Do brown people make a difference?

After I wrote a blog post earlier this afternoon I happened to see a few pictures that interested me. I saw a picture of the police chief, whose name is Brown, and discovered his nice dark complexion, the same as mine. When I checked some other pictures of Dallas police comforting people I saw the same thin. That if twisted young Micah Johnson had wanted to start a race war, he had come to the wrong place. Maybe. When I was growing up, my friends and I spoke of the police as an army of occupation. I never recall seeing a black or brown person wearing a badge of any sort. There were no black teachers in the white high school I attended.

In the past few fear, African Americans have gained some positions of power and authority. Mayors, governors and lo and behold, our two term president. I would be interested in knowing how the criminal justice system has changed in Dallas with Chief Brown. For change to take place, we need to evolve from an army of occupation to a family of cooperation. What do the statistics tell us?

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What more is there to say?

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This has been one of those horrible weeks where one looks out into the city and sees chaos. I am not going to repeat everything here because if you have been awake you have seen the murders of two black men and the equally horrendous murders of police yesterday. It seems that we are making the same move over and over. A black person encounters the police for seemingly innocuous reasons: routine traffic stop, for example, and the police officer becomes unusually aggressive. When the black person attempts to respond he or she is either pulled out of their vehicle or shot while still in the car. The person may also be tackled, pepper sprayed and shot dead. The family becomes angry and asks for justice for their loved one. There is an investigation, very rarely a trial and even there there is no conviction for the taking of black lives on the street.

The president is often part of this scenario as white racists claim that having a black president has divided the country. One former congressman even threatened to kill President Obama and then deleted it. This most recent tragedy was twisted by the fact a one or more snipers in Dallas took advantage of a peaceful protest to begin opening fire, killing and wounding.

So, those are the facts. The NRA and the politicians they own will saw, how dare anyone try to limit unfettered access to deadly weapons, high powered magazines and everything that goes with it. One possible answer came during the press conference held by the Dallas chief of police and the mayor who mentioned that their police department is trained to de-escalate conflict. That was part of the sadness that they must be feeling. They want to be able to protect citizen’s rights. That sounds like a reasonable and sound approach to take.

It is not time for war, as the New York Post screamed. It is time for comfort, sorrow and solutions. Black lives matter is not about murder. It’s about freedom and dignity. We want the police to treat us the way you would want to be treated.

The horror

I am reading a long article in Mother Jones magazine by Shane Bauer an investigative journalist who took a $9 per hour job as a corrections officer in a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. Bauer details under-staffing motivated by profit, neglect of inmates, neglecting inmates mental and physical health and conditions that would shock any caring person. Bauer looks into the company’s history arising from the swamp like a primordial beast. The opportunity for profit created by mass incarceration needs to be eliminated permanently.

I remember how republican lawmakers howled when President Obama began allowing prisoners access to federal Pell grants to help further their education.The idea was elegant in its simplicity: educated prisoners will be more likely to obtain jobs, and benefit society. There are other proposals aimed at eliminating some of the draconian 3 strikes and your out laws that helped fill prisons. But one of the first places to look for reform is by shuttering the private prison industry and driving it out of business. We cannot continue to abuse our fellow citizens this way.

I urge people to read the article by Bauer and other stories and join groups like the ACLU that are helping to defend prisoners.

When a friend is wounded

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America goes back a long ways with France. In fact even before we became the United States large chunks of our country were a French colony. France fought in the French and Indian War. France made some of the same horrible mistakes as the rest of the world, in Haiti, Vietnam, Algeria and elsewhere colonizing and enriching itself on the labor of peoples of color. Bloody wars were fought against France in order to free these people. Sadly, in the case of Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, America blundered in right behind France.The French ideals have been more difficult to live up to in practice.

France has also been a cultural center where American writers and musicians moved to escape the oppressive atmosphere at home. America has come to the aid of France to in wars and that is what we are doing now. But unlike World War II, it is harder to tell where are the front lines and who are the enemies. France sounds like a different country full of expatriates once more. It is hard to say that France must expel a certain group of people because there are more types of French people than ever before.

So in a sense, the terrorists have succeeded. France had begun to recover after the massacre earlier this year at the satirical newspaper. They were going about the country and enjoying autumn nightlife. Now they are in mourning and many of the world’s people will mourn with them. We must do whatever it takes to recapture that sense of safety.

The stupid conversations we have about President Obama

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When I looked on the Huffington Post website today I thought I was stuck in a time warp.You see, ever since President Obama took office the republicans created a bunch of silly discussions to distract people from substantive issues. One of those discussions was the question of whether the president was in fact a Muslim. The Muslim story began shortly after America discovered he had been attending a Black Christian church in Chicago with a very fiery and outspoken minister. Everything the minister said was immediately tied to Obama because why not? People are always whatever their religious says and does. But then Obama broke with the minister publicly and stopped attending his church.

For me, this was almost too much information. I didn’t care what church the president attended. I focused on whatr he was doing regarding the economy. I wanted him to get people working again. I wanted the auto workers to be having good jobs. And I wanted the United States out of Iraq. Well, a lot of those good things have happened. Unemployment is much lower than it was before his election. And the Affordable Care Act has helped reduce the number of people without health insurance. It has survived law suits and an attempted to sabotage the websites and the marketplaces where people buy insurance.

The president also negotiated with Iran, Syria and Cuba, something that shocked and disgusted many of his opponents. He is unafraid to keep pushing his agenda even in the face of a wall of republican obstruction. He has even survived the silliness. The stories of his religion keep appearing, as they did today. Ben Carson, a doctor and republican clown car rider, was quoted saying that he doesn’t feel Muslims are qualified to be the president of the United States. Ted Cruz, another clown car member who always pushes his religion, said he isn’t certain whether Obama is a Christian. The Donald said there probably has been a Muslim president. And there you have examples of why we avoid serious discussions about things like the Syrian refugee crisis.It remains to be seen whether the media will succeed is giving us a steady diet of stories about Bernie Sanders’ hair to replace the silly stories about Obama but you can bet they will try their best.

My thoughts about the state of the union

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I liked most of what I heard President Obama tell us last night in his State of the Union address. Let me go through a brief checklist:

  1. Taxing the rich: check and double-check. The rich have made out like bandits and basically own the Congress due to a horrendous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. I could tell by the sour expression on the face of Mr Orange, John Boner, that the President had struck a nerve.
  2. Middle Class tax cuts: again check and double-check. we need a much fairer system that rewards work. It was an excellent set up having a solid example of a woman and her family who are working hard and playing by the rules but need a hand up to help pay for things like child care.
  3. Diplomacy first and war only as a last resort.CheckedĀ  The negotiations underway with Iran over their nuclear program were cited as a prime example. Some members of Congress have proposed imposing further sanctions on the Iranian economy at a time when the chances for a diplomatic solution are at a critical juncture. The President promised to veto anything that Congress approved tightening the screws on Iran instead of continuing to talk.
  4. Marriage equality: the President has thorough embraced equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people at that is a first. The fact he did so openly in front of the Supreme Court justices seated there in front of him was not lost on anyone. Check and mate
  5. Free community college for 2 years to help low-income workers improve their skills and get better jobs. Paid for by the taxes on wealthy Americans, this common sense approach to investing in people helps sharpen the contract between Republicans who focus on increasing tax breaks for their wealthy donors and Democrats who work to aid the middle class. This proposal harkens back to the post World War II era GI Bill of Rights that helped send a generation to college and buy homes.
  6. I was very glad to hear President Obama take credit for the vast reduction in the number of American troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan. he inherited those wars from George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. . This all results from American meddling. George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. Iraq remains unstable and a miserable group of extremists called ISIL has taken over a large portion of Iraq and Syria. President Obama developed a strategy to mobilize and train soldiers from Syria and Iraq backed by American air support to help repel the invaders. He remains steadfast in his commitment not to be dragged into another long and drawn out occupation and he called for Congress to authorize the use of force, in other words, declaring war against ISIL. Whatever happens, he wants Congress to help own it. We are log past the debate over whether the initial invasion was a good idea; we are now talking about how to help repel a bunch of people from the 13th century.
  7. Related to the issue of military occupation is our obligation to help the veterans who sacrificed for their country get back on their feet. Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have been the public faces of the campaign to help employ veterans. How wonderful to have two such capable women as spouses for the Vice President and the President. This is part of a larger effort that includes reforming the Veterans Administration, modernizing the veterans health care system and ending homelessness among veterans.
  8. President Obama continues to push for infrastructure projects including roads, bridge, improved mass transit and other items. he has been doing this throughout his presidency including the passage of the stimulus package. We continue to hear about crumbling bridges and repairing and replacing them ought to be a bi-partisan issue including raising the gasoline tax enough to help cover the cost. However, the unfortunate thing about many of these Republican members of Congress is that they view any federal proposal as socialistic and don’t understand the concept of investing for the future.

There is much to admire in this list and so many other things that the president has proposed as being the right thing for America. I would have added the idea of completely legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol. We can save billions by moving away from the failed war on drugs which costs lives while imprisoning far too many people. The president’s policy on Cuba sounds like a solid idea, and he asked the Congress to pass legislation towards that end. However I would take it even further by returning the Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and removing that relic of gunboat diplomacy. Cuba should truly belong to the Cubans.

The other thing that must be said is that President Obama said he has no more campaigns to run because he won both of his presidential campaigns. Having said that, he has laid out a progressive vision that progressive candidates can use in future campaigns. i would say yes to a candidate similar to what President Obama articulated. Why not? i would have said much the same damned thing.

Facepalm: thanks for sharing your hateful memes

The various progressive and free thought facebook groups I belong to are filled with people focused on something they call facepalming, which is based upon finding all the memes the object to from their religious or conservative friends and sending them to other progressives or humanists. look at how silly my religious friends are, blah, blah, they think some sky daddy is going to save them if they just give their money to the church. Or look at that silly Sarah Palin, Fox News, Duck Dynasty, NRA wacko, see what they’re saying about Obama.

This actually defeats the purpose of humanism which I believe is to promote a better way of looking at the world. i don’t need to laugh about how silly their ideas are compared to mine. If I wanted to find out about some crooked minister, I’d visit his megachurch. I see being a part of the progressive movement as a means of promoting the common good. And the less I hear or see of hateĀ  filled rhetoric, the better I feel.