Category Archives: Uncategorized

Media Bias – Who Are the Victims?

“Conservatives,” or more accurately Trumpist sycophants, complain a lot about “media bias,” claiming they are being “censored” and otherwise discriminated against. They do this even though FOX “News,” OAN, Newsmax, Breitbart and others devote virtually their entire waking moments to spewing false and/or distorted information about elections, COVID-19 and other important public subjects, basically hewing to the Donald Trump fantasy line of the day.

A few days ago I was hunting online to determine how to watch President Biden’s speech regarding the new federal COVID—19 policy. I turned to Safari, the primary Mac search engine (I prefer Google but there are indications that it does not work well with the latest Apple OS) [Note for the record my sophisticated use of computer terminology – search engine, OS – some days I amaze myself]

I typed “time of Biden’s speech today.” And this is what I got.

I’m pretty sure this does not happen by random accident. I searched for specific news about President Biden and got a bunch of right-wing blather thrown in my face by Yahoo.

My curiosity piqued by this unexpected outcome, I did some digging. I turned to … search engines. Turns out Yahoo is owned by Verizon Communications. But wait, Yahoo is actually Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The plot thickens. Already, I know more about this than I think I want to know. But I plowed ahead.

I “learned” that Google, the search engine associated with the Chrome search engine, with a market share of 92+%, is bigger than all the other search engines combined. https://bit.ly/3C00spd Second in size is … Bing, with 8% share. The site cited above notes, “Unlike Google, Bing’s homepage always features a stunning image and news stories.” Hhmh … I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that photos of Dan Bongino and Marsha Blackburn are “stunning” except in the sense of “mind numbing.”

That aside, we must remember that “Google also powers other search engines – including Ask, which is the sixthlargest search engine in the world” and that Yahoo!’s search engine is really Bing and that Yahoo, as search engine, is the fourth largest search engine in the world. After that, the others listed on the ranking site are mostly country-specific with names like Baidu, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, Naver, Seznam, Ecosia (Bing again) and AOL (hahahahaha -AOL, yes, really, AOL).

ll this brings to mind the old Abbott & Costello routine, Who’s on First,” which as a very young child I thought was pretty funny. It now has its own Wikipedia page, https://bit.ly/2V7PWM2, and … well, enough about that. As applied to search engines, the Who’s on First is not very funny.

In the case of search engines, the answer seems to be Google but it’s hard to know who is actually providing you with search information at any one time. In the end, I suspect the real answer is that all the information you get from Internet searches is controlled by three or four people, about whom little is known except by doing Internet searches they control. You see the problem.

Frankly, madam, I don’t give much of a damn about these people. What I care about is the possibility that, contrary to what the Trumpists are claiming, the truth, yet again, is the opposite – that a nefarious process is under way in which I ask for information about the President of the United States and get promotional garbage about/from right-wing fools.

We are all, mostly, now aware of some of the principles of behavioral economics that emphasize how the order and manner of information presentation can control what we think. At the least, the Yahoo response to my query created cognitive dissonance when I realized what had happened (it might be worse if this occurred without my recognizing it!). Cognitive dissonance is explained this way by the folks at Psychology Today:

The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other.

When one learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut a favorable self-image, that person may feel motivated to somehow resolve the negative feeling that results—to restore cognitive consonance. Though a person may not always resolve cognitive dissonance, the response to it may range from ignoring the source of it to changing one’s beliefs or behavior to eliminate the conflict. [https://bit.ly/3C0QeVK]

Given that, for example, Bing reportedly gets 1.3 billion visits per month, you wouldn’t have to succeed at altering thinking patterns of a large share to affect a huge number of people.

To be clear, I am not advocating content control, which would create a multitude of practical and legal problems. But if my experience with my Biden speech search is a frequent occurrence, there is cause for (1) alarm and (2) some form of investigation/exposure, including ultimately some form of mandatory disclosure/warnings about the practices being used to deliver information. Yes, yes, I get that there are First Amendment issues there too, but it is unclear to me whether the issue is being examined outside the near-hysterical drumbeat of right-wing whining about censorship (for which little to no evidence appears to exist).

The termination of Donald Trump’s access to Twitter and Facebook was based upon blatant and repeated violations of the Terms of Service. Trump’s posts involved demonstrable lies and misinformation about matters of vital public importance. He had many opportunities to stop but, if anything, he escalated his misconduct with his continuing false claims about election fraud.

The major Internet platforms are, in my opinion, making a huge mistake with their cavalier approach to Terms of Service and enforcement. I understand that at their scale of operations, there is no simple solution. But to understand what is being done, a process of analysis of how the systems could be improved must begin, leading ultimately to public pressure for positive change. This is an essential process for the preservation of democracy in this country. Just imagine what would happen if control of one of these behemoths were to fall into the wrong hands. Indeed, it may have already happened.

Chump Play in Philadelphia

I confess I’m still bothered by the scene in 2012 when Jason Werth, playing outfield for the Washington Nationals,  broke his wrist on a diving catch in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia crowd jeered him. There seems to be something about Philadelphia.

Last night, 3-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, fresh off an injury of his own, was pitching against the Phillies, now managed by former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Because of renewed concerns in major league baseball about pitchers using illegal substances to get better or different spins on pitches, it was apparently thought appropriate for the umpires to check Max. Not once, not twice, but three times –after the first inning, after the third inning and then, unbelievably, in the middle of the fourth inning. Scherzer was upset to have his inning interrupted and, of course, nothing amiss was discovered. https://atmlb.com/3gRbxR6

This fourth check was apparently instigated by Girardi who, after Max struck out the final batter of the inning, came out of the dugout and began challenging Scherzer to meet him on the field for, presumably, a physical altercation that would, almost certainly, have resulted in Max being ejected and both dugouts would have engaged in the typical scrum. Instead, Max smartly remained in the dugout and, appropriately, Girardi was ejected.

Bob Carpenter, the Nationals announcer, was upset, also understandably, remarking that if this kind of gamesmanship is permitted, a manager could easily disrupt a possible no-hitter in the middle of the ninth inning and throw off a pitcher’s timing.

This was a chump move by Girardi. Major League Baseball needs to be careful here to assure that the concerns about substances on baseballs do not turn the game into a contest of repeated disruptions to damage pitcher performance. To be clear, I don’t think pitchers should be permitted to use anything other than the classic rosin bag that has been part of baseball for a very long time, but this should not lead to disrupting a pitcher in the middle of an inning as occurred in Philadelphia last night. Girardi coming out of the dugout to entice Scherzer to fight on the field was completely unacceptable, and he should be fined substantially for it. Just my opinion.

Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

President Biden gave a long address to a joint session of Congress. Two hours later (12:04 a.m. this morning), Leana S. Wen,  filed a 775-word response as a “Contributing Columnist at the Washington Post.  https://wapo.st/3xyYfPc Dr. Wen (a title I use out of respect but is curiously omitted from her byline) is prodigiously educated and experienced in matters medical. However ….

The gist of Dr. Wen’s instant response to the President was that by requiring masks & physical distancing, Biden undermined the effort to achieve herd immunity through vaccination because the images of the audience of politicians in masks will support rather than negate vaccine hesitancy. She took this position despite the rule in place since January that requires masking while on for federal properties.

My first draft of this post went on at length about Dr. Wen’s curious choice of hills to fight on, but after a short walk, I concluded “so what?” The truth is probably that no matter which course President Biden took (assuming he was even involved in the decision), it would have been wrong in some “expert’s” eyes. Too cautious, not cautious enough, ad nauseum.

To her credit, sort of, Wen also attacked the CDC for “overly-cautious guidelines” that she says may lead people to conclude, “What’s the point of getting inoculated if not much changes?” She goes back and forth between “Biden sent the wrong message” and “CDC needs to urgently change its recommendations” that Biden followed.

Pretty mushy messaging in the end. Somebody’s at fault, but who? In the end, in my opinion, her attack on the speech arrangements added more fuel, not less, to the ignoramuses who claim that the vaccines are unsafe, contain secret devices to …. oh, never mind.

 

Note to Readers

I have discovered that I, and any other reader, can see comments submitted to my posts but my replies do not go back to the commenter through email. This is a “feature” of WordPress on which this blog is hosted.

If, therefore, you want to receive a reply to a comment, which I’m usually more than happy to provide, please (1) post the comment on the blog and (2) send the text of your comment to me at shiningseausa@gmail.com. I will respond. Politely, no matter what or how you write. Thank you and I hope you enjoy reading posts on this blog. I will continue to address issues of the times along with what I hope are interesting observations about life in the District of Columbia, in random order.

As a hint of things to come, I will be writing, not necessarily in this order, about Unregulated Capitalism At Work, the Threat of Guns to American Freedoms, a piece related to “Go Back Where You Came From,” a long piece about James Baldwin’s remarkable book, The Fire Next Time, and a review of the Mueller Report redactions on grounds of “ongoing investigation” (what happened to those investigations?

Finally, ShiningSeaUSA is also on Twitter at @ShiningSeaUSA in case you want to follow me there.

Thank you and get your vaccination as soon as you are eligible.

Sunday at the Mall

It was a beautiful spring day, albeit quite windy, so a visit to the Mall was in order to see how advanced the budding of trees was coming. [Technically, I am advised, the area from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial is called West Potomac Park. Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, DC but it’s the Mall to me] We got a late start and found parking was scarce in the area close to the Lincoln Memorial, but persistence (and a questionable U-turn) paid off eventually.

We were closest to the World War II Memorial. A few signs of spring were present but most of the trees were still bare, with few showing significant budding.

The Memorial contains some of the most compelling bronze (I believe) figures I have seen – a laurel wreath representing peace held by eagles, representing the power of the United States. At least that’s how I see it:

The artistic background of the Memorial can be read at https://bit.ly/3100BYF

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was a busy scene with mallard ducks feeding in pairs. A Hooded Merganser was also present, his white patch prominently reflecting the sun when he came up from his quick and repeated full dives to, presumably, catch small feeder fish.

The Lincoln Memorial, as always, was a dominant visual presence, along with the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance.

The sole negative on this visit to the Mall was something that may be an even bigger problem when warmer weather and vaccinations encourage more people to visit. I refer to the presence of people of all ages riding electric scooters and, far fewer, rental bicycles, along with riders of Onewheels who rode roughshod over the grass and sped past us at speeds estimated above 15 mph.  Pictured below are two of the leaders of a “parade” of Onewheelers, numbering about a dozen, along with a person on a bicycle who chose to ride in the Reflecting Pool.

Numerous people chose to ride scooters and bicycles in the inner ring around the still-drained central pool. As warmer weather leads to larger crowds, conflicts and injuries may occur.

 

Joy in the Land

I will not search for words to memorialize this extraordinary day in the life of the country. Others with greater gifts have done and will do that quite well without my meager words.

Shortly after the word came down that the election had, at long last, been called in favor of Biden-Harris, my wife and I ventured out to Columbus Circle, a few blocks from our New York City apartment. We had seen TV coverage indicating people were gathering there in celebration. Little did we know that the gathering was to last most of the day and that thousands of New Yorkers were absolutely beside themselves with excitement that Donald Trump was, at long last, going to be gone. We took a few photos. Here are some of them:

One of the highlights was a group of singers, decked out in bright costumes and led by a man with “Songs in the key of F*You” on his shirt. They sang and danced a bit. By way of example only, the lyrics to the tune of Hello Dolly went like this:

Well, goodbye, Donny. No more lies, Donny.

We can’t wait to send you back where you belong!

It gets a little raw after that, so I’ll spare you the rest. Here they are:

After enjoying the jubilant scene for a while, we walked along Central Park South to 5th Avenue, thinking we would visit the Trump Tower. Many cars and even a bus went by with horns blaring and people leaning out the windows pumping fists in the air.

We discovered that the NYPD had blocked off access to the Trump Tower from blocks away. The streets were deserted.

We could find no reasonable path to our destination and stopped on West 56th for an outdoor lunch, then returned to Columbus Circle. There, we encountered the tail end of a spontaneous march along Central Park South. These photos capture that event.

The NYPD was obviously nervous as it had a huge presence in the immediate area, including a caravan of vehicles that included one of those ominous black vans with no windows (you may have seen video of protesters being pulled off the streets into such vehicles by “police” with no visible identification) though there was not the slightest hint of anger or distress in the crowd. It was a joyous, happy scene of exhilaration in every respect.

We continued to watch the unfolding scene for a while before returning home:

And so, with a final salute to the Trump International Hotel:

we returned to our apartment to await the much anticipated (only four years) speeches of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. We were not disappointed. Their words were inspiring, as was the appearance of their families, normal and happy people committed to supporting a team that faces enormous obstacles to success but whose commitment to serving the American people cannot be questioned by anyone with a rational mind.

At long last, the beginning of the end of the catastrophic Trump presidency is at hand.

Confronting Racism is Our American Duty

By: Tony Reardon, National President, National Treasury Employees Union

Note: this is a guest post, the first one on this blog. I thought it was of such significance and so well done, that I elected to repost it here in its entirety (with the author’s consent, of course). Tony Reardon is someone I know well and respect much. My wife worked for the National Treasury Employees Union for 13 years. This post was originally published on October 9 at https://bit.ly/31ab0S3 in Government Executive, where much surprising and important information about the federal workforce is published. Here is what Mr. Reardon had to say:

Any guidance on how employees can better understand and respect others is a sign of progress in a civilized society, not a threat to it, argues the leader of the National Treasury Employees Union.

President Trump recently ordered a massive governmentwide investigation to root out programs in which federal employees learn about and guard against systemic racism. 

Just consider how preposterous that sounds.    

At this moment, political appointees and senior managers are under orders to turn their agencies upside down in a frantic effort to review any training or professional education programs that mention diversity or inclusion in an effort to comply with the president’s executive order. Employees are being threatened with disciplinary action for organizing such training that falls afoul of the president’s directive to eliminate “un-American propaganda.”

I wish I could just write this off as an insignificant executive order designed to make a statement but with little practical impact. I cannot. Executive Order 13950 — and the disturbingly elaborate OPM and OMB guidance that has followed — turns a blind eye to racism and aggressively discourages efforts to confront it.       

This is exactly the wrong direction we, as a federal workforce and as a nation, should be going. It was former President George W. Bush, at the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who said, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”    

The federal government should be a leading example for facing systemic racism by building a workforce that appropriately reflects the diversity of the United States, paying employees fairly, ensuring they are treated with respect, and establishing work environments in which employees can safely call out discriminatory actions and practices. Any guidance on how employees can better understand and respect their coworkers of different races, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities or religious beliefs is a sign of progress in a civilized society, not a threat to it.     

Our union believes it is completely appropriate to make sure that all federal employees are trained to serve the taxpayers and each other fairly and respectfully. The delivery of government services should never be tainted by bias or racism, conscious or unconscious, and as a taxpayer and union president I applaud federal agencies that openly acknowledge that systemic racism exists and are taking steps to fight it now and prevent it in the future.   

The entire premise of the executive order is faulty. The order claims that such diversity training is driven by an ideology that is “rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country.”     

No, Mr. President. The training is driven by the ideology that America’s imperfections are fixable but only with open eyes and hard work, and federal employees stand ready to do their part.    

I call on you to rescind the executive order and embrace training that acknowledges that we can, and should, do better as a country. Federal employees are willing to have these conversations, the question is whether their president will lead them.” 

May I Remind You

I just published a long piece about the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. As I wrote it, another story kept emerging in my thoughts, a true story from my distant past.

It was 1968. April 5. A nice warm spring day in Washington DC, where I worked as a newly-minted trial lawyer at the Civil Aeronautics Board. The CAB offices were in a building at Connecticut Avenue just below the Washington Hilton. My then wife worked some blocks downtown for an association. Typical Washington jobs.

We got the news the previous day that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, the city where I grew up from age 2 to age 17 when I left for college. Washington was in flames, we were told, and the government was closing. I made my way downtown, leaving my car, a Volkswagen, parked on a sidewalk and walked to my wife’s office. Everyone was confused. There was no internet, no Google, no good way to find out “breaking news” that is now a staple of our daily existence. The rioting had started the evening before but there was no up-to-the-minute news. So, we watched the scene unfolding outside at a major downtown intersection. Gridlock. Total gridlock. No one moving. Horns honking. People shouting at each other from their cars. Panic.

I took a glass of scotch and walked down to the middle of the intersection, threading my way carefully through the cars. I wore my customary work clothes, a vested suit, as was common in those days. I put my drink down in the dead center of the intersection and became a traffic cop. I began “ordering” cars to wait before entering the intersection. Most drivers, though not all, obeyed, and a semblance of order began to emerge from the chaos.

Every so often a car would stop in passing by me, roll down the window and a frantic person, always white, would look out at me and yell “Thank you, oh thank God for you.” I didn’t know what to say except “you’re welcome.” The scene was totally surreal.

White people were fleeing the city by the tens of thousands. Some crying. I could see the smoke from the 7th Street NW and 14th Street NW corridors, just three blocks from where I stood and could smell the acrid odor. For whatever reason, I was not afraid, but fear was all around me. I suspected that those people thought the black people burning Washington were going to come after them if they didn’t get out of town quickly.

The aftermath is well known. One of the major reactive themes was, “those people are crazy because they burned their own businesses.” It was true. Many black-owned businesses in the area were savaged in the rioting. The rage was simply that – rage – and the rioters took it out on what was near them, their own businesses and even homes.

Crazy? Perhaps, but that’s what rage does. White people seem to think that rage should somehow be rational, in the way that a professional boxing match is rational – people fighting by agreement over a prize, winner-take-all. But, of course, that is not rage. That is just business. Rage is something else altogether, and we’re seeing it in Minneapolis and many other cities across the country. We should not be surprised.

My story ended quite simply and quietly. A relatively young police officer appeared out of the chaos surrounding the intersection. He was black, as were many members of the Washington police force. He walked toward me slowly, carefully. I thought, “great, reinforcements.” I looked at him and he looked at me, the anger etched in his face. He was in no mood to have a friendly chat with the white stranger doing a policeman’s job in a scene of total chaos. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I think I tried to smile and asked if he was going to stay. He said something about taking over and I picked up my drink and backed out of the intersection. He had no time or further interest in me. I understood then and understand now why that was so.

I can still see his face. He was in control of his anger, but it was obvious how conflicted he was to have been ordered to help these hysterical, panicked white people flee the city that was burning just down the road. I suspect he came from that direction, knew what was happening but was here now to do his duty, despite his personal pain and despair.

I confess I was glad to get back inside. But I will never forget the way that young black policeman looked at me. He felt no sense of thanks for me having helped out, no empathy, and I didn’t expect otherwise. I can’t begin to imagine the depth of his suffering even as he continued to do the duty he had sworn to perform.

The coda to the story is that there were mass arrests of protestors and rioters alike. A call went out for lawyers to come downtown to the courthouse to help process and represent those huge number of detained people, many of whom were innocent of any wrongdoing. My good friend and officemate at the CAB and I decided to volunteer. We drove into Washington that evening, passing military guards on the Key Bridge. Soldiers were stationed in the doors of businesses on M Street in Georgetown. Machine gun emplacements were visible on the lawn of the White House. Ultimately, we were rejected by the administrators of the court on grounds that as federal employees we had a conflict of interest in representing individuals charged with federal crimes. We drove home. The rioting lasted for four days.

And here we are again. Fifty-two years later. Same story. Again. And again.

Déjà vu All Over Again – We’ve Learned Nothing

Minneapolis burns. Los Angeles. Memphis, Louisville. Others.

A police officer in full view of multiple people, including store surveillance cameras, calmly kills an unarmed, non-resisting person accused of trying to pass a fake $20 bill. The unarmed, non-resisting man is a big man, imposing stature, but not resisting. His hands are in cuffs behind his back. The police officer forces him to the ground on his face, or maybe he sits down on his own. Maybe he said something offensive or even threatening. So what? He is cuffed and defenseless. The officer places a knee on the man’s neck. The man complains “I can’t breathe.” Multiple times. The officer ignores him. The other three officers on the scene ignore him. Witnesses plead with the police to check the man, but they are ignored. The man stops breathing. Still the police officer sits on his neck. The man dies.

The man dies in the presence and under the complete control of FOUR ARMED POLICE OFFICERS EQUIPPED WITH PEPPER SPRAY, TASERS, CLUBS, SIDEARMS. IF the man said something threatening to the officer OR IF the man did “resist” by passively dropping to the ground, under what police procedure and training did one of the four officers to think that the appropriate response was to sit on the man’s neck until he died? Is it even conceivable that police procedure condones this practice? Anywhere in the United States?

The prosecutor goes on TV and says there is “other evidence” indicating no crime was committed. What evidence? No comment. Why, then, did the prosecutor think it was a good idea to tell everyone he already had doubts about what virtually every non-racist person on the planet believed was almost certainly a crime – the deliberate taking of a life without justification under color of authority? Again.

All four of the officers have been fired so they are not among the strike force of hundreds of police now sent to suppress the, surprise, rioting and looting that have broken out in the wake of yet another “good people on both sides” scenario. The police use tear gas, pepper spray, fire hoses, among other things, against the crowds of enraged protestors.

Many people who were silent in the immediate aftermath of the video releases that at least raised a presumption that a police officer had, for the how-manyieth-time, killed an unarmed, non-resisting black person have come out clutching their pearls over the terrible rioting and looting. Sure, there may have been a problem with the police conduct – maybe, who knows, there could be an explanation, let’s wait for all the evidence, don’t jump to conclusions –but rioting and looting? Outrageous. Taking property? Unacceptable. Must meet force with force. Law and order. Restore peace by whatever means. Call out the National Guard.

And if you’re the president of the United States, what do you do? Well, our current president calls people names, threatens to “take control” with the military and “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Here is part of Trump’s actual message:

These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!

You don’t need a degree in linguistics to get the president’s message: “I will declare martial law and I approve of the National Guard/military shooting protesters who are rioting and looting. That’ll show ‘em who’s the boss.”

The victim here was a black man named George Floyd. His name joins the pantheon of unarmed black people killed by police in circumstances where other means of addressing the “situation” were readily available. Often the “situation” is really just that a black or brown-skinned person was involved. Involved in the sense of just being there. Despite the availability of other options, the police in these cases chose the lethal option. It’s not an accident. It’s a choice. And in virtually every case, the police are exonerated. There have been a few exceptions, but precious few.

The officer who killed George Floyd had 18 complaints on his record. One of the other four had six complaints and was involved in a settled lawsuit alleging use of excessive force among other things. https://cnn.it/2M8R3mm

All four officers in the present case have been fired. Fine, but not enough. Not even close. They will no doubt face civil suits whether or not the City of Minneapolis takes action against them. Why they are still at large is unknown and inexplicable on the known facts. Reminds us of the initial reaction of authorities in Georgia to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The “there is other evidence” position of the prosecutor is very close, too close, to “good people on both sides,” the president’s unsubtle endorsement of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. The mind boggles at the thinking behind the prosecutor making such a statement while refusing to describe the evidence. But, rest assured, he will study this case really hard and be sure the law is followed. Rest assured.

While you’re waiting for the prosecutor, think about this. What would the operative difference be if, instead of kneeling on Floyd’s neck, the policeman had rolled him over, pinning his cuffed hands under his body, sat on his chest and choked him to death with his fingers? Any real difference?

The Minnesota GOP had plenty to say about the beaches being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but I can’t find anything they have had to say about the killing of George Floyd. No doubt, they are “extremely concerned” that there has been violence and property loss. They likely joined the Trump-led GOP chorus of outrage at Colin Kaepernick peacefully protesting by kneeling at a football game during the playing of the National Anthem. They can’t have it both ways. Peaceful protest – Noooo! Riots and looting – Noooo! The real message, obvious to me and others, is, “don’t be black.”

As a society, if that term still applies, we appear to have learned nothing. Armed racists threaten legislators over pandemic lockdown and masking policies, and no one lifts a finger. Police are expected, and do, stand in rows while being screamed at by AR-15 carrying vigilantes complaining about their “rights.” No one is arrested. In Minneapolis, on the other hand, today’s protesters were pepper sprayed by the driver of a passing police car for no discernable reason except a “take that” attitude by an unhinged and uncontrolled police force. The officers surely know they are being filmed but they are not concerned there will be repercussions if they wantonly attack protesters.

I get that police are under a lot of stress. I support the police almost all the time, but not when unarmed black and brown people are killed and there were readily available alternatives to the use of deadly force. Police are supposedly trained and re-trained on the use of deadly force. Presumably their calm under stress is evaluated carefully before they are unleashed on the community carrying an array of weaponry, some of which can be used to kill. Or maybe not. Maybe in Minneapolis and the countless other places where these violations of human rights have occurred the police are not really trained. They are just armed and sent into the community with instructions to “keep the peace” however they choose. Is this possible?

In the George Floyd case, ironically and painfully, the police didn’t need to use anything but handcuffs to kill a man. We have learned nothing from all the prior cases. And the president of the United States just fans the flames with hostile rhetoric, showing yet again his complete unfitness to hold office. Still, the Grand Ole Party is apparently silent. They sat silently and voted to acquit Trump when he was impeached for extorting a foreign government, allowing him to withhold relevant evidence and witnesses. They sat silently while Trump’s henchman Attorney General William Barr lied and distorted the Mueller Report. They preach law and order while the president’s immigration policy separates families and leaves small children parentless, in some cases forever, locking them in cages in concentration camps.

This is but a small sample of what Republican leadership has created in America. All the racism can’t be blamed on them, but they have endorsed and facilitated it over and over. And when the police yet again kill an unarmed and defenseless black person, they sit silently until their leader speaks and incites further hatred, dividing the country even further.

How long does the white conservative establishment think the underclass which is huge and growing is going to continue to tolerate this blatant racism and discrimination? Do they not understand that when large numbers of citizens no longer feel invested in the established order and peaceful change of that order is foreclosed, they lose their connection to that society and their justified but ignored and resisted rage boils over? How long do they think this can continue without serious and violent consequences becoming the order of the day, as the unwarranted killings of unarmed black and brown people has become the order of the day?

November is coming, not soon enough, but it’s coming. The good people of this country had better put an end to the Republican leadership that has brought us to this place. The consequences of failure are too grim to imagine, but it seems certain that the failing light of democracy that, at least in principle, was the founding dream and aspiration of this country will be extinguished if change is not achieved. That sounds apocalyptic, I know, but don’t believe it can’t happen here. It can and it will, unless we stop it. ENOUGH!