Song in the key of life

This particular bass line has been following me around for the past two weeks like the Jason Voorhees sound effect or like Isaac Hayes keeping step with Richard Roundtree.  When I hear that first note, it hits my senses like John Williams warning me to get out of the ocean if I wish to live.  Whether it’s been at 4am on the way to work, 2pm on the way home from work, or any point and time in between, I haven’t been able to escape the audible grip of this sonic messenger.  When I hear it, the power it exudes causes me to pause in my tracks as if I can avoid detection if I don’t move or breathe.  When the accompanying guitar riffs and drums join in the sonic parade, I know that there’s no use in trying to escape the tentacles of this aural assassin, so I have no choice but to succumb and listen to it in its entirety until it is done with me and vanishes into thin air.

For those who are not musicians or able to read sheet music, I’ll offer you a different version.  I’ll be back in a little over 5 minutes to continue writing because I know that I won’t get anything done until the song is finished.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system for a while, I’m guessing that somewhere, there’s a part of my subconscious that wants me to post about people like Colbert, Oklahoma reserve police officer Bart Alsbrook.

Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses

Who is Alsbrook, and why is he relevant you ask?  Well, he was a reserve officer prior to being named as the interim police chief in Colbert even though he was not officially certified as a peace officer by the accrediting agency in Oklahoma.  Upon getting named as interim chief, Alsbrook was found to have ties to White Nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups thanks to investigative reporting done by Rachel Knapp at KXII in Sherman, TX.  Since his past has been uncovered, Alsbrook has decided to resign from the position even though the city council wanted him to stay in the position.

From KXII:

But the recently appointed city spokesperson, Jerry Harrell, says the city council admires Alsbrook and is *not seeking his resignation.

“They don’t want him to leave because he hasn’t done anything they warrant, would be grounds for his dismissal,” Harrell said.

Harrell said the city did a background and Council on Law Enforcement, Education and Training (CLEET) certification check before hiring Alsbrook.

Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses

Alsbrook is not an anomaly nor an isolated case either.  According to a report published by the Intercept, the FBI has been investigating the infiltration of the law enforcement community by White supremacists for a long time.

White supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept…

In a heavily redacted version of an October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment, the agency raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” The effort, the memo noted, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The memo also states that law enforcement had recently become aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” In at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies in order to warn crews of any investigations.

Now, don’t take this as a broad brush of the entire law enforcement community, because that is not what this is about.  I’ve been wearing blue myself for 10 years, and I have numerous friends and family members who have also been sworn LEOs on all levels.  Law enforcement, just as any other profession is made up of a lot of good, hardworking people who are trying to do a job and provide for their family members.  There are also some within the profession who are lower than saggy ant testicles.  That goes for any profession.

The problem with the law enforcement community is that you don’t have many who are willing to speak out or even try to get rid of the bad elements, so it appears that most, if not all, are protecting everyone to include the bad actors.  I surmise that much of that is the pressure of having to provide for family as well as preservation of life itself.  Look at the story of Frank Serpico, and you can understand why there are not many “lamp lighters” as Serpico refers to whistleblowers.

Some of those who work forces, are the same that burn crosses

The infiltration of white supremacists is not limited to the law enforcement community either.  The military has long been plagued with the issue of white supremacists within the ranks.  One of the groups that participated in the Charlottesville rally, Vanguard America, is led by a former Marine.  The driver of the car that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer was a Marine boot camp dropout.  Back in 1995, a black couple in Fayetteville, NC were killed by members of the 82nd Airborne stationed at nearby Ft. Bragg.  In 1976, there was a KKK chapter found at Camp Pendleton in California.

Credit: Fox 6 Milwaukee, WI

When you see photos like the one above, a trained person can easily see which people in that group have went through weapons training.  It’s almost like picking out someone wearing a neon yellow vest in a crowd of people dressed in all black.  To others, it looks like a group of armed individuals, any of whom could present a danger to the groups they see as their opposition.  While I don’t think they present an immediate clear and present danger, these groups should not be taken lightly as a whole because there are some very well-trained individuals within their ranks.  There are many war veterans and former police officers aligned with these groups, and the thought of well-trained marksmen with their ideology is quite concerning.

Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses

I’m not the only one that has that opinion.  Back in 2009, there was a report* released by the Department of Homeland Security** which outlined the increasing threat America faced involving rightwing domestic terrorism.  Republican politicians and other conservatives jumped all over then President Obama and Secretary of DHS Janet Napolitano because of the contents of that report since it targeted conservative constituents and claimed that it was propaganda meant to demean all conservatives.  It didn’t matter that DHS had also written an assessment of the threat of leftwing domestic terrorism.  Nor did it matter that the key findings of the report include a statement that said there were no findings of any impending acts of violence.

This has been a problem long in the making and one that our elected leaders have consistently ignored.  We’ve had over four decades to address these problems instead of letting them fester.  Now, we’re seeing the consequences of inaction.  When a veteran police officer of 28 years can tell a woman “Remember, we only kill black people. We only kill black people, right?” and his lawyer defends this by saying that he thinks the officer was being sarcastic, then we have a very serious problem on our hands. This isn’t funny anymore at all, nor should it be ignored any further.

*A link to the pdf report is imbedded within the story

**Open disclosure: DHS is my current employer, and I had nothing to do with the mentioned report.

 

 

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Do all lives really matter?

When I initially began writing this post, my mind was focused on the justice system.  This week there were two death penalty cases in the news that set my brain cells ablaze in that special way that forces me to burn Google searches like they’re hot dogs on a grill.  These two cases were interesting in their own rights, but they also led me to reading up on disparities in how the death penalty is applied in America.

Just hours before he was supposed to be put to death, Marcellus Williams received a stay of execution from the governor of Missouri.  His stay was granted because there was new evidence involving DNA that could potentially exonerate Williams for the killing of Felicia Gayle in 2001.  The testing was unavailable then, but testing on material on the murder weapon excluded Williams as a possible contributor to the DNA.  It is not something that necessarily means that Williams is innocent, but it does cast doubt on the case put forth by the state.

In the other case, Mark Asay was executed in Florida for the 1988 murder of Robert McDowell and Robert Lee Booker in Jacksonville.  His case piqued my interest because Asay was the very first white person in Florida to be executed for killing a black person since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.  In that same time frame, Florida has executed many blacks for killing white people.

Reading that information on the second case mentioned got me to digging for statistics.  I’m not a big fan of capital punishment, so I don’t really follow those cases very well.  I remembered one other “first” in that Henry Francis Hayes was executed on June 6, 1997.  His execution was the first KKK member in the state of Alabama that was convicted and executed for the lynching of a black person.  Through all the decades upon decades of racial violence in my home state of Alabama throughout the 20th Century, the first KKK member who was executed for that violence was put to death at the tail end of the century.  This train of thought led me to this information courtesy of the Washington Post:

Since the death penalty was reintroduced, the number of nonwhite people who’ve been executed has consistently been overrepresented. While most of those who are executed are white, they consistently make up a lower percentage of the population of those put to death than of the country on the whole.

More to the point, most white people who are executed are put to death for killing other white people. Most black people who are executed? Also executed for killing white people.

Credit: Washington Post/Death Penalty Information Center

Credit: Washington Post/Death Penalty Information Center

After reading this, I wondered how someone could utter the words “all lives matter” when our actions as a country disprove this.  On top of what I was finding, we had the rally and death in Charlottesville which compounded things for me.  There’s the new ban on transgender people serving in a volunteer military.  Now, the president has pardoned Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff who was convicted of contempt of court for repeatedly violating the Constitution by targeting people based on their race after courts had ordered him to stop.

Now, if “all lives matter”, wouldn’t we all be protesting to protect the lives of Native Americans?  From CNN in 2014:

In fact, despite the available statistical evidence, most people don’t know that Native Americans are most likely to be killed by police, compared with other racial groups. Native Americans make up about 0.8% of the population, yet account for 1.9% of police killings.

I don’t recall very many people out marching or attempting to shed light on the difficulties faced by Native Americans.  Then again, at about 1% of the total population, many people probably don’t realize they exist beyond the pages of history books.

As much as I thought the justice system was broken, I’ve come to realize that the system operates just as our society does.  Our society does not place equal value on our lives.  We’re all filed away in little neat boxes whether we’re black, white, male, female, old, young, gay, straight, or whatever category is the flavor of the day.  We’ve let those little neat boxes determine the value or worth of people as opposed to people being judged on the content of their character.  If your boxes are of the “good” kind, you have a far easier time in navigating your way through society.  If your boxes are not good, then it basically sucks to be you.

If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t be worried about transgender people wearing a uniform of our military.  If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t be targeting people as illegal immigrants just because of their complexion.  Furthermore, if all lives mattered, we wouldn’t have the leader of the country telling us through his actions that all lives matter, on many sides…  many sides.  Some just matter more than others.

Stay strong Texas

I’ve been through a few storms myself from hurricanes to tornadoes and even a blizzard or two.  They are never fun, at least in my opinion.  I’ve never understood why people in coastal areas choose to stare down the barrel of a loaded gun, but for those who decided to stay at home in coastal Texas, I wish you the best.

I would have boarded up and hauled ass myself.  Then again, my first responder designation means that I have to stay to help those who refuse to leave.  I’ve seen the effects of wind and water enough to know that a Category 3 hurricane is not something that I’d purposefully choose to try to ride out.  My life is far more important than any material item whatsoever.

For those outside of Texas, I hope you have full tanks of gas.  Our major refining and gasoline production is sitting in the bullseye, so expect some disruption to the availability of gas for next week.  If the damage is extensive, be prepared to feel some pain for a while.

Edit @ 7:22pm EST

Harvey has increased strength and is now a Category 4 hurricane.  It’s the strongest storm that’s made landfall in more than a decade as America hasn’t felt a direct hit from a major hurricane since 2005.

My prayers goes out to all who are in the pathway of this storm.

Clueless

Can someone please hide Trump’s phone or change his Twitter password?  I guess he does not understand what a solar eclipse is does he?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, temporarily blocking the light necessary for life itself.  It is only temporary and the sunlight returns to continue the circle of life.

Using the logic of his retweet shown above, Trump is claiming that he is temporarily blocking the life-sustaining light that Obama provided to the world and will move out of the way so that Obama can continue to shine.  In other words, Obama is the light and life giving while Trump is dark and void of life.  SMDH…

I could continue on and on with this, but I imagine that you get the picture.  If anything else, this meme is poking fun of Trump more than it makes him great.  As Trump has posted and retweeted numerous things that have done the same, I doubt that he recognizes how much he demeans himself on social media.

Will someone in DC please fight to save America and destroy that phone or change the Twitter password?  Please???

The president America rightly deserves

I had to take a vacation from writing this summer.  Work was a bit more hectic.  Life in general picked up a bit of speed.  But mostly, I grew sick and tired of President Trump’s ability to suck the oxygen out of the atmosphere and manage to be THE attention whores of all attention whores.  So, instead of posting daily “tributes” to Trump, I unplugged and refocused on my personal well being.  Silly me for thinking that would solve everything.

Love him, hate him, or indifferent towards him, Donald J. Trump IS the president that America rightly deserves now.  In the seven months that he has been in office, he has simultaneously energized and angered the masses.  He has worked hard to change the definition of what’s presidential in terms of actions and behavior.  His administration and governing position is the living, breathing definition of chaos.  And, in my honest opinion, he is the embodiment of the worldwide perception of America, Americans, and Americanism.  He is famous, attention getting, controversial, wealthy*, and arrogant all wrapped up in one package.  *true amount of his wealth is not known

One of numerous political cartoons about Trump. Click to open a Google Image Search to see others.

Trump is what America deserves because we rightfully need to have an open and honest dialogue about who we are and what we stand for.  In the 1940s, our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents went to war against Nazis and the belief of white supremacy abroad while we openly engaged in the same practice at home.  We’ve always considered ourselves to be a society where anyone can achieve that “American dream”, but we’ve continually fed into a political and business class that continually make that dream more impossible to achieve by each passing generation.  We love to tout our society based on freedom that every other country should emulate while constantly fighting to curtail the freedoms of those we don’t agree with.

Based on what we claim to be about vs what we actually practice, America is a fraud.  What better way to perpetrate a fraud than to elect one to run the fraud?

Now, before I get accused of being anti-American, I am not.  I am 100% red-blooded American as it gets.  I work to defend the country of my birth, and I take my oath to defend the Constitution very seriously.  I simply call things as I see it.  America preaches one thing and practices something altogether different.  Sometimes, it is for the better, and sometimes it is not.  It also varies from person to person based on their beliefs and perspectives.  That’s just how life operates.

The reason for me writing this is because of the Charlottesville fiasco.  I’m of the belief that he blew a serious chance to get America into a discussion to heal animosity and racial strife.  I also believe that he did not intend to lead America down that pathway as he showed himself and his beliefs on race in the words he chose.  His history has shown his racial attitudes, and I doubt very seriously that you will get a 71-year-old man to suddenly change now.

That said, this does not prevent the rest of America from engaging in that dialogue on our own.  We don’t need the president, a rabbi, pastor, or even a parent to give us the permission to start that conversation.  We can do it on our own.

At some point, we have to be honest that America was founded on the belief of White Supremacy.  It was written into the Constitution as a compromise to get slave dependent states to ratify it.  White Supremacy drove America’s westward expansion as well as our world expansion of influence as well.  Some people may not agree with that, and that’s their right to do so.  It does not change the history that has already passed.  None of us can change that.  We can only change the future.

Destroying statues and memorials does not erase history.  History is only lost when it is not taught and passed down in its entirety.  We have to learn to love our warts as much as we love our exceptionalism.  We are not a perfect country, and all of our actions in the past were not honorable.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from the past in order to better shape the future.

I’ll go on record as being one that believes the statues and memorials in question still have a relevant place in our society.  They simply do not belong on public grounds or areas where our current government operates.  We do not erect any remembrances to the British, French, Spanish, Mexicans, or Native Americans who previously ruled lands that now belong to America.  We should be the same across the board for all nations.

Private property and museums should be free to display any and all remembrances of their choosing, without controversy, so that we can study and learn from history.  There will always be someone who will feel hurt by such displays.  That is unavoidable.  What we should be doing is ensuring that we understand and empathize with that hurt so that history does not repeat itself.

If we cannot talk openly and honestly with each other about this, then we will never learn the lessons of the past and will continue to repeat them time and time again.