Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, August 28, 2014 7:27 pm

Karma is a bitch even — and maybe especially — if you’re the U.S.

Filed under: Evil,Sad,Say a prayer,Shooting the wounded — Lex @ 7:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

Chris Hedges at Truthdig:

Our terror is delivered to the wretched of the earth with industrial weapons. It is, to us, invisible. We do not stand over the decapitated and eviscerated bodies left behind on city and village streets by our missiles, drones and fighter jets. We do not listen to the wails and shrieks of parents embracing the shattered bodies of their children. We do not see the survivors of air attacks bury their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We are not conscious of the long night of collective humiliation, repression and powerlessness that characterizes existence in Israel’s occupied territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not see the boiling anger that war and injustice turn into a caldron of hate over time. We are not aware of the very natural lust for revenge against those who carry out or symbolize this oppression. We see only the final pyrotechnics of terror, the shocking moment when the rage erupts into an inchoate fury and the murder of innocents. And, willfully ignorant, we do not understand our own complicity. We self-righteously condemn the killers as subhuman savages who deserve more of the violence that created them. This is a recipe for endless terror.

Chaim Engel, who took part in the uprising at the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp in Poland, described what happened when he obtained a knife and confronted a German in an office. The act he carried out was no less brutal than the beheading of Foley or the executions in Gaza. Isolated from the reality he and the other inmates endured at the camp, his act was savage. Set against the backdrop of the extermination camp it was understandable.

“It’s not a decision,” Engel said. “You just react, instinctively you react to that, and I figured, ‘Let us to do, and go and do it.’ And I went. I went with the man in the office, and we killed this German. With every jab, I said, ‘That is for my father, for my mother, for all these people, all the Jews you killed.’ ”

Any good cop, like any good reporter, knows that every criminal has a story. No one, except for perhaps a few psychopaths, wakes up wanting to cut off another person’s head. Murder and other violent crimes almost always grow out of years of abuse of some kind suffered by the perpetrator. Even the most “civilized” among us are not immune to dehumanization.

Sociopathic neocons to the contrary, “Kill ‘em all!” is never the answer, not only because it’s wrong, not only because it’s impossible, not only because it dehumanizes those who take part in it, but also because it doesn’t work. Indeed, not only does it not work, it blows back on us in ways that we see, in our mindless hubris, only as mindless barbarism.

(h/t: Carolina Under Seige)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 8:42 pm

“The police are the good guys and he is a good kid, so no worries. I guess I was naive.”

To the extent I’ve gotten any respone to my postings here and on Facebook about Ferguson, it has mostly been private (which is fine), and a common theme has emerged: I need to listen to the cops’ side because I know nothing about being a cop.

And as I’ve pointed out, although I don’t, in fact, know what it’s like to be a cop, I have an idea, based on having spent several years of my career around them, often in cases in which the threat of deadly force was justified and at least once when deadly force had to be used.

But, yes, we should listen to the cops. I listened to one last night. Now here’s another one.

It’s only been a few years but seems like a lifetime ago.  I would come in to work and feel like I could make a difference in this world.  Back then when I lined up for roll call, I would look around me and see a squad room full of diverse personalities and experiences that I knew made us all more effective.  I trusted these men and women because I believed in the good we could do and the bond of brotherhood we shared.  But a little over a year ago something happened that forced me to take a hard look at the realities of the system that I had been a part of.  When I did I learned a lot about myself and finally had to accept some hard facts.

I learned that justice is not blind and there is a very thin blue line that unifies cops. I learned that Americans are not just divided by red and blue, when it comes to the law we are divided by black and white.  I accepted that sometimes we have a justice system with two sets of rules.  I had to accept that no matter how well I raise my son he will grow up in a world where I still have to be afraid for him.  Not just from criminals, but from my brothers and sisters in blue. For most of his young life all my son has ever seen is me in a uniform with a gun and a badge.  He doesn’t know to fear the police because  I have always told him he didn’t have to.  The police are the good guys and he is a good kid, so no worries.  I guess I was naive. I never thought that I would have to explain to him that despite my years in law enforcement, I’m still a second class citizen in the eyes of the law.

For his sake I have to tell him no matter how professional he looks, no matter how well he carries himself, no matter how much education he obtains, as a black male he has to meet a higher standard of submission to authority or his life is at risk. Even if he chooses to raise his right hand and swear to protect and serve this country with his life it doesn’t  change that fact.  It hurts to know that I’m going to have to give my son that talk. I tell myself that things are still like this because of ignorance and fear.  I blame it on politicians who turn fear in to resentment and the wealthy elites who exploit those resentments to satisfy their own agenda.  The hopeful part of me thinks that our differences are not really as bad as they seem.  My head tells me that time will change things. Time.  But my heart tells me that right now I just need to protect my son.

This is one of the saddest damn things I’ve read in years — years that have not lacked in sadness.

But Sean Hannity will open his big thug mouth to argue, and a good 30% of the country doesn’t give a damn about this guy’s problems anyway. And it’s not About Race, because as Charlie Pierce has pointed out, in this country, Nothing Is Ever About Race.

I know that diversity makes an organization more efficient and more credible. The fact that the Ferguson Police Department cannot recruit or retain more than 3 black officers in a city that is almost 3/4 black speaks volumes.  It takes a lot of effort to maintain that kind of imbalance.

Oh, sure, it might be coincidence. But, like Jethro Gibbs, I don’t believe in coincidences.

And yet that young man, Michael Brown, he stole some cigars from a store, didn’t he?

As a cop I learned that it’s usually best to wait until you know as much information as possible before you go on the record so I’ll be completely honest;

I don’t know why an unarmed 18 year old was shot multiple times.
I don’t know what that police officer felt in the seconds before he pulled the trigger.
I don’t know why the Ferguson Police chose to withhold details about this shooting.
I don’t know why this police chief decided to have SWAT teams on foot patrols.
I don’t know why this police chief deployed Armored Vehicles and Snipers to this area.
I don’t know why police officers were locking up reporters.
I don’t know how a community that is 67% black has a police department that is 96% white.

But here are a few things that I do know. … I know that a robbery in any jurisdiction is a felony.  That means when that call comes in to 911 it should be dispatched as a high priority call. That dispatcher should alert everybody that the crime has just happened and give a BOLO with a detailed description of the suspect, and what direction they were last seen headed. If an officer sees a person fitting the description of the suspect that officer should advise dispatch what they have, THEN make a FELONY stop.  If that is what happened the day that Brown was killed then there should be a dispatch recording of the robbery call and of the officer stopping Brown.

Now I know this having never set foot in Ferguson Missouri. Whatever their intent was, the way that the Ferguson Police department has handled this situation has seemed incompetent, petty, and disrespectful to the community that they are supposed to serve.  I don’t even live there and I feel insulted. You can’t just drop into black churches during the day and then drop the hammer on black people at night.  It’s ridiculous to believe you can withhold details about an officer involved shooting victim then release a video of that person committing a crime and believe nobody will figure out what you are doing.  Even from an investigative standpoint the decision to release that video served no logical purpose.  If it was Brown, the robbery case was solved the minute they positively ID’d him. You don’t prosecute a crime when the suspect is deceased, you just close the case. Other than just sheer vindictiveness I can’t see the legal purpose in releasing that video.  So either this chief has no clue, no control of his command staff or he doesn’t care.

But he was 6 feet 4 and resisted arrest! At least, that’s what I heard!

 If I saw two guys walking in the road when there was a perfectly good sidewalk, I would probably have told them to get out of the street.  If they were knuckleheads they might tell me to [expletive] off.  Now I could choose to either ignore it or I could engage them.  At this point I’ve got enough probable cause to charge them with pedestrian in the roadway but that’s pretty much it.  If I decided I wanted to make that charge I could give them each a ticket and a court date or I could put handcuffs on them and take them to jail.  Either way I would have had to physically get out of my patrol car and make contact with them.  Once an officer decides to make contact in a situation like that things can go from OK to very bad in seconds.  Right now we don’t know what happened once that officer got out of his patrol car.  We don’t know what Brown did or what the officer thought he was about to do, but going from a pedestrian traffic charge to lethal force is a very steep climb.  Once that officer’s gun comes out it’s hard to climb back down from that. Officer Wilson has to be able to articulate how he got to that level of force with an unarmed person. If not he’s in trouble. There is no way around it.

It doesn’t matter if your subject looks like the Hulk, is talking [expletive] and refusing verbal commands, that’s not enough for deadly force.  Even if you are trying to put the hand cuffs on him, he jerks back and pushes you off to get away, that’s not enough.  It doesn’t matter how angry the guy makes you. It doesn’t matter if he embarrassed you. It doesn’t matter if he told you what he was going to do to your wife and kids. All that matters is at that moment: was the suspect armed? Did he have the ability to seriously hurt you? Did he pose an imminent threat to use that ability? Were you convinced that you were in immediate mortal danger?

Just resisting the police does not meet the standard for deadly force.

Even when a suspect has gone from simply resisting you to actively fighting you, once he complies with your commands and can be taken into custody he should be taken into custody. Once the threat has stopped, then your need to use force stops too.   Even if you respond to a call and a suspect has just shot and killed dozens of people in a movie theater, once he throws down his weapons and puts up his hands, and you can safely take him into custody, then you take him into custody.  You don’t execute him because he’s a mass murderer.

But … but … but … RIOTS!

I know what it’s like to walk around in a Kevlar helmet, gas mask, shield, and baton dressed in riot control gear. It’s hot, it’s frustrating, and most of the time you are just standing around waiting.  I know that Protests and Riots are not the same thing and just because someone is protesting the police does not make them a “thug“.  I know that the criminals that are using this situation to loot and cause havoc should be arrested and prosecuted period.  I know that whether you are a rapper, a teacher, a nun, or a congressman you should have the same rights. I know that if your police department continues to let the community’s questions go unanswered for days while you post armored vehicles and snipers in their neighborhoods you might not get a very positive outcome.  I know that if your unofficial departmental policy is to ignore the underlying problems in a community and never address their actual issues don’t be surprised if protests become riots.

Yeah, but those people didn’t get treated any differently from how anyone else would have been treated!

Just contrast what has happened in Ferguson Missouri to what happened last spring in Bunkerville Nevada. In Ferguson we had the police reaction to protesters.  In Bunkerville we had the protesters reaction to police. Two different groups of citizens with ostensibly the same 1st amendment issues but two drastically different reactions by the citizens and law enforcement.  Based on what I saw of the operation on TV it looked like a tactical nightmare.  I lost count of the problems that the agents faced when they went in to enforce a court order there.  Mostly I believe they gave this guy Bundy too many chances for too long.  When the BLM cops finally decided to go in there they weren’t committed to whatever the plan was. That indicates a major leadership issue.

I was completely stunned to see those officers surrounded by screaming people with assault rifles, a police dog getting kicked, and open defiance of verbal commands.  But when I saw that those officers had sniper rifles pointed at them I could not believe my eyes.  Snipers. On live TV.  Let me repeat that:

On the Bundy Ranch, armed protesters were violently obstructing law enforcement from performing their duties.  Sniper rifles were pointed at those law enforcement officers. Then those “snipers” openly gloated about how they had the agents in their sights the entire time. And what was the police response?  All out retreat.  Nobody was arrested. No tear gas deployed. No tanks were called in. No Snipers posted in the neighborhood. No rubber bullets fired. Nothing. Police officers in mortal danger met with heavily armed resistance and no one had to answer for it. Could any reasonable person look at scenes coming out of Nevada and say they looked peaceful?

Nobody called the armed protesters at the Bundy Ranch who threatened police thugs.

Nobody told them the government was supreme so they should just let the system work it out.

Nobody told them to just shut up and do what they were told. …

The press didn’t call what those people did to those officers in Nevada a riot. But I haven’t seen any protesters in Ferguson hanging the American flag upside down, or renouncing their citizenship. I haven’t heard of any protest leaders on the street in Ferguson Missouri calling for the overthrow of the city council or the removal of the mayor by force. What about those “2nd amendment remedies” that politicians were hinting at 5 years ago? Just imagine if there were 150 black folks walking around Ferguson with assault rifles right now. Imagine if a couple of them took up sniper positions on the tops of buildings with their rifles pointed at the police officers.  Take a quick guess at how that story ends.

Oh. Um. Well.

So, there, I listened to another cop. And so, by way of reading this piece, did you.

Pop quiz: Did you hear him?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 7:14 pm

Ferguson, Mo., Mayor James Knowles: Out of touch, out of time

In light of the assertion today by James Knowles, the white mayor of 67% African American Ferguson, Mo., that there aren’t any racial divides in his city and that the entire city, black and white alike, would agree with him, my fortuitous stumbling across this passage from Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August*, about the beginning of World War I a century ago, seems apropos:

[German] General von Hausen, commanding the Third Army… could not get over the “hostility of the Belgian people.” To discover “how we are hated” was a constant amazement to him. He complained bitterly of the attitude of the D’Eggremont family in whose luxurious château of forty rooms, with green-houses, gardens, and stable for fifty horses, he was billeted for one night. The elderly Count went around “with his fists clenched in his pockets”; the two sons absented themselves from the dinner table; the father came late to dinner and refused to talk or even respond to questions, and continued in this unpleasant attitude in spite of Hausen’s gracious forbearance in ordering his military police not to confiscate the Chinese and Japanese weapons collected by Count D’Eggremont during his diplomatic service in the Orient. It was a most distressing experience.

I love the snark in that last sentence.

Because here’s the thing, Mr. Mayor: Three independent witnesses have proclaimed that a white officer, Darren Wilson, shot a black man, Michael Brown, six times without provocation; many more witnesses know that Brown’s body was left in the street for hours. An autopsy report not only corroborates witness accounts, it also impeaches the police version of events.  Given that, the least you could have done was to have called for an immediate, outside, transparent investigation and seen to it that Wilson was suspended from duty without pay pending the outcome. Instead, you reflexively defended your cops without having had the slightest idea what actually went down (or else knowing and not caring), then denied today that the racial element of this incident even exists. That so many people have gotten so upset, and that your town’s behavior has drawn critical attention from around the globe now, seems “a constant amazement” to you.

And I’m sure it’s “a most distressing experience” for you that people aren’t holding still for your racist blinders, your utter lack of connection with your own community, and the apparent lies you and the police department are telling. But you know what? Some people need to be distressed, and right now you’re approaching the top of that list. The demographic tidal wave of your community is inexorable. But rather than showing leadership, you double down on a vision and a policing approach that are decades past their sell-by date and expect people to appreciate your gracious forbearance in not allowing the police, so far, to mow down with automatic weapons the civilians peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights of speech, press, assembly, and petitioning government for redress of grievances.

That’s mighty white of you, sir.

*h/t: J. Bradford DeLong

Friday, August 8, 2014 7:15 pm

Even if the White House door HAD hit him on the ass on the way out, it would have been too late.

Forty years ago today, and far too late, Richard Milhous Nixon resigned from the presidency of the United States. He became the first president to do so, and he did so because House Republican leaders had come to tell him that articles of  impeachment were likely to be approved by the House. Even then, Nixon worked the angles: If he were convicted and impeached, he’d lose all his tax-paid federal benefits. If he resigned, he could spend the rest of his life on the taxpayer’s tit. So he resigned.

It is tempting for people who weren’t there, which is a majority of the country, and for people who were there but are dishonest, to say that Nixon wasn’t that bad, especially in comparison with who came later. That argument is wrong on its face — Nixon was stone evil, driven by resentment and paranoia to become America’s most thug-like president. Yeah, some nice domestic things like the EPA happened on his watch, but he himself had never given a rat’s ass about domestic policy. He basically told aides handling domestic policy to do as they liked as long as it didn’t hurt him politically, and unlike today, people were still ready, willing, and able to vote against polluters.

That argument also is wrong in that it is difficult to imagine the evil that would come after Nixon having happened had Nixon himself not happened. Had Humphrey taken him (and it was very close, remember), or, dear God, if Robert Kennedy had lived to claim the Democratic nomination (he’d have destroyed Nixon in the general), a whole different group of people with a very different mindset would have been in government then, both in leadership positions at the time or in junior positions that would have qualified them for leadership positions in subsequent administrations.

The Vietnam War would have ended much more quickly and there would have been no Ford pardon of Nixon — two things that hugely increased bipartisan cynicism and distrust of government. The Southern Strategy might have worked in the South, but not so much anywhere else. Reagan is inconceivable as a politician without Nixon, and Jesse Helms, with all the evil appertaining unto him, is almost as unimaginable. And Reagan’s minions foisted the Bush dynasty, with all its corruption and lies and crimes, upon us as well.

Still, Nixon was quite as evil in his own right as anyone who has come before or since. He was a racist, an anti-Semite, a proto-fascist (and quite willing to help real fascists, as with Pinochet in Chile, even at the cost of thousands of innocent lives).

And he didn’t engage in all this evil in service of some larger issue, however infernal. No, Richard Nixon did what he did for Richard Nixon and for Richard Nixon alone.

I’ve said it before here, but it bears repeating: It is impossible to understand Nixon in both the breadth of his complexity and the depth of his immorality without having read Hunter S. Thompson’s writings on Nixon. The worst in Nixon brought out the best in Thompson, a writer I love but who, even I must admit, was capable of inconsistent performance on other subjects. Here is Thompson’s piece on the occasion of Nixon’s death 20 years ago, which still gleams like a newly cut and polished diamond. But an arguably better Thompson epitaph appeared in Rolling Stone just weeks before before Nixon’s re-election and almost two years before Nixon would be driven in disgrace from Washington:

If the current polls are reliable … Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam. The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states … This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes … understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose … Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

Thompson’s question was rhetorical, but we have gotten real-life answers, consistently bad and consistently worsening, in the 40 years since Nixon’s resignation. That evil, too, must be laid at his putrid, cloven feet.

 

 

Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:40 am

And while we’re on the subject of Iraq …

I see now that bloody-handed GOP foreign-policy apparatchik John Bolton has leaped into the fray as well, joining the Cheneys, Lindsay Graham, Paul Wolfowitz and all the other bloody-minded neocons in arguing that we need to KILL KILL KILL in Iraq because MURCA!

And news-media outlets of all political stripes are giving these effups a platform.

Yo, media: Stop. Just. Stop.

Every one of these people was wrong, wrong, WRONG about Iraq. They lied us into a war, they lied to us about how much it would cost in blood AND treasure, they lied to us about how we would be received, they killed thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians for a lie, and in the process they mismanaged the whole thing to the point at which it would have been impossible to mess it up worse if they had been trying, if in fact they were not. ANY news outlet giving ANY of these people a platform anymore is committing journalistic malpractice, full stop.

(As I’ve said before, I, too, was wrong about Iraq. I supported the invasion because I believed the lies about a possible nuclear program and not for any other reason. I knew damn well that the case was far from conclusive, but the idea of Saddam with a nuke combined with my belief that no administration would deliberately lie this country into a war to overcome my misgivings. To borrow from “Animal House,” I fucked up. I trusted them. But my mistake, however naive, at least was honest. These people, with far more information, fabricated a casus belli, which is a war crime by definition.)

Media, if you truly want to help your readers/viewers understand Iraq rather than just beating the drum for MOAR WAR, you might do well to consult some of the people who were right about Iraq. Just for starters, here’s Athenae, who predicted in 2006 what’s happening today:

It occurred to me this weekend, listening to family and others talk about the war, that really what we’re doing now as a country is looking for some answer that doesn’t make us wrong, doesn’t make us [expletive]s, doesn’t make us the people who screwed this up so catastrophically that there’s no way out.

You see that with McCain and his troop plans, you see it with various Bush officials and their whole “we have to give it time, just like Vietnam” schtick (which, way to lose the five people you still had on this issue, Genius McMensa), and you see that with every single person around the Thanksgiving table that talks about how “we can’t leave now, it’ll just turn into chaos.” And I think the liberal war supporters are most swayed by the last argument, because c’mon, they clung so desperately to their hope that Bush wouldn’t cock this up, plus they were the ones screaming about US sanctions and repression in the Middle East long before we needed those excuses to blow some stuff up.

Things will be horrible if we leave. The answer to that last is always, unequivocably yes, yes, it will. Iraq will continue to be chaos, civil war, a breeding ground for hatred of America and a place of misery for those who live there. When the bough breaks, the cradle of civilization will fall. It’s time to stop dancing around that and just admit it. If we leave, it will be awful. For us, for them, for everyone.

BUT THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO TO STOP IT ANYMORE.

We lost this war three weeks after the invasion; we lost this war two and a half years ago at least. Those of you who read this blog just to be pissed off and think I take some pleasure in that can just go [expletive] off, you don’t know how much I wanted to be wrong about the sick feeling in my gut at seeing the looting start. We lost this war before it even began, with the piss-poor excuses for planning that gave us the Ballad of Dougie Feith and His Sidekick Ahmed Chalabi, that gave us Curveball and WMDs and letting libraries burn. We lost this war when we marched in with our own ideas about how to run Iraq and as much as said to the locals, [expletive] off now, let us play with our new toy. We lost this war long ago, while the majority of Americans were still waving flags and singing “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” The only way to fix it, the only way to win, is to build ourselves a time machine and go back and not invade in the first place.

What’s more, I think the people saying we can’t abandon the Iraqi people, I think they know it, too. I think deep down they know there’s no way this is going to end well, considering how it began. I think deep down they know there’s no way to turn this around, but they don’t want to look at it yet, stare themselves in the face, see how completely and utterly taken they got. Take responsibility for the collective American failure. Take the weight of that on their souls.

I do get it: It’s not wrong to want the best. But it is selfish and small and downright immoral to allow your wanting the best to put others in danger when you know your delusions are just that. You have the right to pretend. You don’t have the right to ask someone to die for your puppet show. You don’t have the right to keep thinking it’ll get better, not when you know it won’t.

And so the answer to the statement, the desperate excuse, the Hail Mary: “We can’t just leave, it’ll be chaos.”

Yes. Yes, it will.

But American news media still insist on dividing their potential sources into the Very Serious People like Cheney and Bolton and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and so on, and those of us who disagree with them, who are dismissed as “unserious” or, in Internet parlance, Dirty [Expletive]ing Hippies. And those media ignore the fact that the “unserious” people, the DFHs, have been right all along.

Sadly, this phenomenon of providing platforms to people who have been proved wrong repeatedly isn’t limited to the subject of Iraq. It also applies to the economy and jobs, global warming, and just about every other major public-policy issue. I believe Driftglass said it best:

LIBERALS

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 11:21 pm

Rigged

Nine years ago today, my father died. He was 75 and a self-employed financial consultant who was still working about 30 hours a week right up until his final illness (acute pulmonary fibrosis), which lasted a couple of weeks before his death.

From an early age, I heard Dad talk about the importance of saving and investing, and I did the best I could to follow his advice. As I got older and better able to grasp the mechanics, he talked about the stock market as the best long-term investment vehicle for retirement (although he did say that once I hit 50 I should start swapping some equities for bonds).

To the best of my abilities, I have followed his advice. I won’t give you numbers, but I’ll tell you the following: I don’t have a ton of ready cash and never have. But were I to die tomorrow, my family would be pretty well fixed, especially considering I was a journalist, and thus not particularly well paid, for most of my career. Like many Americans, I haven’t gotten a dime in retirement matching for coming up on about seven years now, but — although no one can read the future — I think my family and I will be OK assuming I live to 67 and actually get to retire.

But Dad didn’t live long enough to see the mortgage bubble burst. He didn’t live long enough to hear all the revelations about bank and nonbank and insurance-company and security-rating shenanigans on a scale that dwarfed the crimes of the S&L crisis two decades prior. He thought repealing Glass-Steagall was a bad idea, but he didn’t live long enough to see just how bad. For that matter, he didn’t live long enough to see high-frequency trading and the ease with which the practice makes front-running a trade possible.

So although I’m remembering Dad today with warmth and his passing with sadness, for some reason the Dad thought that has been most on my mind today has been: I wonder what he would make of today’s financial markets? Would he still consider it possible for a single, well-informed investor to do OK? Or would he be convinced, as I have been, that most of the market is a rigged game — that there is a club and that most Americans like me aren’t in it?

(And I’m writing from a middle-class prospective. My problems don’t even begin to touch the problems of the working poor, who are being robbed outright.)

I don’t know what he’d think. All I do know is that while he certainly wasn’t perfect, in his professional life, to the best of my knowledge, he acted with integrity and took seriously his fiduciary duty to his clients. I’m struggling to name a commercial or investment bank that exists today that I’m confident does the same thing.

Thursday, May 1, 2014 7:54 pm

One rookie-of-the-year teacher walks away

My friend Robert Bell once worked with me at the News & Record before becoming a middle-school teacher. He was, and remains, one hell of a writer. But he’s no longer a teacher. He posted on Facebook to that effect earlier today, and with his gracious permission I’m republishing his post in its entirety. I’ll add nothing except to say that when a teacher of this caliber walks away, our children lose, and too many teachers of this caliber — some of whom teach or have taught  my own kids — are walking away.

* * *

It is odd, surrounded by all this quiet. Oh sure, if you listen – I mean really listen – there’s noise. The hum of the air conditioner, the muted taps of a keyboard outside my office, the distant laugh down the hall. But for the most part there is nothing but quiet, and that is new to me.

There is no Elijah in my face, laughing so hard milk explodes from his nose. There is no Destiny or Tyra to ask me what a boy likes in a girl. I haven’t seen Ben or Brooke in three days. Who will I tell to pull up his drooping pants if there is no Wade? Where is Kevin to politely remind him to keep his feet to himself?

I resigned from my middle school job last month. Looking back, the only thing more difficult than leaving my students was the job itself. On my first day of teaching – an exhilarating, uplifting nine-hour whirlwind of joy – I wondered where this job had been all my life. On my last day, I sat fell into my chair wondering how I lasted so long.

This is not a rant against how teachers are treated like lepers by our governor. His actions and inactions speak for themselves. This is not a screed against our legislators. They are perfectly capable of explaining how, in one session, they cut funding to our children’s education and gave precious tax money to for-profit charter schools while my students are using science textbooks that claim Pluto as the ninth planet.

Instead, this is an elegy to the folks I left behind, the hardest working and least understood professionals I know – your child’s teacher.

Like most jobs, teaching has two versions: The chestnut Hollywood portrays and reality. I fell hard for the Hollywood version. You know, the one where the teacher walks in and instantly a hush falls over the classroom. This is followed by students dutifully pulling out their notebooks and, pencils in hand, wait for those pearls to tumble from my mouth.

Oh, the places we’ll go! The stories we’ll read. There will be lively discussions of Whitman and O. Henry and Poe. Hands will shimmy in the air, their owners eager to share their own wisdom and connections.

Then there’s the other version of teaching I like to call reality. On my first day at my middle school, a father choked his son for leaving his lunch at home. Another student whispered to me she wasn’t wearing any underwear – and that she didn’t have any for the new school year. A third raised his hand and asked me to pronounce the word on the whiteboard: Welcome!

Welcome, indeed. After that first day I realize Whitman and his friends might want to come back in a few months.

Someone a lot smarter than me once described teaching better than I ever could. Imagine a lawyer (or banker or accountant or doctor) showing up for work one morning and finding 32 clients in need of their services. Each client had a different problem and was unable to articulate it. Some were angry they had to be there. Others were thrilled to get away from their homes if only for eight hours a day. Some were quick to explain their needs and desires, but became frustrated when it took so long to get to them. Others were easily distracted. Ready? Learn!

Don’t get me wrong, teaching is not an impossible job, just an incredibly difficult one. I’ve worked with many wonderful teachers who meet the needs of their students every day. And while the high test scores and rookie-of-the-year award were nice, my heart told me I wasn’t one of those teachers.

I dreaded telling my students I was leaving. At the start of the school year I brought in a cake and candles for each class. We closed the blinds and turned off the lights and made a pact around the flickering candles: For better or worse, we were in this school year together. I told them some might grasp the lesson that day and were welcome to move forward. I told them others might need more time – and that was fine, too. But one thing was certain: We were in this together. Nobody was being left behind.

After hearing that I was leaving, Elijah tearfully told me I was breaking up our secret club. I told him he was right. I told him I was sorry. I told him the only reason I would ever leave him was for Kate (a fixture during my after-school tutoring) and the rest of my family.

At the end of the day, Rion scribbled a note and put it on my desk before hurrying out the door to her bus: “Please don’t go, Mr. Bell. I know this letter is not fancy, but it was made with care. You were once like my white father to me. Now you’re like my father. I wish my mom had met you.”

CJ, who never met a lesson that couldn’t be put on pause so he could sketch, drew me a comic strip. I am swinging an oversized pencil at a dragon named Stupid. By the end, Stupid is sprawled out on the ground. Mr. Bell and his full head of hair are smiling and the children are cheering. “Do you get it? Do you get it? Mr. Bell! Met-a-phooor!”

I’m staring at his metaphor right now. It is in my office, my incredibly quiet office, next to the picture of the two of us at a school dance. CJ was nervous about going to the dance. He said the only way he would go was if I went with him. He clung by my side the first 15 minutes. Never saw him the rest of the night.

I knew I would miss CJ and the rest of the kids. I just didn’t think I would miss them this much.

When people asked me what I did for a living I gave them what they wanted to hear: “I’m a teacher,” I’d say.

What I wanted to say is, “What do I do for a living? Every day I walk into a classroom and discover worlds I never knew existed.”

Like CJ’s world, in which his mother keeps him home whenever she’s feeling lonely and depressed. Like Remy’s world, in which he came to this country after watching a warlord shoot his father to death back in Africa. Like Tyra’s world, in which she writes letters every week in class to her father in jail. She’s still waiting on him to write back. Like Angel’s world, in which he has a perfect attendance and regularly stays after school for tutoring – if only to escape going home to Mom and Dad’s arguing. Like Justin’s world, in which he and his two brothers and cousin take turns sleeping on a single bed each night.

A teacher is more than just someone who fills your child with knowledge and makes them “globally competitive,” whatever in the hell that means. They make many of their students happy, well-adjusted human beings and instill in them the audacity to believe they can be more then what they ever dreamed they could be.

Maya Angelou, whose stories we read in class this year, once wrote “of all the needs a lonely child has … the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.”

I’ll count those 19 months in a classroom a success if just one of my students thought I was their Kingdom Come.

Sunday, April 27, 2014 11:02 pm

Happy birthday, Dad

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 11:02 pm

Hooper Alexander III

April 27, 1930-June 4, 2005

Thursday, April 3, 2014 6:30 pm

Life and death, post-9/11, and why it matters if you live in North Carolina

In March, for the first time in 11 years, no U.S. service members died in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

That’s good. Hell, that’s GREAT.

But it doesn’t mean our problems are over:

On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

To commemorate them and raise awareness, 32 veterans from the group flew to Washington, D.C., to plant 1,892 flags on the National Mall today, one for each of the veterans that the group says took his or her own life in 2014. IAVA extrapolated that number from a 2012 Veterans Administration report finding that 22 veterans took their lives each day in 2009 and 2010, only a slight increase from years past, and a number that includes all veterans, not just those who served in America’s more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event was part of IAVA’s 2014 Storm the Hill campaign, an annual week of action in which organization vets meet with lawmakers to push a veterans’ agenda picked for that year. In 2013, it was the Veterans Affairs benefits-claim backlog; this year, it’s veteran suicides.

“I know several individuals that have died by suicide,” Sara Poquette of Dallas, a video journalist who served in Iraq, said, adding that she herself considered suicide while experiencing the hardships of reintegrating into civilian life. “For me personally, it was more just getting through until I was really ready to get help, just realizing that my life was going down a path that I never really wanted it to go down.”

In Joining IAVA, Poquette said, she found a “new unit.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is pushing a bill, the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, which Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., plans to introduce. Walsh commanded a Montana National Guard battalion in Iraq.

“When we returned home, one of my young sergeants died by suicide, so this is very personal to me,” Walsh told reporters on the Mall today, calling veteran suicides “an epidemic we cannot allow to continue.”

The bill would extend eligibility for Veterans Administration health care, create a pilot program for student-loan repayment if health care professionals work for the VA, instigate a review of certain behavioral discharges, and mandate a review of mental health care programs at the VA, IAVA said.

The group is calling on Congress to pass the bill by Memorial Day.

OK, so the numbers are extrapolations, not exact counts. But even if they’re off a good bit, they’re still intolerably high. God bless Sen. John Walsh for planning to introduce this bill.

But you know who else could do something about veterans’ suicides and other problems, particularly with disability payments, that veterans are experiencing and have been for years?

That would be the ranking minority member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

That would be the guy from Winston-Salem, home of the VA regional office with one of the nation’s worst backlog of disability claims cases and a record of illegally destroying claim files.

That would be my senior senator, Richard Burr.

How ’bout it, Senator? Time to saddle up, ya think?

Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:25 pm

Something that should bother us all

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:25 pm
Tags: , ,

We’ll never know for sure, but it’s quite possible that the Boston Marathon bombing wouldn’t have happened if local police there had investigated a previous triple homicide a little more diligently.

Monday, February 3, 2014 8:05 pm

“This is not a religious crisis; it’s a military-political crisis.”

So if you even glance at the headlines, you probably know that there is something somewhere between civil unrest and civil war going on in, um, let’s see, Egypt, Syria, Somalia, and Ukraine. (And those are just the ones getting the most headlines.) You probably also didn’t know that there is civil strife in the Central African Republic. The Central African Republic has, literally, a wealth of resources, namely gold and diamonds. And yet most of its people live in poverty.

That fact alone tells me two things: 1) The government is corrupt, and 2) the government is corrupt. Because those diamonds and gold aren’t just sitting there in the ground, they’re being extracted, so someone, somewhere, is making a ton of money.

The people are, predictably, upset about this. The government and some media have tried to paint this as a conflict between Christians and Muslims, and indeed, at street level, some of those conflicts have been just that. But as the Archbishop of Bangui and the imam who serves as president of the Islamic Central African community work together both to ease religious tension and to get help from other nations in peacekeeping,  the bigger picture becomes clear: Most of the country is poor because the country is being robbed blind.

The UN has warned of genocide in the country, where almost a quarter of the population has become refugees. My guess is that this story will get worse before it gets better, and even if I surpass my biblically-allotted threescore and 10 years, they won’t get substantially better in my remaining lifetime. The UN already is warning that genocide will take place.

I don’t have any solutions. I just thought more people ought to know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 10:27 pm

Quote of the Day, RIP Pete Seeger edition

Filed under: Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 10:27 pm
Tags:

“Pete was an angry man. He did something great with his anger.” — writer Jeff Sharlett

Monday, January 27, 2014 10:19 pm

The price of experience

Today is observed internationally as Holocaust Remembrance Day (it’s the anniversary of the day Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz death camp in 1945). Earlier this evening, I attended a screening of the movie “Jakob the Liar,” about the lives of Jews in Poland’s Lodz ghetto in 1944, followed by recitations of the Male HaRachamim and the Kaddish.

The event also included a reading of a meditation, “The Price of Experience,” written by Adrian Mitchell and Kate Westbrook. Two lines in particular struck me:

It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted/To speak the laws of prudence to the homeless wanderer

It must be, because we do so much of it in America today. We have one major party (and, frankly, some members of the other) actively working against universal access to  health care. We accuse the poor of deserving to be poor because of moral flaws or failure to exert sufficient effort to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, never mind the fact that increasing numbers of Americans have no boots and no immediate prospects of being able to find a job that pays well enough to buy them.

What is going on in America today is by no means, of course, morally equivalent to the Holocaust, and I do not mean to imply otherwise. But it is bad nonetheless: For more than 30 years the wealthy have waged war on the middle class, and that war has only accelerated with and since the Crash of ’08. Meanwhile, the hyperwealthy who attend Davos moan about the bad things the less fortunate say about them. One moron, venture capitalist Tom Perkins, writing in The Wall Street Journal — and you can’t make this crap up — even compared complaints about the wealthy to attitudes of Nazi Germany toward Jews. On a slightly less offensive level, neither Congress nor the Beltway media talk much about this problem, let alone consult with some of the people who know how to fix it. One can only assume that things are this way because the wealthy and powerful want them this way. That’s bad enough. But the victim blaming is a sign of advanced moral rot. And when moral rot in a society’s leadership expands to this point, perhaps a Holocaust is not inevitable. But a French Revolution certainly isn’t out of the question — nor should it be.   

Thursday, January 23, 2014 8:57 pm

Terrorist acts that our federal and state governments have ignored

Esquire’s Charlie Pierce with a thought experiment:

Imagine if there were three terrorist events in two weeks. First, terrorists poison a state’s water supply. Then, they rig a building to collapse and rig another one hundreds of miles away to explode. Nervous politicians would be blue-pencilling the Bill of Rights by daybreak. The NSA would throw a parade for itself. Edward Snowden would be hung in effigy, if we couldn’t do it in person. Somebody’s ass would get droned in Waziristan.

Sounds about right.

But in the past two weeks, we have seen West Virginia’s water supply be poisoned by a Koch Bros.-owned chemical plant (CORRECTION: As Roch notes below, the Kochs sold the plant Dec. 31, nine days before the leak), which promptly filed for bankruptcy protection so that the families who are harmed will have to be compensated by the state if they get compensated at all. Then we have the building collapse in Nebraska and the explosion in Oklahoma. And those events happened in the wake of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed 15 people, injured more than 160 others and damaged or destroyed more than 150 buildings. What do these things have in common? Freedom! The dead hand of government regulation has been removed, by fiat or via lack of enforcement, so that these companies could kill Americans without significantly harming their owners’ bottom lines.

At Cogitamus.com, the Low-Tech Cyclist says:

I keep on waiting for the Democratic Party to get a clue about this: to say after the latest such disaster, “This is why we regulate, [expletive] — this is why we need the regulations, and why we need enough Federal inspectors out in the field to make sure they’re followed.  Because otherwise, they’ll poison our food, dump chemicals in our rivers, steal your wages, and make you work in places that could blow up.”

But Dems at the state and federal levels seem almost as in thrall to industry as their GOP brethren and sistren, so we’re all screwed. Pierce concludes:

(Forklift operator) Kendrick Houston was brave enough to go back into the fire (in Omaha). Yet too many of our politicians, local and national, don’t have the simple stones to stand up to a corporate class that has come to represent nothing but death and pillage. But they will show up at the funerals, boy. They will do that, and they will talk about the indomitable spirit of American individualism, through which people will run back into the fire, and then they will go out onto the stump next fall and talk about how the dead hand of government regulation is stifling that same spirit, and that freedom demands more victims. The American Dream becomes the province of the dead, Moloch with stock options, and that is the country today, where things fall down and things blow up and almost nothing ever changes.

The Republicans got the Congress back in 1994 in part by using language to frame the terms of the debate and even to describe their opponents as outlined in the now-famous document “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” So is it excessive to, as Low-Tech Cyclist does, call our plutocrat class “terrorists”? I think not — if the poison-tipped jackboot fits, wear it — but even then, they do what they do because we allow our legislators to let them. This, among many, many other reasons, is why voting matters and why electing people to office who believe that government can and should do its job, not those who are bent on dismantling what remains of government, is so important.

Some of our most vicious terrorists are home-grown, and it’s time they did time. But in addition, and better, it’s time we prevented them from getting in the way of what’s needed to keep our food, water, drugs, cosmetics, workplaces, and so on, safe. Because the free market doesn’t give a rat’s ass if you live or die. If you doubt me, you can just go to West, Texas, or even just down to Hamlet and ask.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 9:05 pm

“Those police officers are free now. How free do YOU feel?”

Digby writes about two California police officers acquitted of all charges after their beating to death of a mentally ill homeless man (himself the son of a former police officer) was caught on video. Read the whole horrible thing, including watching the embedded videos and following the links. Discussing a different case, she concludes:

I realize [cases involving mentally ill people] are tough situations for the police. Dealing with people who cannot comprehend your orders — or the stakes in refusal — makes it even tougher. But ask yourself why that officer couldn’t have walked behind the man rather than demanding that he turn around and shooting him full of electricity in the chest when he didn’t. The man’s hands are up, he’s presenting no threat. So often these things end up being a battle of wills rather than a means to an end. It’s one thing if thing if the person is clearly threatening, but too many times it’s police needing to demonstrate their authority. Needing to do that with people who are hearing lots of voices in their heads telling them all kinds of things already, is just pathetic.

Mentally ill people often live horrible lives in the streets of our towns and cities. They face danger from the elements, criminals and each other. And they often end up in police custody for a variety of reasons. Tasers (and worse) are cruelly used against them. It’s medieval.It goes without saying that without cameras taping this incident there would not be a trial.

In just such a case a few days ago in southeastern North Carolina, a police officer shot and killed a mentally ill, 90-pound teenager whom two other officers were holding down on a bathroom floor — after he had been tased. The two officers on the floor with him, one of whom had just tased him, were from the community, were familiar with the kid, and had pretty much talked him down from whatever rage he had been on when the third officer, from another jurisdiction, stormed in, and, within 70 seconds and reportedly after saying, “We don’t have time for this,” shot the kid and killed him in front of his horrified father. (And thank God the bullet didn’t go through the kid, ricochet off the floor, and kill or injure one or both of the officers holding him.)

Handling mentally ill people appropriately requires training, and the training that law-enforcement officers get — which primarily and for good reasons involves getting control of people and situations — needs to be adapted to include mentally ill people who pose no threat or a minor threat (the 18-year-old was holding a screwdriver) so that we don’t end up tasking our officers with executing the mentally ill.

In the case of the California cops acquitted of the beating death, I think the video, which you can find if you follow the links, is damning. The North Carolina case is just days old and it’s not clear yet whether any charges will be filed, although both the cops on the floor with the kid have officially been cleared.

But in both of these cases, if the cops have any consciences at all, they’ll be haunted by what they did for the rest of their lives. And that’s where the rest of us come in.

The job inevitably requires some cops to do things that will have that result. We owe it to our mentally ill brethren to balance the safety of others (including cops) against their well-being. And we who hire, train and pay cops owe it to them to train them well enough that if they ever have to use deadly force, the justification will be so clear that their consciences will be offered legitimate respite from what comes afterward. This is not an outcome that the current overmilitarization of U.S. law enforcement is likely to yield.

Monday, January 13, 2014 6:42 pm

“We are losing men and women, and we should not be.”

Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, an Army infantry officer who has served in Iraq, writes about the spike in suicides among service members and, especially, young veterans:

He wrote his suicide note in his own blood, as it was flowing out of him. It was addressed to me. He was apologizing for the administrative headaches that he anticipated his death would cause. …

Want me to go on? I can. Oh, how I can. But that would be beside the point.

The point is that we are losing men and women, and we should not be. Not now, not in the 21st century. We should see these signs and step in, and me and my Army are failing so far. But then, so are you. We can work to prevent the suicides of those in uniform. But we need you, all of you, to step in when the soldier is no longer a soldier, but a “veteran.”

The VA just put out new numbers. Suicides are spiking among young veterans.

… if you have a veteran with you, especially a young combat veteran, just keep a weather eye open. Talk, learn, listen, and pay attention. It really is not hard. Better that than looking back and remembering, and dreaming of what you might have [expletive] done differently, for the rest of your entire life. Believe me on that one friends. Believe.

If you or someone you know is a service member or veteran who needs help, call this hotline any time, 24/7, at (800)-273-8255, press 1, or visit veteranscrisisline.net. We already owe far too many of our veterans far too much. Let us not add unnecessarily to that debt, for their sakes and our own.

Monday, January 6, 2014 8:48 pm

19th-century records in Franklin County destroyed

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know whether this happened out of malice or just ignorance, but either way it’s terrible: Franklin County, N.C., records dating to the 1840s and only recently re-discovered in a courthouse basement were destroyed, apparently before many of them could be cataloged.

Now, in fairness, N.C. law allows certain public records to be destroyed after certain periods of time. But it does not require them to be destroyed, and some records, such as land deeds, are supposed to be maintained pretty much in perpetuity. I’d like to think that everything was done correctly here, but, as the author points out, the way it was handled, we just don’t know. And even if nothing was destroyed illegally, there is a nontrivial possibility that a bunch of stuff that everyone from professional historians to amateur genealogists would like to look at is gone forever.

UPDATE: A follow-up post. More details, but no more real knowledge.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 7:01 pm

“He had our back every day.”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:01 pm
Tags:

The celebration of my cousin Geoff Ecker’s life, held Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Government Camp, Oregon. Hundreds of family and friends in a little town set on rugged terrain an hour and a half from the nearest airport. Laughter and tears, speeches, poetry, reminiscences, good music and, well, Whitesnake lyrics. (And Geoff’s dog, who now has a new home.) I wish I could have been there.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 9:56 pm

Judgment Day for the NFL on concussions

Filed under: Sad,Whocouldaknowed? — Lex @ 9:56 pm

I’ve posted several times in the past few years (here, here, here, here, and here) about the growing likelihood of a connection between playing pro football and a type of brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. But between work and school, I never did get around to writing about the recent $765 million settlement between the NFL and former players that was supposed to put to rest allegations that pro football caused debilitating brain injuries. I personally had reservations about any settlement that allowed the NFL to keep its records secret, and I always meant to  circle back to this but never did.

Just as well, because two ESPN investigative reporters are publishing a book that appears to have blown the lid off.  All the emphases in the excerpt are mine:

The National Football League conducted a two-decade campaign to deny a growing body of scientific research that showed a link between playing football and brain damage, according to a new book co-authored by a pair of ESPN investigative reporters.

The book, “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth,” reports that the NFL used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work; that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league’s own flawed research; and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game. ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated published book excerpts on Wednesday morning.

The NFL’s whitewash of the debilitating neurological effects of playing football suffered by players began under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who left office in 2006, but continued under his successor, current commissioner Roger Goodell, according to the book written by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.

The book, which will be released Tuesday by Crown Archetype, compares the NFL’s two decades of actions on health and safety to that of Big Tobacco — the group of cigarette-making corporations whose executives for years covered up the fact their products contained dangerous, addictive, potentially deadly and cancer-causing chemicals.

“There are many differences,” the Fainaru brothers write in “League of Denial,” “but one is that football’s health crisis featured not millions of anonymous victims but very public figures whose grotesque demises seemed almost impossible to reconcile with their personas.”

NFL executives declined to cooperate with the authors on the book. On Wednesday morning, league spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment.

Among the major findings in “League of Denial,” which the Fainarus spent more than a year researching and writing:

• Two original members of a concussion committee established by Tagliabue disavowed the committee’s major findings, including the NFL’s assertion that concussions were minor injuries that never led to long-term brain injury.

• As far back as 1999, the NFL’s retirement board paid more than $2 million in disability payments to former players after concluding football gave them brain damage. But it would be nearly a decade before league executives would publicly acknowledge a link.

• Beginning in 2000, some of the country’s top neuroscientists warned the NFL that football led to higher rates of depression, memory loss, dementia and brain damage.

The league in 2005 tried unsuccessfully to have medical journals retract the published work of several independent concussion researchers.

Independent researchers directly warned Goodell about the connection between football and brain damage in 2007, but the commissioner waited nearly three years to acknowledge the link and to dismantle the league’s discredited concussion committee. In 2009, two other independent researchers delivered still more evidence that football caused brain damage during a private meeting at the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters. Yet the league committee’s co-chairman, Dr. Ira Casson, mocked and challenged the researchers so aggressively that he offended others who were present, including a Columbia University suicide expert and a U.S. Army colonel who directed the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

• As the crisis escalated, the NFL tried desperately to regain control of the issue and contain damage to its brand. Before an October 2009 hearing on football and brain injuries conducted by the House Judiciary Committee, the NFL lobbied successfully to prevent Goodell from testifying on the same panel as the father of a high school quarterback who had died after sustaining a concussion.

• Dr. Ann McKee, the leading expert on football and brain damage, told the authors that she believes the incidences of neurodegenerative disease among NFL players will prove to be “shockingly high” and that “most NFL players are going to get this. It’s just a question of degree.” Since 2005, when the disease was first diagnosed in deceased NFL players, McKee has studied 54 brains harvested from deceased NFL players. All but two had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “I’m really wondering where this stops,” she told the Fainarus. “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this.”

I am particularly struck by the very apt comparison of league officials to tobacco executives. The sole significant difference at this point is that league officials, to my knowledge, have not stood up and lied to Congress about what they knew.

But they’ve run all these smarmy promo ads about how concerned they are about preventing and treating concussions and teaching young kids heads-up tackling and all the rest. Meanwhile, they were just as aware as I and many others of what the research is showing us, which includes the fact that you don’t have to get a concussion, let alone multiple concussions, to sustain brain injury. There’s no technological fix on the horizon for that, and no way to change the game and still have it be recognized as football. Tagliabue and Goodell are guilty of, at the least, negligent homicide

This won’t kill the NFL, of course. But over a generation or two, potential players will drift to other sports, and the audiences with money will, too.  The poor and desperate will be the only ones who play, and the NFL will fade into the shadows.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 am

Looking back through the dust cloud

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:19 am
Tags: , ,

My last big post on the anniversary of 9/11 was in 2010, and I really have little to add to that, other than deep gratitude that we might be getting an indication in the case of Syria that things don’t always have to be like this. Instead, I’m going back, as I do every year, to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:26 pm

Is race a factor in stand-your-ground laws?

You tell me:

graph

(Read the article, too.)

 

Monday, July 15, 2013 6:42 pm

Quote of the Day, 2nd Amendment edition

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:42 pm
Tags: , ,

Charlie Pierce at Esquire:

If there really were a national background check for mental stability before you could buy a gun, I’m not sure American Society could pass one.

Quote of the Day, David “The Wire” Simon edition

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:40 pm

Simon on the Zimmerman-Martin case:

One man accosted another and when it became a fist fight, one man — and one man only — had a firearm. The rest is racial rationalization and dishonorable commentary.

If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve.  I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.

Except in self-defense, violence is never the answer. And my take on this case is that it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who, under the law, was standing his ground and defending himself.

But this pooch of a case was screwed from the start, when the Sanford PD failed to take elementary care of the crime scene, and no amount of after-the-fact investigation, no matter how disinterested and well-intentioned, was going to unscrew it. The verdict was sad, even awful, but not, to me, surprising. And Charlie Pierce at Esquire is not the only person who has said, repeatedly, that no good will come from this case. I’d dearly love to be surprised, but I share his sentiment.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 8:04 pm

How one man ran into discrimination against women.

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:04 pm
Tags: ,

This is an anecdote, not data. But it’ll make you wonder.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:56 am

Tradition Projection, plus a footnote

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong includes in his blog a valuable daily feature, “Liveblogging World War II.” This is the installment from May 8, 1943 — two years to the day before the war in Europe ended — written by the Nazis’ propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. The level of projection is mind-boggling, as if Goebbels had consumed magic mushrooms, but it’s also a reminder that there’s a boatload of projection, differing only in scale but not in type, in today’s political dialogue, and that, no, both sides don’t do it.

The War and the Jews

The naivete, not to mention ignorance, with which certain European circles see the Jewish Question in the fourth year of this gigantic struggle is astonishing. They cannot or will not see that this war is a war of the Jewish race and its subject people against Western culture and civilization. Everything that we Germans and Europeans, defenders of the principle of a moral world order, hold dear is at risk. The above-mentioned circles are too inclined to see the Jewish Question as a humanitarian issue. They make their judgments on the feelings of the moment rather than on the knowledge and insight resulting from clear and calm reason.

It is clear that if during this war we show the least weakening of our determination to resolve the Jewish Question, the result will be the gravest danger to our people and Reich and all of Europe.

Jewry wanted this war. Whether one looks to the plutocratic or the bolshevist side of the enemy camp, one sees Jews standing in the foreground as instigators, rabble-rousers and slave drivers. They organize the enemy’s war economy and encourage plans to exterminate and destroy the Axis powers. England and the USA recruit from among them bloodthirsty and vengeful agitators and political lunatics, and they are the source of the terror commissars of the GPU. They are the mortar that holds the enemy coalition together.

In the National Socialist Reich, they see a power that resists their drive for world domination both militarily and intellectually. That explains their rage and deep hatred. Do not think that the Old Testament tirades of their newspapers and radio are merely political propaganda. They would carry it all out to the letter, should they have the opportunity.

Our state’s security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from their threat. That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat. This war is a racial war. The Jews started it and they direct it. Their goal to destroy and exterminate our people. We are the only force standing between Jewry and world domination. If the Axis powers lose the war in Europe, no power on earth could save Europe from the Jewish-Bolshevist flood.

It may seem surprising that such a small minority possesses such great power and is such a deadly danger. But it is so. International Jewry uses certain criminal methods to gain world domination that are not evident to uneducated nations. The same is true in private life. The Jews do not enjoy economic success because they are more intelligent than non-Jews, but rather because they follow a different moral code. They attempt to conceal their methods for as long as possible, until it is too late for the affected nation to defend itself. Then it takes a revolution to dislodge them. We know how difficult and tiresome that is.

We constantly hear news that anti-Semitism is increasing in enemy nations. The charges being made against the Jews are the same ones that were made here. Anti-Semitism in enemy nations is not the result of anti-Semitic propaganda, since Jewry fights that strongly. In the Soviet Union, it receives the death penalty. Jewry does all it can to oppose anti-Semitism. The word Jew itself, for example, is hardly to be found in the otherwise so talkative English and USA newspapers, not to mention the Bolshevist press. Still, anti-Jewish attitudes are growing among the enemy public. This is an entirely natural reaction to the Jewish danger on the part of the affected peoples. In the long run, it does the Jews no good to plead in parliament and the newspapers for tougher laws against anti-Semitism, or to haul out the highest secular and spiritual dignitaries, among them naturally the Archbishop of Canterbury, to say a good word for the poor innocent persecuted Jews. They did that in Germany before 1933 too, but the National Socialist revolution took place nonetheless.

None of the Führer’s prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time. But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction. One must also be sure to strike the weapon of public deception from Jewry’s hands, which it is desperately using to save its skin. One can already see that in the face of approaching catastrophe the Jews are shrinking into the background. They send their pet Goy to the fore. It will not be long before they will not want to do it any longer, and wash their hands in innocence.

As one has to grant, we have some experience in these matters, and are taking action to be sure they do not succeed. The Jews will have to answer for their countless crimes against the happiness and peace of mankind, and one day the whole world will give them the penalty that they are suffering today in Germany. We speak without resentment. The time is too grave to spin naive plans of revenge. This is a world problem of the first order that can be solved by the present generation, and must be solved by them. Sentimental considerations have no part here. We see Jewry as the embodiment of a general world decline. Either we will break this danger, or the peoples of the world will break under it.

No one should say that winners are boastful. At present, we are the victors only in our own nation. Our victory at home, however, drew upon us the diabolic hatred of World Jewry, whose advance members the Jews still with us see themselves as. They want to see the Axis powers defeated, for that is the only way for them to regain their old privileges. It makes sense for us to secure our rear so that we can continue the battle before us with full energy and enthusiasm.

When dealing with the Jews there are only two choices: to surrender to them or to fight them. We have chosen the latter. As our enemy attacks without mercy, so do we. The future will prove who is right. Developments to far, however, seem to be more in our favor than the enemy’s. Opposition to the Jews, not friendship with them, is growing around the world. We are convinced that at the end of the war, Jewry will face a humanity that fully understands the Jewish Question.

Recently a leading London newspaper, which is wholly under Jewish control, printed an article that wondered at the alarming increase in anti-Semitism. It received many letters in response, and had to admit that only a tiny percentage took the Jewish side. The pro-Semitic letters, though the newspaper did not say this, probably were written by the Jews themselves. The others made the strongest attacks on Jewry, and the readership forced the paper to print some of them. They included all the insults one could hope for. This anti-Semitism is not racially grounded, and its roots are not at all clear, but one may still establish with some satisfaction that healthy popular instincts are beginning to manifest themselves even in enemy nations, Things are not much different in the United States. One of the letters encouraged the newspaper to send reporters to streetcars and trains. There they would hear numerous opinions about the Jews that deserved more than ironic dismissal.

That is the way it normally begins. The Jews in England are reacting in the usual ways. First they look injured and unjustly persecuted. In the synagogues, the rabbis encourage people to be more careful in public, and to avoid provocative behavior. Then they rent a few respected, but buyable leaders from society, business or religious life to make their case. Their well-paid job is to condemn anti-Semitism as a cultural disgrace that is the result of enemy propaganda. They call for stronger laws against it. The poor Jews whine in public about everything they have done for the country, what wonderful and patriotic citizens they have always been and will continue to be, the important offices they hold, etc. The innocent citizen is persuaded by a flood of words that he must have been mistaken in always seeing Jews behind all major political or economic crimes. Soon they find some high church leader who is ready to condemn anti-Semitism as anti-Christian. By the end, not the Jews, but their enemies are responsible for every national misfortune. Then the game starts all over again.

One has to grant that extraordinarily clever tactics are being used, and that it takes some intelligence or sound instincts to see behind the Jewish facade. But here, too, the jug carries water until it breaks. International Jewry’s attack on the culture and moral order of the world is cleverly concealed, but not cleverly enough so that it cannot be seen through. One must keep at their heels, and give them no rest when they begin to tire. They are virtuosos at the art of transformation. They can appear in a thousand forms, yet are always the same. If one has caught them, they claim injured innocence and send their guard of pity on ahead to beg for mercy. But if one extends them even a finger of pity, they chop the whole hand off. They must therefore be kept in the fear of the Lord.

We know that they hate us from the depths of their souls. We take pleasure in their hatred. There is nothing that they would not do to us if they had the power. We cannot therefore give them even the slightest bit of power. More than that, it is our duty to tell the world of their nature and their depravity. We must again and again prove their sick role in beginning and carry on this war. We must attack them incessantly, accuse them without pity of the crimes of which they are guilty, until the nations begin to wake up. That may take a long time, but it is worth it. We are dealing with the most dangerous enemy that ever threatened the life, freedom, and dignity of humanity. There can be no mercy. We have pity only for the countless millions of our own people and those of other European nations who will be given over to the hate and destructive will of this devilish race if we become weak and give up the battle. Those Philistines who today are so eager to protect the Jews would be their first victims.

We must all keep alert. We must be on guard against the insidious cleverness of the international world enemy. In the depths of his soul, he realizes that this war that he so frivolously began, expecting it to be the last step to world domination, has instead become a war for his racial existence. He desperately seeks to stop the inevitable march of events. It will do him no good. We will keep at him. In the end, the Führer’s prophecy about World Jewry in 1939, which they laughed at then, will come true.

The Jews laughed in Germany too when they first saw us. They are not laughing any longer. They chose to wage war against us. But that war is turning against them. When they planned a war to totally destroy the German nation, they signed their own death warrant.

Here, too, world history will be the world court.

A footnote: My Uncle Frank, who, as a 19-year-old Army lieutenant in Germany, witnessed some of the camps and attended some of the Nuremberg trials, lies in hospital this morning after removal yesterday of what the pathologist called a “big, ugly” Stage III tumor. He’s an atheist — probably not the only one who experienced what he did — but I’m sure his family would appreciate your prayers.

Friday, May 3, 2013 6:47 pm

Charlie Pierce bashes gun nuts AND points out a double standard so that I don’t have to (thanks, Charlie)

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Sad,We're so screwed — Lex @ 6:47 pm

On the 5-year-old who was given a real rifle by his parents and shot his 2-year-old sister to death:

If your “way of life” involves handing deadly weapons to five-year-olds, your way of life is completely screwed up and you should change it immediately because it is stupid and wrong. (And, again, also, too: goddammit, “learning to use and respect a gun” means at least knowing that the fking thing is loaded when it’s sitting in the corner of the parlor like it’s a damn umbrella stand or something, and we should talk about that part, too.) It is not in any way “normal” to hand a kindergartner a firearm. If a mother from the inner-city of, say, Philadelphia did that, and the kid subsequently shot his sister to death, Fox News never would stop yelling about the crisis in African American communities and the Culture Of Death, and rap music, too. If your culture is telling you that children who have only recently emerged from toddlerhood should have their own guns, then your culture is deadly and dangerous and that should concern you, too. If your culture demands that, in the face of a general national outrage over the killing of other children, your politics work to loosen the gun laws you have, as they apparently did in Kentucky, then your culture is making your politics stupid and wrong and you should change them, too. I do not have to understand these people any more, and it is way too early in the day to be drinking this much.

Actually, as I post this, it is not at all too early to be drinking this much.

Saturday, April 27, 2013 8:00 am

Happy birthday, Dad

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:00 am
Tags:

Hooper Alexander III

April 27, 1930-June 4, 2005

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:05 am

The Boston bomb and who we are

I was so buried in my own little world of work and homework today that I didn’t hear about the bombs in Boston until almost five hours after the first explosion. About 4:30 this afternoon, the whole Internet seemed to freeze, so I tweeted from my phone, wondering who had broken the Web. I got answers almost immediately but didn’t see them until much later.

We appear to know little now, and that’s OK. We’ll find out what we need to. I refuse to speculate, except to say this: Whoever set those bombs, whoever killed and wounded those innocent people, is a coward. Of that I’m confident to a moral certainty.

In addition to the Boston Marathon, and tax day, today is the day on which are commemorated the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the American fight for independence. And so it is that I am reminded of two quotes, both by Edward R. Murrow, the broadcast journalist who grew up a stone’s throw from where I type this evening:

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – 7 March 1954

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.” — 9 March 1954

The cowards who planted the bombs want us to be afraid. But so do many of our leaders. “Be afraid,” they told us after 9/11. “Be afraid,” they told us after 7/7. “Be afraid,” they told us after 3/11. And why not? For the more afraid we are, the more of our freedoms they can take, and the more they have taken already. If you doubt me, look at what has happened to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments after 9/11. And yet we worship the Second as if it were some Aztec idol into whose bloody maw the still-beating hearts of our countrymen must be thrown for appeasement, even as we know that no number of firearms could have prevented what happened today.

But no. Let us not be afraid. Not this time, and never again. This time, let us bury our dead, minister to our wounded, and comfort our bereaved as best we can even though we know for some there is no comfort and never will be. And then let us go live as the best Americans and the best human beings we can be, knowing that the time may come when any or all of us might have to run into the fire, like the cops and firefighters and EMTs did today, whether that fire be caused by a bomb or by the sociopathy of those, domestic and foreign, who would destroy what is best about America and who have run wild for far, far too long.

(Edited to correct late-night grammar.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013 6:53 am

They could not take your pride

Filed under: Sad,Say a prayer — Lex @ 6:53 am

Forty-five years ago today, Martin Luther King was murdered.

I saw U2 perform this song in the old Atlanta Omni during the 1986 Amnesty International fund-raising tour, and let me tell you, when they did, live in a full arena in the middle of King’s home town, I felt the hand of God in a way I seldom have, in or out of church, in my entire life. More than a quarter-century later I still get chills just thinking about it.

“In the name of Dr. Martin Luther King …. sing!”

Friday, March 15, 2013 7:24 am

Short and sweet. I mean sucky.

Google is killing Google Reader, its RSS blog aggregator upon which I have relied for years. I am revising my Google stock-price projections for class accordingly. In the meantime, here’s the inevitable Hitler clip; as always, subtitles are NSFW.

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