The Ferguson NRA Lessons

Posted August 20, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: , , ,

The news media and many civil rights activists are addressing the tragic death of an African American teenage as a case of pervasive prejudice. For Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, their disgust over the shooting presents also a chance for front page and prime time TV coverage. Hmmm.

In a strange way for them, Ferguson is a gift that keeps on giving.

Without diminishing the tragic nature of Michael Brown’s death, there is another message which hopefully will not be lost. The message is about what we should expect of those we allow to carry weapons. As a nation, we think little about placing a hand gun on every law enforcement officer (not to mention the group we know as “security guards”).

If these public and private servants receive any training, it almost always on how to use the gun in its most deadly application. Where is the training on when to use a gun and when to use other means to keep the law?

We know from our everyday world that many brilliant (or at least highly gifted) people fail in life, either outrightly or fail to achieve their potential. These shortcomings often arise from the person’s inability to manage themselves or their ability to interact with others (hot temper, bullheadedness, weakness for drink, etc).

Why should we not expect the same possibility to occur with law enforcement? Why was it necessary to shoot at all, and why six shoots if any were justified?

Once the demonstrations and looting began, we witnessed another good idea gone bad. The local police turned out with military assault weapons and mechanized equipment. And what soon became apparent, these Iraqi soldier lookalikes were untrained and seemed not to have a clue on when or how to use their equipment.

There certainly have been situations where drug and street gangs confronted local authorities and this type of equipment was necessary. Even in those situation, however, training and an experienced command structure was necessary in order to confront the gangs and protect innocent bystanders.

Nationwide we are living under (in my opinion) a misguided Supreme Court 2nd Amendment interpretation. Everyone (with precious few restrictions) can own and carry a weapon. There is no training required on how to use the weapon. There are no required lessons on when and where using a weapon is safe. And with many States proudly boasting “stand your ground” laws, gun owners are almost encouraged to shoot first and ask questions later.

Against an armed public, the rush by police departments to pick up second hand military gear is understandable. Training their officers to shoot to kill if the police officer feels threatened, most likely arises from the desire to protect the officer’s life. Police work goes hand in hand with law and order. All this seems to make sense… until there is a Ferguson.

The NRA has a small window of opportunity to bring commonsense to its lobbying. There must be reasonable hurdles enacted for the use of weapons (no open carry, strict qualification for concealed carry). Emphasis for weapons should shift to sport and hunting protection with self defense within ones home permissible.

With the legal use of weapons better regulated, police forces could focus upon differentiating their tactics around gun carriers and the unarmed. These military equipped police forces, in turn, need to develop strict rules for when these methods can be used and then only with “stable” commanders who have passed high levels of command and control training.

Hmmm.

I am not under any allusion that these thoughts will carry the day.

Protests and Looting

Posted August 17, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Economics, education

Tags: , , ,

Ferguson, Missouri is bringing to America’s attention a difficult and PC challenged situation. An unarmed African American youth was shot multiple times under disputed circumstances. On the surface it was just another “white against black” power struggle where again the black person came out on the fatal side of the confrontation. Is the death enough to cause a week’s worth of demonstrations and looting?

The Ferguson police department seems to have done everything possible unintentionally to encourage the African American community’s outrage. From refusing to make public its incident investigation to releasing prejudicial information on the victim, the local police were begging the community to assume the worst. So does that justify demonstrations and looting?

The answer is maybe but not for sure.

It is far more likely that the Ferguson local environment was predisposed to turn violent and only needed an incident to let the local anger and frustration to spew forth. The question might be, whose fault is the poverty, lack of education, and joblessness that pervades the community?

Ferguson, demographically, is not much different from a lot of other American cities. The middle class and well-to-do live and work in sections of the community while those not so well off are clustered in other parts. For unexplained reasons, the poor remain poor (cycle of poverty), this despite all sorts of “head starts”, affirmative action, and jobs programs. So are these protests and lootings unjustified?

Hmmm.

The shooting of an unarmed youth, particular with multiple shots, is hard to understand. Police officer judgement must come to mind.

Provocation from the victim is also likely. This deadly combination could explain the tragedy but not justify the death. But what about the demonstrations and looting?

Demonstrations normally have multiple constituents. Some participants were motivated by the “triggering” incident, others by other drummers. Looting, on the other hand, represents the basest of motives. Looters are opportunists, the original “free lunchers”. Many looters act on the spur of the moment, while others justify their actions on the greed or callousness of the store owners. In American values, looting has no place.

For those Americans, not residents of Ferguson, understanding what is taking place is difficult.

The issues are not cause and effect related. The timing and extent of the demonstrations and looting seem to have been unleashed by an unexplained shooting.

The African American community could profit from thinking deeply about Ferguson. It will serve no one good to accuse the greater community of racial prejudice. Rather it should be assumed the greater community is prejudiced.

So the question should be, why have large numbers of African Americans not been economically assimIlated into the American mainstream like so many other immigrant groups? Positively stating the same thought, how can African American groups assimilate economically?

The death of the African American teenager was a tragedy that should never have happened. It is, however, unrelated to the overall situation of African Americans in Ferguson or in many parts of America.

Ferguson

Posted August 15, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Conservatives

Tags: , ,

For the past several days, the news media has shown us pictures of public demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. An appropriate question to ask is on what subject were the Ferguson residents’ demonstration trying to bring attention to?

We understand that a young man, poised to enter his freshman year in college, was shot and killed by a police officer. We have been told the youth was unarmed and that the police officer fired “multiple” shots which struck the victim. We were told the police officer was white and the victim was African American.

Following the shooting, crowds rioted looting and burning a few local merchants’ stores. Video pictures show dozens of looters carrying merchandize, from snacks to tires, out of these stores. Law and order was put on hold that evening.

The next evening, local police, dressed in combat gear and supported by bullet proof military type vehicles set up blocking positions, directly in the path of peaceful marchers. When darkness came, television pictures projected scenes reminiscent of the Ukraine.  The sky lit up with exploding tear gas shells and reports indicated rubber bullets pelted the crowds.

Last night, local police were removed. They were replaced by State Highway Patrol personnel with an African American leader. Instead of military gear, the Patrol wore their normal uniforms and walked among the demonstrators. No violence took place.

  • So what are the lessons?
  • The shooting of the teenager has not been fully investigated. Eyewitnesses and the police account differ sharply. What took place afterwards, however, is difficult to connect as “cause and effect” to the shooting.
  • The demonstrations appear to be genuine reflections of how the local, largely African American population feels the need to throw off what they feel is repression (implied, repression from the white minority). The excuse to demonstrate now, of course, was the shooting but the distrust and frustration was long held.
  • The looting more reflects a crime of opportunity. Poor people and especially those who harbor grievances, feel justified when they “liberate” goods from merchants they feel have taken advantage of them.
  • The initial militaristic police response represents a frightened, poorly trained police action. In a way, this response telegraphs the broken relationship between the police and the local residents.
  • The Highway Patrol’s success reflected a better, less reactive, reading of the real community atmosphere. One can always increase the level of police action if crowds become unruly, but it is near impossible for the same police force to dial its response down.
  • Left unanswered are question about why is the African American Community not more prosperous?
  • Why was the police force 94% white in a community where whites make up about 35%?
  • Why was a police force equipped with Iraq style military tools?
  • And, why would a police officer feel it necessary to shoot someone multiple times?

While Ferguson is a specific situation, in truth Ferguson’s situation is just a different version of what has taken place, or what can take place in cities all over the US.

Douglas provides an opportunity, a mirror, into which White and African American leaders could look and ask themselves the question of what they could have done but have not done to prevent “Douglases” from occurring.

Compelling Reasons?

Posted August 14, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Conservatives, Democratic Party, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Politics, Republican Party, Supreme Court

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supposedly made up last night on Martha’s Vineyard island. In an interview, Hillary had called into question some of President Obama’s decisions concerning Iraq. Clinton’s comments is just the beginning of a careful tightrope walk she must undertake on the way to the Democrat Presidential nomination in 2016.

While her comments were a little of a cheap shot, they also bore some truth. “Organizing Principles” are an effective way to lead the broad, sprawling, government apparatus in a desired direction. While “don’t do anything stupid” isn’t an organizing principle, as Clinton pointed out, it sure would have been helpful if George W Bush’s Administration had embraced those words.

If you remember back to the Bill Clinton years, you will recall that his team were masters at “triangulation” as a fundamental in communication. Former President Clinton would “leak” some assertion, for example in response to some foreign provocation, and then measure (poll) how people reacted. Clinton would then disown the “lead”, and float another response. Again there would be a denial and again a trial balloon until Clinton’s advisors thought they were on the firmest ground in terms of public opinion.

There is no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will not govern in the same frustrating manner. The public will likely become frustrated with the question “what does she really think?”

I would submit that while this will be a maddening attribute of Hillary, there are far more compelling reasons to nominate and elect her as the next President.

  • First, Hillary is very slightly on the right side of center. While there will be wild outcries from conservatives, Hillary will in fact not drive US foreign or domestic policies far off center.
  • Second, Hillary is a woman and there is scant evidence that electing a male President is essential for the country’s well being. On the contrary, there is mounting evidence that a diverse group (gender, race, ethnicity, age) is valuable in dealing with the complex, multi-cultural hurdles facing the country.
  • Third, although Hillary is a centrist, she will nominate candidates for the Supreme Court who are not like the current 5 conservative Justices. Who exactly she will nominate is a matter of question, but strict constructionists are unlikely.
  • Fourth, Hillary is thoroughly qualified individual who possesses far more ambition and willingness to question than President George W Bush and arrive with far more experience than President Barack Obama.

In my opinion, Hillary should be careful on her “Obama critiquing” and position herself confidently as someone a majority of voters will select. There is nothing she can say or do which will placate the right wing and ultraconservatives. Supporters of immigration reform, woman’s rights, gay rights, and progressives in general are sufficient to provide the margin of victory.

Unfortunately, it is hard to teach an old Hillary new tricks.

Yusuf Islam

Posted August 13, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

The passing of Robin Williams makes one pause and wonder how the lives of important names can suddenly vanish, never to be heard from again. Yusuf Islam aka Steven Demetre Georgiou aka Cat Stevens is a name we should re-familiarize ourselves with before he too disappears.

The timing of our memory reload could not be better. Cat Stevens, a wildly successful, singer and song writer chose a life path which lead him away from drugs and alcohol into a religion mood altering life. Stevens, an Englishman by birth, rejected Christianity for what he perceived as a more spiritual path.

His life has been filled with philanthropic acts and rejections of 9/11 type acts done in the name of Islam. While I cannot understand the need for such a public rejection of one belief system for another, Stevens, like Williams was, is a gifted, highly talented artist who ought be appreciated for his talent.

A US Cat Stevens revival (under any name) might serve the image of Islam well too. While most Muslim residents of the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Africa appear rock stupid, Stevens could stand as evidence that Muslims can be thoughtful and impactful in a positive way.

It just seems a shame to wait until great artists die before we recall their talents and how their talent impacted our lives.

The Key Question – Why?

Posted August 12, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Conservatives, Democratic Party, Middle East, News Media, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: , , ,

The news media is reporting that President Obama’s approval rating is hovering around 40. Pretty low for a President.

The media normally introduce this information when also reporting some foreign event which is either bad in itself or uncertain as to how it would ultimately turn out. Cause and effect? Or just a random occurrence?

The President is and has been a poor communicator as it relates to providing both context and rational for American actions or lack of actions. There is no doubt in my mind that the President has thought about foreign events, has considered consequences of possible actions (or non-actions), and has chosen the path which maximizes the possibility of not getting deeper involvement. Avoiding foreign entanglements was a chapter of history Barack Obama must have studied well.  He just can’t find the way to explain it.

So why would these new media sources constantly reference the President’s approval rating? While his approval rating is news worthy, it is far more likely the reporter is trying to question wisdom of the Presidents decision without appearing to be providing editorial content.

So lets follow this “why” a little further.

  • Why did the US not get involved on the ground in Libya? The US did participate in the Qhaddafi regime change but chose not to stay around for the next phases.
  • Why did the US not get involved in the Syria insurgency? The US did clearly indicate it favored the removal of Assad but has been reluctant to provide arms and supplies to rebel groups.
  • Why has the US not laid out terms for what it thinks is a just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? The US (and the world) pretty much agree on the broad outline of a just settlement.
  • Why has the US not inserted itself into the Ukrainian situation more forcefully and threatened Russia with military force? The US has clearly stated that it wants the Russians to let well enough alone.
  • Why has the US not shown greater support for Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines in their dispute with China over who owns what in the South China Sea? The US has expressed the wish that the parties would resolve this issue through negotiations.

In many regards, each of these situations lies on a slippery slope which ends (or could end) with US military involvement. In addition, even with a military successful solution in any of these situations, it is difficult to see the future state related to any US national interest.

Of course humanitarian considerations are motivating (stop the hunger or senseless killing) but why would that be a US national interest? Who made us king? And more basically, who in the US is willing to pay for it?

One can imagine a future state where too many regions of the world have open armed conflicts or have become populated with pirates and rogue states. International commerce could become captive and such a state of affairs could negatively hurt the US economy and our quality of life.

But can you imagine such a state and it not also hurting Russia, China, and Europe too?

As the run up to the 2016 Presidential elections unfolds, we will hear all sorts of descriptions of what’s in the US national interest. One might even recall hearing that invading and occupying Iraq was in America’s national interest. Be careful.

Today US domestic politics are horribly confused. Some advocate deep cuts in government spending without any plan to deal with the consequences (economically or socially). Others advocate a moral code and see that code applying to all Americans while others are as adamantly opposed.

Others see the US as exceptional and propose our way of living as the model for the rest of the world. And still others see no place for US involvement in world affairs. There is no consensus.

Any foreign policy which brings with it the probability of a slippery slope to armed conflict is very dangerous given the lack of national resolve.

The US economic and political model is as good as any, and probably the best, in the world. Our model, however, is not so good as to have the capacity to take on all the problems the world has to offer.

Our government needs to have the confidence that very limited foreign engagements (the path we appear on) are superior to whole scale military efforts.

It would, however, be special if President Obama could say this like Bill Clinton would have.

McWho And Nothing

Posted August 11, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Conservatives, Democratic Party, Iraq War, John McCain, Middle East, News Media, Republican Party

In 2008, Barack Obama won the US Presidency defeating Senator John McCain. For a while McCain seem to drift into the shadows giving way to other faces on the Sunday talk shows. Recent Iraq developments, however, have brought him back louder than ever.

What a break for the American public.

Refreshing ones memory, John McCain supported the Iraq invasion and occupation from the start. When things went haywire, McCain told us President Bush was right to invade but his Secretary of Defense had poorly executed the military operations.

When exhaustive search revealed there were no WMDs in Iraq, McCain still supported the invasion. “It was the right thing to do”.

McCain was full square behind the “surge”. “America cannot afford to lose this war”, he insisted. Later when the Iraqis would not agree to a status of forces agreement and President Obama confirmed the US would withdraw all combat forces, McCain went apoplectic. “Al Qaeda would follow us home to the US”, McCain warned.

It has been always troublesome to listen to these al Qaeda predictions. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq on Saddam Hussain’s watch. This radical insurgent group popped up once Hussain’s strangle hold on Iraq was lifted. Where had been McCain’s warnings about what might happen in Iraq once the Iraqi government was toppled?

Yesterday, both John McCain and Lindsay Graham waved warning flags about imminent strikes by ISIS on US soil. The sole cause was laid at President Obama’s decision to pull out US troops from Iraq (remember Iraq would not agree to a Status of Forces agreement). In other words, the President can not win (in McCain and Graham’s eyes) even though the President has authorized air strikes against ISIS.

One must accept the possibility that McCain really believes what he is saying. While he may hold some some glimmer that in a deadlocked GOP presidential convention, he might be the Ronald Reagan to emerge, it is more probable that he can’t help himself.

As for Graham, this is reelection time and any media exposure that projects his image as a national figure must help his candidacy. He too carries the burden of history which he must feel can only be overcome by doubling down.

Public opinion polls tell us that Americans are tired of war and see no direct value to our national interests. The blame game is unlikely to shift this view and slick reminders of 9/11 are becoming less effective everyday. The President rightly should ignore the protestation of the likes of McCain and Graham.

Reality, however, is fickle. Radicalized muslim elements may very well attempt another 9/11 type incident simply out of frustration.

Picking sides in the Middle East is fraught with danger and more resembles picking the lesser of two incompetent or two despotic options. Simply stated the Middle East is a mess which became clear following an unnecessary invasion and occupation.

When McCain and Graham begin their talk show gab sessions with that admission, then it will be time to listen.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 191 other followers