Saturday, June 7, 2014

D-Day Was More than Hollywood

On the 70th anniversary of the "D-Day" invasion: Before our parents were the ages of our youngest children and oldest grandchildren, they had seen and saved the world.

Missed not just for their valor and their commitment to cause, but for the change and prosperity they brought to our country in civilian life. #GreatestGenerationInspiresStill

My friend, Will Wright wrote the article below for MSNBC's Grio: Black Soldiers on D-Day: Invisible but Present.

When you see films and photos from the D-Day invasion featuring those huge barrage balloons, it is proof that we were there. 

Black soldiers, sailors, merchant seamen and Coast Guard personnel did their part from day one and moved cargo, men and mail from U.S. ports all the way to Berlin. #AmericanMilitaryNotHollywoodHistory

The Dignity of Work

Many who oppose a hike in the minimum wage would have fought the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

It set the base at 25 cents an hour and the maximum work week at 44 hours. Even with that, it took nine years and World War II to beat back the damage of Herbert Hoover's Great Depression.

"We also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills... the powerful feed upon the powerless... masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without any means of escape”... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded." -- Pope Francis, 24 Nov, 2013

Friday, March 30, 2012

Totally Unqualified

Every law enforcement agency is not qualified to handle homicide investigations.

I am not police officer, but in the past 40 years, I have been to an unbelievable number of crime scenes. I have also seen good, average, poor, shoddy and bad police work.  While some of it is kind of like you see on television, it is neither simple or easy and it is seldom wrapped up in an hour.

In Sanford, Fla., local police do not appear to have much experience with homicide investigations.

There has been no indication that they secured the crime scene, which in many places is routine, even pending a coroner's inquest. Did I say coroner's inquest? There has not been one, nor have the results of the autopsy on Travis Martin been released.

That means that more than a month after the 17 yea-old was shot and killed as he walked back to the home where his father was staying from a convenience store there is no official ruling into his cause and manner of death.

We know he was shot and died instantly as a result of a bullet that entered his chest at close range. We do not know officially if the manner of death was homicide.

What we do know is that many potential witnesses have not been interviewed by the police. We also know that some evidence that might be critical to the investigation and any resulting prosecution in this case has not been collected, secured or preserved.

There also has not been much effort put forth to secure the integrity of people who would likely be called as witnesses in any criminal trial.

Statements offered in court by people who have told their stories repeatedly on television may not stand up well when lawyers decide to roll the video tape.  If this case goes to trial, prosecutors may have to build their case upon facts that have not played out in the press.

In most cities or counties, when a family member of a current o former judge or other official gets involved in something as sensitive as the death of a child, local authorities run to find someone else handle the matter. This helps them avoid the appearance of impropriety or conflicts of interests.

In Sanford, it appears someone made a decision to just act like this case was going to go away.  Now, this week, they have attempted to stop national journalists from poking around in a case that is garnering world attention. Believe me, no one I know who is covering this case is likely to disappear. What's more, the lawyers and the bail money are standing by if local lawmen decide to interfere with the pursuit of the news.

Every police officer is not an investigator, and every investigator does not necessarily have the skills, the experience or the guts to investigate homicides. 

In Sanford, the Trayvon Martin case stinks for a number of reasons. Not just how he died, but also how the search for the truth has been totally botched up by the boys in charge.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Respect Rights

The freedoms of speech, expression and assembly are very basic in the United States.

They give most if us the liberty to come and go, presumably without fear.  They also prevent police or anyone else from challenging us without cause.

Demonstrations are a way of challenging aspects if the system we may not like.  In many parts of the country, demonstrations ate rare.  In the District of Columbia, they happen everyday.

I have always made my living watching the world, and in the more than 40 years I have done that, I have learned many things.  One of the most memorable is that the causes that send people out into the streets are endless.

I do not have to agree with your cause, and how you express your views, but I respect your right to do it.  Sit-ins, blockades, marches and other forms of protests each have their legitimacy.  That includes things like flag burning, passionate, same sex kisses on the streets, banner-sized photos of aborted fetuses and  wearing hoodies on the floor of the House of Representatives.  

Congress has its rules, and all members know how violations of those rules are handled.  Dress code infractions can lead to removal. Every member of Congress learns that during their orientation. But sometimes actions are taken for the record or as a matter of principle.

Demonstrations are about symbolism.  Arrests go on the record as a commitment to a cause.  Being escorted from the chamber of the House turns up in the congressional record. There are a whole list of symbolic misdemeanor charges and nominal sanctions that can apply to those who cross the line from support to civil disobedience or violations of rules.

Bobby Rush made his point.  His penalty is inconsequential.   Some may condemn his method, but it is likely it was a hit with his constituents. 

In the rest of the country, it is easy to see demonstrations and the necessary security they require as being wastes of the taxpayers' money. In Washington, D.C., it is part of the fabric of America.

This time it is about the tragic loss of a child, last time it was about the cause of the day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To Your Health

The Supreme Court has taken up the health care issue.

More than two dozen states are challenging aspects of the Affordable Care Act.  Much of the law has yet to be implemented, and there were many questions about whether challenging it now is even legal.  That may constitute opposition to a tax before imposition of the tax.

There is a good chance portions of the law may be repealed, but there are possibilities some of it may be preserved. That would leave i up to the next Congress to come up with something that works.

Let's look at some of the things the Affordable Care Act has already accomplished.  Several million young adults who grew up with health insurance have gained the option of staying on their parents' plans thru age 25. Many parents are gladly paying the extra premiums for the added peace of mind.

Preventive health screenings that were once limited to public health clients are now more broadly available; and some insurance carriers have added a portability clause to their coverage and dramatically reduced exclusions for preexisting conditions.

But opponents of the health care plan continue to ignore the 800 lbs gorilla in the room.

Uncompensated care is not free.  The millions of avoidable emergency room visits that occur each year are just part of the costly care we all pay for each year with our tax dollars. Some of the costs are covered with higher insurance premiums.

Sometimes it seems like the opposition to the Affordable Care Act has a lot more to do with the fixation to defeating President Obama than it could possibly have to do with opposing legislation that could help unclog emergency rooms, end the practice of hospitals keeping multiple sets of books and allow dependent care rules  to reflect the realities of the young adults who remain in our households.

If they want to call it Obamacare, that's fine, but millions of Americans have already seen their lives and the lives of their children change for the better as a result of measures that have already taken effect.

This case won't be decided until June, but, if repeal is the course, family healthcare for many will take a huge step backward. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Talk

"You will run into people in these streets who don't give a damn about you."

That is a statement generations of young men heard from fathers, grandfathers, uncles, coaches and male teachers.

It was often the opening statement of "The Talk."  One of those critical life lessons that needed to be verbalize and reinforced in as young males asserted their independence.

It was often followed by reminders that one of a male's greatest obligations to his family was coming home.  Because if he cannot come home he cannot provide for his children or his mother and he cannot defend his sisters.

"The Talk" remains every bit as critical today.  It is the time to cover all those situations where potentially deadly force could mean the difference between survival and tragedy.

Raising our young men to confront all situations directly does not necessarily prepare them for any challenge they might face.

A people conditioned to flourish in a society of oppression only accomplished that by knowing how to assess, think, plan and react thoughtfully to the challenges they encountered in their lives.

In my nearly 60 years, I have known many men who have survived conflicts with those who did not give a damn about them.  I have also seen many families crushed under the grief of deadly violence.

"The Talk" is a memorable conversation many of us had with very wise older men.  They may not have had a lot of schooling, and some might have even been illiterate, but they knew their obligations and they understood the threats.

If we want our young men to one day be old men, some things can not remain unsaid.

Sons, nephews, their friends, and the young men in the lives of our daughters and granddaughters who may not know, or may not hear, it from those who'd mourn their loss the most, need to hear it somewhere.

"You will run into people in these streets who don't give a damn about you." Start the conversation there and then let them know why that matters.

Word, it's what it is!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hoodies Don't Mean Danger

A question came up Friday night about what hoodies are. The first one i received was cotton fleece gray. It was surplus from World War II and not unlike one my dad brought home from service in the merchant marine.
  They have been part of American life for generations. They do not make anyone suspicious. 
 Homeboys wear them, Wiggers wear them, skater boys where them. No athlete, male or female who went to the NCAA tournaments would have traveled without one.

They are seen at soccer games, cheer leading competitions and gymnastics meets. Head out on a Saturday and they are the garment of choice at most coffee shops. Moms pack them in their diaper bags to pull over their infants' onesies if the weather gets cold or wet.

Hoodies have universal utility. they offer protection from the weather, but lack the armor to defend against deadly force. If you ignore the facts of this story, you place the safety of all you care about at risk.

Followed because you look suspicious for wearing a hoodie in March, even in Florida?

Clothes do not make the man. In this case, they did not protect the child.