Keith Lamont Scott of Charlotte, NC

Some gun person asked me, “Wouldn’t you feel safer having a gun?”

keithlamontscottYou’ve likely heard about the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, at the hands of the police, specifically a black police officer. There were demonstrations that started out peacefully but turned violent for a couple of days.

Putting aside, for the moment, the grief over the untimely death of the individual, I was immediately concerned about the well-being of my “baby” sister and her adult daughter who live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Somehow it’s different when you see a massive demonstration at the corner of Trade and Tryon, and you say, “I know exactly where THAT is.”
The family, BTW, is fine. My sister and my late parents moved down there in 1974, and it was a struggle to adjust, but they seemed to have made the transition, not without some race-based difficulty.

Charlotte is the home of several banks, and there is great wealth there, but also systemic injustice. The reaction to the Scott shooting was larger than just his death, but about similar incidents in the recent past in the Queen City.

I thought Robert Reich made a good point:

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the account given by the Charlotte police of how they came to fatally shoot… Scott on [September 20] is true – that he had a handgun. Okay. So what? North Carolina is an open-carry state (like 30 other states) where a citizen has the right to walk around with a handgun.

The Charlotte police department says its officers saw Scott “inside a vehicle in the apartment complex. The subject exited the vehicle armed with a handgun. Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject.”

So exactly what illegal activity did the Charlotte police observe before they approached “the subject?” The only conclusion it’s possible to draw is that it’s illegal to carry a handgun in North Carolina if you’re African-American.

Eugene Robinson made much the same point, which is that In America, gun rights are for whites only. Some gun person asked me, “Wouldn’t you feel safer having a gun?” I said, “Hell, no!” And that was before in incidents in North Carolina and Minnesota.

The Weekly Sift went further, suggesting that there is The Asterisk* in the Bill of Rights when it comes to both the Second Amendment (right to carry arms) and Fourth Amendment (against unreasonable searches and seizures) for blacks.

A United Nations working group says U.S. police killings are reminiscent of lynching. Yow. Read about what eighteen academic studies, legal rulings, and media investigations shed light on the issue roiling America, police, and racial bias.

Strategically and philosophically, I oppose rioting. But when one’s level of outrage hits a certain threshold – remember Keith Lamont Scott, because this happens so frequently, sometimes I can’t keep track – I surely understand it.

(I didn’t even mention the death of Terrance Crutcher of Tulsa, OK at the hands of white police officer Betty Jo Shelby because the shooting appeared unjustifiable even to Donald Trump.)

Q is for Queen City: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC also grew as a function of alcohol: “Prior to 1978, single drinks could not be served in North Carolina. People who wanted a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant would have to bring their own bottle.”

There are a number of cities nicknamed Queen City; I knew about Cincinnati, OH, and a few others. However, I’m going to talk about Charlotte, NC, in no small part because I have been there several times.

Back in 1973 or early 1974, my father lost his job with Associated Building Contractors in Johnson City, NY, next to Binghamton. He saw this an opportunity to go wherever he could find a job anywhere in the country. He looked everywhere from Syracuse to San Francisco. Ultimately, he found a position at J.A. Jones Construction in Charlotte, as the safety coordinator. He went down first, then my “baby” sister Marcia, and finally my mother. Both of my parents were born in Binghamton, but Mom was less than enthused about moving to the South.

My father, while liking Charlotte well enough, referred to it often as a “big old country town,” where a train might stop traffic within the city limits. It was big and getting bigger, in large part because of annexation. Cities in North Carolina and other predominantly southern states were allowed to annex unincorporated territory adjacent to them as long as the municipalities met minimal criteria of “urbanness”, two people per square mile, and provided police, fire, and water services. This action was taken to require those living on the fringe of the city to be added to the tax base, a luxury most Rust Belt cities can’t do because of fairly fixed borders.

There were annexations in 1972, 1974, and 1977. I was in graduate school in Public Administration at UAlbany in 1979-80, and actually did research on the effect that the rapid growth had on the city. What I’ve noticed since, though, is that the growth has continued: “Until 1978, Charlotte – like many other mid-sized southern cities – was struggling to grow, reeling from the decline of the textile industry. But that year, Charlotte began its transformation into the second-largest banking center in the United States. The city’s population has more than doubled, from 315,474 in 1980 to an estimated 751,087 in 2011.”

It also grew as a function of alcohol: “Prior to 1978, single drinks could not be served in North Carolina. People who wanted a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant would have to bring their own bottle. Bars simply didn’t exist.

“After state voters passed what became known as the ‘liquor by the drink’ law, Charlotte’s hospitality industry began to grow. Around the same time, the first wave of northern immigrants arrived… In 1978, IBM moved 1,000 families from upstate New York. That was the first big influx.” Before that, “You couldn’t buy pasta. You couldn’t buy a bagel in Charlotte. The IBMers really began to change the community.” True enough; the pizza was TERRIBLE when my parents moved there.

Transportation has also played a part. The airport has become a hub. Charlotte now has light rail; when the family relocated there, the bus system was, to be generous, inadequate. This is still true once one gets out of the core downtown, though: “It’s also very easy to get lost: everything looks very similar.” That’s comforting to read because it almost always happens to me. Charlotte is changing all the time.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

I is for Irene

Yes, that’s 3 hours, 39 minutes of flying time over an 11-hour stretch.

Irene is one of those semi-popular names in the US, 16th most popular among girls’ names at its peak in 1918 and 1919, 684th in 2010.

Irene has also been designated as a possible hurricane name by the World Meteorological Organization. “The Atlantic is assigned six lists of names, with one list used each year. Every sixth year, the first list begins again.” Things before 1978 weren’t quite so neat and tidy, so Irene was eligible to be a hurricane name in 1959, 1963, 1967, and 1971. While Irene was unused in 1987 and in 1993, there were actually hurricanes named Irene in 1981, in 1999, and in 2005.

2011’s Hurricane Irene caused great damage, as you have probably heard. Albany County was among several in upstate New York designated as disaster areas. Our property only lost some tree limbs. But the storm was life-complicating.

As I’ve noted, my wife and daughter traveled down to Charlotte, NC August 24 to visit my sister and niece. One track of Irene would have come quite close to Charlotte, but the storm stayed on the coast, fortunately. Unfortunately, it traveled up the coast, and while it largely spared New York City, it walloped parts of New Jersey, Vermont, and upstate New York.

The problem was that the family was supposed to take the train back from Charlotte to Albany on August 31, but the trip was canceled by Amtrak, likely because of possible damage, or fear of same, to the tracks in New Jersey and elsewhere.

They couldn’t drive back because of washed-out roads. So they got a flight. Or three:
From Charlotte Douglas Intl Airport (CLT)
Departs: 08/31/2011 at 11:40 A.M. To
Baltimore/Washington Intl Thurgood Marshall Apt (BWI)
Arrives: 08/31/2011 at 1:09 P.M.
From BWI
Departs: 08/31/2011 at 4:37 P.M. To
Philadelphia Intl Airport (PHL)
Arrives: 08/31/2011 at 5:26 P.M.
From PHL
Departs: 08/31/2011 at 9:10 P.M. To
Albany Intl Airport (ALB)
Arrives: 08/31/2011 at 10:31 P.M.

Yes, that’s 3 hours, 39 minutes of flying time over an 11-hour stretch. That is what you’re left with – let’s not even talk about the cost – when one books a flight the day before.

Of course, many people had it a WHOLE lot worse! For a mild for instance, my brother-in-law Dan and his family, about an hour south of us in Greene County, NY, lost a bunch of stuff in the basement. Getting around was difficult because the roads were either flooded or washed out altogether; the schools started a week late, as much because of the impassable roads as the damage to the buildings. Those of you who know upstate geography will appreciate this: the fastest way currently to get from Catskill to Oneonta is going through Albany.

I feel a little testy about the notion that NYC overprepared; it was a hurricane, FCOL!

And there will be more storms that travel further north, because of the warmer Atlantic waters.

I wonder if Irene’s name will be retired. “The only time that there is a change is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO…the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.”

Check out some Vermont devastation HERE and HERE and HERE, collected by long-time VT resident, and my buddy, Steve Bissette.

(And I won’t even get into the subsequent destruction of Tropical Storm Lee, which did damage from the Gulf Coast to upstate New York this past week, as this video from Binghamton, NY, my hometown, will attest.)

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

Take The Train to Charlotte

So, it’s Sunday morning when I’m writing this. I note it because, usually, I allow the magic of posting ahead of time give you the (false) impression that I get up every morning and write some purple prose. Actually, some days I write nothing, and others, such as this past Saturday, I might compose three.

I mention this because I may be offline for a while, not responding to comments, not visiting other blogs. Or not – I don’t know yet.

Friday, my sister Marcia called me at work. She said that our mom seemed fine that morning, took a shower and started getting dressed. Suddenly, she started complaining about a severe headache. She was screaming, like she did when she was in a car accident a few months ago. Marcia decided to take her to the doctor, but by the time they were trying to get ready, my mother had become listless. So my sister called an ambulance, and Mom went to the hospital.

It turned out Mom has a brain bleed. Apparently, this layman has discovered, there are two types of strokes: one in which the blood vessels are constricted and one in which a vessel can burst; my mother has the latter.

Some factors: my mom is 83 years old, with high blood pressure plus other medical issues, and possibly most significantly, does amazingly poorly with the various anesthesia she’s had in the past. So calling Dr. Derek Shepherd of Grey’s Anatomy to do some sort of surgery is not a high percentage option.

Marcia called me Saturday. Mom has developed a full-blown case of pneumonia, from a little spot on her lungs to much worse merely hours later. My sister Leslie flew into Charlotte, NC from San Diego, CA on Sunday, for an extended visit she had been anticipating doing for a while anyway.

I’ve decided to go to Charlotte, too. But taking the plane is not only expensive, it becomes more so because I don’t know when I can come back. I can book it for a week, but then I might need to change it and incur a $150 change fee; no, Southwest doesn’t fly to Charlotte. Moreover, the best deal on a flight from Albany, NY to Charlotte, NC goes through Detroit, MI, an airport I HATE, HATE, HATE. Going through Atlanta, GA is not much better. The one direct flight is way more expensive.

Most of all, I really have come to despise what now passes for air travel in America, where I get to toss my four-ounce bottle of shampoo because I could be a terrorist. (More ranting at another time.) It’s become a flying bus, and I’m just not fond.

That leaves taking the train. It’s 15 hours, and I’ll either have to leave Albany or get to Charlotte in the middle of the night. Still, I like the train. I like walking around on the train, going to the dining car and meeting people on the train. The train is civilized; the plane is a meat market. At some point, quite probably by the time you read this, I’ll be in Charlotte, and I don’t know for how long. Since there is no real round-trip ticket, the return is more flexible.

All of this to say that I’ll probably be posting every day for the next week or so, stuff already written, or perhaps not. I’m sure I’ll be blogging from Charlotte once I figure out what the situation is.

Fiddlin John Carson And His Virginia Reelers-Take The Train To Charlotte

30-Day Challenge: Day 27-A Picture Of Where You’re From

This was an arcane piece of information my late father once noted that I found inexplicably interesting.

A picture? I did a whole blogpost about my hometown of Binghamton, NY last year, and much more recently, a partial blogpost about Albany, NY, where I’ve been the last 30 years.

Well, all right:

When I was growing up, this was the post office in Binghamton. Now it’s the federal building.

Perhaps slightly before my time: it’s the house of the first Dutch governors, who resided in Albany.

This was an arcane piece of information my late father once noted that I found inexplicably interesting. Binghamton, NY is about in the middle of the state, east to west, but lies very close to the northern border of another state, Pennsylvania. To get to the state capital, Albany, you have to travel about 150 miles to the northeast (more like 140, but whatever).

Charlotte, NC, where my parents moved in 1974, and where I lived briefly in 1977, is about in the middle of the state, east to west, but lies very close to the northern border of another state, South Carolina. To get to the state capital, Raleigh, you have to travel about 150 miles to the northeast (more like 175, but close enough).