Yes, Cops are People, too

cops

 

As I seethe with rage at the news of another appalling shooting by police, I have to concede that I have never walked in a law officer’s shoes, and I wouldn’t want to. Theirs is a job I do not envy.

I met a lot of police officers as a reporter, of course. Some were nice. Some were not.

One burly sergeant in Timmins, Ontario grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and sent me flying out of a house that was cordoned off as a crime scene. I tumbled across the back yard, my notebook landing in the dust several yards away, my clothes a mess.

Fortunately, I wasn’t physically hurt. But my feelings were.

Still, I couldn’t complain. I was breaking the law by ducking under that yellow tape. He could have arrested me. I suppose he was really being lenient.

Many of the cops I encountered during my long career  as a reporter in Jamaica, Canada and the US were reticent and wary. They obviously didn’t trust the press. But some were amiable, and a few even became my friends. When I worked for the Daily Gleaner in Kingston, we played ping-pong together, and when they were off duty, we enjoyed a brew or two at a nearby bar.

Of course, it’s the bad eggs that make the headlines. The good guys are taken for granted.

Yes, I know, that’s a tired old cliché.  But it’s still worth keeping in mind. At a time like this, clichés matter. We must keep in mind, for example, that cops are people, too. Some people are decent,. kind, brave and virtuous. Some are prejudiced, mean, spiteful – even homicidal.

And – here’s another cliché that matters – you can’t tell a book by its cover.

Once, I interviewed death row inmates at a prison in Florida and to look at them, you would never guess how vicious they were, what ghastly crimes they had committed. They seemed just like anyone else, you or me, our friends and acquaintances.

It’s all very well to censure America’s law enforcement agencies for doing such an apparently poor job of screening the people they entrust with our lives. But it’s hard to tell what’s in the hearts and minds of the applicants getting interviewed. You never know how they will react under pressure.

As they say in Jamaica:

If you don’t mash ants you don’t see their guts.

In a society as tense as today’s America, you tend to get “mashed” – especially if you’re a cop.

More on those cop shootings

 

When You’ve Had Enough

protest

 

There’s a saying in Jamaica:

Every day bucket go to well, one day the bottom will drop put.

jobless2That saying comes to mind as I watch the protests on TV and hear the newscasts about that tragedy in Dallas, the shooting of black men by police and the other signals of a failing society.

Has the bottom “dropped out” at last? Has America’s minority population been pushed beyond the limit of their endurance?

How long will black, Asian and Hispanic Americans tolerate the abuses they are expected to accept as “just the way it is”?

Unemployment at two or three times the national average. Racial profiling. An abusive criminal justice system. Voter suppression. Generations of broken promises. Even death at the hands of those asssigned to protect society.

The centuries pass, and progress toward social justice is painfully slow. Every glimmer of hope seems to be countered by a dark cloud of despair.

Even with a black family in the White House.

America’s minorities have been subjected to intolerable conditions for such a long time. One day, they will have had enough.

I wonder whether that time has come. I pray it has not.

But, surely, the powers that be must see what I see?

Surely, they must see how fragile things are? Surely, they nust realize that reform is long overdue?

Sadly, I see no evidence of an awakening among the elite.

As the protesters gather in America’s streets and the racial divide widens daily, the clock is ticking.

Click for news of the protests.

Even China shamed us.

 

Fleeing a Trump Presidency

ginsbergIn an interview with the New York Times,  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (at right) joked that if Donald Trump becomes President, she will move to New Zealand. In our house, that idea is no joke. Sandra and I will seriously consider moving to Canada if Trump wins in November.

And we are not alone.

Ccanadaanada looks more and more appealing as the US seems to fly apart – riven by racial hatred, primitive suspicions and dark, unreasoning fear.

I remember another time like this. It was during the Sixties. I was living in Canada at the time. Americans were deeply divided by the Vietnam war, and unrest spread across the country. Young men lived under the shadow of the draft, and they dreaded it.

Many of them moved to Canada. And so did other Americans who could not in good conscience live in a society that insisted on pursuing an unjust war, at such great cost in blood and treasure.

America under a Trump presidency would be no better. In many ways it would be worse. Trump’s capricious narcissism would inevitably lead not just to conflict with other countries but also to injustice and oppression at home.

But there could be a silver lining – for Canada.

During the Sixties, the immigration of enlightened Americans – including many academics – enriched Canadian society and contributed to the evolution of the globally admired nation that exists today.

America’s best and brightest would be welcome again today.

Conversely, as they abandon America, this country would inevitably become even more susceptible to the fear baiting and race hating of demagogues like Donald Trump.

It’s a terrifying prospect, but one that the scandal mongers who ceaselessly attack Hillary Clinton don’t seem to fear.

The Ginsberg interview

 

A Beacon of Hope

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As I watched Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber compete in the finals at Wimbledon this morning, I was thrilled not only by their athleticism and skill but perhaps even more by the powerful symbolism of the event.

In a world where racial animosity seems to be at its historic peak, the two women presented a stark contrast in appearance but they were twins in talent and will.

Serena won this one. It was Angelique who won the last time they faced each other – in the finals of the Australian Open. The next time they meet, either might win. Both are magnificent champions.

And they gave a magnificent display of grace, skill, power and resolve today.

After this morning’s match, as I watched them hug each other with mutual admiration and obvious affection, I thought of the white policemen in America shooting black men with so little compunction and the black veteran who struck back in misdirected rage, killing those innocent officers in Dallas.

I thought of the demagogues who seek power by inciting racial hatred, of the resurgence of the KKK that Donald Trump has inspired, and of the xenophobic plague infecting Britain and Europe in the wake of racial and religious conflicts in the Mideast and elsewhere.

These are the thoughts that could bring despair. But like a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness, there is the fellowship of sports. The sisterhood and brotherhood that come from the shared pursuit of physical excellence and consummate skill.

Sports can bring out the best in us humans – the generous admiration of an opponent’s performance even when we lose, for example.

As Rudyard Kipling described it:

There is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the earth!

Or – as in the match I just watched – two strong women.

Click for the news story.

Kipling’s poem

 

Those Damn Emails

emails

 

protests2This nation is at war at home and abroad.  As US troops battle enemies in foreign lands, white American police officers and black civilians are gunning down each other across the country.

In Baton Rouge a black man is shot dead at point blank range while two cops straddle his helpless body. In St. Paul, a black man is shot dead while sitting in his car after a traffic stop. These are just the most recent incidents in a long series of apparently racially motivated killings by police. Protests are raging all across America.

In Dallas this morning, five policemen are dead and seven wounded in an ambush.

Terrorists – foreign and homegrown – are committing mass murder across the land. Crazies armed with military-grade weapons are mowing down crowds of innocent people, including little children.

So what is Congress holding a hearing about today?

Hillary’s emails.

Not gun violence. Not keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. Not failed law enforcement. Not the criminal justice system. Not racial profiling.

The issue that Republicans find most urgent in today’s America is Hillary’s use of her private server for official correspondence. They want her charged. They want her in jail.

Their hatchet man — FBI Director James Comey – made sure to smear Hillary when he couldn’t find evidence to indict her. But that wasn’t good enough for his pals in Congress. They are enraged at his failure to trump up charges against her. They have called a special hearing to examine his conduct.

How long will Americans tolerate this idiotic behavior? When will they demand an end to the silly and wasteful hate-Hillary crusade? When will they force their elected representatives to address the real issues that plague our society?

Until they do, this country will continue its inexorable slide into chaos.

Cops and protesters at war

Republicans pursue their agenda

 

The FBI Hatchet Man

comey

 

I spent a lifetime in the news business and I’ve never heard a law enforcement official slander a “suspect” the way Hillary Clinton is being slandered.

FBI Director James Comey (above) admits he has no grounds for indictment, but he scatters accusations like confetti. You would think if those accusations had any merit, he would have gone ahead and recommended an indictment. But no, he didn’t have the evidence to make his charges stick in a court of law. All he has are broad accusations.

His accusations – of “extreme carelessness” and so on – are based on opinion, not fact.

While he might consider it “reckless” for Hillary to use her laptop or Blackberry or whatever to handle “sensitive” messages during her time as Secretary of State, you or I might not.

We know how vulnerable those supposedly secure government servers an be. We’ve read numerous reports of hackers getting into them. We might argue that Hillary’s personal devices were less likely to attract subversive hackers, not more.

Obviously, Comey doesn’t want to test his opinion in court.

What he apparently wants to do is provide Hillary’s political opponents with quotes they can use against her during her presidential campaign.

I am left wondering what motive this Comey character might have. And you might wonder, too, when you consider his background.

James Comey is not a politically unbiased law enforcement official. He was deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. He was deputy special counsel to the Senate special committee on Whitewater.

He gave public speeches last October criticizing the Obama administration for sympathizing with minority victims gunned down by trigger-happy cops.

The way it looks to me, this is no impartial investigator. This is just another Republican hatchet man.

Click for the news report.

 

The Health Care Dream

health care

 

Americans might get single-payer health care after all, but it probably won’t come from Washington. Apparently, the health insurance lobby is too mighty and the public too gullible. Even President Obama at the peak of his popularity couldn’t beat such odds. He had to settle for Obamacare.

Bernie Sanders might twist Hillary’s arm and get a single-payer proposal into the Democratic platform, but that’s all he is likely to get – for now, anyway. Hilary has promised to do her best to fix Obamacare but she balks at taking on the powers-that-be in another universal health care battle. Been there, done that. Remember?

The health insurance industry stands to lose billions of dollars. And they are pepared to spend millions protecting their gravy train.

Still, there’s a glimmer of hope that sanity will prevail.

Individual states might start introducing single-payer health programs, and the trend could eventually spread across the country.

Yes, I know, Vermont backed away from its plan to introduce a single-payer program. Several other states, such as California, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New York, also have come up short in their single-payer efforts.

The big stumbling block, of course, is taxes. Health care, especially in America, is not cheap. And somebody is going to have to foot the bill. Nobody seems willing to do that, even though the tax bill would arguably end up costing less than private health care.

Encouragingly, though, the single-payer movement is still alive. Colorado is considering a Medicare-for-all kind of plan. Voters in that state will decide in November whether to adopt a program that mirrors Bernie’s nationwide proposal.

Obviously, such a plan is workable despite the obstacles. It works very well in Canada, for example. Perhaps Colorado will succeed where other states have failed.

And if the Democrats win in November, they could offer federal grants to make it easier for states to give their residents free health care.

Imagine that. America would at last do what so many other civilized countries do – provide health care as a right to all of its citizens.

Colorado’s plan

Plans across the country

 

The Hillary Witch Hunt

emails

 

Wall Street bankers stole billions and sent the world economy spiraling into an abyss yet not one of them has gone to jail.  Indeed, as far as I know, nobody is even “investigating” them.

Hillary Clinton used her home computer for official correspondence and the FBI is trying to indict her.

What is it about Hillary Clinton that inspires such minute scrutiny?

Never before have I witnessed such relentless pursuit with so little cause. This “investigation” must rank among the longest ever.

How long has it been now? Years?

Why is the FBI not investigating Colin Powell? Or Condi Rice? As secretaries of state before Hillary, they also used their home computers for official emails.

Everything Hillary does seems to provoke vindictive overreaction.

Throughout history, American embassies have been attacked all over the world without anyone suggesting foul play by the secretary of state at the time. The embassy in Benghazi is attacked on Hillary Clinton’s watch and she is subjected to half a dozen or more “investigations.”

She is hauled before Congress over and over, smeared and badgered, subjected to any number of absurd insinuations. Even called a murderer.

The Hillary haters have squandered millions of taxpayer dollars in their endless “investigations.”  I don’t think any other American has ever been subjected to such persecution.

You have to ask yourself why this one US citizen is targeted like no other.

I think it’s fear. There are entrenched interests who feel threatened. They know that if she can, she will put an end to their villainy because she cares about the everyday Americans who are being victimized.

Throughout her entire life, Hillary has fought for the downtrodden and the abused – especially women and children.

And the predators are enraged. They will not have Hillary shielding their prey. They will use every pretext they can dig up – however baseless – to destroy her.

And the lazy media will abet them in their witch hunts because – as unfounded as they are – they provide sensational “news.”

But I am confident that most of the American electorate has caught on by now. I am sure millions of other voters know – as you and I do – that the charges against Hillary are trumped up, the mud slinging is pure fiction and her accusers are part of an organized smear campaign.

More on those damn emails

 

Tim Kaine? Say it ain’t so!

kaine

 

Some pundits who claim to have inside information are predicting that Hillary Clinton will pick Tim Kaine as her running mate. Really? Tim Kaine?

The same Tim Kaine who raked in nearly $200,000 in questionable gifts as governor of Virginia?

I didn’t think anything could stop me from exercising my precious franchise. But a move as dumb as this could do it.Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012

Kaine is seen as the “safe” choice, the don’t-rock-the-boat choice, the middle-of-the-road alternative to a progressive like Elizabeth Warren (at right) or an ethnic breakthrough like Julian Castro (below, right).

What a sad decision that would be.

Hillary has the opportunity to be exciting, bold, inspiring.  As the first woman ever nominated for President by a major American political party, she could double the impact with a history making pick for vice president.

juliancastroChoosing a running mate like Kaine would suck all the electricity out of her campaign and leave millions of progressives with no incentive to vote in November.

Kaine concedes he is boring. And he is worse. He is a stereotypical politician – on the take, but safely, within the law, without risk. And that’s one of the things we voters have come to loathe about Washington. The self serving attitude of the people we elect.

Fairly or unfairly, Hillary has enough of that garbage in her baggage already.

If there’s one thing she doesn’t need, it’s a “safe,” old-line pol as her running mate.

And if she wins with Tim Kaine, what then? After Hillary, we get to vote for Kaine as President?

If I manage to live that long, I don’t think I would drag my old bones to the polling station for somebody like Kaine.

I’ve had enough of politics as usual. It’s time, as politicians so often say, for a change.

More on Tim Kaine

 

Warren’s Ancestry

pocahontas-john-smith

 

Some goofball Trump supporter thought it was hillarious recently when he followed a mention of Elizabeth Warren with a series of supposedly “Indian” war hoops. Trump told the guy not to apologize. He said Jimmy the Greek’s downfall was caused not by his racist remarks but by his apology for them.

greekYou remember Jimmy the Greek (photo at right)? No? He was the gambler turned sports announcer who theorized that black athletes were so good because plantation owners bred the strongest slaves to each other.

Yes. A really classy guy.

Trump and his mob are zeroing in on Warren’s claim to Native American ancestry. Trump even thought up the nickname Pocohontas for her.  You know who Pocohontas was, of course? The Native American maiden who saved Captain John Smith’s life (see painting above)?

For reasons unknown, Trump thinks it’s a put down to call someone Pocohontas. I think it’s a compliment. Don’t you?

Trump is mocking Warren because she says she is part Cherokee, and he accuses her of using the claim to get preferential treatment from Harvard. The Trump crew want her to take a DNA test to prove she has Cherokee blood.

No such DNA test exists. Existing genetic markers don’t include the Native American nations. But I’m willing to bet Warren has some Cherokee ancestry.

Elizabeth Warren’s family has generations-old roots in Oklahoma, which was occupied  by the Cherokee long before the Sooners arrived to steal their land.

Her great-great-great grandmother was described on a marriage certificate as “Cherokee Indian.” And, growing up, she was taught to be proud of that heritage.

I’m confident most families that have been in America for centuries have Native American ancestry. There were so few European women in the Colonies that it’s fairly safe to assume some long-ago ancestor married a Native American.

Considering his disparaging view of immigrants, Trump should prize this type of heritage, not make fun of it.

His own family is relatively new to America. His mother was born in Scotland and his paternal grandfather came to America from Germany.

So when he says he has as much Native American blood as Elizabeth Warren, he us just showing his ignorance. Or lying. As usual.

Click for the war whoop.

More on Warren’s roots

Trump’s roots

The story of Pocohontas

Jimmy the Grek’s comments

Oklahoma’s history