Category Archives: Politics

Trump Invites Cyber Attack

Cyber Attack Combo If you have a computer and use the Internet read the following statement from candidate Donald Trump very carefully:

“When asked about documents stolen in a cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee’s servers, (1) Trump suggested hackers had also breached Clinton’s personal email server.

“By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. (2)  I hope they do,” the GOP nominee told reporters, referring to Russia, who security experts suspect was behind the hack. “They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted.”

He also addressed the country directly: (3) “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” [TPM] [numbering added]

Let’s begin with Number One. The e-mails are a piece of the interminable GOP Benghazi nothing-burger which to date has yielded the participation of no less than 10 Congressional investigations; 252 witnesses called to testify, 62 hours of publicly available hearings, and 13 published reports – none of which indicate that Secretary Clinton did anything wrong.  But, there is always hope in GOP hearts. A hope expressed by Trump, who offered ZERO evidence that the hack included Clinton’s personal server.  He has no evidence her server was hacked – he just hopes so.  Let that sink in a second.

Number Two: He hopes they hacked her server.  Who hopes for someone else to be the victim of a cyber-attack?  Does anyone really wish for the Russians or any other source to cyber-attack anyone in the United States of America?  Is he really saying that he hopes a foreign power hacked one of our government officials?   After 10 Congressional investigations, an FBI report, and every single published report exonerating the former Secretary of State of any illegal activity – Trump is still wishing for something, anything, to come to light which would assist his political campaign.  This is Richard Nixon on steroids.  This isn’t keeping an “enemies list,” or “taping Oval Office conversations.” This is actively seeking assistance from a foreign power (probably the Russians) to get results of cyber-attacks on the United States of America.

Number Three: Now witness the stretch in the Trump Tweet.

Trump Cyber Attack Tweet If the Russians, or some other power, has found deleted e-mails then Trump wants them “handed over.”   On Twitter, Trump wants the e-mails handed over to authorities, but during the press conference he suggests that the media will jump all over the opportunity to publish them for click bait.  And, all this without offering a single attributable FACT that the deletions are “illegal,” or that they would contain any information relevant to the  investigations.

Worse still for Mr. Trump, there has been an FBI investigation and the security logs show NO evidence of any foreign hacks on the server in question. [NYT] [WaPo]  Therefore, all we can say is that Mr. Trump is trying to perpetuate the Fox News mythology of “missing e-mails” and not-very-smoking guns.  And yet more bad news for the mythologizers, the hacker who made claims about getting into Secretary Clinton’s e-mail server flat out lied. [PCWorld]

Let’s Get Serious

Mr. Trump’s anodyne platitudes and sweeping generalizations notwithstanding – there are a couple of things that he obviously doesn’t understand.

First, there’s cyber-war.  He called American efforts “obsolete.” I suppose we might thank him for suggesting that our enemies could safely underestimate our capacity. However, all sides understand  this is not the case.  For a more in-depth report on Mr. Trump’s inadequacies in regard to the nature and effectiveness of the U.S. cyber arsenal please read this piece in the Atlantic.

Secondly, there’s the insidiousness of suggesting that any foreign power should be applauded for gaining access to U.S. information via cyber-attacks.

In August 2015, Russian hackers carried out a cyber-attack on the Pentagon.  The attack shut down the unclassified e-mail system for the Joint Staff for about two weeks.  No classified information was accessed, nothing was stolen, and only unclassified accounts were involved in the cyber-attack – thank goodness. [USNWR]  However, we have to believe that there will be other, more sophisticated, and more egregious attacks to come.  Is Mr. Trump suggesting that if the Russians found out something useful for his campaign they should turn it over to the FBI and the Press? – From the Pentagon?

In June 2015, we learned the Chinese had hacked the computers of the Office of Personnel Management. The agency estimated about 4.2 million federal employees were affected, including 1.5 million who are members of the U.S. military. [WSJ]  Is Mr. Trump suggesting the hackers hand over any information which might be of any use to his campaign to the FBI and the Press?

Cyber-attacks aren’t playground dodge ball. Those who unsure of this proposition should read the articles in Wired, Business Insider, and Ars Technica on Stuxnet and Nitro Zeus.  For a truly nightmare scenario, imagine an attack on the U.S. electrical grid. [The Hill] Just such an attack happened in Ukraine last December. [Wired]  Is Mr. Trump suggesting that the Press might find it amusing to have the power go out in a major U.S. city during a campaign event for his opponent, Secretary Clinton?

The bottom line is that NO ONE, should be rooting for a cyber-attack, for any reason under any circumstances. NO ONE should be rooting for a foreign power to find a way into our secure information, our military operations, our personnel files, our electrical grid, our defense contractors, our banking institutions, our hospitals, our schools, or our retailing systems.


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Filed under Politics, privacy, Republicans

Potty Problems Solved for Conservatives

Gender Neutral Restroom Dear Conservative Friends and Neighbors:  I understand you are “baffled,” or “confused,” or something about gender neutral restrooms. [TP]  Perhaps I can assist you.  A gender neutral restroom is what you have in your house. You may have more than one, but I seriously doubt that you label each bathroom with gender specific signage.

Further, restrooms have stalls. Most people close the doors, just as you would at home, and just as at home when people head for the restroom/bathroom they usually do so with some urgency.  People do not generally ask which toilet to use in your home – they ask where it’s located.

As with the gender neutral toilet facilities you have in your home, we can assume that there will be some male of the species who will leave the toilet seat up.  The great Italian poet Dante did not provide for a tenth circle of Hell occupied by those who leave toilet seats up, especially in the late evening hours.  He should have.

Anyone who has shared a household toilet with male family members will know that all men’s aim is not created equally.  Nor do all follow the instructions: “Water sprayed on water makes a noise for all to hear, but water sprayed on porcelain is gentle to the ear.”  It’s like home, only with a public restroom you don’t have to put up with the excuses — “I did not!” Or, “I had to hurry because Janie was banging on the door.”

I’m not sure I can help those who found sharing a gender neutral restroom a “bizarre,” or “disgusting” experience.  I’m sure they have toilets in their own homes which are in regular use – by members of all genders.  But, but, but, they may sputter, these are “public” restrooms, and I’ll be in there with perfect strangers. Yes.  Consider the positive side of the experience.

If your elimination causes wrinkled noses, like what happens to the next person to use your home toilet after Uncle Festus does his morning constitutional post three cups of coffee, you’ll not have to face that person again.  Probably ever.  You will certainly not hear a family member bellow some appeal to The Deity followed by “What have you been eating? Roadkill?”

The nice feature of gender neutral toilets is that they honor the ancient precept – When you gotta go, you gotta go.  Aging conservatives will no doubt appreciate this more than the younger models.  There is a point in one’s life when a new Rule  is relevant: If you are 70 years of age or older never pass up an opportunity to go to a restroom.  Any restroom anywhere.

Frankly speaking, I’m a bit baffled myself about the conservative obsession with toilets.  Stuff seems to happen, or potentially happen, or could possibly happen, or might someday happen in their toilets that doesn’t appear to match the reality of common human experience. 

If a person were to feel this vulnerable with the drawers down, then how does that person undress for bed in a hotel room?  It’s public, it has a door, the door can be locked…

Should this not assuage the fears and phobias of conservatives, then I’m not sure what else to say except that they should definitely avoid camping, and perhaps any other activity outside the home that might interfere with their elimination and bowel transit schedule.   Beyond that I have no idea how to assist them.

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One Great Speech and Two White Whines

Michelle Obama 2016 Atlantic magazine called Michelle Obama’s speech last night one for the ages. It was.  Even Vogue got into the act.

“The story that has brought me to this stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”

It doesn’t take any imagination to figure out that the Trumpers are going to take exception to this, because they have already:

“All I hear is bitch bitch bitch yes there where slaves in the usa but how many white people died to free the slaves? I get really sick of black people bitching about someone way back when in their family might have been a slave (not likely less than 10% can really trace their family to slaves) and now they want money for something that has nothing to do with them. Till you can get over the fact that long long ago there where slaves in the usa remember the only about 5% of the slave trade came to the usa the rest went to south america.” [IndJourn]

And, this morning on the Thom Hartman show some ignorant fool from Nevada called in to whine, “Why did she (Mrs. Obama) have to bring that up, it’s just divisive.” Or something to that effect. I can’t match the inarticulate nature of his complaint. Beginning with “I’m a 64 year old white man…”

So, here comes the rant

Get some history.  The first enslaved people were hauled to Virginia in 1619; there were about 20 Africans sold into slavery before the Pilgrims even landed on the coast of Massachusetts.  In 1636 the first American slave transport ship, ironically named the Desire, set out from the Massachusetts docks.  It’s not until 1865 that slavery is officially abolished in this country in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  That’s 246 years of slavery.

That would be 246 years of putting up with the likes of one slave owner who wrote in his diary for September 3, 1709: “My wife was indisposed again but not to much purpose. In the afternoon I beat Jenny [a house slave] for throwing water on the couch.” [EyewitnessTH]

Yes, the majority of enslaved people were transported to the Caribbean and South American regions. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. puts the number of slaves brought directly to the US at about 450,000.  So, irrationally, our first commentator leaps to the conclusion that only about 10% of the current African American population can trace their ancestry to a slave. Nice try, but not even close.  In order to make this leap of faith (and not fact) we’d have to assume that the children and grandchildren of those imported to this county against their will weren’t enslaved? Nope Dope, the children, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren, likely multiple generations of progeny were enslaved like their forefathers and mothers.

And, why isn’t it easy for an African American person to trace the family tree? Because slave owners wrote things like “Henry, age 17, 5’4” in their records. [USArchives]  It doesn’t matter if 450,000 or 4 million people were initially brought to this country enslaved – slavery was wrong in the first place; and, there’s absolutely no way to assert that their children, their children’s children, and their children’s children’s children … were bought, sold, humiliated, beaten and badgered for 246 miserable years.

What matters is the fact that the great-great-great granddaughter of Melvinia Shields, a slave in northern Georgia, was standing on the podium of the Democratic National Convention last night talking about how she was living in the White House and her daughters (the great-great-great-great granddaughters of Melvinia Shields) were playing with their dogs on the south lawn.

However, the White Whiners aren’t finished. Notice the second part of the comment, the one with the “long long ago” phrase – there are a couple of blood boiling feathers attached to this chicken statement.  The assumption here is that the whole “slavery” issue is long ago and far away, and therefore not part of our collective existence.  This is an easy assumption to make IF and only IF we ignore the fact that on March 21, 1981,  Michael Donald, an African American resident of Mobile, AL was the victim of the last recorded lynching in America.  The record before then was even worse.

“Researchers said they determined that 3,959 black people were killed in “racial terror lynchings” in a dozen Southern states between 1877 and 1950. The new number includes 700 people who were not named in previous works seeking to comprehensively document the toll, the authors wrote. Some of those previous studies were conducted at a time when lynching was still an ongoing phenomenon.” [WaPo]

So, only 28 years after the last recorded lynching of an African American man in the United States, an African American mother is watching her girls leave in Secret Service vehicles from the White House to go to school.

Our 64 year old White Whiner was born in 1952, he was 29 years old when the last lynching took place in this country, and he doesn’t want to talk about slavery, race, or all that divisive stuff.  He’s white, and he’s uncomfortable when people talk about things white people did, and he certainly doesn’t want to be reminded that he’s obviously uncomfortable with African Americans.

As far as he seems to be concerned it’s up to African Americans to make him feel comfortable.  Let’s guess he’s upset that the African American President understood how the parents of Trayvon Martin felt, and how the Talk hadn’t been enough to save their son from a gun happy bigot.  Thin (white) skin and contemporary issues aren’t a good mix.  He’s upset that the African American President might understand how a small suburban police force could be so insensitive to the people they were supposed to serve?  How a toxic combination of revenue collection and racism could exacerbate an already tense situation?

Our 64 year old white whiner was 15 in 1967 and 21 in 1973, just in time to watch the Watts Riots (1965), the Detroit Riots (1966), and the Newark Riot (1967).   Far from understanding what precipitated these events, he appears to have decided that “hard-working Americans” means “white.”  “Those” other people (black) riot.  He was 28 years old in 1980, in time perhaps to vote for Ronald Reagan, and the “morning in America,” which dawned at the Neshoba County Fair, Mississippi.

Perhaps our 64 year old white whiner just doesn’t feel safe anymore?  The Hispanic population of his home town, Las Vegas, is now about 1/3rd of the total. 11% or so of the population is African American, and another 6% are of Asian descent.  Clark County isn’t the home to the 277,230 people in Las Vegas as it was in 1970; it’s now home to a very diverse 603,488.  Nor is it a place where racist, sexist, or ethnic “humor” is tolerated as it was 50 years ago.  He can’t say the N-word outside of a tight circle of like-minded companions. He can’t crack jokes about ethnic groups outside the confines of that same tribal group. He can’t complain about women in the work-force without risking censure.  He can’t feel comfortable with all that “political correctness” (read civility) requiring him to tolerate people he finds intolerable.  He can’t comprehend that arguing against the toleration of others is simply another manifestation of white privilege, white tribalism, white supremacy.

And, he can’t understand how the African American mother, the great-great-great granddaughter of an enslaved woman in northern Georgia, could be speaking of the promise of America, and the progress of this nation, when she mentioned the very thing that makes him uncomfortable – the fact of slavery, segregation, and discrimination in the United States of America.

“So look. So, don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great—that somehow we need to make it great again—because this right now is the greatest country on earth. And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth.” [Atlantic]

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Filed under Democratic Party, Obama, Politics

The Dangerous Voices of America, Amplified and Televised

A couple of days ago Clay Shirky posted Tweets which should explain why and how Donald Trump has any support among the American electorate.  It’s an article that should be read, reviewed, and taken to heart.  Here’s a bit of the piece:

“I want to say something to my liberal white friends: Trump talked a lot of shit last night, but not one word of “I am your voice!” was a lie”

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

Trump IS the voice of angry whites. He wasn’t on stage because he has unusual views. He was on stage because he has the usual ones, loudly.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of whites who want their neighbors deported if they speak Spanish. He is the voice of whites terrorized by seeing a hijab.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of people who think legal & cultural privileges for white conservative Protestants are God’s plan, not a bias to be overcome

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of people who hear ‘hard-working’ as a synonym for ‘white.’ He is the voice of people who think black lives matter less.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He speaks for millions.”

There are some other facets to cope with as well, Trump speaks for those who believe that if people in a room are speaking [Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or German…] it must be because they are saying something they don’t want the “Americans” to understand.

His is the voice of people who don’t mind seeing Hispanic maids cleaning their hotel rooms, but don’t want them speaking up about making a living wage.  Or asking for better working conditions on farms, or asking for much of anything for that matter.  “They” are taking “American jobs,” according to the voice of Trumpism.  However, that doesn’t stop the Trumpers from demanding they do the work.  His is the voice of those who decry immigration from Central and South America, but “like the immigrants;” they just wish there weren’t so many of them.

His is the voice of all those neighbors we’ve heard who are outraged by the offer from the answering services that if we like to have the customer assistance in Spanish, please press “2.”

His is the voice of those who conveniently forget that Great-grandfather  came here and didn’t speak English, but now three generations later none of the descendants can do much more than order food in the original language.

His is the voice of those who denounce racism while adamantly opining that if “they” would just act more “white” there would be fewer problems.

His is the voice of the woman horrified that the lady sitting next to her wearing the hijab might be a “terrorist,” while nodding respectfully at a nun in her habit.  His is the voice of the man who can’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh, and doesn’t really care if there is one.

His is the voice of the person who believes that having to live in a country in which members of the LGBT community are open and honest about their relationships is “oppressing,” i.e. because the individual is uncomfortable with gay and lesbian people therefore he is “oppressed” if he is required to be tolerant towards them.

His is the voice of those who believe that if some one unlike himself is granted the full advantages of citizenship and freedom then it must be at his expense, without realizing he is arguing for white supremacy and institutional racism.

His is the voice of those who believe that there’s nothing wrong with flying the Stars and Bars – it’s just heritage.  That it is a heritage of hate isn’t to be acknowledged.  In short, Trump is the voice of Tribalism.

His is the voice of the person who thinks it’s President Obama’s duty to make him feel comfortable; and should the President offer an African-American perspective on an issue, then he is the one being “divisive.”

Unless someone has invented a magic solution to erase racism, misogyny, bigotry, and irrationality in the last month or so, these people will be going to the polls in droves to express their fears, their anxieties, and in some unfortunate instances their hatred.

They don’t care if Trump lies – he’s their voice, amplified and televised. They don’t care if he’s a hypocrite whose products are manufactured in the countries he attacks – he’s their voice, amplified and televised.  They don’t care if he’s got the foreign policy experience of a hamster – he’s their voice, amplified and televised.

Shirky’s advice is important, we have to campaign as if we are the minority, always remembering that there are now insidious Voter ID laws in 33 states, and gerrymandering in so many others.

Challenge the Trumper in the family – Are you really going to vote for a man who would deny healthcare for your wife and daughter? Are you really going to vote for a man who thinks African Americans are inherently violent/lazy? Are you really going to vote for a man who believes that NATO is something to be toyed with?   Are you going to vote for a man who has the support of white nationalists?  The usual response comes back, “I like him because he says what he thinks.”  If so, is he saying what YOU think?

Challenge the system – donate, donate, donate, when and as much as you can.  Help where you can and how you can. And every moment from now until election day remember that 40% of Americans believe Trump is speaking in their Voice.

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Filed under Politics, racism

Email Items for Uncle Fester: Officer Down Edition

Cops killed by firearms chart The chart above shows firearm related deaths of police officers and law enforcement personnel since 2005. []

This chart shows police fatalities by administration:

Cop fatalities by adminstration [Link here]

There is possibly no way Uncle Fester, that Right Wing Loon at the Thanksgiving Dinner assembly, is going to believe his own lying eyes. However, that doesn’t mean his inbox should be immune from a few bits of factual matter.

We all know by now that the Uncle Festers of the world aren’t moved by facts, data, peer reviewed statistics, or logical arguments.  If they were they’d not be saying things like: “My great-grandparents didn’t come to this country to have their descendents shoved out of jobs by immigrants.” (A debunked tweet now picked up and repeated by Trump followers and detractors alike.)

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics, Republicans

King, Holtz, and the GOP Trumpster Fire

Dumpster Fire 1

Sometimes we just have to assume people are simply telling us who they really are.  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is just such a person, a person who started a small brush fire during the GOP’s Trumpster Fire with his comments about Western Civilization. [DesMReg]  The response, of course was full and fast. [Salon] [Time]  However, King’s own response was also instructive.

“Following his controversial remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday, Iowa’s Steve King defended his comments Tuesday, saying “somebody needs to stand up for the contributions that have been made by Western civilization.” [DesMReg]

Now having put his foot in it, this is the longer version of his “explanation:”

“Rep. Steve King attempted to clarify the controversial comments he made Monday afternoon about “white people” doing more for civilization than any other “subgroup” during an interview with ABC News later that night, stating he meant “Western civilization,” not “white people.”

“What I really said was ‘Western civilization,’ and when you describe Western civilization that can mean much of Western civilization happens to be Caucasians. But we should not apologize for our culture or our civilization,” said King.

“The contributions that were made by Western civilization itself, and by Americans, by Americans of all races stand far above the rest of the world. The Western civilization and the American civilization are a superior culture.” [Variety]

For a non-apology apology this is classic. Nor does this take the White Supremacy out of the mix simply by generalizing beyond “white people.”

We could lecture Representative King from now until the end of time about the scientific advances of the Egyptians, the mathematical contributions of the Hindus and Arabs, the 75,000 year history of art in Africa,  the preservation of Aristotle’s work by Muslim scholars…. We could but it might be a waste of time.

He still doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with a Confederate States of America flag on his desk, or his bill to keep Harriet Tubman off our currency, or with comparing Mexican immigrants with livestock, or the college bound children of immigrants with pot smugglers, or opining that we shouldn’t have to provide translators…

This district has elected him to Congress six times now. In this district with  121,925 active registered Democrats, 191,308 active registered Republicans, and another 162,432 registered non-partisan voters [IAsos pdf] King must be saying something someone likes?  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that King’s message aligns with the demographics – of a total population of 758,690 an estimated 708,907 are white; only 9,489 are African American; 14,535 are Asian, and Native Americans count for 4,249 of the total. Hispanics make up 49,204 of the total. [Census] King’s district is  93.44% white.  Why would he feel the need to appreciate the meaning of the battle flag? The importance of Harriet Tubman’s contributions?  The Chinese inventors of paper?

King’s not too far removed from another source of national embarrassment, former coach Lou Holtz:

Speaking at a luncheon the Republican National Coalition for Life hosted during the RNC to honor Phyllis Schlafly, Holtz said the high number of immigrants coming to the U.S. constitutes an “invasion.” And he said new immigrants need to assimilate better. Holtz added that his grandparents learned English after immigrating to the U.S. from Ukraine, and insisted his family learn it as well. New immigrants to this country, he continued, need to learn and speak English and “become us.”

“I don’t want to become you,” he continued. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!” [TDB]

There’s nothing terribly new about this terrible expression of negative sentiments.  It’s factually inaccurate, sociologically inaccurate, and patently bigoted.  The most significant portion comes at the end, “I don’t want to become you…”

We might translate this in a number of ways, but the first coming to mind is “I don’t want the white dominant culture in this country to become contaminated with foreign language, foreign holidays, and foreign entertainment.”   If true, then Holtz may want to stop using terms that very possibly started as Irish street slang in NYC — “stiff,” “Gee Whiz,” “ballyhoo,,” “swank,” or “snooty.” []  Nor can he speak of a “glitch,” “chutzpah,” “kibitzing,” or even a “tush,” without speaking Yiddish. [List]

Holtz and his ilk, do not, and possibly will not, comprehend that the language they are speaking with such pride is, itself, a mixture of appropriated verbiage from “abandon” (French) to “moccasin” (Algonquian) to “zenith” (Arabic).  Further, Holtz may be concerned that a local retailer could be mounting a Cinco de Mayo Sale Extravaganza – it’s reasonable to assume the local retailer isn’t a bit worried about cultural implications, just whether or not the sales figures are positive.

Does he object to Mardi Gras in New Orleans because it’s of early 18th century French origins in that city?  St. Patrick’s Day celebrations? At Notre Dame?  It appears as though Holtz isn’t so much affected by the foreign origins of American holidays as he is by the prospect of NEW American holidays being added to the already crowded calendar of when we “go retailing,” or have another excuse to fire up the barbeque grill.

King and Holtz are kindred, and uncomfortable, spirits.  The new and the unfamiliar are vacuumed up into the “foreign” category to be disparaged because they are not understood.  They also give every appearance of having it backwards – cultures do not die if they are dynamic and growing, they desiccate and die off if they do not.

Robert F. Kennedy summed them up:

“There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed.”

And, now we have an entire convention devoted to them in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Filed under conservatism, Eagle Forum, Immigration, Politics, racism, Republicans

Unsolicited Advice for a Police Union

Rockwell cops I write this from the perspective of a former public sector union member and officer. I write this without rancor for other public section union members and their officials, but I write this because there is a difficult line to walk between protecting the interests of the membership and drawing lines between the members and the communities they serve.  Once those lines are drawn they are very difficult to erase.

There is always a temptation on the union side of the ledger to focus  on protecting the individual member from disciplinary actions, from demotions, involuntary transfers, dismissals, or refusals to re-employ.  That’s part of the job.  However, some disciplinary actions are both appropriate to the situation and often inevitable. Therefore, the focus of the union representatives is more productive in the long run if the philosophy is to protect the due process rights of the member, and the provisions of the master contract.  Put ever so much more bluntly, there are times when it’s necessary to tell a member, “I’m here to help you offer the best defense you can, if you can dream one up.”  

What is not helpful is to operate on the assumption that every member (or non-member in some instances) is worthy of full throated public support.  Nor is it helpful to assume that criticism of one, or a few, is necessarily criticism and vilification for all.    Yet, that seems to be the standard operation in a few high profile union/community examples.

“The St Louis Police Officers Association claimed that officers found the actions of (St. Louis Rams) Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Tre Mason to be “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory”, and demanded that they be disciplined.

Five of the players emerged for their game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday with their hands aloft, a gesture used by protesters who claim that Brown was surrendering when he was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson on 9 August. Last week a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.” [Guardian] December 1, 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, aviation employees, letter carriers, and state and municipal employees were respected for the countless hours of service they provide?  If everyone understood that first responder vocations are of paramount importance? If everyone understood that teaching and nursing are high stress occupations with long hours and little overtime?  However, respect doesn’t necessarily indicate adoration, reverence, and exaltation.   Further, demanding veneration means there will be higher standards applied to the members of the organization.  The old line applies: If you want to be respected do your job; if you want to be worshipped you have to do your job perfectly.

Mix a bit of racial tension into this toxic stew and there’s a recipe for unhelpful recrimination.  

“Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, blasted de Blasio for his inflammatory remarks, which followed Wednesday’s decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict cop Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference was that they were thrown under the bus,” Lynch said.

De Blasio had called the Garner case “profoundly personal for me,” saying that because of “the dangers [Dante] may face, we’ve had to literally train him . . . in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [NYPost] December 4, 2015

That a father would have The Talk with his son about interactions with police officers is common in the African American community.  I have yet to meet an African American who hasn’t been followed in a department store at least once, or hasn’t had The Talk with a son, grandson, or nephew.  Yes, The Talk implies a negative perception of the police, but an essential part of The Talk is to show respect for the officer and the directions given.  No one is getting tossed under the wheels of any imaginary bus – this is simply generational wisdom passed along regarding how to cope with some people in authority.  There are also  Talks about how to cope with cranky teachers, or how to behave in a department store.  These same talks are replicated in the white community, although without the sense of urgency and fear.  “Respect your teachers, respect police officers, keep you nose clean and mind your manners.”  Aren’t those things what we want all kids to do?

When the dust settles, let it settle. The outcome of mediation, arbitration, or litigation may not be the desired outcome for the union, but once it’s done it should probably “stay done.”  Such as in the case of the Eric Garner settlement in New York:

“Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins, meanwhile, had a different take. In an interview with the NY Post (who else?), Mullins described the settlement as “obscene” and “shameful,” asking the tabloid’s readers, “Where is the justice for New York taxpayers? Where is the consistency in the civil system? In my view, the city has chosen to abandon its fiscal responsibility to all of its citizens and genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government.” [Translation: AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON.] [Also: AL SHARPTON.]

“Mr. Garner’s family should not be rewarded simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest,” Mullins concluded. (Police claim Garner had been selling loose cigarettes outside a Staten Island deli when officers approached him.)” [Gothamist]  July 14, 2015

Or, in the case of Tamir Rice’s family in Cleveland:

“The head of the Cleveland rank-and-file police union says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association association, was criticized on a national scale for statements he made to the media in the weeks and months after two officers in his union were involved in Tamir’s death.” [Cleveland PDealer] April 25, 2016

When enough has been said, enough has been said.  Until it happens again —

“Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.  Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio.

“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers,” the team said in a statement. “While our players message mourned the loss of life due to last week’s shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. … We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.” [MSTrib]


“Kroll (Minneapolis Police Federation) criticized Lynx players, citing the “false narratives” in the past two years in which some allegations of police misconduct in the killing of black people were refuted. “Rushing to judgment  Police sign up for off-duty jobs to work Lynx games, Kroll said. “They can start or stop a job whenever they want,” he said. “They are working on an independent contract.”

Asked about a report that seven or eight officers had walked off the job, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.” [MSTrib]

Here we go again.  Lt. Bob Kroll commends the officers for walking off, and then slathers on a bit of misogyny about the “pathetic draw.”  Putting distance between your union and your community doesn’t serve most positive purposes – in terms of  issues both philosophical and practical.

On a philosophical level, if we assume  there is already a divide between the African American community and the police – how does walking away from a potential opportunity for “constructive discussion” help anyone? What of, “I protect and defend your rights, including freedom of speech, until you say something I find offensive?” From a practical standpoint, the Lynx organization already hires private security; does it help other police officers trying to earn  extra pay if they are perceived as potential ‘walk outs’ should they be in any way offended by players’ statements?   The police chief tried to tamp down the rhetoric:

“Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear,” she said. “While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now.” [MSTrib]

Here’s a thought: When the employer is trying to smooth the waters for the union, there’s a possible need to curtail wave making actions.  There are already calls for the privatization of police  [HuffPo] popular in some libertarian quarters, and touted as a ‘solution’ to police/community relations.  If your opponent wants to make a cudgel, refrain from handing him a tree branch.   Or a tree trunk, as in Denver:

“It’s only natural that some police departments reassess how they handle protests after the terrible shootings in Dallas last week that left five officers dead. But the demand by the Denver police union in the wake of the tragedy that local cops wear riot gear during protests was truculent and out of line.

The union has been pushing for the use of riot gear at protests for two years, ever since demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., spread across the country. But the tone adopted by Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, in a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock and police Chief Robert White, was rude and combative, while some of its factual content was questionable.

Basically, Rogers warned those two officials that if any officer not wearing riot gear is injured during a protest, the union will attempt to hold them personally liable, citing federal court decisions that “officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials ‘created the danger’ that caused the harm.” Presumably he means the union will sue the mayor and chief in an effort to blame them.” [DenverPost]

There’s also something to be said for an employer who is trying to maintain the public image of police as public servants and not an armed militia out to suppress citizens, some of whom are already reluctant to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

Highly publicized emotional comments in highly volatile times, too often made from intransigent positions predicated on “us vs. them,” may garner approval from some quarters but approbation from others.   It’s best to function from the position that there are those who will always be in support no matter what the issue; however, it’s the increasing level of approbation which ought to be of primary concern.  Listening to supporters is always comforting; listening to the adversaries is always necessary.  On a more tangible level one thing the police unions would do well to avoid is the perception (now conveniently applied to public school teachers) that the union will protect the “bad apples.”

The recent devolution of respect for the teaching profession includes the argument that “schools are bad, they are bad because of bad teachers, and unions are bad because they protect those bad teachers.”  That none of this makes any sense isn’t the point. We certainly don’t need for some elements in the political spectrum to start arguing that “policing is bad, it’s bad because of bad officers, and the unions are bad because they protect those bad officers.”  Once this contamination spreads it’s more difficult to resist the privatization proponents.

If the perspective is truly to defend the due process rights of police officers, and to protect the provisions of the master contracts, then it’s much easier to defuse confrontations.  Due process and contractual elements aren’t personal.  Personalizing them adds emotion, emotion reduces discourse, and reduced discourse increases confrontations.  Negotiations are rarely improved by adding confrontation into the milieu. There is, indeed, a time for more collaboration and less conflict.

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