Good Thursday, Widdershins. We have once again had ourselves quite a week here, and continue to hold out hope for better times ahead. I certainly hope that we feel increasingly patient while we wait for said better times. In the meantime, there are a number of things that have happened that make Fonzie’s shark jump look rather commonplace by comparison.
We’ve spent much of the past week discussing Michael Brown, the hypermilitarization of local police forces, and the need to heal the divides separating class and color. Mr. Brown has finally been laid to rest, SOD Chuck Hagel is considering an end to the DOD program which has so effectively armed the local gendarmes, and Sen. McCaskill states that she will ask for Senate hearings on the problem when – her words, not mine – Congress returns in September from their “work period at home”. Please feel free to take a moment or two should you need to compose yourself.
I have been amazed, indeed somewhat discomforted, to discover that Sen. Rand Paul shares some of our feelings, He commented that the US has recently funded significant arms and equipment specifically for anti-terrorist use in Fargo, N,D. Paul rightly comments that, should the terrorists make it to Fargo, we can assume that it’s pretty well over. A chat with some self-identified Libertarians friends enforces the notion that Libertarians as a group are unhappy with aggressive policing of any fashion. They are also unhappy with the concept of gun control, assuming that the government wants us all to be helpless when the black helicopters arrive to attack our citizens. In a way, especially after last week, I can see their logic. However, that’s the very logic that validates law enforcement’s concept that everyone they encounter is armed to the teeth and ready to shoot. The Far (Far, Far) Right seems okay with aggressive policing (as far as engaging “them” or any one else not a member of the FFR goes), and is fine with the whole concept of locked and loaded citizens. In fact, the FFR has now decided that Liberals hate the Bill of Rights.
Frank Donatelli wrote an amazing screed for Real Clear Politics in which he accused Liberals, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi of attempting to gut each and every one of the first ten amendments instead of the usual more limited assault om the Second, Ninth, and Tenth. Of course the degredation of the First is based on the Hobby Lobby and Citizens United decisions that will forever enshrine this particular court in the Judicial Hall of Shame, but rather than the usual victory laps, Mr. Donatelli is still shrieking like a ruptured water buffalo that grave harm almost befell the land. Read it and weep, smile, or a combination of both. He admits that “they” still regard privacy. He did not address quartering, search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, or the right to a speedy trial. I hereby submit that we awful folk still hold any number of rights closely, as evidenced by this Politico post written by Lee Rowland, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. The salient difference is that liberals believe that the umbrella of rights belong to all.
In the interim, we have heard of yet another police shooting, or perhaps if one is blessed with an active imagination, not. Seems that back in March in New Iberia, La. a young man named Victor White III was arrested, frisked, placed in handcuffs and transported in the back seat of a police car for further questioning. He reportedly declined to exit the vehicle, so the officer went inside for some assistance. Upon return to the cruiser, the victim was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest, which the local coroner has declared to be self-inflicted. The police state that they did pat him down, and no weapon was found. Somehow, some way. this young man found a .25 caliber handgun and mystifyingly shot himself in the chest with his hands cuffed behind his back, while magaging to lacerate the left side of his face as well, and all in the relatively brief period of time that it took for the officer to go inside and obtain help to remove Victor from the vehicle. The coroner insists that Victor’s habitus, plus the testimony of the officer, makes the death a clear case of suicide. Go figure. Disbelief, consider yourself to be indefinitely suspended. We’ll get back to you later.
Finally, the last and only amusing contender for the shark jump. is the ice bucket challenge. The challenge itelf is a wonderful thing, and has raised beaucoup bucks for a worthy cause. The shark was jumped when collegiate mascots were included. The University of Connecticut’s husky called out the University of Georgia’a bulldog. Challenges are being considered for Texas A&M’s collie, University of Tennessee’s blue tick hound, and LSU’s tiger. Anybody up for giving a bucketful to Ralphie or Bevo?
This is an open thread. Since football is back on, I’d better get busy cleaning behind my sofa. I spend a fair share of time there during my Georgia games, sucking my thumb for comfort while the Cardiac Kids plod downfield.
A good Wednesday to you Widdershins. Indeed as the picture says it’s the dog days of summer and I thew in a little “dawg” thingie in the title for our chat. I also could not believe I was able to find this picture of a cute little doxie enjoying some beach time.
I just have a couple of things to share today…perhaps it is indeed those dog days that are affecting me? Anyway they are variations on familiar themes and they do so prove the phrase “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” does still ring true.
There’ a group called the World Congress of Families that was going to hold some type of shindig in Australia. It’s just about what you would think it is and among their tenets are:
affirm and defend the natural family as the fundamental unit of civilizations, thus renewing a stable and free society. The WCF is a practical effort to lead the international pro-family movement and build greater understanding and encourage new networks and initiatives among natural family advocates at the national and international levels.
The “natural family” is the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature, and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage
They have a website but I’m not linking to it. You’d have to pour bleach into your eyes after having gone there and I won’t be responsible for that.
So anyway the WCF was going to have this convention or something in Australia and the funniest thing happened: No venue would allow them to hold their little gathering; four of them have backed out.
The controversial World Congress of Families conservative Christian conference is in chaos only days before its scheduled start, after four Melbourne venues backed out of hosting the event.
High profile speakers have agreed to speak at the congress on Saturday, including the anti-abortion campaigner and Victorian upper house Liberal member Bernie Finn, and the federal government social services minister, Kevin Andrews.
The line-up of anti-euthanasia, anti-divorce and anti-gay speakers from around the world has drawn condemnation from civil rights groups.
“It’s a mess,” Margaret Butts, one of the organisers told Guardian Australia. “We have no venue at the moment – the police are telling us it’s a safety risk because of planned protests and demonstrations.
“We are frantic at the moment trying to organise something else, we’ve had four venue cancellations. I can’t talk to you because we are just too busy right now.”
Well as they say: too bad, so sad. These folks are apparently so clueless that they had not even bothered to arrange for security or even obtain any type of liability insurance. This, despite the fact that they were going to have speakers who would almost guarantee protesters being present.
The Human Rights Campaign has issued a report which called the WCF: “one of the most influential groups in America promoting and coordinating the exportation of anti-LGBT bigotry, ideology, and legislation abroad…”
One of the speakers scheduled to appear at their shindig was good ole Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is supposedly being considered a candidate for Prez in 2016. Good luck with that governor and I guess I can remove The Hill as a reading source since they also had an article explaining why Bobby Jindal would be a good veep choice in 2016. Bleh!
Lookout ladies: the insurance companies are
after your contraception methods now
Does it ever end? First it was the companies and their “closely held” religious beliefs and other such claptrap and now it’s the damned insurance companies who don’t want to pay for your preferred method of contraception. From Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:
Despite the Hobby Lobby decision that created an exemption for religious private employers, most employers and insurers are still required to cover contraceptives. But Kaiser Health News has found there are still all sorts of attempts to deny coverage of certain types of contraception or deny coverage of contraception altogether
As an example:
In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing. This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina, works for three weeks at a time by releasing hormones similar to those used by birth control pills. She said her insurer told her she would be responsible for her contraceptive expenses unless she chooses an oral generic birth control pill. The NuvaRing costs between $15 and $80 a month, according to Planned Parenthood.
But-but-but: as a Kaiser Health News article stated:
Under the health law, health plans have to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods without any cost sharing by women, unless the plan falls into a limited number of categories that are excluded, either because it’s grandfathered under the law or it’s for is a religious employer or house of worship. Following the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, some private employers that have religious objections to providing birth control coverage as a free preventive benefit will also be excused from the requirement.
As for the NuvaRing, even though they may use the same hormones, the pill and the ring are different methods of birth control. As an official from the federal Department of Health and Human Services said in an email, “The pill, the ring and the patch are different types of hormonal methods … It is not permissible to cover only the pill, but not the ring or the patch.
Guidance from the federal government clearly states that the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control must be covered as a preventive benefit without cost sharing. That includes birth control pills, the ring or patch, intrauterine devices and sterilization, among others.
Now I don’t have to worry about this so I haven’t checked anything out regarding this. I can say that with my insurance if there is a generic for a medication, in most cases I have a choice and get the brand but will pay a much higher cost for that medicine. And a policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute said: “we’ve seen this happen, plenty,”…“Clearly insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it.” And Sonfield went on to say:
If you are denied coverage, your defense is to appeal the decision, and get your state insurance department involved.
“The state has the right and responsibility to enforce this law,” says Sonfield.
And as Melissa rather acidly added:
And throughout the duration of that process, you get to pay for your own birth control out of pocket, if you can afford to. And if you can’t, too bad. And if you get pregnant, well, hope you live within distance of an accessible abortion clinic, and can afford an abortion.
So lady Widdershins: If you, your daughter or granddaughter, niece or whomever you may know is using contraception and the insurance company gives you or them the runaround, keep these links and notes handy; you may need them.
It’s an open thread on this dog day so feel free to discuss whatever you wish below.
Good afternoon Widdershins.
Before delving in on today’s primary subject, let’s update a few recent stories. First, the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. CNN is reporting there is an audio recording of the gunshots during the killing. The FBI has interviewed the owner of the tape who lives nearby the scene of Brown’s shooting. Fearing for his safety, the owner wishes to remain anonymous.
The recording depicts eleven shots being fired. What is legally and factually important is this: After the first series of five or six shots, there is a substantial pause before the final five or six shots are fired.
Along with at least five witnesses who saw parts of the encounter between Brown and Officer Warren, this tape, if authentic, provides incontrovertible evidence as to the sequence of events — particularly if Brown was retreating and surrendering. We will be hearing about that couple of seconds pause for months to come.
No matter what the tape demonstrates or the eyewitnesses say, there is a motto by which criminal defense attorneys live: If there are problems getting the facts from the police, you can bet there is a problem with the facts.
As an update on the corporate tax dodging issue of inversion I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, it looks as if Burger King has joined the band of American corporate abdicators. Burger King will be buying Tim Horton’s, a Canadian restaurant chain, for $11 Billion and moving its headquarters to north of the border.
According to Burger King, the gobbling up of Tim Horton’s makes sense since Burger King wants to refocus its efforts in the breakfast wars. Burger King insists a marginally lower tax rate isn’t the reason for the move. I guess to some corporate executives just heightening the effort to ensure every human on the planet has a diabetes diagnosis before age fifteen is reason enough for the Burger King move.
One last update on the situation in Iraq and Syria as it relates to the marauding ISIS or ISIL. There are now reconnaissance missions approved over Syria. With the five proxy wars now raging over Syria, the precision on where to bomb is indeed a tricky one. To do damage to ISIL without helping the Assad regime is indeed trying to thread a moving needle with a cruise missile.
Lady Lindsey just about had a terminal case of the vapors on the Sunday morning talkies because he declares, Obama‘s proclamation of “doing nothing stupid,” is not a foreign policy. It seems lost on the L.L. and John McCain that the alternative to such a policy is affirmatively “doing something stupid“. Seems like we were employing the “doing something stupid” policy when we were lied into invading Iraq twelve years ago. Some lessons are hard to learn.
Turning to the subject of today’s post, if there’s a Senate race in your state, you probably have been inundated by political ads from outside groups. I know I have. The ads have been running all summer, but the frequency has picked up.
For those on a PAC payroll, it is indeed the best of times — there should be muffin baskets aplenty delivered to the Supreme Court for the Citizens United decision. The Citizens United decision should be styled as the political hack retirement act since billions are flowing through groups that are little more than legalized “grift mills”.
So if you are a down on your luck political entrepreneur, what do you do? Take these national groups and localize them. That is exactly what the Brothers Koch have funded. The Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has more than 200 full-time staffers in at least 32 states. As we know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop so these minions have gotten busy — busy with local elections.
There were the county board elections in Wisconsin over a zoning change for mining rights near and dear to the interests of the Brothers Koch. There was a mayoral race in Iowa and property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio, and Texas. In Arkansas, the local AFP group succeeded in turning the state legislature red for the first time since Reconstruction.
To be fair, it is not just the tentacles of the Kochtopus delivering all this local political havoc. There’s been a New Jersey school board election pounced on by a PAC funded by the bail bondsmen — too convoluted to try and explain in this limited space. Outside PACs have hit constable races in Texas and the Boston mayoral race. In Nevada, a pro-shooting group launched a PAC to target a state senator who improvidently sponsored a bill to expand background checks.
Then you have the Liberty for All super Pac. It has meddled in legislative races in Texas, Maine, and West Virginia. Liberty’s claim to fame came in 2012, when it parachuted into northern Kentucky and dropped $1.7 million into a congressional race guaranteeing the election of Republican Thomas Massie.
At the time, the main funding source of Liberty was a young man named John Ramsey. Ramsey, who was then in college, earned his money the old-fashioned way, he inherited it. Having reached the sage age of 23, Ramsey now waxes eloquently about the “big return” on relatively small amounts of local political contributions by saying, “We can incubate candidates.” How positively cyborg of him.
All of these PAC funded political shenanigans might be amusing until somebody gets killed, but that is exactly what was at stake in Tennessee. The local Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity launched a campaign to recall three Tennessee Supreme Court justices. Deemed too liberal by the AFP group, the aim was to replace these justices with more conservative and “pro-biddness” justices “in a relatively cheap way” through inexpensive judicial recall elections.
Taking the lesson of the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were replaced after ruling in the same-sex marriage case, the three Tennessee justices took to political fray. Since the central issue of attack chosen by the local AFP PAC was softness on crime, the Supreme Court justices found themselves bragging about the number of executions they passed on during the previous eight years. To quote:
During our tenure in service there have been four executions during the last eight years, whereas in the 46 years prior to that there were only two executions.
Tennessee is but an example. Thirty-eight states put their high court justices on the ballot. While all three Tennessee justices prevailed in their elections, not for a moment can we believe this gorilla-style pouncing out of the trees by groups like Americans for Prosperity doesn’t weigh upon these judges. It probably doesn’t affect the high-profile cases, but you can bet it affects those at the edges — those cases where the law is unclear and the equities are close.
Who are usually the litigants in these types of cases? You can bet it won’t be large corporations or those who have been suckled on trust-funds. It will be the average, run-of-the-mill litigants — the average Joe and Jane Lunchbuckets who will be the victims in this judicial second-guessing especially in capital cases.
Judicial second-guessing brought to you by Citizens United in order to guarantee constitutional rights to corporate legal fictions that exist on paper and reside in filing cabinets in some Secretary of State’s office. Et tu PACs?
As always take this conversation anywhere you would like.
Good Monday, all. I will not attempt to improve on Prolix’s and Chatblu’s excellent posts on the situation in Ferguson. I will, instead, build on something they both implied, and ask the question: How do we prove racism today?
I think the assumption we have, as a society, is that things are far better for African-Americans since we removed the laws that segregated them into “less than” white people, and put laws against institutionalized racism in their place. I also believe that, in many ways, this is true. Educational opportunities and income parity have certainly increased for AAs. However, the feelings and prejudices that caused American slavery, and then segregation, and then the events in Louisiana during Katrina, and then the Trayvon Martin shooting, and then the Michael Brown shooting, are much harder to eradicate.
How do you prove that a feeling caused people to commit murder? How do you prove that an attitude is the reason that the prisons are disproportionately full of young black men? These days, you cannot point to a law which explicitly states that African Americans have fewer rights than white people, and that makes it harder to identify those who are allowing their racial hatred to dictate their actions.
I think this is why there is always so much blowback when charges of racism are leveled. Racists have learned to hide their ignorance behind the screen of victimhood. “Those immigrants are taking our jobs!” is the war cry of those who long for the days when America was ruled by white, Christian males. (Of course, it still is, but you wouldn’t know it from the fearmongering and hysteria.) There’s also the ever-popular “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” trope, which was pioneered by the conservative hero Ronnie Raygun. The implied question there is, “Why should we law-abiding citizens pay for lazy black people to live it up and not contribute to the economy?”
While we can’t prove that these are racist tropes, there is a level of sameness to the people who embrace them, and the people to whom they appeal. These are the watchers of Fox News Channel; white, Christian males who think Bill O’Reilly is Fair and Balanced. And while we cannot prove that the almost all-white police department of Ferguson is racist, there is a sameness to their membership that makes drawing any other conclusion, quite a stretch of the imagination.
Also, this comment of the mayor’s doesn’t sound too good.
The mayor says it’s difficult to hire black officers.
“We hire everyone that we can get,” Knowles said. “There’s also the problem that a lot of young African American people don’t want to go into law enforcement. They already have this disconnect with law enforcement, so if we find people who want to go into law enforcement who are African American we’re all over it because we want them to help us bridge the gap. But these young people, they’re not interested in law enforcement. There’s already this frustration with law enforcement.”
Recent polling shows that white Americans and African-Americans have completely different perspectives on recent events in Ferguson, Mo., with just 37 percent of whites saying that the police shooting raises important issues about race, compared to 80 percent of African Americans.
In a way, this isn’t surprising, given how many more blacks have direct experience with the criminal justice system. In fact, roughly 24 percent of African-Americans in Missouri have been convicted of a felony, according to unpublished estimates by academic researchers.
“Almost a fourth of African American residents statewide have shared this experience that relatively few whites have shared,” said the University of Minnesota’s Christopher Uggen, one of the researchers. “It makes for a situation where you have great tensions, and a sense of us and them.”
I’m thinking that the attitudes and feelings in Ferguson, while they can’t be proven, are speaking loudly enough for most anyone to hear.
This is an open thread.
Good afternoon Widdershins. While having been away for a few days, I hope everyone is hale and hearty this fine Friday.
This week there has been more of the same in Ferguson, Missouri — peaceful protests until they weren’t, smoke grenades, tear gas, arrests, shootings, claims of Molotov cocktails, then more arrests. It seems as if things have been calmer over the last day or so, but with the funeral of Michael Brown on Monday the chances for the tinderbox of emotions to again flare are great.
We may never know what happened on August 9th in those precious few seconds between eighteen-year old Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. I won’t pretend to even venture a guess. All I know is Michael Brown is dead, Officer Wilson is in hiding, and I’m sorry for the law-abiding citizens of Ferguson.
One of the most insightful and erudite statements I have heard this past year was from Robert Caro, the renown historian who has spent his professional career chronicling the life of Lyndon Johnson. When asked about absolute certainties regarding Johnson, Caro said, “There may not be one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts.”
With that said, let’s review some of the objective facts about the events in Ferguson:
- Michael Brown’s body laid uncovered in the middle of a neighborhood street for four hours after he was killed.
- Darren Wilson didn’t call-in the fatal shooting. In fact, no one from the Ferguson Police Department called-in the shooting. The St. Louis County 911 operators got their information from other sources.
- No ambulance was ever called for Michael Brown. In fact, according to witnesses his body was hauled away in an SUV.
- To date, there has been no official police report released giving Officer Wilson’s account of the killing.
- The eyewitness reports are sketchy, contradictory, and are of questionable veracity. Eyewitness accounts are invariably untrustworthy.
- The raw video footage of the convenience store “strong arm robbery” of $50.00 ($16.95 wholesale) of Swisher Sweets was released by the Ferguson Police Department over the objections of the Justice Department and without notice to State Police Captain Ron Johnson or the Governor’s Office.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the video was relevant at first, then admitted Officer Wilson did not know of the robbery when he engaged Michael Brown. In a later “walk-back,” the Department offered conjecture that Wilson might have spotted the Swisher Sweets and put two and two together even though no robbery report had been made at the time.
- Spontaneously, a police report of the convenience store robbery appeared a couple of days after Michael Brown’s death.
- Citizens of Ferguson were told not to protest, then they were told they could protest. There was no curfew, then there was a curfew, then there wasn’t a curfew. The National Guard was not going to be deployed until it was. State Police Captain Johnson was placed in charge by the Governor then his authority was put in question by the deployment of the Guard.
- With the preliminary autopsy report, there are no signs of a struggle apparent on Brown’s body. There are no powder burns. At 6’3” the shots killing Brown were one entering above his right eyebrow and the other entering the top of his head.
- In a community with the demographics of Ferguson, its police force has 55 officers — 52 of which are Caucasian. Ferguson has one black city council member. That council member is a former member of the police department and was accused of involvement in a police beating incident. Based on available data, there is only one U.S. city with a greater representational disparity than Ferguson — Riverdale, Georgia.
- If you are an African-American in Ferguson you have an 86% likelihood of being stopped by police, a 92% likelihood of being searched, and a 93% certainty of being arrested. These statistics are in contravention of the police actually finding more “contraband” while stopping and searching Caucasians.
- Ferguson has a supply of police “body cameras,” but has not deployed them.
- Ferguson has a sordid history of police beatings and shootings. One particularly egregious one is that of Henry M. Davis who was taken into police custody and severely beaten. He was charged with four counts of destruction of government property for having had the audacity to bleed on the uniforms of the officers beating him. Mr. Davis has since relocated from Ferguson.
- Ferguson, Missouri has been named a “Playful City USA” by the people who name such things for the fourth consecutive year.
These are all objective facts. They don’t tell us the “why” or “how” of the killing, but they give us a reasonable insight into the last twelve days of violence. Without fear of contradiction, the police and political leadership of Ferguson, Missouri, did not miraculously awake on August 9th suddenly eaten up with a chronic case of the dumbass.
To have such a highly evolved total lack of judgment, they had to be actively working toward their world-class wrongness in decision-making. People don’t make every possible choice a mistake by chance. One former big city police commissioner said, “If they made a decision, it was the wrong one.” If these people were at a horse track, they would have easily hit the Pick 6 Superfecta.
In studying leadership, one thing becomes monumentally clear — not everyone is blessed with innate good judgment. To preempt the potential lack of judgment, most organizations have the good sense to put processes and procedures in place to force decisions through chokepoints in order to give better judgment a chance to intercede. Those opportunities for better judgment don’t seem to exist in Ferguson or if they have, they have been purposefully ignored.
The problems of chronic unemployment and police harassment did not blossom in Ferguson over the last twelve days. They have taken root for at least the last fourteen-years since statistics on police procedures were first collected. The collection of police data was mandated by state legislation in response to unwarranted police harassment reported from across the state of Missouri.
Good judgment, or even passably bad judgment, would tell a reasonably sane and functioning human, “if you collect data proving a course of desultory conduct, then you must do something about it”. Otherwise, you have collected the data proving your guilt or even worse, proving your disregard for those on the receiving end of the police misconduct.
Plenty of commentators have posed the obvious scenario of transposing the races of Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. I don’t like such tiresome obvious exercises. Here’s the thought experiment I find more insightful: If the entrenched biases propping up the status quo in Ferguson did not exist, how long would such chronically bad judgment be tolerated?
Of one thing we can be sure, the bad judgment that preceded Michael Brown’s death and witnessed over the last nine days will not be remedied by the sheer stubbornness of outlasting the protesters. Neither will it be repaired by ignoring the changes inherent with the passage of time.
Unfortunately to some people the only thing scarier than soldiers, police in riot gear, and tanks tooling around the streets is the inevitability of change.
Please take this discussion wherever you like since this is an open thread.
Good Thursday, Widdershins. It has been one helluva week. Several fatal police shootings, a journalist slaughtered by ISIS, and Rick Perry indicted by a Texas grand jury.
I won’t belabor the death if Michael Brown, as Prolix has written a terrific post on the subject for your week-end perusal. I do, however, think that it may be time to consider the state of racism in America. The scenes from Ferguson were wrenching, hauntingly reminiscent of fifty years ago when I witnessed the irresistible forces of the civil rights movement meet the immovable objects of Alabama police departments, brought to us nightly with the six o’clock news. Those films were largely black and white, today’s are in color. Those films were much more violent, today’s are much less bloody. Those films showed people march while holding hands, today we see people marching with their hands up. Those films were made in Alabama or Mississippi, today we watch Missouri. Dammit, I thought we fixed this fifty years ago. We did, but we didn’t – not really. Maybe not at all. Dear God, do I have to live through this again?
The scenery has changed. Forced desegregation in the Sixties was targeted in The Dirty South, which practiced de jure segregation. Believe it or not, most of it was accomplished with a minimum of harsh words and bloodshed. I went to a tiny county-wide high school, and when the school integrated, precisely eight African-American students arrived one day. I will not go so far as to say that the average student greeted their arrival with an abundance of joy, but within a few months, those eight students were fully assimilated. The Seventies brought about the end of de facto segregation in the rest of the country, Riots took place in Boston, school buses burned in Pennsylvania, and George Romney had to ask for federal troops to quiet down the situation in Detroit. Sundown towns were declared illegal. It was a new age.
Except that it really is no such thing. Many African-Americans have made it out of the ghettos, shanty towns, and hard-scrabble farms of yesteryear, and live in affluent suburbs. Many more have not. Even the most prosperous amongst them can still tell you stories about being hassled by the local police force. One young AA attorney that I know was incensed when he was detained for having no ID on him – he was out jogging in shorts with no pocket, and had to call his wife to get out of bed and drive down to where the officer was holding him in their upscale development. I understand that the police do not have an easy job – that’s why we pay them good salaries and allow them to retire with great pension plans after 20 years of service. That’s why we purchase weapons and kevlar vests – so that they can safely perform a difficult job. It’s also why we accord them great respect, except perhaps when they are screeching vulgarities and waving weapons at a crowd. The only thing that bothers me is their firm belief that anything they say is a lawful order, and anything shy of immediate and complete compliance is an arrestable (or even capital) offense.
Those ever-so-painful memories that erupted after watching this week’s events tell me one other thing – that some of our officers are as out of control now as they were then. There seems to be no protocol for the use of non-deadly force. Consider the latest shooting in St. Louis, where a mentally disturbed man supposedly ran at two officers, brandishing a knife while insisting that they shoot him. Needless to say, they obliged. Were these the rantings of a madman? Perhaps a suicide by cop? Likely we will never know, especially in light of a video, which does not appear to comport with the narrative.
Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that the officer should have shouted “halt” and hoped for the best. I understand that the police want to go home at the end of their shift. In many towns, most of the police force is aware of mentally ill citizens from having dealt with them in the past, but these officers may well have been out of their usual districts and not known of this man. We had a rather famous psych patient known affectionately as “High Octane Ramon” who was known to ingest straight from the pump, with a distinct preference for premium gasoline. A rookie officer saw him with the pump in his hand, thought it was a gun and ordered him to drop his weapon. He subsequently shot and killed him when he did not drop the imaginary object immediately. A veteran officer would have known Ramon and driven him either to the ER or home to his mother.
I know that the officers in Ferguson have been stressed to the max this week. I hope that nothing else occurs. I also hope that maybe – just maybe – we can take a lesson from this week and get it right this time. I also hope that maybe – just maybe – the citizens of Ferguson will listen to Al Sharpton, who told them truthfully that their 5% voter turnout was pathetic.
This is an open thread.
Good Wednesday to you Widdershins. I have a couple items here I’ve had bookmarked and thought I’d share with you. One is on Obamacare and a poll that was conducted and the other item is a piece on a new tactic in the fracking wars.
A recent poll showed that two states (and in the South yet!) States that embraced all facets of the healthcare law showed a “significant drop” in the number of uninsured in their state (Okay big duh!), while those that did not, saw less of a change. (Kinda makes sense, right?)
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found an overall drop of 4 percentage points in the share of uninsured residents for states accepting the law’s core coverage provisions. Those are states that expanded their Medicaid programs and also built or took an active role managing new online insurance markets.
For the states that took neither of those actions, the drop was just 2.2 percent. And the states with the biggest drops were Kentucky and Arkansas!
Leading the nation were two southern states where the law has found political support. Arkansas saw a drop of about 10 percentage points in its share of uninsured residents, from 22.5 percent in 2013, to 12.4 percent by the middle of this year. Kentucky experienced a drop of nearly 9 percentage points, from 20.4 percent of its residents uninsured in 2013, to 11.9 percent.
What was also interesting to see was the contrast between neighboring states that took different approaches to the implementation of obamacare:
— While Arkansas had the 10-point decline in its uninsured rate, the drop in Tennessee was just 2.4 percentage points.
— The uninsured rate in West Virginia fell 5.7 points after the state agreed to Medicaid expansion, but there was no change for neighboring Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been blocked by a Republican-led legislature.
— Colorado’s uninsured rated dropped 6 percentage points with Medicaid expansion and a state-run exchange, while Utah’s didn’t budge. That state has a federally-run exchange and is still weighing whether to expand Medicaid.
Robert Blendon, a public opinion analyst at the Harvard School of Public Health said it’s still too early to see any big shifts in perceptions of the law. He says that the negative perceptions about the law are driven by folks who already have health insurance and who believe that the expansion of health care coverage will cost them more or affect their quality of care. “Why isn’t the bill more popular?” asked Blendon. “Rightly or wrongly, people who are not directly aided by it are worried.”
Below is a handy-dandy list of the Top Ten states with the largest reduction in uninsureds:
An even clearer number is given here where states expanded Medicaid and state exchange-partnerships and those with only one of the two:
And here’s the thing with this: The more people who get covered by some type of preventative care, the fewer people will be seen in emergent care facilities (emergency rooms). Those folks will be seen in a clinical scenario as opposed to waiting until an illness such as diabetes, hypertension and the like force them to seek care at the e.r.’s. That in turn should drive down costs across the board.
The Frack you say!
Here’s an interesting take on the fracking front: A company in Pennsylvania wants to offer you $50,000 upfront so you won’t sue them.
EQT Corporation is one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania. They use hydraulic fracking as the mechanism to get to the gas. And they have been busy around Finleyville they’ve drilled over a dozen wells on one site. It wasn’t long before the residents there started complaining of noise, odors, and general “quality of life” issues with the company. EQT initially offered to do noise studies and even to offer vouchers so folks could stay in a hotel to avoid the noise and fumes. Soooo…EQT got the brilliant idea of offering residents $50k in exchange for not filing any types of lawsuits regarding their fracking operations.
The liability agreements EQT has used in Finleyville — they are often known as nuisance easements — have been used in other circumstances. Residents living close to airports, for instance, are often offered such easements as compensation for having to bear with the noise, vibrations and fumes from air traffic. Property owners close to landfills and wind farms may also sign similar agreements.
release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.
The agreement also defined the company’s operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.
Doug Clark, a Pennsylvania attorney who specializes in gas leases and mainly represents landowners said:
“The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list,”…”You’re releasing for everything including activity that hasn’t even occurred yet. It’s crazy.”
Some folks have taken the money and said that the company has been completely fair with them. Others have considered it an insult.
“I was insulted,” said Gary Baumgardner, who was approached by EQT with the offer in January. “We’re being pushed out of our home and they want to insult us with this offer.”
Baumgardner says he has had to leave his house at least three times so far because the gas fumes from the well site were too much to bear. A local health group has installed air quality monitors in his home and several of his neighbors. Last year when the one of the monitors began flashing red, his daughter, pregnant at the time, fled the house. She has since moved away after her doctor advised her not to live close to a drilling site.
The $50k may sound tempting but I would have to think long and hard over an offer like that. That’s a relatively paltry amount for giving up the quality of your life in your own home.