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Wednesday, October 12, 2016


What, after all, is a DEBATE?  Probably not what we have witnessed between political candidates on either the Republican or Democratic sides during primaries.  Certainly not the current so-called Presidential debates that are more to be endured than taken seriously.  The debate held on Sunday, October 9, 2016 was less a debate and more of a debacle.

Debating has been a time-honored enterprise, sometimes called a contest, sometimes called a competitive sport.  Most debates involve at least a challenge (or challenges), but what few people recall, perhaps, is that debates have always been centered around a proposition that is argued according to certain rules, and within certain parameters.  Let’s take a brief look at how debates are variously defined in dictionaries:
“To take part in a formal discussion or a contest in which opposing sides of a question are argued”
“To dispute about, especially in a meeting or legislature”

“A formal contest of skill in reasoned argument, with two teams taking opposite sides of a specified question”
“To discuss opposing reasons; argue, deliberate, dispute about”

Debate is contention in argument, especially formal discussion of subjects before a public assembly.”
It seems clear from these definitions that some sort of serious deliberation is involved in debating.  It also seems that there are some parameters or rules by which a debate is contested, and that there is some sort of proposition, question, or issue that is the object of the debate or deliberation. Nowhere, apparently, is there any reference to a debate being about insults, innuendo, mocking, or personal attacks of character or persona.  In fact, the basic rules of debating discourage such behavior, just as they discourage general statements or declarations not backed up by detailed explanation.  Perhaps most of all, a debate is not the place for raising tangential issues or sidetracking the issue(s)-at-hand.  Instead, debating is meant to stay focused on the issue(s), and attempt, through cogent and detailed argument, to prove or disprove a proposition, or to show, through the best arguments and proof, what side of an issue is preferred.

With that brief attempt at providing some definition, let us look at some rules of debate, keeping in mind that rules do vary based on the locale or the purpose of the debate.  For instance, some debates are quite formal and competitive and the rules are more detailed.  In other situations, where the purpose may be less competitive, the rules may be more basic. 
Some basic rules of debate: (with references from;;

  • To declare that the other side is wrong is not enough. You have to show why the other side is wrong.  This is best done by taking a main point of the other side’s argument and showing that it does not make sense.  In order to establish an assertion, the team must support it with enough evidence and logic to convince an intelligent but previously uninformed person that it is more reasonable to believe the assertion than to disbelieve it. Facts must be accurate.
  • Try to rebut the most important points of the other side’s case.  No new constructive arguments may be introduced in the rebuttal period. Reply to the major negative arguments before the last rebuttal.
  • If there is a questioning period, the questioner may ask any fair, clear question that has a direct bearing on the debate. The questioner may use the period to build up any part of her own case, to tear down any part of the opposition's case, or to ascertain facts, such as the opposition's position on a certain issue, that can be used later in the debate. The questioner must confine himself to questions and not make statements, comments, or ask rhetorical questions.
  • Do not criticize the individual speakers, criticize what they say. One writer – Jack O’Dwyer – reminds us: “(I) was a member of a debating team in college and the No. 1 rule was that no ‘personal remarks’ about debating opponents were allowed. Only subject matter could be discussed. Anyone who broke this rule was immediately slapped down.”
  • The manner is how you present what you say and the best manner style is definitely not to shout and thump the table but to keep calm and present your points with a clear speaking voice.
What may not come across here is that there are some very well-defined rules for some types of debate, to such an extent that those rules are collected and maintained by certain codifications or groups (Robert’s Rules of Order, Competitive Debate: Rules and Techniques, by George McCoy Musgrave. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1957, and The Commission on Presidential Debates).   This includes a set of rules for the Presidential TV debates, a brief history of which is found in Wikipedia (which may partly explain the diminution of debate and the rise of the debacle).  

“Beginning with the 1976 election, the League of Women Voters sponsored the televised Ford-Carter debates, followed by the Anderson-Reagan and Reagan-Carter debates for the 1980 election, followed by Reagan-Mondale in 1984.  After studying the election process in 1985, the bipartisan National Commission on Elections recommended ‘[t]urning over the sponsorship of Presidential debates to the two major parties’. The CPD was established in 1987 by the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican Parties to ‘take control of the Presidential debates’. The commission was staffed by members from the two parties and chaired by the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties.”  
The formats for the 90-minute debates are supposedly “designed to facilitate in-depth discussion of the leading issues facing the nation,” but they instead cover everything from the size of the parking lot to the temperature in the auditorium.  Much space is devoted to just such format details.  The rules governing conduct of the debate itself are also detailed in terms of format, but lacking in much substance as regards actual rules of debating.  For instance, here are samples of the summary format for the last debate that aired:
Second presidential debate (October 9, 2016, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO)
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by the moderator based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
All debates will be moderated by a single individual and will run from 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time without commercial breaks. As always, the moderators alone will select the questions to be asked, which are not known to the CPD or to the candidates. The moderators will have the ability both to extend the segments and to ensure that the candidates have equal speaking time. While the focus will properly be on the candidates, the moderator will regulate the conversation so that thoughtful and substantive exchanges occur. The CPD is in discussion with technology and civic groups that will provide data to the moderators to assist them in identifying the subjects that are most important to the public.”
Finding rules of actual debate is much more difficult.  So what we have here is a Commission basically devoted to details of venue, set-up, participants, and entertainment, rather than a Commission devoted to substantive discussion of critical issues.  In spite of all the hype about substantive questions collected from audiences through social media and elsewhere, it was not until about the 87-minute mark in the debate that the questioners/moderators actually had gotten a trio of major issues into the debate – namely the Supreme Court, guns and race.
So, in conclusion, let me present some observations about the debate itself and then I have a few suggestions for future debates.
  1. What we saw was not a debate but a mud-fest.  It basically followed no rules but those of format, and even that did not work very well, since one of those rules was that one speaker will not invade the other’s space during the time when one or the other is speaking.  Donald Trump violated that provision with major frequency and impunity.
  2. In such a mud-fest, there are no winners or losers, just two people who are covered with mud
  3. On the subject of winner and loser:  this is nothing but a huge farce perpetrated upon the gullible public by a media intent on boosting ratings and promoting absurd speculation. 
Real debate winners are judged by qualified judges who follow particular criteria for scoring debates and judging winners based on those scores and on those criteria.  In Presidential debates – and in subsequent polls taken afterward – there are no criteria used to rate performance or to score results.  The judgment of ‘winner’ is entirely emotional and subjective.  The question asked of those polled is entirely without any criteria attached, and thus each person polled uses their own measuring stick, their own criteria and their own feelings.  All of which immediately makes all such polls invalid simply because there is no common bases on which to decide who won.  Such a poll is not a “national” poll – it does not measure according to a common national standard – it is simply a poll of individual sentiment, meaning that every answer is made according to that one individual’s beliefs and emotions, not according to objective criteria.
  1. A review of the basic rules of debate (above) indicates that this was not a debate, in any sense of that word:
    1. Innuendo, questionable accusations, inaccurate statistics, allegations of wrong-doing, personal insults, made-up or slanted stories, and most of all, threats of reprisal, are not the foundations of a debate; in fact, they are contrary to the basic rules of debating.  
    2. The lack of substantive evidence either in rebuttal or presentation of one’s side of an issue was so lacking that one has to wonder – why bother?  What is the sense of even having a debate if no actual evidence is brought forth to prove the efficacy of one’s side?  Mr. Trump failed miserably on this criterion; Mrs. Clinton at least presented some figures mostly in relation to healthcare and taxes.
    3. There were no substantive arguments presented on major issues.  The issues all took flight so that matters of personal conduct could be vetted before an anticipatory audience.  Once again, those who benefitted from such foolishness were not the voters, but the entertainment companies and their sponsors.  Left in the dust were major issues like: joblessness and job creation, crumbling infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare, single payer health system, gun violence, immigration, etc.  Every time a serious issue was proposed or even suggested, it was quickly undermined and abandoned in favor of personal attacks and accusations, which are antithetical to any substantive debate.
    4. Because there were no rules of debate, the antagonists were allowed to veer away from the issue at hand and to shift the emphasis to other unrelated issues or accusations.  Such behavior is unacceptable in real debates.  One must stick to the issue at hand and not introduce new issues or material or propositions.  Not only does this produce a version of chaos, it violates a basic rule of debate.  The job of the moderator of a debate is to call the protagonists on this when it occurs.  The two moderators did try to do that at times, but were mostly unsuccessful, mainly because the rules were not clear nor accepted nor adhered to by either side.
    5. Finally, the manner of presentation was simply not important, mostly to Mr. Trump who snorted and sniffed, scowled and grimaced through most of the debate.  But, of course, the major flaw in his manner was to invade his opponent’s space for purposes of distraction and pestering (bullying?) his opponent.  Such behavior is not acceptable in any real debate, and it should have been called out by the moderators.  However, they were hamstrung by lack of rules and sanctions (subtraction of points) and so did nothing.  Another sign that this was far from a real debate.
What, then, might be done to make the third Presidential Debate into something that resembles a real debate with some basic ground rules?  I have a few suggestions:
  1. Have issues-based questions or propositions prepared before the debate in a format that allows for an argument positive or negative from both sides; examples:
o        RESOLVED, the infrastructure of this nation must be 25% rebuilt or refurbished within the next 8 years; OR:
o        What specific projects would you propose be undertaken to begin rebuilding the infrastructure of this nation in the next 8 years?
o        Automation is an imminent threat to many blue and white collar jobs within the next decade; what would you propose to do: 1) to prepare our workers for job loss and 2) to prepare the nation for on-going high unemployment caused by such automation
o        What will you do in your first term to start, maintain and invest in alternative fuel businesses, to reduce fossil fuel pollution, and act to protect workers who lose jobs
  1. Allow enough time for each proponent to advance their answer or plan in some detail – perhaps 5 minutes for presentation and 3 minutes for rebuttal; limit the number of issues discussed to 5 or fewer (there can still be wide audience participation online which can lay some groundwork for the prepared questions)
  2. Ban all innuendo, accusations and personal attacks, and stick to the issue-at-hand
  3. Score the debate based on criteria put together by experts in the debate field, and judged by such experts. Allow points to be withdrawn based on rule violations
  4. Ban all polls for winners following the debate, unless those polls are based on the expert criteria used to score the debate
  5. Stick to the issues and ban all side-tracking or changing of subject
  6. Civil manner of presentation must be enforced by moderators: no personal attacks, no encroaching on other’s space, no interruptions, no threats
  7. No in-house audience participation at all except at beginning and end when they may applaud as allowed
If we’re going to have Presidential Debates, let us at least follow some basic rules: keep on the subject-at-hand, provide logical and cogent arguments, lay out positions and proposals that are backed up by facts or acceptable means of proof, and provide time for presentation and rebuttal without interruption.  It’s past time to hear what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump plan for us, instead of being subjected to what they abhor about each other (and want us to believe, as well). 





Monday, October 3, 2016

Have Justice and Common Sense Fled the Scene?

From the Associated Press: September 28, 2016

By JULIE WATSON and BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press
 “EL CAJON, Calif. — It took more than an hour for police to arrive at the shopping center in a San Diego suburb where a distressed black man had been wandering into traffic. It took about a minute for him to be shot and killed.

Alfred Olango pulled a large electronic cigarette, known as a vape pen, from his pocket and pointed at the police officer who fired, while a second officer stood nearby trying to subdue him with a stun gun, El Cajon police said.

The details emerged Wednesday in the shooting of Olango, who was having an emotional breakdown over the recent death of his best friend, an attorney said.  The investigation centered on a video of Tuesday's shooting taken by a bystander. Police have produced a single frame from the cellphone video to support their account, saying it shows Olango in a "shooting stance."
The photo shows Olango's hands clasped together and pointed directly at an officer who had assumed a similar posture with his gun a few feet away.  The vaping device in his hands had two components, a box about the size of a cellphone and a metallic cylinder that was 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. Police said the cylinder was pointed right at the officer.
Olango's relatives demanded the full video be released, according to Dan Gilleon, a lawyer who says he is representing the family.  "They're cherry-picking part of the video," Gilleon said. "This is exactly what police have said is unfair when only portions of video are released against them."
We don’t need to belabor this.  There are lessons here that go to the heart of police confrontations in this country, especially if you are Black:
1)      Don’t point anything at police who have guns drawn (or at any other time for that matter).  From that same AP article: “Chuck Drago, a former Florida police chief who consults about police use of force, said that once Olango struck the shooting pose, officers would have had to react quickly if he drew an unknown object from his pocket. "An officer doesn't have enough time to wait to determine if that's a gun in his hand," Drago said.  
2)   Don’t act erratically and don’t shout at or abuse police verbally. 
3)      Don’t have a criminal record.
4)      Records related to conduct on the part of police usually don’t count; Videos are often “cherry-picked” to favor police conduct
But those “lessons” are simply “common sense” deductions from almost every case of a police shooting of a Black or Hispanic male.  Unfortunately, Justice and Common Sense have fled the scene in so many such instances that we can no longer expect either justice or common sense to be present.  Why?  Let me enumerate some of my opinions:
1)      Generally, Police departments led by a chief of police are not fully accountable to the community that they serve.
a.       They may be accountable to a Police Commissioner, a Mayor or to a District Attorney, the latter two being elected officials, but the Mayor and DA have to work closely with the chief and may be reluctant to disagree or penalize the chief in any way, not wanting to risk their main source of information, evidence and investigative testimony.
b.      Citizen Review Committees, known by several different names, are in existence, mainly in major cities, but their roles are often ill-defined, their powers vary, and their credibility is almost always under attack, if not entirely dismissed. 
2)      Departments themselves often feed their own autonomy or at least their own vision of being an independent group that must protect itself at all times from “interference” or “attack” by “outsiders.”
a.       planting evidence that will protect the officer(s) who over-steps
b.      using excuse to be silent because “incident is currently ‘under investigation’.”
c.       Police Associations are ostensibly police unions, but are most often the protectors of departmental integrity; often more concerned with a good public image
d.      Criminalizing the victim or damaging the victim’s reputation
3)      We have myths firmly entrenched in most departments that serve to keep police from being found guilty of anything
a.       Loyalty to one another as expressed at funerals, as partners; expressed by the long blue line, or the “blue flu;” or shown by a charge of ‘betrayal’ if a cop testifies against another cop.
b.      Heroic “first responders” - It is difficult to find such “heroes” guilty of harassment or second degree murder for killing someone in the “line of duty”
c.       Need for quick reaction.  Even in the AP article already cited, the former police chief from Florida makes it plain that such quick reactions are almost mandatory – the cop just doesn’t have “enough time to wait to determine if that's a gun in his hand." 
d.      Police are there to maintain Law & Order and to protect and defend.  Almost all defense of cops is based on this statement of mythical proportions.  Compare it to some of the seven basic principles proposed by Sir Robert Peel when the “bobbies” were first introduced in London:
““The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.” 
“Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”
“The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”
“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
4)       “Law & Order” conjures up some unfortunate images about the police and their mission.
a.       It implies a militancy about enforcement of the Law and
b.      A sense of having to ‘battle’ people and push them around (harass them) to maintain ‘Order.’
c.       It also implies that there is a sense in which Justice and Equality don’t enter the equation at all
d.      The fundamental principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is also absent
e.       Everyone who even looks suspicious or disorderly or “out-of-place” or different is subject to a ‘stop and frisk’ mentality
f.        Law & Order is a poor substitute for “protect and defend.”
g.      Is Law & Order a synonym for “keeping some elements of society in their place?”  Is L&O an umbrella for denigration of minorities, like the War on Drugs and a War on criminals and illegal immigrants and a War on minorities?  Is it simply an excuse for not doing the hard work of community policing? 
Let me stop right here and try to make it clear that I know there are police worthy of all the accolades one can imagine.  There are those who are trying to treat the people on their beats with dignity and respect and kindness.  I know there are police who give of themselves to their communities by sponsoring, coaching, mentoring or just plain serving the needs of their constituencies.  I know this, and am not saying that because a small percentage of bad apples are evident that all police are bad. 
I also know that the vast majority of persons of color are made up of the same positive attitudes and characteristics because I have had the good fortune of directing programs in which persons from several minority groups were the participants who excelled in mentoring and befriending children and adults with developmental disabilities.  I was privileged to be able to watch as these mentors, who all lived on limited incomes (below the poverty line in order to qualify), helped to produce miracles of mental and physical development beyond all expectations, serving 20 hours a week, some for 15-20 years beyond the qualifying age of 60 (and later, 55).  I could go on and on about their accomplishments and their character, but I won’t, in the interest of brevity. 
Suffice to say that we are all making a huge mistake in our stereotyping and our profiling and our pre-judgments about people, no matter the particularities of race, gender, nationality, religion, cultural background, language, or sexual orientation.  There are simply far more good people in every one of those categories than there are criminals or evil personas.  We must begin to get it right and dispute the persistent myth that certain groups are less desirable or more full of criminal types than other groups.  It just isn’t so, and we have to stop trying to make it so.  That’s a start, but that is not the total answer to the attack upon Justice and Liberty for all.  Not by a long shot…
In an article in the New York Times dated November 26, 2014 by Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the stop-and-frisk case against the New York Police Department, made this point about seeing the problem as one of “bad apples:”
“If the grand jury had indicted Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown…, it wouldn’t resolve the structural and institutional racism that underlies police violence against black people. Yes, more officers should be held accountable for killing unarmed young men, but it isn’t a few bad apples, it’s the way that police are trained to see communities of color as war zones and to behave like occupying forces. In his testimony, (officer) Wilson called the neighborhood a “hostile environment” and told the grand jury, “it is just not a very well-liked community,”
Personal prejudice, bias, and bigotry are a problem, yes.  But the deep-seated continuing problem is still the fact that attitudes of domination have wormed their way into our institutions and organizations; into our businesses and services and we are not making the progress that is needed to root them out.  Institutional or structural racism is at the core of our race relations in this country, and yet it is denied, excused, overlooked, and often ignored.  There is ingrained in almost every institution we can name the subtle and ignominious specter of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation with their accompanying attitudes and prejudices – the domination of one race by another; the belief that there is somehow a superiority of the white race over all other races.  Such attitudes lurk surreptitiously in policies, procedures, laws, regulations, rules, standards, norms and even in the constitutions and By-laws of our institutions and our organizations. The relationship of master to slave is what still underlies too many of our institutions.
The Commission for Racial Equality has put it quite simply:
“Institutional racism has been defined as those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequalities in society. If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, the institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have racial intentions.”
And so, we return to re-visit our police departments and the killings of innocent men (and women) of color.  It is not just because of bad apples that we have this problem.  It is because too many communities, elected officials and police departments have not recognized the depth and breadth of the structural racism that lies below the surface in so many institutions in this country.  The master-slave attitudes and relationships, racial conflicts, inequities and domination scenarios of our country’s awful mistake of enslavement of one race by another continue to fuel the fires of hatred, division, segregation, enmities and atrocities.  We are, so to speak, slaves to our own embracing of slavery – of domination/submission and superiority/inferiority.  And we must root it out wherever we can.
In an article on Race, Racism and the Law, Dr. Robin Oakley submitted two helpful Notes that were particularly useful.  The first:
“Police work, unlike most other professional activities, has the capacity to bring officers into contact with a skewed cross-section of society, with the well-recognized potential for producing negative stereotypes of particular groups. Such stereotypes become the common currency of the police occupational culture. If the predominantly white staff of the police organization have their experience of visible minorities largely restricted to interactions with such groups, then negative racial stereotypes will tend to develop accordingly.”

Other examples of institutional racism are tied to the myriad of obstacles and challenges ‘structured’ into government policy and daily existence that keep African-Americans, and other minorities from gaining a foothold in the ‘mainstream.’  It’s simple really.  Unions don’t easily allow membership, schools are inherently under-funded (mainly because of the lack of property owners!), under-staffed, and limited in their ability to provide extras like computer equipment, college-level courses, or experiences beyond the neighborhood as with internships. Some realtors and banks still maintain practices that limit African-Americans from realizing their home-ownership dream.  Government subsidies (“safety net” programs) and private charity are limited and short-sighted; too often helping to keep the recipients locked-up in the security of those less-than-adequate ‘entitlements,’ rather than providing a sound base from which to overcome hurdles or to solve real problems.
And, alongside all of this is the inability to acquire any semblance of middle- or upper-class wealth.  Lack of availability of good jobs open to minorities, lack of good education and college in particular; lack of opportunities in the larger world combined with daily exposure to certain behaviors, beliefs and myths (‘street lore’) tend to stunt the development of mature and capable young people and leaders.  So, we come to something I call the “non-prison lock-up” involving the poverty and segregation cycles that all-too-many minorities, especially African-Americans, are subjected to by our existing institutions and organizations over generations. It is the customs, norms, standards, and policies (written and unwritten) in our institutions, that are the main problem for every generation.  It will go on forever if we allow it. 
Dr. Robin Oakley's second view: if the challenges of 'institutional racism,' which potentially affect all police officers, are not addressed, this will:
“Result in a generalized tendency, particularly where any element of discretion is involved, whereby minorities may receive different and less favorable treatment than the majority. Such differential treatment need be neither conscious nor intentional, and it may be practiced routinely by officers whose professionalism is exemplary in all other respects. There is great danger that focusing on overt acts of personal racism by individual officers may deflect attention from the much greater institutional challenge ... of addressing the more subtle and concealed form that organizational-level racism may take. Its most important challenging feature is its predominantly hidden character and its inbuilt pervasiveness within the occupational culture.”
Returning to our specific topic of police brutality:  What can we do?  That is the $64 million-dollar question!  I’m no expert, but I have some ideas and certainly some opinions.  Although limited in scope, here are some brief thoughts.
1)      be accountable to an independent body of citizens and elected officials; in most cases, the State’s Department of Justice should have jurisdiction over the operations of all police departments in its own state and should report as required to the federal Department of Justice.
2)      establish entrance tests for all police candidates that measure capacity for the job, but also measure the individual biases of the candidates (expert help in these areas is available)
3)      require at least six letters of recommendation from community members being served (other than relatives) as to the character and ability of the candidate to act responsibly and with respect toward all; 3 letters should be from persons who are in the minority
4)      accept or reject candidates on the basis of their ability and propensities as indicated by the tests and recommendations; individual interviews with recommenders ought to be seriously considered
5)      arrange personal interviews for every candidate with an independent board of advisors from the community being served (the entity in #1 may serve in that capacity)
6)      establish a mission and purpose statement that clearly states what the department is meant to do in and for its community; the statements must be approved by the independent body mentioned in #1
7)      set forth a set of principles by which every officer shall conduct him-or herself; approval again by the independent body
8)      set forth a detailed set of guidelines as to the handling of all suspected law-breakers, including the use of lethal force as a last resort in all cases; the guidelines shall cover the use of tools up to and including a gun
9)      set forth the universal standard that all persons shall be treated fairly, justly, with respect; and that every person who presents as a threat, shall be disabled in the most humane way possible before any fatal method is utilized (e.g. stun with Taser; injure in hand or foot)
10)  establish a thorough training (and re-training) program that will contain within it sensitivity training, examination of personal motivations and biases, presentations by community members of minority status and a poverty simulation that will deal with what people in challenging situations (poverty, etc.) must deal with every day in addition to study of community policing in all its aspects
11)  examine every aspect of its operations on an on-going basis to ferret out the hidden (and more overt) structural biases and prejudices that are built in to all aspects of the department’s operations and relationships to the community; an ongoing personal involvement in a mentoring program with young people by all officers might help to reduce negative stereotypes and produce some investment in the community
12)  A thorough annual audit and evaluation of all aspects of its operations shall be conducted by an independent body (the entity in #1 may fulfill this role); integral and mandatory in this evaluation shall be at least 20 interviews of constituents in the community who have been involved with the police over the course of the preceding year.  In addition, a representative sample of the community members shall be asked to submit a written evaluation of the activities of the department for the preceding year.
13)  The independent body of community members and elected officials shall review all parts of the evaluation/audit and shall make recommendations for the next year (or more if long range)
I have no illusions about this.  I know it seems beyond the capacity of some police departments to carry out such a rigorous program.  And I know that Donald Trump and his followers, are mostly opposed to doing anything of this sort.  But, we have to stop the injustices and the indignities that are infecting our police institutions, and we have to start somewhere; perhaps with one or more of these suggestions. 
Police Departments are on the front line of positive community development, community wellness, community service and community caring.  We cannot simply retreat from reform and allow Justice and Common Sense to disappear.  We have to act to bring our institutions, including our police departments, above the degradation and devastation of a plantation mentality of domination, superiority, harassment, ownership, punishment, lack of opportunity, lack of education, distrust, diminution of abilities, keeping others in their own place and at a distance (‘segregated’), along with the unaddressed killing of innocent human beings.  We have to take radical and practical steps to change that pernicious inheritance.  It is hard work; perhaps the most daunting challenge we will ever face, but it must be done.  Anything less – like “Law & Order” - is misguided for it leads us right back to the same old institutionalized racism and inequality that prevents us from realizing our full potential as a nation.


Friday, September 23, 2016

TRUMP: the CON MAN (Part II)

HEADLINE: “Donald Trump releases list of supreme court nominees.  Back in March of 2013, when Trump was challenged by one of the other Republican candidates (Cruz?) he came up with a list of probable nominees to the Supreme Court that included several judges who are favorites of conservative legal scholars.  Several of the jurists previously clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices after law school. The state supreme court justices include one who was former clerk to Justice Scalia, and three of them clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas (the Donald’s favorite Justice). Another state supreme court justice on the list previously worked for the Bush White House’s office of faith-based initiatives and later in Texas government, where he pushed to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property and the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, issues he has promoted on his Facebook page. 

Let us look a bit closer at some of the decisions and concepts promoted by just three of the possible nominees (for the sake of brevity), with thanks to and People for the American Way for the following information:

·         backed voter ID laws

o   one helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined one other judge in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

o   dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans

·         criticized not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal

·         wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that has been described as “the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law. 

·         showed anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; this judge praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

·         made the argument that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination. 

·         argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award; to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

·         asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under state law; 

·         that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years

·         that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional

·          favored a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

·         wrote decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

·         dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies;

o   In three separate cases, dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against

·         dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store

·         dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional.  

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO BE CLEAR ON THIS:  Trump as President, would have one Supreme Court vacancy to fill immediately that is now being held up by Senate Majority Leader McConnell on the premise that the new President, and not Barack Obama, should have the right to appoint Scalia’s successor.  Trump has clearly indicated that “he would draw from the most conservative segments of the judiciary to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.”
If Trump is elected President, this will be his first nomination to the Court, but probably not his last.  In addition to the open seat left by Scalia, there are three current justices who are quite elderly. The next president could fill as many as four seats.  As a result, the nature of the Court could be “locked-in” for several generations; a Court that will have an ultra-right-wing majority bent on over-turning many of the decisions now extant that influence everyday life.  This will not only include over-turning Obamacare, but many programs like Medicare that provides some insurance and protection for a large group of citizens.  Such a Court will also be hell-bent on overturning certain civil and human rights that we now take for granted, such as the Violence Against Women Act, Roe v. Wade, Miranda, speedy trial, and much more.  Further, government programs for people who happen to be poor, underprivileged, handicapped, challenged, or in need of special consideration will, if not voided entirely, face restrictions that essentially change the nature and structure of any such programs.  

So, here’s the deal for all of the disgruntled unemployed and unskilled workers, blue and white collar workers, low wage earners, and all those who simply support Trump because they want their leader to be tough with everyone and everything:   YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR!

NO MINIMUM WAGE and courts that won’t hear your complaint

NO NEW MANUFACTURING JOBS – they are permanently GONE and not coming back to any great extent, and any that do will soon be replaced by robots and electronics that can do those jobs more efficiently and at less cost per unit than YOU can.  Since Trump regards science negatively, and believes that human-caused climate change is a “hoax”, and that fossil fuels are our future, where does that leave YOU in terms of NEW JOBS coming on-line in the alternative fuels industry? 

NO ENHANCED SKILL TRAINING OR RE-TRAINING - the Donald has no plan for getting our workforce ready for a new techno-world.  Technology is taking over and Trump hasn’t a clue as to how YOU will be trained to meet the challenges.  Besides, practical application of technological advances promises increased corporate profit with fewer personnel costs, so how does an untrained or re-trained worker match up with that?

PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT GOING TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS:  Trump wants to keep them under local control, and many local school boards think ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ are dirty words.  Too many public schools are not prepared or equipped to meet the 21st century – not by curriculum, technology, teaching new work skills, emphasizing math and science, or teaching citizenship and its responsibilities, as well as its rights and freedoms.  Schools are caught in the 19th and 20th centuries, and have no inclination to change.  And, school choice which the Donald favors, will only denigrate and re-segregate our public educational system at a faster pace, since making education, research, learning and community internships dependent on profit does not benefit anyone but the profiteers. 
NOT to WORRY – the Donald will fix it right away by giving you the choice of sending your children to a private, for-profit school that costs an arm and a leg; to a charter school that cherry-picks the best students; or, you can keep your children in a public school that has been deserted by all those who could afford to send their progeny to a private (or charter) school.   By the way, you know what that means, right?  Higher taxes to pay for your children’s local public school plus having to pay for those private and charter school subsidies mandated from the federal tax coffers!  Nice Play, Shakespeare!  

NO SYMPATHY or DECISIVE ACTION WHEN BUSINESSES ABUSE YOU because this will be the BUSINESS PRESIDENT, and workers who join together to take their cases to court, will be shunted aside in favor of BUSINESS every time, and Trump’s Supreme Court will take that same side against YOU

EVERYTHING YOU HAVE COUNTED ON TO GET THROUGH IS IN JEOPARDY – including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pension rights, adequate health care, unemployment insurance; even food stamps and Pell grants

LAW & ORDER will bring results YOU DO NOT WANT:  city curfews for whole neighborhoods, areas or communities; neighbors spying and snitching on neighbors; your home will no longer be your castle – your home will be able to be invaded by the police, even if it’s a mistake;  innocent people will be caught in police militarism to establish Law & Order; some people will be targeted for harassment, arrest, unreasonable charges and unfair sentences; YOU WILL BE ONE of THEM if you look or act or talk in a “foreign” or “different” manner, or happen to be dark-skinned.

THE WALL WILL NOT SOLVE THE UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM – Illegal immigrants are not taking away your jobs (first jobs 'taken' by many illegal immigrants are so menial that most working Americans will not consider them).  Under Trump, Businesses will have all the privileges and subsidies and breaks applied to companies with those menial jobs.  Some businesses will be allowed to hire “temporary” aliens – unvetted, unscreened, unprotected, but useable for profit. 

COSTS OF MILITARY BUILD-UP will not simply fall to the wealthy – YOUR sons and daughters will be the FIRST to get the call to volunteer or face a draft; then YOU WILL ALSO HAVE TO PAY THE BILL for all those new unnecessary weapons systems; all the contractors’ over-time, excess time and failures; YOU WILL PAY, not those Businesses and wealthy CEOs who will be benefitting from your lack of consumer protection, lack of rights, and lack of power, as well as from the many tax breaks that only they can access.

YOU are going to PAY MORE IN TAXES to fund the WAR AGAINST ISIS and potentially against Middle East countries that are in turmoil like Syria and Libya; to say nothing about that country that D. Trump says has gotten so much out of the recent Treaty signed with us and several other countries (by which the advance of nuclear power is now restricted), but which Trump wants to renegotiate.  Trump has no idea what he is talking about, and YOU will bear the consequences when IRAN becomes belligerent.

LABOR UNIONS WILL BE OF LITTLE HELP to you because the restrictions already upheld and those that are still to come will cripple the Labor Movement beyond repair.  Just try negotiating with a business on your own and see how far you get in this pro-business climate.  Retaliation and firing-without-cause plus lower wages and lack of benefits will from now on be a normal part of what you will have to face wherever you may work.

CONSUMER PROTECTION and ADVOCACY ARE OUT THE WINDOW:  If you don’t catch-on soon, this will all come back to haunt you under ‘der Donald’ as President.  Remember EPA, OSHA, FTC, AAI, NLRB, FEC – and a myriad of others?  Well, these government-based consumer protection agencies have all been under attack when Republicans are in the White House, and some have never returned to the staffing and budgeting levels necessary for effective inspection and advocacy since the time of the great destroyer of consumer advocacy, Ronald Reagan.  Donald Trump will give them all the heave-ho if given the chance because he wants “interference” with financial interests and business interests to be minimized beyond their present status.  Beyond government, don’t forget that this attack has also been made on private consumer-based groups known for citizen advocacy – such as ACORN, Legal Aid, Planned Parenthood, and Community Action agencies.  Consumer advocacy is GOING, GOING, GOING – and under Trump --GONE!    

With a radical Republican President Trump, an ultra-right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and a Congress controlled or obstructed by Tea Party ideologues, YOU ARE ABOUT TO WISH YOU HAD NEVER HEARD OF DONALD TRUMP.  Just as Ronald Reagan betrayed his union followers when he fired striking Air Traffic Controllers, Trump followers are about to be betrayed beyond their wildest fears.  THEY ARE ABOUT TO BE EATEN ALIVE by the forces of destruction, division, diminution, denigration, deregulation, distrust, demonization and demoralization. 
I tend, therefore, to pity those followers who believe that Donald Trump, once in office, will carry out every promise he has made to help particular groups of people.  Why do I say that?  Because he has constantly demonstrated in his life and in his work that his personal status, profit, power, prestige and winning are all that matter.  Equality and Justice, Charitableness and Service to others are not important to him unless they can be used as tools to CON others into following his lead.   Therefore, I end with a personal message to Trump supporters: 
YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET YOUR SUPPORT OF TRUMP because his support ultimately means your downfall, and the probable deterioration of our economy, our daily existence, our democratic values and your livelihood.  This is my fervent plea -- Don't fall for the CON MAN'S Tricks -- Realize the potential danger you are in and CHANGE YOUR VOTE NOW!