UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Let’s “Defang” Not “Defund” the Police

The Daily Escape:

Great Falls, VA – photo by Zev Steinhardt Photography. These falls on the Potomac River are about 15 miles west of DC.

A few distressing stories about police and their relationship to our society came up in the past few days. First, the NYT reported on a claim that anti-police employees at a NYC Shake Shack restaurant had “intentionally poisoned” three officers who ordered milkshakes.

The story was initially broken by the Detectives’ Endowment Association in New York, who claimed on Twitter that the officers had been targets of an attack:

“Tonight, three of our fellow officers were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack…”

The NY Police Benevolent Association (PBA) chimed in, insisting that the attack was part of a larger, nefarious anti-police crusade:

“When NYC police officers cannot even take a meal without coming under attack, it is clear that [the] environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment.”

Numerous media outlets then reported that NYC officers had been poisoned on purpose.

But, the story was misleading. NYPD found that no crime had been committed. The problem may have been that the milkshake machine wasn’t properly cleaned. Eric Boehlert:

“The false story played right into a right-wing fantasy portrayal of police critics and the Black Lives Matter mindset — the idea that activists are plotting ways to poison and kill members of law enforcement….the mainstream media is too quick to buy into the false portrait and to embrace bogus stories that support that characterization.”

So much paranoia. Who knew police are such snowflakes?

Second, Atlanta police reacted to the murder charge against Garrett Rolfe, the policeman who was fired after he shot Rayshard Brooks twice in the back, killing him. Hours later, CNN reported that Atlanta police stopped responding to calls in three of the department’s six zones.

The WaPo reported that Vince Champion, the southeast regional director of the International Brother of Police Officers said:

“This is not an organized thing, it’s not a blue flu, it’s not a strike, it’s nothing like that…What it actually is, is officers protesting that they’ve had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer.”

The “blue flu” is a de facto police strike in which a large group of officers simultaneously call in sick. Essential state employees, like police and first responders, are legally forbidden from actually walking out on the job in many jurisdictions.

These police are protesting about no longer being automatically above the law in Atlanta. This is a form of extortion by some police who fail to perform their duty; it is another form of abuse that is being shown by elements of the police in our nation. Trump gave them air support on Fox News:

“I hope he [the former officer] gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country…”

Once again, the myth that police are the real victims persists. The road to reform will be long and torturous. We will not succeed in reforming the police by calling it “defunding”, or “reimagining” them. We have to start by taking away their military style weapons and by holding them accountable for their actions.

In other words, we have to defang the police.

Law enforcement has simply been allowed by towns and cities to rot. The problem has lasted because people of color are the police’s primary targets. White people aren’t harassed by the police anywhere near as much as people of color. So if something doesn’t affect you, you tend to ignore the problem, or do nothing to eliminate it.

Cops and their supporters keep going on and on about the supposed “good apples”.  Yet those supposed good cops seemingly keep protecting the “bad apples”.  How is it possible for them to be “good cops” when they keep protecting the bad guys.

We have to start by DEFANGING the police, but it won’t be easy.

Let’s remember that the last person to successfully break up the police was Sting.

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