Nevada’s Health Care Problem We’re Not Talking About

Skip the political blathering about “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.  The law has enabled 16.4 million Americans to get health insurance as of March 2015. [OFacts]  This means there’s been a 35% reduction in the number of people in this country who are without health care insurance. [OFacts] So, instead of posturing and polarizing, let’s talk about improving the health care to which more people now have access.

NV Substance AbuseOne area in which we could be doing better is in addressing and treating addiction issues faced by citizens of Nevada. Notice the information from SAMHSA indicates most individuals who are in treatment programs are getting help with both alcohol and drug abuse problems.   However, the next two charts aren’t quite so positive.

NV Substance Abuse Treatment You read that correctly… over 85% did NOT receive treatment for substance abuse issues.

NV Alcohol Treatment PercentageYes, you read this one correctly too. Some 95.4% of individuals with alcohol addiction problems did NOT receive treatment in the year prior to the SAMSHA survey.   These numbers should improve as the policy requirements for comprehensive, basic, health insurance take effect:

“The ACA includes substance use disorders as one of the ten elements of essential health benefits. This means that all health insurance sold on Health Insurance Exchanges or provided by Medicaid to certain newly eligible adults starting in 2014 must include services for substance use disorders.” [WH.gov]

Nevada participates in the Medicaid Expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and so we should expect some improvements in the percentage of individuals who have access to health insurance which covers addiction treatment programs.  That still doesn’t fully answer the question: Why are there so many untreated cases?

As of 2013 some 61% of those without health insurance said they couldn’t afford it, or they lost coverage when they lost a job. [KaiserFnd]  The financial assistance under the terms of the ACA should help, but there may still be some gaps.  “Not all workers have access to coverage through their job. Most uninsured workers are self-employed or work for small firms where health benefits are less likely to be offered. Low-wage workers who are offered coverage often cannot afford their share of the premiums, especially for family coverage.” [KaiserFnd]  So, who is most likely to be without health insurance?

    • “Individuals below poverty are at the highest risk of being uninsured, and this group accounted for 27% of all the uninsured in 2013 (the poverty level for a family of three was $19,530 in 2013). In total, almost nine in ten of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families, meaning they are below 400% of poverty.”
    • “While a plurality (46%) of the uninsured are White, non-Hispanic, people of color are at higher risk of being uninsured than White non-Hispanics. People of color make up 40% of the population but account for over half of the total uninsured population. The disparity in insurance coverage is especially high for Hispanics, who account for 19% of the total population but more than 30% of the uninsured population. Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks have significantly higher uninsured rates (25.6% and 17.3%, respectively) than Whites (11.7%).” [KaiserFnd]

And herein we run directly into the revolving door of addiction treatment access issues.

Those who may need access to treatment programs for addiction problems may (1) fall into the gap between the insured and the uninsured; because (2) of job loss or low wages; and (3) they may be spending funds on their addiction that would otherwise be available for treatment.

Enter the Boo Birds: “If these people would just stop spending money on booze and dope and start saving for addiction treatment programs… problem solved.”   How righteous? The problem is that we are speaking about ADDICTION.  We’re not talking about “discretionary” spending here in the classical sense.  And, the individuals who fall into the uninsured category are more likely low income or unemployed in the first place.

“Alcohol treatment costs vary widely depending on your individual treatment needs, your insurance, and the facility. Here are some tips to help you pay for treatment:

  • Check your insurance. If you have health insurance, call the number on the back of your card to ask about your mental health and substance abuse coverage. Find out what your out-of-pocket costs will be, including deductible and co-payment amounts.
  • Look into programs that offer sliding scale or reduced payment options. Check with your state’s substance abuse agency or call SAMHSA’s helpline (1-800-662-HELP) to ask about affordable treatment in your area.” [HelpGuide]

Checking your insurance is good advice – IF a person has insurance, “finding out the deductible/co-pay expenses is good advice as well – IF a person is in a financial position to pay those costs.  Yet again, we run into a situation in which if a person is “well off” financially, or has family resources which can absorb the costs, treatment is available.  Not “well off,” don’t have family resources to offset the costs?   Not. So. Much.

To drive this point closer to home, Nevada has 62 drug treatment center listings, 38 of which are shown as offering “payment assistance.” [DRHQ]  Making the point even more sharply – Nevada has 11 behavioral health professionals for every 1,000 people in the state, the lowest in the nation. Vermont has about 70 per 1,000; Connecticut about 60; Maine about 55. Nevada is sitting down at the bottom with Georgia, Texas, and Indiana. [PCT]

There are some efforts we could make before the next legislative season to address these issues:

  1. Research and publish the findings on the availability of alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers which provide payment assistance for low or middle income patients, and the uninsured. 
  2. Research and publish the findings on the availability of alcohol and substance abuse professional services in both our urban and rural regions.
  3. Research and publish the findings on the average waiting time for those who are seeking treatment, especially in residential treatment programs.
  4. Research and report the efforts made to attract more individuals and institutions into the field of behavioral health, including substance abuse professionals.
  5. Recommend ways the state might improve its ration of expenditures on prevention and treatment or incarceration.

It would seem logical to approach this health care issue from a positive perspective – now that the ACA makes health insurance more affordable for more people, how can we help Nevadans take advantage of treatment programs?  Further, how can we assist those who have fallen into the non-insured gap get the treatment they want and need?  How can we get Nevada off the bottom in the list of availability of behavioral health care professionals?

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Filed under health, Health Care, health insurance, nevada health, Nevada politics

If this were a vacation …

Desk Buried

I’d have scuttled the whole thing and gone home by now.  The Desk is still piled up, but the situation is improving…I think.  In the meantime, please visit some of the fine Nevada blogs in the sidebar.  Thanks for your interest and patience.  — DB

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And More Apologies — Be Back Shortly, I promise

Busy Notice

This is supposed to be August, vacation season and all that. However, things have piled up and the blogging will have to take a back seat for a couple of days while other matters absorb my summer days.  In the mean time, please visit some of the extra-fine blogs and places of interest in the sidebar.  I do appreciate your patience, and when I can give the blog posts the attention and research you deserve, I’ll be back.

DB

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Quick Bucks and Long Term Losses: The Benzer Debacle and Nevada HOAs and COAs

Chicken Roosting Leon Benzer is worried about his family’s future, perhaps he might have given some thought to those prospects before launching his “sprawling conspiracy” in Nevada?  Another bunch of chickens comes home to roost:

“His sprawling conspiracy left a trail of ruin in its wake, including HOAs with substandard repair work, defrauded mortgage companies, defeated HOA homeowners with diminished property values and dozens of Benzer’s family members, friends and employees ensnared in his web of criminality,” prosecutors wrote. “Indeed Benzer by himself caused a (more than) 40-person crime wave in the Las Vegas Valley between 2005 and 2009, perpetrating crimes including mortgage fraud, election fraud, threats of violence and intimidation, abuse of the judicial process, tax fraud and obstruction of justice.” [LVRJ]

The conspiracy was a tangle with a simple objective: “The goal was to gain control of HOA boards through election rigging, obtain construction-defect litigation contracts for Quon and, ultimately, construction repair work to Benzer’s company, Silver Lining Construction.” [LVRJ

The result for Benzer was a 15 1/2 year sentence from a Federal District judge, plus 5 years supervised release, and $13.4 million in restitution. [LVRJ]   Mr. Benzer also played fast and loose with NRS 116.31105-7.  In Nevada, HOAs must have executive boards of at least three members, and the board members must be owners of units within the HOA.  So, from August 2003 until February 2009 Benzer and his associates:

  • Identified HOAs which could bring construction defect cases
  • Engaged real estate agents who would identify units available for purchase in the targeted HOAs
  • Enlisted straw purchasers for the identified units who would carry out Benzer’s scheme to get construction defect litigation contracts
  • Secured financing for the straw purchasers
  • Insured the straw purchase members were elected to executive boards of the HOAs (fraudulently)
  • Worked with the fraudulently elected straw purchase executive board members to manipulate property management, claims of construction defects, and to secure contracts for Mr. Benzer’s company. [DOJ Benzer]

Civic Duty

What would make HOAs such an inviting target for this kind of felonious manipulation?  First and perhaps foremost, the HOAs have an advantage in that multiple buildings or units can be conveniently lumped together, unlike having to deal with multiple individual owners.  The very nature of community interests can be twisted into an advantage for the unscrupulous.  So, if the sidewalks are 4.5 ft wide instead of the required 5 ft. then it’s obviously easier to get a large contract to improve pedestrian walkway easements on private property, or to encroach on landscaping, or whatever needs to be done to meet the local building codes and standards.

Secondly, we might want to consider the owners’ interests.  One of the HOA/COA advantages is that one can have some lawn or exterior landscaping without having to do the maintenance.  Just the thing for older residents who don’t have an interest in shoving the lawn mower around every weekend.  Or, perhaps, just the thing for younger residents who aren’t ready to invest in the lawn mower, week whacker, and other appliances of landscape management.  Or, can’t afford to hire landscapers themselves? The same applies to maintaining communal items – roofing (in connected buildings/units) or parking areas, walkways and other communal areas.  The advantage is that the individual owner isn’t responsible for the roof, or the parking, or the sidewalks – the disadvantage is that the HOA, being responsible is also a prime target for the likes of Mr. Benzer and his merry gang.

Third, and nearly always the case in relatively small operations, is the problem of finding people to participate in the management of an HOA/COA. This would seem a small issue if only three people are required for Board membership, but this doesn’t mean the problem goes away.  There are those who own HOA/COA properties who are not residents – they may be those who once resided in the community but have moved on, while still maintaining ownership of the unit.  They may have never resided in the community, but maintain the property as a rental.  It would seem that an HOA or COA with a high percentage of absentee owners could be an inviting prospect for the Benzer style take-over scam.

From the psychological speculation side of the issue, those people who moved into an area managed by an Executive Board and the property management firm because they didn’t want to bother with ‘community issues,’ may not be the type to get actively involved in the management and executive decisions related to the property or properties. The “Let George Do It” perspective is a powerful force in modern life.

Therefore, we might be left holding the banner for the old saw: 10% of the people will do 100% of the work.  How often the executive board work gets done is specified in the by-laws – by law the Board must meet “least once every quarter, and not less than once every 100 days and must be held at a time other than during standard business hours at least twice annually.” [NRS]  Let’s speculate that the more often a board meets the more oversight it does of property management, and that the board which meets only four times per year (two of which must be in the evening) has pretty much let the managers take over the subject.   Here, too, is an opening for the unscrupulous.

Legislative Duty

Given the extensive nature of Mr. Benzer’s highly questionable operations, it would seem the Board Scam would have drawn some legislative attention. It didn’t in the early days, the 2003 session of the State Legislature didn’t pass any legislation regarding Chapter 116.  In the 2005 session, the legislature enacted SB 325 which address management and fiscal issues.  In 2007, AB 396 required: “a member of an executive board who stands to profit personally from a matter before the board to disclose and abstain from voting on the matter.” Governor Jim Gibbons vetoed the measure.  His objections were, (1) the act might increase assessments; (2) there could be “dramatic changes to common areas,” and (3) it was a late bill and the legislature should have given it more consideration.  [DB 5/2009]  It would be November 2007 before Scott Canepa, a construction defect lawyer, brought information to the federal investigation into Benzer’s scheme. [LVRJ]

The next session in 2009 , did give the entire Chapter (116) much more consideration: SB 68; SB 182; SB 183; SB 253; SB 261; SB 351; AB 129; AB 350; and AB 361 were enacted. [NVleg] The provisions in AB 350 helped fill a void in management ethics, boards were admonished as follows:  “and shall act on an informed basis, in good faith and in the honest belief that their actions are in the best interest of the association.”   To its credit, when the details of the Benzer Scam-A-Rama unfolded the Nevada Legislature did act to curtail this kind of behavior.  And, perhaps had former Governor Jim Gibbons not been so allergic to the expression “solar energy,” AB 396 might have helped alleviate some of the damage back in 2007. 

Oversight and Information

The Nevada Legislature did what legislatures generally do best – enact legislation to criminalize crimes already committed. The prevention of any replication of Mr. Benzer’s operations is laudable.  However, before castigating the Legislature it should be noted that it’s impossible to legislate away problems before the information is available.

Members of HOAs and COAs, and member of the general public, might want to know  the status of an HOA or COA with particular attention to those factors which might render it a potential target for disreputable and downright criminal elements.  What oversight is in place for examining the activities of Executive Boards?  For examples, are there HOAs or COAs which have a relatively high percentage of absentee owners?  Let’s speculate that the higher the number of absentee owners the greater the chance for illicit behavior such as those straw buyers.  What kinds and to what extent is financial and management information available to owners and prospective buyers, and can we make improvements in the amount of information and access to it?

Caveat Emptor

There are some things owners and potential buyers can do to protect themselves.  The first might be to read the provisions on NRS 116.  It’s long; it’s wonky, and it’s in legal-ese, but it does define terms and set forth the fundamentals of HOA/COA operations.  If there’s no appetite to read the entire thing, then a person would be well advised to read  sections NRS 116.3075 through NRS 116.31107 on “meetings and voting.”

The second would be to ask questions such as: How many owners are absentee? What’s the percentage of proxy ballots? Again, the assumption is that the further removed the direct oversight, the greater the potential for problems.  Or, when and where are ballots counted in Executive Board elections?  What are the provisions for “spoiled” ballots or other ballots which might be rejected? And, what are the grounds for rejections?

What are the terms and term limits of executive board members?  Too long and there may be problems with “old boy” connections; too short and there’s the loss of “institutional memory.”  What percentage of the board members are residents?  What is the process by which property management firms are hired?  What is the process by which contracts are let for maintenance, construction, and rehabilitation?

NRS 116.31175 requires the availability of “books, records, and other papers of the association” for review “at the business office of the association or a designated business location not to exceed 60 miles from the physical location of the common interest community…”

las vegas 60 mile radius As the map indicates, that’s a fair portion of Clark County, and an owner or potential buyer might well want to know where, and how accessible, is that location with those “books, records, and other papers.”

Mr. Benzer will be a guest of the Federal government for the next 15 and one half years, with supervision for an additional five, however that doesn’t mean that there won’t be others who will apply their intelligence to those endeavors which will enhance their wealth without worrying about pesky ethics issues.  In the mean time it seems advisable to have some Legislative attention paid to:

  • How well protected are current HOA and COA owners in Nevada from potential scam artists similar to the Benzer group?
  • How well informed are potential HOA and COA buyers in Nevada, and are there steps we can take to better protect their interests as consumers?
  • Are there further steps which might be taken to insure that banks and other mortgage lenders don’t become involved in straw buyer, and similar schemes?

In order to prevent future Scam-A-Ramas of this ilk may require a combination of Caveat Emptor and Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

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Filed under consumers, Economy, housing, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

“Small Government,” my lady parts!

Happy Hour Debate

For a political party to stake its flag in “No Big Government” territory and then countenance government interference between a woman and her physician is just about as far into the Hamlet of Hypocrisy as one can inhabit.  And, there they went again, as expected, into the manufactured poutrage over the debunked Planned Parenthood video.  First, the Happy Hour:

“This is absolutely disgusting, and revolts the conscience of the nation,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said of secretly-recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing fetal tissue research. “We just, earlier this week, kicked them out of Medicaid in Louisiana as well, canceled their provider contract,” Jindal said. Then, seemingly undermining his case that the undercover videos related to his decision, Jindal added, “They don’t provide any abortions in Louisiana.” [MSNBC]

Yes, what’s “absolutely disgusting” and “revolts the conscience of the nation,” is that anyone would fall for the manufactured propaganda piece in the first place.  Additionally, to blunder into the questions associated with fetal tissue research AND note that PPA doesn’t provide abortion services in Louisiana is about as silly as it gets.  However, Jindal’s found a way to cut Medicaid in his state by canceling their provider contract – which means that the 80% of PPA clients who avail themselves of PPA medical services won’t be getting any help avoiding unwanted pregnancies.  Nor will they be getting STD/HIV/AIDS screening, or cervical cancer screenings, or breast cancer screenings. [PPA]

Former NY Governor George Pataki should have known better:

“You know, Hillary Clinton’s always saying how Republicans don’t follow science? Well, they’re the ones not listening to the scientists today, because doctors say that at 20 weeks that is a viable life inside the womb,” Pataki said. “And at that point, it’s a life that we have the right to protect, and I think we should protect.” [MSNBC]

Not so fast!   The science is a bit different than what Gov. Pataki is asserting. The New York Times reported the latest research results:

The study, of thousands of premature births, found that a tiny minority of babies born at 22 weeks who were medically treated survived with few health problems, although the vast majority died or suffered serious health issues. Leading medical groups had already been discussing whether to lower the consensus on the age of viability, now cited by most medical experts as 24 weeks.” 

Get the “tiny minority” and “vast majority” observations?  And, the part about “leading medical groups” citing 24 weeks as a minimum.  The American Academy of Pediatrics adds, “Determining the survival prognosis for the infant of a pregnancy with threatened preterm delivery between 22 and 25 completed weeks of gestation remains problematic.”    There are at least 8 pre-natal screening tests [ACOG]  There’s a reason for the problems, an ultra-sound ‘fetal anatomy survey’ is a test used at 17 to 20 weeks.  If a woman opts for blood screening tests the ‘sequential integrated screen’ is done at 10-13 weeks, and the second blood test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks.  The ‘serum integrated screen” is performed at 10 to 13 weeks, and the second between 15 and 20 weeks.  [Healthline] Noticing a pattern here? It should be noted that the “anomaly ultrasound” is usually completed around 18-20 weeks. [CDC] Most of the second tests are performed at or around 20 weeks, the results may be in the works when the clock runs out if the forced-birth folks have their way. 

No one is contending that a woman must have an abortion if a fatal defect is discovered in the second trimester.  Perhaps it would help the politicians to remind them that 0-13 weeks is considered the first trimester, 14-26 weeks the second, and 27 – 40 the third.  What rational people are asking is that the woman and her family be the ones who decide if between 20 and 26 weeks  an abortion is necessary to prevent the woman from having to carry a fetus with a fatal birth defect to term.  Governor Pataki should review some of the medical information easily available online before buying into the Radical Right Anti-Choice propaganda.

And then there was Senator Lindsay Graham.

“I don’t think it’s a war on women for all of us as Americans to stand up and stop harvesting organs from little babies,” he said, referring to a legal process by which women can donate the fetal remains after abortion for the purpose of medical research.” [MSNBC]

No, Senator, this isn’t Harvest Time.  We are talking about fetal tissue, donated by women voluntarily for medical research. Tissue which helped find a vaccine for polio, and which is assisting researchers find cures and treatments for such conditions as  Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS),  and macular degeneration. [See previously DB]

Senator Graham is a lucky man – he was born July 9, 1955,  after the (inactivated) injected polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk (1953) and after about 2 million children participated in the 1954 field trials, and after the April 12, 1955 Ann Arbor, MI, press conference announcing the success of those trials.  Between 1955 and 1957 the incidence of polio declined in the United States by 85% to 90%. [AmHistSci]  There would be no more reports, as there were in the 1940’s and early 1950’s of some 35,000 children and adults contracting the dread disease every year. [CDC] And this, because some courageous and compassionate women donated fetal tissue for medical research.

And then there was former Senator Rick Santorum. Who sidestepped the question and went straight for promoting a Partial Birth Abortion Ban law, heedless of the fact that this is NOT a birth, that survival rates for infants actually born weighing 500 grams or less is 14%, [Slate] and that “partial birth” isn’t a medical term, it’s a political term coined by anti-abortion activists. [NPR]

Once the Happy Hour was complete, the main show included Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker proudly announcing that he’d closed down Planned Parenthood in his state four years ago.   Correction: He still has 22 PPA centers in the state, but five did have to close after the state withdrew $1 million in funding from any facility that provided abortion services. [CBS]

The true danger to himself and others is former Governor Mike Huckabee, who wants to apply the 5th and 14th Amendment guarantees to the unborn. Somehow, Mr. Huckabee has invented his own new pseudo-medical term: “DNA schedule.” There is NO DNA schedule. Much less is there a unique DNA schedule for every human being at conception. [CBS] But then, we have to remember that this is the same man who lashes out at any hint of equal protection (under the 5th and 14th amendments) for members of the LBGT community, but finds the Duggar Quiverfull folks perfectly acceptable.

Moving right along:

“Sen. Marco Rubio was on the defensive after debate moderator Megyn Kelly suggested that the Florida Republican would “favor a “rape and incest exception” to abortion bans.

“I have never said that,” Rubio objected. “And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection.” [CBS]

Really?  Because CBS news did a bit of fact checking:

“But he appears to be wrong about never having advocated the exception. In 2013, Rubio cosponsored a Senate bill with wide-ranging Republican support called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, and that bill had exceptions for rape, incest, and in cases when the mother’s life was threatened.”

Who’s arguing? Yes, all human life is worthy of protection, but most sentient beings include the mother in that equation.  So, Senator Rubio, are you now contending that the health and well being of the mother is of no consequence in the formulation of laws concerning abortions?  Are you perfectly willing to orphan the remaining children in the family in order to save a fetus?

And The Donald? Who knows. He jabbered for 10 minutes and 30 seconds. [HuffPo]

None of this should be surprising, other than offering “Repeal and Replace” rhetoric tossing some 19 million working men and women out of their health insurance coverage, and allowing the Banksters to avoid all those pesky regulations which might help ease if not prevent the next financial calamity (Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank), and tossing more funding into the next glorious war – they really don’t have anything on offer for climate change and voting rights…. So we’re back to the same old Trickle Down Economic Hoax, and “wedgie issues.”

Now we have 65 weeks before the 2016 general election…. Not quite long enough to cover the 91 week gestational period of an African Elephant…

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Filed under abortion, Health Care, health insurance, Lindsey Graham, Medicaid

#BlackLivesMatter and the misappropriation of a Theme?

black lives matter

Sam Dubose. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. These names are now a part of the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not famous for their lives. Tragically, they are famous only in wrongful death.” [HuffPo]  and altogether too many others.

It’s been interesting to watch the white American reaction to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the range of those reactions.  From the white’s-right end of the spectrum came the #AllLivesMatter theme – including, we presume, those of white officers being charged (or remaining uncharged) for their excessive use of force or poor professional judgment.  No sooner did the #BlackLivesMatter signs appear than there was an all too predictable white backlash:

“A Saint Louis-area minister, for example, wrote of a “Black Lives Matter” sign being defaced with “All Lives Matter” written on the front and a racial slur written on the back.  The fact that “All Lives Matter” is being used to argue against the idea that Black lives matter is proof that (1) People spreading that slogan don’t really believe Black lives matter, at least not equally, and (2) It’s therefore not true that all lives do matter equally in their eyes.  The statement’s use belies itself.  If all lives matter, then black lives matter, so why the argument?  Why the comeback?  The comeback proves that statement false, and proves it for what it is — a response born of fear and racism.” [Schade, November 2014]

The point has been made repeatedly that the response “All Lives Matter” is (1) a way of diluting the sting of direct allegations of police brutality, use of excessive force, bias, discrimination, and/or profiling; after all, “white lives” matter too? Right?  The problem, of course, is the disproportionate use of force against people of color. [ProPublica] and (2) a theme useful in an attempt to appear “post racial.”   The erasure of “race” is as silly as it is counter-productive.

Another form of reaction comes from those writers and pundits who opine that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is congenitally flawed, based as it is on whether or not Michael Brown raised his hands, or if a flight from an officer constitutes  a defiance of law and order, or if the individual victimized had in some way been the instrument of his or her own destruction.

This utterly misses the point. The individual character flaws of individual actors – real or speculative – is not the origin, nor the basis, of the movement.

“To even lightly advance the idea that Michael Brown’s alleged transgressions make him incapable of being a symbol of the movement is to entirely miss its point. When people say Black Lives Matter, they mean every single life. If Michael Brown committed a petty crime and behaved disrespectfully to a member of a police office department that has been since proven to be predatory to its Black residents, it has no bearing on the fact that police officers across this country have bad habits that they disproportionately dish out on people of color.” (Michael Arceneaux)[NewsOne]

In addition to the backlash trap, and the basic flaw trap, there’s the dilution trap.

If #BlackLivesMatter then what of the unborn, the animals, the lives affected by climate change? Okay, fine – but those are separate issues entirely.  The wailing and whinging is ear splitting – why are people so upset about police assaults but not about abortion? – why are people so enraged about the killing of Cecil the lion but not about the deaths of African Americans?  First, and obviously, people have different personal interests and agendas. If one is an environmental activist that doesn’t necessarily include or preclude one’s participation or support for #BlackLivesMatter.  If one is opposed to abortion that, too, doesn’t include or preclude interest in #BlackLivesMatter.  If a person is opposed to trophy hunting for exotic animals that doesn’t automatically include or preclude interest in #BlackLivesMatter.  Purity can be a lovely thing, but even Ivory Soap was forced to advertise that it was 99.44% pure (pure what they never told us?)

If the #BlackLivesMatter advocates can wade through the backlash, the “basic flaw,” and dilution fever swamps, there’s at least one more to go.  It’s the “What Do You Want?” trap.   Evidently, by modern media standards, a movement must spring full born from the Head of Zeus, complete, and replete, with convenient press releases and position papers outlining precisely what the organization wants.  Detailed, of course, preferably with bullet points, for easy translation into quick copy.  The #Occupy movement was battered by the media for not being “well organized,” and too amoebic for translation into action, it never occurred to some media lights that perhaps there was a wide range of individuals uncomfortable with and opposed to the various implications and results of corporatism?

The basic concept behind #BlackLivesMatter is to make it stop.  “It” being the excessive use of force against people of color.  Beyond and beneath that aspiration isn’t a bedrock of easily digestible sound-bites, but a plethora of less specific topics we need to discuss; for example, the recruitment, training, and professional development of law enforcement officers.  Another element is the possible restructuring of judicial systems such that officers with dubious records in community relations aren’t pre-judged innocent before being held accountable for their actions.  Still another, the implementation of community policing strategies and programs.  Complex issues don’t lend themselves to sound-bite solutions, and racism in American life is an extremely complex issue.

Nothing better illustrates the racism implicit in the opponents and critics of #BlackLivesMatter than the institutional reaction to their organization.  “ZeroFox,” a cyber-security firm was hired to provide surveillance of the #BlackLivesMatter leadership, whom it deemed a “high” threat, and potentially “physical.” [MJ]  If this is reminiscent of the FBI tracking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. then we should note that it was the FBI who recommended ZeroFox to the city of Baltimore.  According to at least one source, the DoJ has been monitoring the movement since the demonstrations in Ferguson, MO. [FL.org]

Could this be because African Americans are “emotional,” “violent,” and easily led to acts of destruction?  If that construct informed any of the surveillance and subsequent reporting, then we do, indeed, have a long way to go in removing institutional racism from American governance.  Did some observers or officials find such surveillance and reporting “comforting,” assuaging as it might the biases underpinning notions like Blacks are Destructive unless kept under close watch and control?  If so, we haven’t moved far enough away from the Slave Patrol mentality of the 19th century – and that needs to be discussed.  The reports on possible graffiti knitting ought to make fascinating reading?

Perhaps we’ll get,”Twelve parking meters were assaulted (read: covered) with 100% acrylic Red Heart fibers (read: knitting yarn) overnight in the east metro suburb of Keenpeele. Profilers tell us the possible perpetrators are female, between the ages of 15 and 95, carrying sharp needles.”  Meanwhile, we’d not want to give away the location(s) of those ladies who are crafting scarves, sweaters, and baby booties while discussing how to improve race relations in the U.S. of A., and inviting other women to join their productive efforts.

we need to talk Seriously, the #BlackLivesMatter movement could do with more support and less surveillance.  More understanding and less pontificating analysis. More serious discussion and fewer sound-bite sensationalism pieces.  More honesty and much less rationalization on the part of its critics and opponents.   More focus on the extent of the problem and less narrow focus on the individuals actors involved.  We do need to talk instead of appropriating and misappropriating the #BlackLivesMatter topic.

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Filed under Judicial, Justice Department, racism

Apologies

DB had grand plans for posting until the ISP developed major problems today! They assure me they’ll be up and running this evening. Thanks for your patience!!

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Filed under Politics