Do We Just Wish They Were? (2016Sep25)


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Saturday, September 24, 2016                                          9:28 PM

I had hoped the Charlotte NC authorities would release the videos of the killing of Keith Lamont Scott—and they have, but not all of it. And, when you think about it, given what we’ve already seen—what could Keith Lamont Scott have done in so short a time as to cause a trained policeman to gun him down?

The reluctance of authorities to be transparent is just a knee-jerk reaction—this was not a ‘good’ shoot. That much seems clear. An innocent man was killed. No one wants to admit that, but maybe they should. What happened was bad enough—I don’t see any profit in playing cute with evidence.

The police claim that he was rolling a joint with a gun by his side—his family says he had TBI, didn’t own a gun, and was reading a book. The police have produced an ankle holster and a pistol, and claim it has Mr. Scott’s DNA on it—I’d be a lot more open to that if an ankle holster wasn’t so popular with the police, and if they had said his fingerprints were on it—after you shoot a man, his DNA is all over the place (with apologies to the Scott family for saying so).

I’ve heard a butt-load of talk—on and on they drone, saying everything as circumspectly as a thing can be said, casting doubts in every direction, hoping to divert focus from this being, in simple terms, a crime committed by a police officer. It makes me tired.

Can’t we just, for once, go straight to the part where North Carolina institutes improved police training and extensive community outreach—and makes this sort of thing a relic of our past? Do we have to pretend that this serious problem doesn’t exist—and go through all the bullshit back-and-forth? Really? It’s 2016, folks. Tic – toc, dammit.

There is something so sickly stubborn about the South’s veneration for the Confederacy—it imparts an element of pride to their ignorant racism and the persecution of their fellow citizens. The North Carolinians have been caught twice this year—once, specifically targeting minorities with new voter-restriction laws that, fortunately, were thrown out by the Supreme Court; and two, this public, almost farcical, obstruction of justice, to shield the police from their own misconduct.

And don’t tell me the officer who fired was black—the police are a culture unto themselves—that’s why we have these situations, where the opacity of the process is guaranteed by the police’s interdependency and necessary loyalty to each other. Retraining is needed to change the police culture—to make these hitherto winked-at shootings a thing of shame, instead of a rallying cry for police solidarity. The good police need to be given the tools that allow them to call out bad actors, without becoming traitors to their team.

Policing is difficult work—part hero, part helper, part target, part social worker, and on and on—its outlines stretch in almost every direction. And the power that comes with it can, apparently, be quite seductive—and easily twisted into something frightening. We have intensive training for doctors and lawyers—it is time to recognize that a proper police officer, man or woman, requires a host of skills and therefore involves training that goes far beyond learning how to hit what they shoot at.

There are police in many countries where the civilians fear their approach, because the police force can be used as a tool of suppression and intimidation. They are not police in the developed world’s sense of the word—and their hallmark is unwarranted, unthinking violence. The police training in many European countries puts America’s to shame—they are serious about civilization in the way that some Americans are serious about ‘law and order’ (a code-word for fascism if ever there was one). We compete in so many arenas—Americans love to compete. Why do we not feel a need to be the best in policing, or in community? Are these things so unimportant? Or do we just wish they were?

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One Fine Day (2016Sep24)


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Saturday, September 24, 2016                                          12:43 PM

It’s a fine day. I just finished hearing Obama’s dedication address at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture on C-SPAN. Stirring, inspiring, as always—isn’t that strange? Our president’s default setting is ‘stirring, inspiring’—I don’t think he can give a speech without sending a thrill through his listeners. Very strange. The combination of ‘president’ and ‘cool’ is almost overwhelming.

And Stevie Wonder sang and Patti LaBell sang—it was an eye-tearing, joyous celebration. When President Obama finished speaking, he introduced a family of four generations—a 99-year-old woman, daughter of a slave, her son, his son, and that man’s little daughter—and they rang a bell from the first African-American church, in Virginia, which was echoed by bells all across the country—a further echo of the bells rung all across the nation to celebrate Emancipation, a century and a half ago.

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I love it when I can spend a day being proud and loving this country, for what it has done, for what it is, and for what it will become. And the sun is shining. And a gentle breeze is blowing. Life is too good.

The New York Times came out with an endorsement of Hillary Clinton today. I was pleased to read it—it said much of what I’ve tried to say in my blog posts (but better, because, let’s face it, it’s the Times). And I started to think about how the conservatives rail against the media as a bunch of lying propagandists. It’s not true. I’ve never been lied to by the New York Times—they may not always be perfect, but they do not have an agenda, per se, beyond journalism itself. Neither do many of our media staples.

The social media, guerilla journalism, and cable news—those people are new to journalism as an idea—they have it confused with show business, with capitalism, or with political gamesmanship. You can indulge in that stuff, if you don’t mind having to fact-check everything they tell you. But the Gray Lady, the Washington Post, and other traditional sources are no more biased than they were in the days before Tweeting. Anyone dismissing their reporting as ‘spin’ is trying to hide from the truth, not reveal it.

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In the same way, the authorities in Charlotte, NC have claimed that the video from body-cams and dash-cams is inconclusive, yet still feel the need to hide the video from the public, even after the family of the murdered man requested its release. This is not transparency—when you hide something, it says you have something to hide—it’s as simple as that. The Charlotte community marches night after night, demanding this evidence be made public—yet still the authoritarians hide the evidence. Release the videos.

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It’s a fine day for me—but not for everyone. There is still work to be done.

But You ARE Deplorable (2016Sep23)


Friday, September 23, 2016                                              10:10 AM

An Ohio Trump campaign chairwoman resigned yesterday after sharing her delusional world view with a reporter—a view that seemed to blame Obama for the existence of racism. (Thanks Obama.)

Trump supporters have many self-serving delusions—they see in Trump an authority figure who legitimizes their particular crazy. It makes them feel better. They see the present as a travesty, brought on by those who just don’t understand the ‘rightness’ of their racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and islamophobia. Hillary got in trouble recently for being too straightforward in describing this phenomenon (and, for some reason, using the word ‘basket’).

Secretary Clinton was just being honest. Dangerous for a politician, granted—but it seems outrageously unfair that Trump’s steady stream of disinformation gets lovingly massaged by the media, while Hillary’s momentary frankness becomes her ‘biggest mistake’. Sorry, half of Trump supporters (or whatever the precise fraction may be)—but you are deplorable.

When our country once faced a similar crisis, FDR told us they only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Donald Trump wants to undo that tradition—Trump thinks fear is good stuff—he tells us to be very afraid. And you deplorables are listening. Trump tells you that inclusion is weakness, that mercy is foolhardy, and that action is better than thought—and you believe him.

Trump tells us that we don’t need to see his tax returns—we should trust him. He tells us that his indebtedness to other countries won’t affect his decision-making. He tells us that his family business won’t create a conflict of interest with his presidency—well, he’ll be right about that one—there’s a lot of people like me in this country who will do our damnedest to ensure he never gets near the White House. Vote for Hillary.

A Good Breakfast Ruined (2016Sep22)


Thursday, September 22, 2016                                        11:35 AM

Breakfast—is there anything sweeter than a hearty breakfast—and a handful of pills? Well, the pills are something I’ve acquired over time—what I really like is the bacon and eggs and hash browns—and then the sour of orange juice washing it all down—and then the hot, steamy, rich coffee (I take mine with lact-aid milk—the half-n’-half of the lactose intolerant).

And the best thing about it is that one isn’t supposed to have a hearty breakfast—all those nitrates, and fats, and the salt—OMG. Heaven forfend! But that just makes it taste better. And no breakfast is truly enjoyed without a newspaper, or at least a crossword puzzle or something—so you feel like you’re preparing your body and your mind for the day ahead. Well, the rest of the day—I don’t usually get around to breakfast until noon-ish—I know, I know—but it takes me a couple of hours just to wake up all the way. I’m kinda punchy for a while, at first.

Now, take a look at this picture of my niece holding my granddaughter—just look at the smiles on these two gals. It’s quite a photo, no? I stared at it for a good few minutes—it’s as good as a TV show.

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But before I have my breakfast, I’ve uploaded this morning’s improv—it came out pretty good because I wasn’t entirely there. See, I tend to overthink things—so, when playing the piano, the more asleep I am, the better.

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016                                        12:43 PM

Aaah—so satisfying. Now that’s a breakfast. I made the mistake, however, of substituting the TV-news for a newspaper. When really bad stuff starts to go down, I realize I didn’t know how good I had it, when it was all presidential election claptrap—they were just filling time because they had no news—and no news truly is good news.

I see video of a pack of Tulsa police gunning down a stalled motorist in the middle of the highway in broad daylight. I ask myself, ‘what the hell is it like, living in Tulsa?’ I ask myself, ‘what would it be like if our cops just shot people down in cold blood like that?’ I find myself grateful, not to live in Tulsa—what a stain on this country. Then the stain running for president, the Donald, becomes the first Republican to hassle the cops about shooting black people. Why? Because, this one time, the shooter is a woman—Trump’s not castigating the police, he’s saying women don’t have the balls—a very different issue—but Trump’s an ass, and wouldn’t know the difference.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the cops shoot another black man—this time they say he had a gun—his family says he had a book. The cops won’t release the video—they had one excuse yesterday—today they have a different excuse—they’re saying they’re just following the law. But the law about releasing cop videos just got rushed through their state legislature—so it doesn’t take effect until next week—and on the hypocrisy goes. But that doesn’t stop the media from drooling in anticipation of more violence during community protests there—so they can say there’s violence on both sides. Vultures.

I must confess—if the cops made a habit of shooting at me, I’d be tempted to shoot back—but I’m white, so maybe I just don’t understand the situation? Regardless, it sure ruins a good breakfast.

I’m an escapee. My disability sidelines me from the distractions of life, so I get to watch the rest of humanity go about its business. It’s a disturbing show—we’ve got a lot of chaos going on in the world. You who have jobs and other distractions are lucky; you don’t spend the day poring over the problems of the world.

I’m an escapee. I already died once, so my concern over dying is not the big deal it once was. Everyone knows we all die someday—but we don’t usually accept it—and that’s a healthy thing. I’ve accepted it—and while that tones down the fear of dying, it also detracts from the ambitions of living. Plus, I’ve gotten old, so any ambition of mine would just annoy people. My day is past, just like Dr. Evil holding the world hostage for a million-dollar ransom, in a time when a million bucks barely pays for a new house.

I’m an escapee—even from myself. I used to be very intent, very tightly wound—now I have trouble concentrating, so I’ve let go of all that OCD behavior, as much as I could. I enjoy playing the piano when I first wake up, because I’m not all there yet—I don’t get in my own way as much.

We’ll all be escapees in November, when Hillary gets elected—we will have escaped an unholy confluence—NBC Universal, The Republic Party, and the Alt-Right movement have created a monster out of a joke. In truth, Trump remains laughable. It’s the half of the country he’s bamboozled into supporting him that’s scary.

We’re also beginning to escape from our past Conspiracy of Silence shielding police misconduct in the persecution, and murder, of minorities. For generations, certain police in certain communities have indulged their bigotry in a calculated and cold-blooded fashion. For generations, minorities’ claims of unwarranted search, seizure, arrest, beatings, and killings have been waved away with a ‘he said, she said’ and a ‘who you gonna believe?’

But now we have video. The old tradition, the evil conspiracy, is being shot through its own heart—its secrecy—and I confess to a certain glee as I watch these criminals-in-cop-clothes try to explain away the truth as it plays on a screen in slow motion. The thin blue wall of silence doesn’t work against YouTube footage—bigots, your day is come.

Unrest will be part of this process. The unwillingness to absorb this age-old confederation of persecution, even while it plays on our TV sets, faces tremendous inertia among white people. We don’t want to believe that such villainy has been sniggering behind our backs while we trusted our men and women in blue. And we recognize that many police do their jobs with pride, competence, bravery, and integrity.

But our respect for the police as a group cannot be a shield for this pernicious evil that resides within it. Black communities gather in outrage, risking harm themselves, to protest this cancer within law enforcement, and within the hearts of communities. Evidence is plain to see—yet we do nothing but debate talking points.

Changes must be made. Perpetrators must face consequences, even when they wear the uniform. Improved training and community outreach must become the norm—as must criminal prosecution for these brazen killings committed under the guise of ‘keeping the peace’. Ironic, and unacceptable—and most of all shameful. Shame on them. And shame on us if we don’t root out this corruption with the same intensity with which we support our cops.

But I see all this as ultimately good, as progress—an ancient evil has been caught in the light of day and, if we do right, will be hounded into non-existence. Trump points to this unrest and other violence, and tries to say that violence and crime are increasing—statistics, as usual, make a liar of him—but that’s how he wants to frame our reality, so we’ll all get scared and vote for a bully. Crime and violence are at historic lows. The recent unrest is a part of making the police a force for good for everyone, including every shade of skin.

This is important work, not cause for hysteria. But, regarding Trump, that could be said about many of his positions, on just about every issue.

It’s Kinda Complicated (2016Sep21)


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016                                              1:14 PM

One of my friends wrote a poem. One of my friends died. One of my friends came to visit. One of my friends got divorced. I don’t know how to feel. I wake up every morning wondering.

As a young man, the life I live today would have made me crazy with restlessness—but I see chaos all around me and all I can think is, thank god the tornado missed me today. Not that I’ve ever even seen a tornado, except on TV—a big storm is the worst it ever gets around here—no earthquakes, no floods, no disasters (not since 9/11, anyway).

Some morning I’m going to wake up and everyone will be busy at work; all the kids will be studying in good schools; all the countries will be trying to get along; and things will get better. Well, maybe not—but if other people can play Lotto, I can dream too.

The world keeps going faster, getting more complicated. A lot of people aren’t embracing that—they’re running away from it. Maybe we have to start thinking of two new groupings of people—those who want to intern at Google, and those who want to live in a meadow—if you know what I mean. The world is sprinting forward—maybe some people would rather be left in an enclave of simplicity. If we don’t recognize this schism, it will become a point of friction. If we do recognize it, we have a shot at working out a compromise.

Maybe there’s a way to have our science-fiction future come true for some of us, and leave a bit of Lothlórien behind for the rest of us. We have to start thinking about this stuff—not everyone wants to live in Nerd Paradise. Just as robots are assuming manufacturing jobs—raising the question of where to find consumers when there are no jobs?—we need to address the fact that human IQ averages are not going to grow in proportion to Moore’s Law.

In olden times, when no one typed except secretaries, and making change was the big science/math challenge, lots of people had trouble dealing with even simple arithmetic. Now we expect every adult to choose a health insurance plan, apply for a bank loan, file a tax return, remember ten or twenty passwords, pin numbers, SSN#’s, and devise a retirement investment strategy. Our devices have manuals. Our phones contain more answers than questions. Our online footprints are at risk from hackers. What’s a C student supposed to do? Grow an extra brain?

Back when computers were new to the office environment, I was the computer guy. Every else asked me what to do when the screen confused them, or when the printer jammed. That seemed natural—thirty people, and only one of them had the interest or the intellect to get into the details of using a computer—now we’re all expected to learn it in grade school. And most do. But we are still asking a lot more from humanity than the last 30,000 years have asked of them. And we have to address that.

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Disgrace in Syria (2016Sep20)


Tuesday, September 20, 2016                                          12:50 PM

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What’s happening in Syria is some bullshit. For years, they’ve been deconstructing an ancient civilization—ancient cities, like Allepo—and sites of historic importance to all of humanity. They’ve ruptured their society, spilling millions of displaced, forever exiled, into the world around them—exiled, not because they can never return, but because the place they fled has ceased to exist.

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No one even knows who he or she is shooting at anymore—Assad’s troops, Rebels, Jihadi-extremists, Kurds, Russians, Americans, now Turks—this isn’t a war at all—it’s a civilization-free zone. The pitiable millions remaining were promised a cease-fire, waited day after day for the shooting to stop, then finally got a relief caravan moving—and, poof!—the cease-fire was over, and they shelled the relief trucks, killing innocent civilians and aid-workers alike. Fucking assholes.

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And I’m not just talking about Assad and Putin. Where is the UN in all this? Where are the Saudis? Where are the Egyptians? What about all those little caliphates full of oil-rich poohbahs? I live in the suburbs, an ocean away, and I can hardly stand this—what is wrong with those people?

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This is what happens when people have to fight for their voice, for their dignity. This is what intolerance gets you. All these people are so busy fighting for their side, they don’t even realize that the best way to stop the killing is to accept that there are other sides. And, of course, you do what you know—half-a-lifetime these folks have been clocking in each morning by picking up a gun. It’s a shame they’re raising a new generation, in the rubble, who will never know anything else.

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It makes me want to cry. There are a lot of problems behind this violence. It’s a shame that killing each other is the only solution—O, wait a fuckin minute. It ain’t. Goddam fucking assholes….

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Alright—deep breath. There’s nothing I can do about any of this stuff.

I have new pictures of my beautiful granddaughter. She just gets more adorable every day. This time she has on Supergirl socks (with tiny red capes!)—it’s just too delightful. And just look at those delicate hands and feet. People are fragile things—but babies just flaunt it, don’t they? Still, none of us have armor—just flesh. We should treat each other like we were as fragile as babies. Because we are.

I know—because I used to be healthy and indestructible—nothing could hurt me. Then I got sick, and then disabled. Little friggin microscopic bugs took me down. How can we waste our lives fighting each other? I know talking things out is boring—but it beats living in rubble, with babies starving. Just sayin.

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[below was previously published on Medium.com]

Monday, September 19, 2016                                          7:26 PM

ISIS is Bombing   (2016Sep19)

29 people were injured by a bomb in NYC—another was found two streets away, before it could go off. The Marine Corps marathon in NJ had a late start, so no one was hurt when a bomb there exploded. Another IED exploded while bomb-squad robots tried to defuse it. Unexploded devices allowed investigators to identify and hunt down a suspect—and, as of now, it appears that he was acting on his own.

All in all (and with sincere sympathies for the 29 wounded in New York—and the NJ police wounded during his apprehension) this was an excellent terror attack—a complete and utter failure to engender unease, much less terror. Our police and other agencies acted professionally, quickly, and successfully. It’s really little more than a campaign talking point, 72 hours after the event.

Americans do not terrorize quite so easily—certainly not anymore. And with top ISIS leaders being taken out day after day in the field, a laughable flop of a domestic terrorist attempt is only made more ridiculous by the knife-wielding Jihadist in Minnesota (again, with sincere sympathies for the wounded in that mall)—if they’re going to take us out hand-to-hand, they’ve picked the right country—come and get me, nutjobs.

Still, we must remember that school-shootings, mass-shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Anthrax mail-hoaxes of the past—all were carried out by the mentally disturbed—and even if we wipe terrorism from the face of the earth, violence will always lurk in the dark spaces of the mind. And we should remember that, outside of the buzz of current politics, these radicalized people are also mentally disturbed.

The will to violence is not so common as the media might suggest—if it were, we’d have people popping off every ten yards. The rare individuals that perpetrate bombings or shootings—even in the name of an organization—are still being culled from the ragged edges of our society. Most of us are too busy trying to get along—too busy living—to trouble with violence.

And that is why it is so important to uphold our ideals and our inclusion—every time someone is marginalized or neglected, they are pushed in a dangerous direction. When these people act out, there is a failure, too, in those around them—those who didn’t enclose that person in the security and comfort of a community. Those who overlook the underserved, the troubled, and the stigmatized, only put off trouble, and allow it to grow into a greater problem.

Trump’s Cult Constituency (2016Sep17)


Saturday, September 17, 2016                                          4:34 PM

We’ve all been mystified—how has a self-confessed fraud and egomaniac managed to collect and hang on to so many voters? The first clue is that Trump has made slim inroads into the educated-people demographic. The second clue is that none of his lies—even when proven untrue—see him losing any followers.

A narcissist with no experience in government who, when Hillary says he’s unfit, says, ‘no, she’s unfit’; when Hillary points out his racist behavior, says, ‘no, she’s the racist’—like an idiot child, he doesn’t even deny he’s unfit, or a racist—he just says, ‘I know you are but what am I?’ And now—the most flagrant lie in history—after spreading birther bigotry for five years, he says, ‘Hillary started it.’—a provably-false lie—and reverses his own position, without explanation or apology.

We wonder if we’re still sane—any other candidate would have been laughed out of countenance twenty slip-ups ago. Any other candidate would have plummeted in the polls by now. But Trump’s supporters hang tough—it’s a mystery. But I’ve figured it out—it’s a cult.

Think it through—this is a group of people who have been indoctrinated against science and facts. They’ve been told they can’t believe the newspapers or the TV or the radio—that reality is something different from what everyone else says it is. They have little or no education—many are emotionally fraught from all the change in this country—a change they see as working against them. And here’s a celebrity who speaks like Moses come down from the mountain, bringing the revealed word of Trump—graven on plastic tablets (that dissolve in water each news-cycle).

He tells them who the infidel is—he jokes about someone shooting her. He tells them that only he can save us all. The rest of us can tell he’s making it all up as he goes along—but his followers take his every word as gospel.

Their rage insists on a target—someone has to be punished, or at the very least damned—and everyone knows women make the easiest targets. Their fear is comforted by his insane confidence—like a prophet of old, he spouts nonsense—nonsense that God will make good on, in the end, right? These peoples’ faith is their strong suit—and it’s been under attack by progressives. Trump welcomes their non-judgmental faith, their non-questioning faith—in him (God is a bit player on Trump’s stage). It’s not a constituency—it’s a cult.

So, don’t go looking for Trump’s numbers to drop—no matter what happens. This election will decide whether there are enough sane people in this country to keep this jackass out of public office—or whether his zombie army will outnumber us at the polls. It’s the stuff of nightmares. This election should be quite exciting—we won’t be simply casting a vote, we’ll be trying to save the world. Vote for Hillary. Or live in the hell-scape of the alternative.