photo by Pame Ortega

Photo by Pame Ortega

There seems to be something happening on the ground that may have electoral implications in November. Wrongo’s home town is in a very conservative part of Connecticut. It voted 75% for Trump in 2016, and is 94% non-Hispanic White. The town Facebook page is a cesspool of right wing comments. Yet the march was well-attended, and the marchers skewed young, white and female. It was completely peaceful:

Photo by Pame Ortega

The speakers on the town green included politicians, police, local clergy and rally organizers.

Wrongo has regularly scheduled Monday morning meetings with the town’s mayor, a conservative Republican. The mayor had attended the march, and we spoke in passing about the demonstration. He was pleased by the strong attendance, and was happy with the response by his police, fire and public works departments. He was also happy to see peaceful engagement by the citizenry.

Are things changing in America?

The WaPo reports that the closer someone lives to a protest, the more likely it is to change their vote. Moreover, protests influence not just election turnout, but also what types of issues rise to the top of party platforms, and who gets elected to local, state and federal offices.

Demo Memo reports that most Americans believe in the right to protest, but a surprisingly small share of the public has ever demonstrated. According to a 2018 Gallup survey, just 36% of adults have ever felt the urge to organize or join a public demonstration. That is much higher than it was during the fractious 1960s. In 1965 when Gallup asked the same question, only 10% of Americans said they had ever felt like organizing or joining a protest.

What’s driving the change in the willingness to demonstrate? Maybe it’s the growing polarization of our society. Or perhaps our growing diversity and the relative youth of our population are behind the change.

WaPo also shows that young people in the outer suburbs and small towns are becoming less conservative. They report that statistical analyses suggest that rural voters age 18 to 29 went from supporting Donald Trump by a 17-point margin in 2016 to supporting Democratic congressional candidates by an eight-point margin in 2018. Votes by their older neighbors (40s and older) barely budged.

Even the smallest cities have shifted leftward in recent years.

We’re in a new era. First, COVID-19 brought home to us who were the truly essential members of the American workforce, and how many of them were minorities. Now, we’re seeing first-hand how those same people are forced to live, and how they’re mistreated by our police and by American society at large.

As they say, you can’t unsee this.

Much of what is working to bring about change is the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been an organizing force working on these issues at least since 2014. Add to that, white suburban disgust with Trump and his goon-like behavior around both the pandemic and the protests.

It has become clear to white people that Trump would have zero issues with shooting them in the street, beating them, or pepper spraying them, or turning dogs on them.

And when most families are spending concentrated time at home together, their kids are asking them unanswerable questions.

The only answers are at the ballot box. Vote for change in the White House, the Senate, in your statehouse, your county seat, at city hall and on your school board.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Defund the Police? Really?

The Daily Escape:

Looking Glass Rock, from Blue Ridge Parkway, NC – 2020 photo by 2paymentsof19_95

On Sunday afternoon, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members announced their commitment to disbanding the city’s police department (MPD), which has endured harsh criticism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

This step is considered part of the movement that is wrongly called “Defund the Police”. What Minneapolis is doing is reorganizing, re-imagining and redirecting their police. Calling this movement “defunding” is a misnomer that some in BLM, and others on the left have advocated, while the right has jumped on it to discredit Biden along with all Democrats.

Groups advocating defunding have put forward a variety of ideas. Some simply oppose police budget increases, others advocate mass personnel reductions, and some are fighting for actual defunding as a step toward abolishing police forces. Some initiatives are linked to the fight to close prisons. All are pushing for a reinvestment of any dollars saved into community services. Only the first two are mainstream ideas.

A reasonable question is what would the defunding advocates want on their streets instead of police?

Polling this month from Data for Progress indicates that 68% of voters answered that they would support: “Creating a new agency of first-responders, like emergency medical services or firefighters, to deal with issues related to addiction or mental illness that need to be remedied but do not need police.

According to a study from the Treatment Advocacy Center, a person with an untreated mental health issue is 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other members of the community. Even though many US police departments’ duties include responding to non-violent, non-emergency calls, departments keep expanding their military-style arsenal.

The question by Data for Progress had broad support, including 62% of Republicans, and higher percentages of Democrats, whites and blacks. Versions of this concept are already in place in Eugene, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.

It is also reasonable to ask, “Can’t we just fix what’s wrong”? The answer is yes, but efforts to do this have been underway for decades. If police and city officials in most cities had been serious about reform and policy change, we wouldn’t be hearing dumb ideas like “Defund the Police”, and people would not be this angry.

Newsweek reports that Camden, NJ had success in 2013 when it disbanded its 141-year-old police force. In its place, the surrounding county formed a new police department. This move had the result of busting the local police union. But the Camden County Police Department rehired most of the laid-off cops, along with 100 new officers, at much lower salaries and with fewer benefits than they had received from the city. From Bloomberg:

“The focus was on rebuilding trust between the city’s residents and officers. The remaking of Camden’s police department appears to have led to crime rates falling in the city. Camden recorded 67 homicides in 2012, while last year, there were 25.”

For Camden’s Black Lives Matter protest on May 30, officers left the riot gear at home, and brought an ice cream truck. The police department’s chief, Joseph Wysocki, who is white, brandished a “Standing in Solidarity” poster alongside residents holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.

And yes, the Camden police department is again unionized.

Disbanding police departments isn’t going to happen everywhere, but “reorganizing” local police departments is a necessity in most places, especially when the municipality’s police union management is not interested in reform.

The argument shouldn’t be to defund them, but to take away their military toys, and hold them to higher performance standards. With the right to exercise lethal force should come closer scrutiny for their behavior.

“Defund the Police” should mean: See what is happening in your town with clear eyes. See the original sin of placing property rights over human rights. See the original sin of racism in America and how it impacts the community.

Policing in America is deeply broken. Few departments are controlled effectively by their elected officials. America needs stronger mayors, town councils and district attorneys who can be for “law and order”, and also for protecting the rights of the people who are confronted by day-to-day policing. We will only have stronger public servants by voting them in.

It’s going to be a long struggle to rebuild our police departments into something that creates a peaceful community while valuing Constitutional rights.

That’s a struggle worth taking on.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – June 8, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Banksy – June, 2020

Banksy is a well-known British graffiti artist whose identity is secret. But he’s become well-known, gaining attention for his politically charged works. The above appeared in an Instagram post where Banksy says:

“At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Well said. We all should know where the responsibility lies for fixing the problems of racism.

Let’s hope that Americans understand the threat and the opportunity posed by this moment. Racism and the indiscriminate use of violence by police are burning the fabric of our society. How the fire is put out is entirely in our hands.

And the demonstrations continued over the weekend, mostly peacefully, at least as Wrongo writes this. These rallies have quickly become the focal point of a nationwide movement against systemic racism, and for police reform. They’re becoming better organized, and are unlikely to end soon.

Thousands gathered on Capitol Hill on Saturday to join a protest organized by Freedom Fighters DC. It drew one of the largest crowds since protests began there:

Source: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) joined the protesters outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Roll Call reported that: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…he [Sen. King] drew connections between the current uprisings and his experience at the 1963 March on Washington. He was a 19-year-old student at Dartmouth College and was on hand for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the march on Aug. 28, 1963.”

At the time, Wrongo was also a 19-year-old student, studying at Georgetown in DC. Sen. King says that this is a “full circle moment” for him, and Wrongo agrees. It’s a full circle moment for America. We appear to be on the verge of something big, politically.

More from Sen. King:

“This is what America is all about. First Amendment rights of people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances. This is a 400-year-old grievance…”

Roll Call reported that protesters and police kept each other at a distance and largely avoided skirmishes. King noted that Saturday’s crowd was about 80% white and young, which he called “significant” in comparison to Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington.

Having a large element of white support for the DC marches is important to building the political momentum for change. As Banksy said, “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system”.

Kellie Carter Jackson, says in the Atlantic:

“Since the beginning of this country, riots and violent rhetoric have been markers of patriotism. When our Founding Fathers fought for independence, violence was the clarion call. Phrases such as “Live free or die,” “Give me liberty or give me death,”…echoed throughout the nation, and continue today.

More from Carter Jackson:

“Black rebellion and protest, though, have historically never been coupled with allegiance to American democracy. Today, peaceful demonstrations and violent riots alike have erupted across the country in response to police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Yet the language used to refer to protesters has included looters, thugs, and even claims that they are un-American.”

Particularly by Trump and Barr.

In reality, if we are to fix what’s wrong, it’s going to be fixed town by town and city by city. That means that domestic policing in the US needs to be reinvented from the ground up. It will be a huge job, since there are more than 18,000 police departments in the US.

It’s time to wake up America! We’re again seeing a grand revealing of what’s been behind the curtain since 1619.

We’re waking up to: “this is what’s going on in America?” Hopefully, it’s not too late.

And with COVID-19 added to the mix, we’re looking around, saying: “Wow. Why is everyone so vulnerable? Why is everyone living paycheck to paycheck? “What’s with the police brutality?”

Time to wake up and get busy. It will take an overwhelming turnout in November to right this sinking ship.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 7, 2020

There have been many kinds of protests by athletes about race, gender, and unequal use of power in American sports history. With the killing of George Floyd, many athletes have decided to use their voices and iconic positions in our society to speak out, hoping to change our society.

Here are a few examples from the past that seem heroic today.

1967: Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Lew Alcindor meet to show support for Muhammad Ali, who had refused induction into the US Army as a conscientious objector. Two weeks later, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison and stripped of his heavyweight title.

1968: It’s an iconic image, two American athletes raise their fists on the podium in Mexico’s Olympic stadium during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the black power salute, and were asked to leave the US Olympic team.

1996: Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf decided to stop standing for the national anthem. NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Abdul-Rauf for his protest. They later came to an agreement: Abdul-Rauf could close his eyes and look downward during the anthem, but had to stand.

2012: To protest the death of Trayvon Martin, members of the Miami Heat, including Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, donned hooded sweatshirts before their game on March 24, 2012.

2014: Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose came onto the court for warmups wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt, supporting Eric Garner, who died when a white police officer used a choke hold to arrest him. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

2016: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before his preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. When asked to justify his actions, he told the media that he couldn’t show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and other people of color.

In 2020, people are finally coming around to Kaepernick’s position. We see many examples of police and protesters kneeling together as a sign of solidarity and de-escalation of possible conflict on America’s streets. Michael Jordan, long an apolitical athlete, just announced he will donate $100 million over the next 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Also in 2020: While Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser isn’t an athlete, she renamed 16th Street “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted in large yellow letters on the street which leads straight to the White House. Bowser said:

“We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just and that black lives and that black humanity matter in our nation.”

Trump responded by complaining that the mayor keeps asking “us” for “handouts.” Apparently, Trump doesn’t realize that it’s the federal government’s job to partially fund the district.

DC, where the streets have two names:

Trump’s photo-op was too revealing:

America’s twin viruses are hard to take:

And it’s only June:

Facebooklinkedinrss