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REFLECTIONS…

ORCAS | BAD THINGS | MY BOOK | MAGIC | HOOVER INSTITUTION | AMERICAN PRIDE | MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING | ASSISTED SUICIDE | THUGS IN BALTIMORE |RAINBOW WHITE HOUSE | PRESIDENT OF IDIOCRACY


TO REFLECT IS TO THINK DEEPLY OR CAREFULLY
about something or some topic.  To give thought to that thing or topic, to consider it, review it, mull it over, contemplate it or cogitate about it. To meditate on, brood about or turn it over in one’s mind. “A reflection” is a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of reflecting. This page is about some of my reflections. Fiat Lux!


1. MARCH, 2014: KILLER WHALES ON DISPLAY AT SEA WORLD

I OPPOSE THE CAPTURE AND DISPLAY OF KILLER WHALES. When my kids were young, we visited SeaWorld so often I used to say that I could narrate the Shamu Killer Whale Show dialogue from memory. SeaWorld was our favorite place to spend a weekend. The park is clean and well maintained by staff. It seemed like a wholesome, safe and happy place to visit. I thought the educational programs for kids and the behind-the- scenes research the place presumably provided were admirable. I assumed the animals on display received appropriate veterinary care and that the diet and environment provided almost made them “lucky” to be there. I’ve completely changed my thinking. I’ll never again patronize Sea World or any other venue that displays Orcas for “public entertainment.” The parks’ treatment of Orcas is cruel. The motive for display is simply financial gain for the owners. SeaWorld doesn’t care about educating the hordes of children who attend. They lie to the kids about the animals and the specifics of their captivity. In hindsight, I’m ashamed that I attended. I’m embarrassed I didn’t think at the time about what was really going tumblr_mqg7huqJTV1qzzrydo1_1280on there.

I don’t belong to PETA nor do I believe that Zoos should be closed. I don’t think it’s wrong to have household pets or go to Del Mar to see the horse races. I think hunting and fishing have a legitimate recreational purpose. I eat eggs, even though chickens in captivity produce them. If I couldn’t have a good beef steak once in awhile I’d be sad. I love cooking ribs and chicken on the grill. But this whole Orca thing is different.

Watch Blackfish. It’s a documentary film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013 and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films for wider release. It’s an aggressive, impassioned documentary that will change the way you look at performing “killer whales.”  Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus-beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who-unlike any orca in the wild-has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong? Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to  consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

These magnificent animals are disciplined and their food is withheld if they don't perform silly tricks at SeaWorld. In the wild, orcas swim as much as two hundred miles a day. At SeaWorld they are confined 18 hours a day in concrete pens so small they cant move. Disgusting!

These magnificent animals are disciplined and their food is withheld if they don’t perform silly tricks at SeaWorld. In the wild, orcas swim as much as two hundred miles a day. At SeaWorld they are confined 18 hours a day in concrete pens so small they cant move. Disgusting! Note the drooping dorsal fin. Watch Blackfish to learn why it’s drooping.

Those of you who know me understand that with my conservative political views I don’t usually “participate” with CNN or other left-leaning “drive-by-media” sources. On this occasion, however, I depart from my typical views in that regard. I commend CNN for undertaking the challenge via this film to educate the public about the largely accepted practice of using Orcas for selfish and purely profit-motivated entertainment.

After the documentary premiered, Sea World announced that it had suffered a $15.9 million loss. Good! Overall attendance at Sea World parks and Busch Gardens declined by 5% in the first nine months of 2013. Good! In response to the film, assemblyman Greg Ball proposed legislation in New York that would ban keeping Orcas in captivity. Assemblyman Richard Bloom has introduced the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, a bill in California that would ban entertainment-driven killer whale captivity and retire all currently kept whales. They would be rehabilitated and returned to the wild whenever possible. If that is not possible, the whales would be transferred to sea pens and held open to the public but not used for entertainment or performance purposes. Yes!  As reported in the San Diego Union recently, SeaWorld’s parent company has seen its stock fall nearly 6 percent (as of 02-20-2014), the same day theme park analysts said they doubted the business would experience any long-term effects from a bill seeking to ban its iconic Shamu shows. Hold your hats, Seaworld execs. Your days are numbered!

When-the-Animals-Ran-the-Circus-e1349741358453

Well, when you think about it…

Orcas are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small concrete pens for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping them captive for human amusement. Orcas live in extended matriarchal families, and in some populations calves stay with their mothers for their entire lives. In contrast, at SeaWorld, where orcas are used as breeding machines to churn out future performers, mothers and their babies are separated permanently. The youngsters wail in anguish as they are forcibly taken away, and their mothers can do nothing but cry out in despair. The thought of having an Orca calf torn away from its mother is too much to bear. The sheer desolation and hopelessness that these Orcas must feel every minute of their lives is heartbreaking. People who care about animals and don’t believe that Orcas should be forced to live in cramped concrete tanks and perform silly tricks on command for human entertainment should stay away from SeaWorld’s amusement parks.

UPDATE. MARCH 21, 2014. Why shouldn’t other animals remain “off limits” as well? The more I have thought about the orcas in captivity the more it dawns on me that the same prohibition would ideally apply to other animals. When we lived in Deerhorn Valley, we had a pair of Barn Owls (we called them Ozzie and Harriet) who lived monogamously in one of our oak trees, each year bearing young and feeding them as responsible parents. Should the zoo be allowed to kidnap Harriet’s kids? Now that I think about it, what about the elephant on display in the 100 square foot pen? Right, the one that’s prodded with that long metal prong to walk in the “right” direction. What’s ok about using that animal for human entertainment?  I really don’t know.  To the extent that these animals are captured and used for scientific study to eliminate the imminent possibility of extinction, I suppose that’s a good cause. To parade any of God’s creatures for our entertainment, I’m starting t believe, is just wrong. And what about the Circus animals? Where does it end? Maybe we should protect all wild animals from exploitation. What a novel thought. What do you think?

UPDATE: JANUARY 21, 2017. Finally bowing to pressure from people like me, and faced with further declining ticket sales, SeaWorld San Diego has finally pulled the plug on its theatrical killer whale show. The park, which has long shown Orcas swimming and cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool to the pleasure of drenched audiences, held its final performance on Sunday. SunSeaWorld Entertainment Inc.’s parks in Orlando and San Antonio will be ending their shows by 2019. But don’t expect the parks to be draining their tanks. The 11 whales at SeaWorld San Diego will be part of a new exhibit called “Orca Encounter,” which will teach visitors about the whales and their natural behavior. It’s progress, but the jury’s still out on whether another captivity program will be an improvement.


2. APRIL, 2014:
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE? (This post is in progress.)

strengthenI’VE WONDERED ABOUT THIS FOR A LONG TIME. I BET YOU HAVE, TOO. I’ve known about the Rabbi’s book for years, but never took the time to read it. Well, “There’s no time like the present” my Mom used to say.  So I purchased the Nook book: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner. Born in Brooklyn, Kushner was educated at Columbia University and later obtained his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960. The same institution awarded him a doctoral degree in Bible in 1972. Written following the death of his son from the premature aging disease progeria, Kushner’s book deals with questions about human suffering, God, omnipotence and theodicy. My reflections in this entry don’t constitute a book review. However, my thoughts about the perplexing question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” represent to a degree what I’ve learned from Kushner’s experience and the book he wrote about it. It definitely stimulated my thought process.

THE STARTING POINT: If there is a benevolent, loving and forgiving God who created the Universe, why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do bad things happen at all? Why does war occur?  Why are stories of natural catastrophes and school-shootings front page news every day? Why would God allow these things to happen? Is the world good, and is there a kind and loving God who is responsible for what happens in it? It doesn’t always appear so, does it? Why would God allow ordinary, decent, thoughtful people to bear extraordinary burdens of grief and pain? You can frame the question any way you wish. You can think of dozens of real-life tragedies which prompt that question. We’ve defined the issue…the question. We’ve framed it to fit our individual circumstances. So, is there an answer? Are we wasting our time believing in goodness and in God?

RESPONSES TO TRAGEDY TYPICALLY HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON. They assume that God has caused the tragedy and they seek to understand why He would want us to suffer. Does He want to punish us for our transgressions? Accordingly, should we blame ourselves, to spare God’s reputation? These typical responses either cause us to hate ourselves for deserving such a fate or cause us to hate God for causing the tragedy when we didn’t deserve it. But maybe this isn’t the way it works.

MAYBE EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAPPEN FOR A REASON. Could it be that God does not cause the bad things that happen to us? Perhaps God doesn’t cause our suffering. Maybe it is caused for some other reason than the will of God. And rather than causing the tragedy himself, perhaps God stands ready to help us cope…if we can get beyond our feelings of guilt and anger.  The question “How could God do this to me” is perhaps the wrong question. If we can bring ourselves to acknowledge that there are some things God does not control, many good things become possible. We can ask for help in times of tragedy, rather than wonder why God caused the problem. We can be angry at what has happened to us without being angry at God. We can still be on God’s side, and He still on ours.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  This would be a good time to look at the KOA Care Camps charity. Click on the icon to see what a wonderful charity it is. The campground  where we’re staying right now near Bryce Canyon National Park participates in the program. The campground owner told Florence this afternoon that when the kids come here they romp around, swim in the pool, sing around the campfire at night and have a blast.  For once they’re completely immersed with others similarly afflicted and don’t have to suffer the stigma of disease and appearance they endure most other days. If you have it in your heart to make a donation, that would make my day…yours, too. A contribution to Care Camps would be one thing we can do to help reconcile the problem of bad things happening to good people.


3. APRIL, 2014: ABOUT MY BOOK.

HOW’S MY BOOK COMING ALONG? Many of you know that I’ve got tons of interesting, actually riveting stories about some of the clients I represented during more than three decades as a divorce litigation attorney in San Diego. Once you “get me going,” I can keep you spellbound for hours recounting behind-the-scenes true stories. They can make you laugh and they will certainly make you cry. In fact, after being urged over and over to write a book about my experiences I’ve begun to do so. I spoke with several published authors and some editors…picking their brains about the process and getting pointers about how to best accomplish my goal of putting pen-to-pad to create an entertaining book. I gathered my dictating equipment, spoke with transcription services and began organizing my thoughts. I could feel the project “coming together” and I was excited about working on it.

writing

Right now, I don’t have time to work on my book every day.

Many others have written about the divorce process. Some have written about the legal technicalities…my colleague Jan Gabrielson’s book, Practical Reflections of a California Divorce Lawyer, comes to mind. Those books are fine. That’s not what I’m about writing, however. I’m going to entertain you with what really happens. I’m going to re-introduce you to some folks whose stories you think you already know. Trust me: “You don’t.” I’m going to write a book that will grab you from the moment you begin reading! No question about it.

However, I’m putting the project on the back burner for a time. One of the realities about writing a book, I’ve learned, is that it’s a job. Regardless of how much one enjoys writing, creating a book is work. No matter how good the story, it  requires discipline and a work-schedule to write a book. It doesn’t just happen. While we’re on our Adventure, with all that we want to see and experience, I’m unwilling to schedule the regular time to write that’s necessary. There aren’t enough hours in the day to actively explore American and write a book at the same time.

I’ll continue to think about the book. I’ll continue to make notes about stories I’m going to tell. I’ll stay in touch with some of the clients whose stories will be part of the book. But I’ll hold off “putting pen to pad” for awhile. I’m going to see America first.


4. MAY, 2014: THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE.

belleASSESSMENT: From a political vantage point, my views couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to those held by actor Morgan Freeman or Producer/Director Rob Reiner. However, Freeman is perhaps my favorite actor and I enjoy and admire Reiner’s work as well. Freeman has appeared in many box office hits and he’s been appropriately recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Screen Actors Guild. Reiner, aka Michael Stivic (“Meathead”), son-in-law of Archie and Edith Bunker is an award-winning movie director. Each has significant “important” films to his credit. The Magic of Belle Isle isn’t one of them. However, the two “hit a home run” with this thought provoking 2012 movie.  I’ve watched it and I’ve reflected. That’s why it’s mentioned here. Please see this movie.

Many movie critics observe a “sappy story line” and a completely predictable outcome.  To an extent perhaps, true. But there is also examination of some heavy themes: grief, divorce, alcoholism, physical disability and inter-generational friendship. And beyond that, the movie deals with story-telling, how and why an author writes, and the power of imagination…topics always of interest to me.

THE STORY: The Magic of Belle Isle is about imagination and the restorative powers of a friendly summer retreat. It takes place in the present, but its setting and characters evoke the slower paced culture of the Eisenhower years. The three daughters of Charlotte O’Neil, a single mother in the process of divorcing her husband, may act up on occasion. But when Charlotte puts her foot down, they do as they’re told. Those orderly children — Willow, an occasionally petulant but mostly good-humored teenager, the tomboyish 9-year-old Finnegan and the baby sister, Flora are as likable and almost as well behaved as the Anderson brood in “Father Knows Best.” Charlotte is a font of common-sense wisdom and compassion. She also plays Beethoven beautifully on the piano. The culture of cellphones, text messages and celebrity, although acknowledged, remains far in the background.

Into this idyllic but far-from-fancy lakeside paradise of fresh air, front porches and sparkling water arrives Monte Wildhorn, a bitter, curmudgeonly, once-celebrated writer of western novels and a freemanformer minor league ballplayer. Monte, who has been in a wheelchair since a freak accident, moves in next door to the O’Neils for the summer. He has been loaned the house by his nephew on condition that he care for the dog, Ringo, whom Monte immediately renames Spot. Monte, who buys sour mash whiskey by the case, is an alcoholic who plans to spend the summer getting drunk instead of writing. As he puts it wryly, “Drinking is a demanding profession, and I can’t hold two jobs at once.” But as the season wears on, and Monte becomes entangled in the lives of his neighbors, he rapidly mellows. By the end of the summer, his demons have receded, and he is once again pecking away at the old typewriter that he prefers to a computer.

MY REFLECTION: And that’s really all there is to it. Granted, a pretty simple story line and a completely predictable outcome. But wait. The magic of this movie’s title emanates from the beautiful, measured performances of its stars.  Monte has been given the space to ruminate about writing and the powers of imagination, which he imparts to Finnegan, who becomes his eager protégée. He is also a mentor of sorts to a sweet, mentally disabled teenager from the neighborhood named Carl, who bunny-hops instead of walking. This is a feel-good movie which allows the appeal of the characters and the significance of their interactions to teach us…well, see for yourself. You’ll like it. If you like to write, if you like to teach, if you like to inspire, if you care about others and if you want to reflect on the power of imagination, give this movie a chance.

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Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University.


5. MAY, 2014: HOOVER INSTITUTION.
The Hoover Institution is an American public policy think tank located at Stanford University. (www.hoover.org) It’s official name is the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. It began as a library founded in 1919 by Republican Herbert Hoover, before he became President of the United States. The library houses archives related to Hoover, the two World Wars and other world history.

The Hoover Institution is an influential voice in American public policy. It has long been a place of scholarship for individuals who previously held high-profile positions in government, such as Edwin Meese, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele and Amy Zegartt, all of whom are Institution Fellows.

Herbert Hoover’s 1959 statement to the Board of Trustees of Stanford University on the purpose of the Hoover Institution continues to guide its ideology and define its activities:

“This Institution supports the Constitution of the United States, its Bill of Rights and its method of representative government. Both our social and economic systems are based on private enterprise from which springs initiative and ingenuity … Ours is a system where the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social or economic action, except where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves … The overall mission of this Institution is, from its records, to recall the voice of experience against the making of war, and by the study of these records and their publication, to recall man’s endeavors to make and preserve peace, and to sustain for America the safeguards of the American way of life. This Institution is not, and must not be, a mere library. But with these purposes as its goal, the Institution itself must constantly and dynamically point the road to peace, to personal freedom, and to the safeguards of the American system.”

According to the Hoover Institution’s website: “By collecting knowledge, generating ideas, and disseminating both, the Institution seeks to secure and safeguard peace, improve the human condition, and limit government intrusion into the lives of individuals.”

Hear, Hear! I visit the website often to ponder, think and reflect. Government is far too pervasive…far to intrusive. The beliefs of our Founding Fathers as expressed in the Constitution have become diluted and are largely ignored by decision-makers in our country. We must do whatever we can to reverse this trend and reclaim our liberty.


6. JULY 4, 2014: ARE YOU PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN?

STUNNER: 44 PERCENT NOT PROUD TO BE AMERICAN
For all of the red white and blue on display in honor of America’s soccer match this week, an exhaustive new Pew poll shows that actual patriotism is in the dumps. An amazing 44 percent of allflaf respondents said they didn’t often feel proud to be American. Only 28 percent said that America was the greatest nation on earth. So how do you unite people to save the country if they’re not invested in its success? And how do you reverse a belief that is searing in its self-fulfillment? We talk a lot in America about economic, demographic and other “tipping points,” but the patriotism gap is arguably the most important of all.

LIBERALS CARE LESS – Pew divided their sample into different categories across the left-right political spectrum. When asked if respondents “often feel proud to be American,” a majority of strong liberals, 60 percent, said no. The only group that solidly agreed with the statement was conservatives, ranging from 72 percent to 81 percent. About half of the respondents in the middle of the spectrum – essentially libertarians to socially conservative fiscal liberals – said they were proud to be American.

TAKING EXCEPTION WITH EXCEPTIONALISM – When asked if the United States ranks above other countries, fewer than three in 10 overall said the U.S “stands above all other counties” while 58 percent said the U.S. “is one of the greatest countries, along with some others.” And 12 percent of respondents definitively said “there are other countries that are better than the U.S.” When broken down into groups, conservatives are tops on exceptionalism at 46 percent. Close behind are members of the ethnically diverse ranks of socially conservative, fiscally liberal Americans who formerly made up the Democratic base before the Obama era at 39 percent. Strong liberals and libertarian-leaning young adults were least likely to see America as the greatest, 11 percent and 16 percent respectively. And 19 percent of strong liberals, the leader in this ranking, said other countries were better.

WHY IT MATTERS – If the individuals in a disagreement don’t at least agree that they are trying to preserve a common endeavor, spirited debate turns into acrimony. If America is just another country with a soccer team, the extraordinary doses of patriotic grace, forbearance and sacrifice that have been required of citizens since our country’s founding don’t make sense. It’s not that the 44 percent who aren’t proud are all moving to Costa Rica, it’s that they feel less obliged to do the hard work necessary to make a system this demanding work. Politicians and public figures who intentionally exploit and deepen divisions and resentments are doing more than just creating gridlock, they’re undercutting the very idea that has lit the lamp of America’s greatness for nearly three centuries.

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Michael Brown. Darren Wilson.

7. AUGUST, 2014. ANOTHER BLACK KID KILLED BY POLICE. BUT DON’T CONVICT THE COP BEFORE THE FACTS ARE KNOWN. Eighteen year old Michael Brown was shot and killed last week by a police officer in a St. Louis suburb. The incident, reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin case, has sparked a federal civil rights inquiry, local protests and national debate. The protesters claim that Brown was surrendering, that his hands were in the air without a weapon at the time of the fatal shot. Authorities counter that he had attacked the officer and was trying to wrest away his firearm. There seems to be no legitimate debate that the kid was a “good boy.” He had graduated from high school and was readying himself for technical college. He wanted to own his own business one day. Rather than having taken him to college this week, his parents are planning his funeral and dealing with lawyers.

Was this a racially motivated shooting? Does justice demand that the officer be charged with homicide? Or was it a tragic but completely justified result of a confrontation and the officer’s legitimate fear for his life? Ferguson, Missouri, where this happened, is a community on edge, simmering with racial unrest in the summer heat. Now what?

ATTORNEY MARK O’MARA KNOWS ABOUT THESE CASES. An attorney whose name is Mark O’Mara knows about these cases. He defended the man who shot Trayvon Martin…the man who was acquitted of wrongdoing. O’Mara continues practicing Constitutional law but he also now serves as a legal analyst for CNN. I like the guy. I liked the way he handled himself in the Trayvon Martin case and I like his opinions as expressed in CNN exclusives. His assessment of the instant case is clear and concise. For starters, he implores us to admit that the one thing we don’t yet know enough to be convinced one way or the other. Either way, he believes, police outreach is key. This should be required reading for every man, woman and child in America. Something’s got to be done…and O’Mara’s  views are perfectly on point. His view on “What’s next” should be required reading. Here’s his take on the case, as it appears in a CNN commentary dated August 13, 2014:

POISONED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN POLICE AND MINORITIES, by Mark O’Mara.

“I recently met a woman, the mother of three black teenagers. She told me that after the Trayvon Martin shooting, she forbade her boys to wear hoodies. She warned them never to walk around with their hands in their pockets. She was terrified that someone would find her boys acting suspiciously and one of them would end up being killed. This is one hell of a thing to be afraid of. I don’t think parents of white kids ever really feel this terror…not in this way.

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Mark O’Mara. Commentator and Defense Attorney.

I defended the man who shot Trayvon Martin, and I believe that the verdict the jury returned was correct and just. But based on my experience defending young black men in the criminal justice system for 30 years, I know her fears are not without foundation. The shooting of Michael Brown…an unarmed 18 year-old African-American in Ferguson, Missouri…reinforces her fears and it gives me a dull, empty feeling in my gut.

We’re hearing conflicting stories about how the Brown shooting happened. Some witnesses say the teenager had his hands up in surrender when an officer opened fire on him. The Ferguson police chief says the office was attacked in his cruiser, and the first shot was fired inside the car. It’s possible both accounts are true, but we don’t know. Here’s what we do know: A police officer and a black man interacted, multiple shots were fired, and Michael Brown was 35 feet away from the police car when struck by the shots that killed him. Soon we should know how many times the officer shot Brown, from how far and from what direction. These factors will be critically important in determining whether the shooting was justified or not. Black or white, an officer must be in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm before using deadly force, just like the rest of us. If Brown was shot from far away, or if he was shot in the back, it would provide strong evidence that he was retreating…that the officer was not in imminent fear…and that the shooting was not justified. What we must acknowledge is that we don’t yet know enough to be convinced one way or the other.

Now there are cries of “no justice, no peace” as evening vigils turn violent, with rioting and looting. “Justice,” it seems in this context, can only be found if the officer is convicted of murder. If facts show the shooting to be justifiable, it will not be seen as justice by those making the demands. Whether my client is black, white, Latino or something else, here is how I want justice defined: Two sides, well-represented, present their cases in an adversarial system; the law is followed and a just result is inevitable. Brown’s case will have the added benefit that it will be tried in the ever-watchful view of intense public scrutiny.

For many in the black community the reality of the criminal justice system doesn’t measure up to the ideal. Many believe that the criminal justice system, from first police interaction to verdict, is infected with a racial bias that taints the possibility of justice as it should be defined. I have long argued in court that such a bias exists; that probable ause didn’t exist for this car stop; that hanging on a street corner or sitting on a stoop is not loitering; that “attitude” is not resisting without violence. While the bias does exist, it’s not simply a black and white issue. It’s rare to find an overtly racist cop, or an overtly racist judge. The biase is nuanced; it’s woven into the system, and it builds with each interaction with the system until, at last, it results in unequal justice.

Consider the very first interactions: A cop and young black male interact on the street, and both give the other a bit of attitude. The officer gives some attitude because he’s tired of getting attitude from other young men, and the young man gives some attitude because he’s tired of getting attitude from other cops. now, who’s at fault? This, as simple as it sounds, is how it starts. Once the infection begins, it grows quickly. If you want to say the cop’s at fault because he’s the adult with training, you are right. And if you want to say the young man is at fault for disrespect or mistrust of a cop’s authority, you are right. If both sides refuse to move toward the middle, we will all just keep going down this path, and another black family will plan another funeral. Or we can aree that we, each of us, will be better off accepting responsibility for an infection that we cannot defeat individually.

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Prosecuting  Attorney Robert McCulloch.

Who makes the first step? The police must. Many police agencies have community outreach programs that are successful. Police officers are in the position of authority, and they have the power to send a message that when the serve a community, they serve all the people of the community equally, regardless of race. To break this cycle, police must recognize there is bias in the system, and then make an effort to treat the people they serve with respect. In return, we must recognize the risks law enforcement officers take to protect our communities. We must respect their authority. And we must understand the grave reality that the way we engage a police officer can affect whether we walk away, whether we are driven away in handcuffs, or whether we are taken away on a stretcher. This is true for people of every race, from every community…and unfortunately, with the current bias, it may be more true for some of us than for others.

Let’s see what we can accomplish. For those who say that talking about this now is an insensitive way to blame Michael Brown for his own death, nothing could be farther from the truth. No matter what turns out to have happened that Saturday afternoon, Brown was killed by the infection, by this insidious cycle. Let’s see what we can accomplish if we focus on breaking that cycle.”

It’s been twelve days since Michael Brown died on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, the result of a shooting by a local police officer after an alleged life threatening situation presented. Although there have been peaceful protests and there have been positive intervention attempts by community leaders, looting and vandalism have also occurred. Ferguson has developed into a war-zone, with heavily armed police and National Guard troops on the scene with armored military vehicles. Both sides are demanding justice…within the last few days there is growing support for the officer involved in the shooting.

The Grand Jury convenes today to consider the return of an indictment against the officer. The prosecution is being handled by an elected official attorney who, it’s claimed by some protesters, has ties to the police department rendering him unsuitable for the job. He’s vowed to remain on the job, and by all appearances has the Governor’s support.

arson

Vandalism and arson after the Grand Jury failed to indict Officer Wilson.

HERE’S THE IMMEDIATE DILEMMA, IN MY VIEW: I don’t see how anything other than a Grand Jury comprised of extraordinarily brave folks can realistically even consider not returning an indictment. With the skepticism about the legitimacy of the Prosecutor and the protesters almost blood-thirsty demands for “justice,” rioting would almost certainly result if no formal investigation is brought. However, the last time I checked, there is an absolute presumption of innocence under our system of law, and this applies not just to trial but also to pre-trial proceedings such as convening a Grand Jury. From what I’ve read, there has not yet been a thorough enough investigation into the facts to even begin a Grand Jury inquiry at this early date. Prosecutor McCulloch insists that the inquiry will be thorough…evidence will be presented for perhaps a month. That’s not a very long time folks…what about evidence that can’t even be developed that quickly? Are the protesters being placated at the risk of inappropriate prosecution? US Attorney Eric Holder is now on location in Ferguson at the President’s direction, further lending credence to consideration of an indictment. Of course Jessee Jackson and Al Sharpton are there as well…they’ve already been on the scene for a week. I think the Grand Jury proceedings beginning today are starting now for the wrong reasons. Talk about demanding justice! Despite the almost certain exacerbation of violent protests if proceedings aren’t begun right away, justice demands that a complete and meaningful investigation be given time to occur. Anything less would make a mockery of the justice the protesters so adamantly demand.

grandjuryNOVEMBER 25, 2014: GRAND JURY FAILS TO INDICT. LAWLESSNESS FOLLOWS. (Analysis and commentary coming soon.)

8. WHAT ABOUT ASSISTED SUICIDE?

BRITTANY MAYNARD’S STORY: The recent end-of-life media attention to the tragic story about 29 year old Brittany Maynard has sparked once again the debate over whether assisted suicide should be legalized in this country. Maynard was dying of brain cancer and experiencing the agony of seizures, headaches and loss of bodily functions. she had moved to Oregon for the chance to die intentionally, peacefully and with dignity at a time she selected. That option is not legally allowed in her home state of California. She exercised the option recently, taking medication to end her life under Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act.” She died as she intended, peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones. She was mentally competent and articulated her desires clearly and logically long before “the day came.” More than 15 million people watched various YouTube videos featuring Maynard and her family describing her life and her journey with cancer. Overwhelmingly, the agreed with her choice and applauded the State of Oregon for being one of the few states where her choice could be implemented.

THOSE WHO SUPPORT LEGALIZATION. Supporters claim that people have a moral right to choose freely what tey will do with their lives as long as they inflict no harm on others. They argue that this free choice includes the right to end one’s life when we choose. We have an obligation to relieve the suffering of our fellow human beings and to respect their dignity. Lying in our hospitals today are people afflicted with excruciatingly painful and terminal conditions and diseases that have left them permanently incapable of functioning in any dignified human fashion. They can only look forward to lives filled with yet more suffering, degradation and deterioration. When such people beg fora merciful end to their pain and indignity, it is cruel and inhmane to refuse their pleas. Compassion and logic demand that we comply and cooperate.

Brittany Maynard became visible in order to raise awareness about aid in dying. Her goal was that those who want to do what she did will not have to uproot themselves and their families to move to a death-with-dignity state in their final weeks of life. She hoped her story would help change the law and medical practice in the 45 states that disallow aid in dying. Above all, she and those who support her position want to help those who are dying have a chance for peace and dignity on their own terms.

MY VIEW: WE MUST OPPOSE LEGALIZATION OF ASSISTED DYING. The media frenzy over the Maynard story has made it almost impossible for a legitimate opposing view to be heard. many people believe that any opposition has to come from religious extremists or right-wing busybodies. I am neither, yet I feel strongly that making assisted suicide legal would be a horrible, dangerous legislative mistake.

HERE’S WHY: Assisted suicide isn’t about Brittany Maynard. It’s abut the thousands of vulnerable ill, elderly and disabled people who would be harmed if assisted suicideno is legalized. Our country’s system of caring for terminally ill people is broken…poorly designed to meet the needs of patients. Medicare and Medicaid, health care systems designed to meet the needs of the poorest among us, are in need of major restructuring. The idea of mixing a cost-cutting “treatment” such as assisted suicide into a broken, cost-conscious health care system that’s poorly designed to meet the needs of dying patients is dangerous to the thousands of people whose health care costs the most…people living with a disability, the elderly and those chronically ill. Assisted suicide drugs cost less than $300. Compare that with the cost of treating a terminal illness.

In all 50 states, anyone dying in discomfort may legally receive palliative sedation, where the patient is sedated and discomfort is relieved while the dying process takes place peacefully. That’s fundamental to hospice care. And this legal solution does not raise the very serious problems and eventualities that legalizing assisted suicide threatens to cause.

Every major disability rights organization in the country that has taken a position on assisted suicide is opposed to legalization, along with the American Medical Association, palliative care specialists and hospice workers.

Assisted suicide’s “safeguards” are hollow. Nothing in the law of Oregon prevents an heir or caregiver from suggesting assisted suicide as an option, taking the patient to the doctor to enroll and witnessing the consent form. Once the prescription is obtained, nothing in the law ensures the person’s consent or self-administration. With the rising tide of elder abuse in this country, we can’t ignore the dangers of granting blanket immunity to all the participants in an assisted suicide.

Brittany Maynard’s story is heart-wrenching. When you examine assisted suicide based on one individual, it often looks acceptable. But when you examine how legalization affects the vast majority of us…especially those most vulnerable…the dangers to the many far outweigh any alleged benefits to a few. Remember, not every terminal prognosis is correct and not everyone has a loving husband, family or support system.

ASSISTED SUICIDE SHOULD NOT BE LEGALIZED.  Assisted suicide is a unique issue that breaks down ideological boundaries and requires us to consider those potentially most vulnerable in our society. Any public policy that allows a human to decide who is to live and who is to die sets a dangerous precedent.

9. APRIL, 2015. RIOTS IN BALTIMORE… “IF IT LOOKS LIKE A THUG, IT’S A THUG.” Dozens of stores have burned and many more jobs have been lost in the wake of urban street violence in Baltimore. City Hall maintains the crimes were not committed by criminals, but by misguided youth. And now there is word that nearly half of those arrested were released, with no charges filed. So what kind of a message does that send to the good people of Baltimore? What kind of message does that send to the business owners whose shops were looted and burned? And what about the nearly 100 police officers who were sent to the hospital…pelted with chunks of cement and projectiles embedded with glass? They were ordered by the Mayor to stand down. So while crimes were being committed…property was being intentionally destroyed and folks were being injured, the cops were ordered to just watch. They were ordered not to stop the violence. Not to arrest the perpetrators. 

AND HERE’S THE THING…The orders to stand down? They were given by the same city officials who apologized for calling the rampaging mob “a bunch of thugs.” Well, in my opinion if it looks like a thug…it’s a thug! If the Baltimore high school kids who rioted fear that their future holds nothing but inescapable poverty, misery and the ever-present risk of danger from the police, their concerns should be investigated and addressed. But rioting in the streets, burning cop cars and destroying locally owned stores is not the way to address the problems. No way. No excuse.

ANOTHER RUSH TO JUDGMENT?  Turns out that in Ferguson, where the looters ravaged the city because they were convinced of unprovoked police brutality against Michael Brown, the arresting officer responded appropriately to a legitimate threat. So concluded the Grand Jury as did even Eric Holder’s Justice Department. The allegations which prompted the lawlessness weren’t true. And now we learn that in Baltimore, Freddie Grey most likely broke his own neck in the police van by intentionally banging his own head against the wall. Doesn’t look like he was injured by the police before he was placed in their vehicle. Sound familiar? Rush to judgment? And even if the facts weren’t what we now know they are, trashing property, burning businesses and looting aren’t acceptable ways to protest. No way. No excuse. Of course there are problems. The kind of behavior we’ve seen on the streets of Ferguson and now in Baltimore, by definition, evidences a problem. No doubt about that. But the thugs in the streets in both locations are just wasting time…time that could be much better spent solving those problems rather than extinguishing the burning cop cars and local businesses. Yep, you’re thugs. And no apologies from me, that’s for darn sure!
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Obama decorated the White House with Gay Pride rainbow colors. Give me a break! 

10. JUNE 26, 2015. “THE RAINBOW HOUSE.” Just who does Barack Hussein Obama think he is? How dare he turn the White House into the “Rainbow House?” How dare he refer to the White House today, as he did, as “my house.” This is an affront to my patriotic sensibilities! Respect and tolerance of minorities is fine, so long as it’s not given in the absence of the same respect for the majority!  C’mon, Mr. President. Use your head…you’re not a stupid man. I’m steamin’ made about this! 

11. Donald Trump…President of Idiocracy: Intelligent, informed politicians like Paul Ryan are cheaply dismissed as the establishment. Update, October 2016: I posted the original text, below, about Donald Trump at the beginning of the Republican primary election season. At the time I felt there were better-qualified Republican candidates. I still feel that way. But it is no longer possible to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming our next president, unless we elect Mr. Trump. Do I condone his “locker room trash talk?” Of course not. But think about the consequences of not voting for him now, in the general election. Hillary will appoint 3 and perhaps 4 Supreme Court Justices who will serve longer than many of us will even live! The effects of her lunacy, greed, corruption and deceit will linger for many years. We must prevent this. Join me, other reflective voters and even evangelicals Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and others. Cast your vote in November for Donald Trump! Original text, February 2016: A conservative political commentator and writer S. E. Cupp, who hails from Carlsbad, California near San Diego is one of my favorite pundits. I’ve posted her column that appeared today because it sums up my feelings about Donald Trump and the pathetic state of presidential elections in America, which by all appearances will pit Hillary Clinton, currently under investigation by the FBI for criminal behavior while Secretary of State and Donald Trump, a man completely unqualified to serve as Commander in Chief and President of the United States. 
“In a year that’s felt a lot more like a parody of 21st century America than reality, add this one to the stinking pile:

Budweiser is renaming its beer “America” through the November presidential elections. Because, it’s Donald Trump’s world, and we’re all justTRUMP living in it-even a billion-dollar multinational Belgian-Brazilian beverage and brewing corporation.

On the day Trump unveiled his campaign slogan on a cheap rope hat, “Make America Great Again” would become a foretelling emblem of the overly simplified and uncomplicated nature of Trump’s vision (as well as its inherent nativism). But it would also become a call to purge the “elitist establishment types” — which now, inexplicably, includes libertarians and former Tea Party supporters like myself — who deride the Trump Train for being utterly devoid of intellectual rigor and political nuance.

RYAN: I’D STEP DOWN FROM GOP CONVENTION ROLE IF TRUMP ASKED ME TO DO SO. The laugh is definitely on us, because as it turns out, many voters aren’t all that into rigor or nuance at the moment. Both Bernie Sanders’ pie-in-the-sky policy proposals that have no chance of becoming legislation nor, more importantly, of correcting actual problems, and the nonsensical and often-times unconstitutional brain farts Trump calls ideas for solving world problems are being lapped up by millions of supporters who are, in technical terms, “sick of it.”

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Even left-leaning Jon Stewart realizes that Trump is only about as sophisticated as a poop-throwing monkey at the zoo! 

This, in some ways, is cyclical populism swinging back around after eight years of President Obama’s exceedingly dismissive and annoyingly professorial tone presiding over press conferences in which he would deliberate over prepositions for what felt like hours until inevitably requiring a “let me be clear” to sum up his esoteric dissertation on school lunch programs.

The desire for “give it to me straight” is the result of feeling talked over and talked down to by politicians on both sides of the aisle who, whether grandstanding on the Senate floor or hamming it up on the Sunday shows, seem oblivious to the role public servants are supposed to play.

JEB BUSH SAYS HE WON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP. 

This isn’t just about populism or rejecting the establishment. Let’s be honest: Sanders is a lifelong politician and Trump is a billionaire real-estate and media mogul. These people are the establishment. And the person who will likely become the next President is Queen of the establishment.

Witness the political prosecution of Paul Ryan. Sarah Palin, a woman who wouldn’t be a thing if not for “establishment types” like John McCain foisting her into mainstream relevance, has decided the speaker of the House must be thrown out of office for the sin of thoughtfully considering the leadership qualities of his party’s presumptive nominee.

That Palin believes Ryan’s hesitation over Trump makes him unfit to serve his constituents in Wisconsin is disturbing enough, and the kind of tribalism that Trump’s candidacy has fomented within the party. Ryan is among the smartest, sanest, most skilled political leaders of either party, whose commitment to public service – and not celebrity – is virtually unparalleled, and yet this is the kind of person who should definitely be “Cantored,” as Palin quipped, and kicked out of the party.

Worse, though, is what underlies her disdain. It’s that “thoughtful consideration” in itself has become an apostasy to Palin and others who see it as a sign of weakness and entitlement, a scarlet letter of the elite, an affront to the “real people” Palin claims to represent.

trump3_retouchedThis is not just anti-establishment, it’s anti-intellectualism.

 LINDSEY GRAHAM ‘CANNOT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE’ SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP

Over the course of the Republican primary, conservatives who expressed doubts or asked questions about Trump’s policy proposals were suddenly part of the establishment elite, the know-it-alls who think they’re smarter than everyone else. Regardless of what wing of the party they actually subscribed, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, National Review, Glenn Beck – all anti-Trump, all suddenly part of the same establishment, all to be punished.

This desire to equate intellectual skepticism with out-of-touch elitism is pretty disturbing stuff, not least of all because of its implications for free thought and individualism. But also for the health of political discourse, intellectual honesty and a vigorous vetting process for our elected leaders.

Whether we know it or not, Mike Judge’s satirical comedy “Idiocracy” is actually a documentary. As Judge writes it, in 500 years, the two pillars of American civilization are advertising and anti-intellectualism, and anyone who has some knowledge and can speak articulately is to be mocked and condemned as “sounding gay.”

Paul Ryan is being condemned by idiots because in the era of Trump, “thinking” in and of itself makes him out of touch. I wish it were just a parody.”