Happy Birthday Dr. King

Haven’t done this in a while, but it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  If you were still among us, you would be 89 years old today.

Image found via Twitter/John SLOPPY Selepes@SloppyJS

I will get back to writing down thoughts soon.  If you could sacrifice your life to give me the freedoms I have, I may as well push those freedoms to the max.  Thank you.


Death of a legacy

I enjoy talking politics and history.  Whether separate or combined, there are always some interesting stories to be learned.  Watching the brouhaha over the NFL protests has led to quite a few different discussions online, at home, and at work.  After watching an online conversation where I saw a few conservatives trying to school blacks on the issue of slavery, I had a moment of clarity that made me realize how much things have changed.

The Republican Party, or the Party of Lincoln, has always advertised itself as the Party of Civil Rights.  There’s no stopping any Republican or conservative when they decide to preen on their laurels of yesteryear.  Even Black Republicans love to talk about how the Democratic Party is the home of racism and racists while they’re the Civil Rights party.

While indeed that is the history of the GOP, the legacy that began by the founders has died.  I’m not saying that it is dying.  I am suggesting that it is dead, not coming back like Jason Voorhees dead.  How did I come to that realization you ask?  The reaction to Colin Kaepernick and the NFL.

See, the parties have become more ideologically pure over the past century.  Right after the Civil War, there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats.  In those days, it was the liberal wing of the Republican Party that pushed much of the progressive issues forward.  As time moved forward, progressives migrated towards the Democratic Party and conservatives towards the GOP.  Now, the parties have completely switched when it comes to civil rights.

Now that the parties are so ideologically different, there are very few Republicans left to take up the mantle of Civil Rights.  That’s why you have state GOP parties enacting voter laws that adversely impact minority and poor voters.  You have a GOP president who is barking orders to the NFL as though he’s a dictator as opposed to someone who would advance equality under the law.  You have a GOP Attorney General who is backing away from consent decrees with police departments who have shown themselves to be less than upstanding when it comes to the civil rights of minorities they have sworn to protect.  And finally, you have an entire conservative movement that is so out of touch with civil rights that they’re angry that NFL players are allegedly disrespecting the flag, the military, and the national anthem, when the players are actually protesting for the respecting of civil rights of Americans who lack the platform to protest on a national level.

Indeed, the “Party of Civil Rights” is actively and aggressively trying to fight a protest that is actually seeking equal civil rights for all citizens of this country.  If you don’t believe me, ask any conservative about why the NFL players are taking a knee or sitting during the anthem.  I will put money that 90-95% will come with some response about disrespecting the country, flag, anthem, or military.  Very few, if any at all, will mention anything about civil rights or police brutality.

On the other hand, ask any liberal or progressive about the protest, and you’re more likely to hear them mention police brutality or civil rights.  That’s not even to suggest that the left overwhelmingly supports the protests.  There are many on the left who disagree with the protests, but they will also acknowledge the right to protest as being American.  They also realize the protest is not done to demean the service of our military personnel or to disrespect any part of this nation.

When these two guys get what the protest is about and can participate, why can’t the rest of America catch on?  When the Party of Civil Rights cannot take the mantle of pushing for civil rights when the issue is being served up on a silver platter, then that party’s legacy is dead.  It died and those who rest on those laurels have yet to acknowledge it.  I guess it’s better to live in a glorious past than to address a bleak present and future.  As sad as it is, I am glad to see the liberals pick up the mantle and carry on with the challenge of pushing for equality.


Facts from feelings

With all the things going on in America, with all the people who are in need of assistance, why is the president so deeply invested in the NFL protests?

I understand that some people feel that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful.  I understand that some people feel that this is a slap in the face to the men and women who protect this country as well.

Let me let you in on a secret.  I’m one of those who work to protect this country, and I also protect the NFL player’s right to peacefully protest.  I’m not hurt or bothered by their actions.  I don’t intend on joining any boycott either because of their actions.

This all started over Colin Kaepernick’s protest last season.  He wanted to bring attention to police abuse, which I feel is something that needs to be addressed by everyone, feelings be damned.  He didn’t set out to dismiss the sacrifices of military personnel, and there are numerous vets and currently serving members of the military who support Kaep.

In my opinion, a good bit of the backlash is from the old hit dog effect.  Many people want to act like America is perfect, when we do have areas where would could improve to make our society better.  Many of us use our biases and stereotypes as crutches to walk through life instead of challenging ourselves to tackle things on without bias.

In the beginning, I was supportive of Kaep, and along the way he lost me to an extent.  I still support his right to protest, but I don’t agree with some of the things that he has NOT done while protesting.  That’s a different story for a different post.

Back to the tweets above.  For Trump, and anyone else who is offended, hurt, or otherwise triggered by the protests, I have a question to ask you.  Were you the same way when the flag was mistreated between 2008 and 2016?  Read the US Flag Code and you’ll understand what I’m saying.  Here’s a few examples:

4 US Code Chapter 1 Section 8(d):  The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

4 US Code Chapter 1 Section 8(g):  The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

4 US Code Chapter 1 Section 8(j):  No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

Now, there’s disrespecting something which is a personal opinion, and there’s breaking the law.  There is no law for disrespect, so there is no legal recourse if someone feels disrespected.  It is a personal feeling, and what makes you feel that way may be totally fine with others around you.  We have to get away from our selfish outlook on life because we’re a nation of more than 330 million people.  We’re not always going to be happy about things, and we’re not going to always get our way.\

The president, of all people, should be the one setting a tone to bring people together, not a tone of inciting a riot.  When Obama offered his opinion on the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Skip Gates arrest, many on the right felt that he overstepped his job as president by getting into small, personal incidents.  Who could ever forget this diagnosis of Obama here:

So, if Obama was way out-of-bounds for the comments made then, what should be said about the current president calling a  football player a “son of a bitch”?

Time is up for allowing a certain segment to own and direct the conversation.  No matter how loud or whiney things get, ALL sides need to be heard and given equal opportunity to express themselves.  Let’s remove emotions and feelings from the conversation and deal with the facts at hand.  Imagine Obama calling one of the Duke lacrosse players a “son of a bitch” live on national TV.  Do we honestly think that he would have been cheered?

I used to think we were better than this, but I guess all good things come to an end.  We are no longer in Kansas, Toto.  Regardless of whether we like Trump or not, we cannot allow the standards of behavior for the office of the president to be lowered.  If he’s not capable of maintain the high standards, then he needs to leave the office to allow someone with standards to fulfill the duties of the office as they should be carried out.

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.



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.