Matt & Sweat, and derecho anniversary

The Wife went to college in the North Country, and taught school in the midst of the Adirondack mountains.

matt_sweatOnce upon a time, I used to complained that The Wife did not follow the news enough, mostly because events I thought were commonly known, she was unaware of. She does pay more attention now, checking out 5 minutes of the NPR news each weekday morning, plus catching news at other times of the day.

There was one recent story for which she definitely took notice, which was two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, breaking out of prison, the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora in (WAY) upstate New York on June 6. Truth is that it would have been very difficult to have avoided, with the local cable news station using special dramatic music frequently while the men were loose.

The prison break ended with Matt being shot and killed, and a few days later, on June 28, Sweat being shot but captured alive. It was such a great soap opera that people were casting characters for what seems to be an inevitable TV movie. Some folks were sad that the situation ended. The Wife was NOT one of those people, and she was a bit bummed that Sweat was brought to Albany Medical Center, only a couple miles from our home, for treatment.

She seemed to relate to the vastness of northern New York. She went to college in the North Country and taught school in the midst of the Adirondack mountains. Part of her interest was her concern for those isolated folks in their homes and summer cabins, some of the latter of which Matt and Sweat did break into.

That said, she was bemused by the saga, which involved one prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, who was apparently romantically involved with one or both of the prisoners, procuring tools for the breakout. Mitchell put them in some ground beef, froze it, and then gave the meat to another prison worker to give to the felons. Both employees have been indicted.

True: the Daughter knows more about this case than either my wife OR myself.
I should also note that this is the 20th anniversary of a derecho that started in the Midwest and eventually struck the Adirondacks and Albany. A derecho is “a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.” Those 70+ mph winds rattled the windows and woke us both from a sound sleep a little before 7 a.m.

It tore up some trees in nearby Washington Park. But a member of our church had dozens of broken bones when a tree fell on her up in the aforementioned Adirondacks.
Happy birthday to my bride. I love you.

Ununited States

These first person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people,

purplemapJaquandor asks:

How do we solve the police brutality problem? To what extent is it a part of a larger problem with our society, indicating a deep and abiding devotion to punitive violence? I see police brutality as another facet of the problem that leads to our awful prisons and our enormous prison population.

First, I need to note the killing of two New York City police officers on December 20. It was correctly described as an assassination, and I mourn their deaths.

At the same time, I believe the remarks of Rudy Guiliani, blaming their deaths on President Obama as amazingly irresponsible, as well as untrue. The problem of excessive force by the police exists in a small, but a significant number of cases. And it’s not “anti-police” when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who is white but married to a black woman, instructs his children, and especially his son with the great ‘fro, in specific ways to cautiously and politely deal with the police.

Others, including former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had some legal problems of his own a while back, suggested that the shootings were ultimately encouraged by de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and that “they have blood on their hands.” He told Newsmax: “The people who encouraged these protests — you had peaceful protesters who were screaming ‘kill the cops’ — the so-called peaceful protesters. Who was encouraging these protesters? De Blasio, Sharpton, and other elected officials and community leaders. They encouraged this mentality. They encouraged this behavior.”

Anyone who has ever been to a protest – I have attended more than a few in my time – knows that there are occasionally outliers at these events, people whose positions don’t jibe with the organizers’ intents. So would it be better that such Constitutionally-protected demonstrations be quashed?

That, BTW, was what the Tea Party folks said when a couple people killed two Las Vegas police officers in June 2014, that those cop killers, who had rallied with Cliven Bundy, along with people who POINTED GUNS at law enforcement officials, did not represent the movement.

Jon Stewart got it right when he said one can grieve the loss AND worry about the police overreach; they are NOT mutually exclusive.

To the question: I should note that not all of the excessive violence is directed toward young black males. For instance, the TX SWAT team beats, deafens nude man in his own home, lies about arrest; judge declines to punish cops or DA. There seems to be a need by some police to quash all possibly illicit behavior. If Eric Garner WERE selling individual cigarettes in Staten Island, it certainly wasn’t a felony.

I’m not sure of the cause of ALL the violence. I once posited on someone’s website the theory that these first-person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people, but was told by gaming experts that there’s “no relationship.” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve wondered about this at least since Vietnam when one could drop the precision bombs without having any discernible understanding. And now war can really tidy, with people in the middle of the US dropping bombs on people half a world away; looks very much like a video game to me.

I AM convinced that the tremendous rise in the prison population, mostly for non-violent drug use, which I wrote about extensively, is a major contributor. Prison is, I’ve been told, a great school for becoming a better criminal.

Surely the militarism of the police, with all that post-9/11 money doled about by the federal government has led to a war zone mentality. But even in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military had a plan of engaging with the communities, whereas in the urban centers of the US, some of the residents feel like the police are an occupying force.

Maybe all the things that keep us disconnected from our surroundings – surburbia, synthetic food, our personal electronic devices, the bile that comes from commenting anonymously on social media – matter. SOMETHING is fueling a general rage – road rage, online rage.

Bottom line, though: the anger in the community is not just that there are excessive uses of force. The problem is that there appears to be lack of accountability for the actions. I’ve heard the body cameras for police will be a solution. But there WAS footage of Eric Garner dying. Police video would have not likely change the “no indictment” outcome. Did you see that the Ferguson prosecutor allowed witnesses that were “clearly not telling the truth” to the grand jury?

It may be that guns make police less safe, their jobs more difficult and communities less trusting. Or maybe it’s just the human condition.

This is a long way of saying, “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.”

Uthaclena wonders:

Okay, here’s one of my ponders: can the United States survive as a united entity? SHOULD it be a united entity, or would it be better off broken up so that the racist, theocratic barbarians can abuse themselves and leave the rest of us alone?

There are lots of precedents in the 20th century suggesting that this is a terrible idea. The creation of the state of Israel did not lead to peace in the Middle East. I learned from watching the Sanjay Gupta episode of the PBS series Finding Your Roots when the subcontinent was divided in 1947, there was massive dislocation, with millions moving to Hindu India or Muslim Pakistan, needing to abandon their historic homelands; moreover over a million people were killed in clashes. The eastward shift of Poland after World War II was also a hardship for about a third of the country.

How would this work anyway? The redneck in rural Pennsylvania or downtown Cincinnati moves to Alabama or Utah? That flaming liberal in Austin, Texas goes to New York City? Where do you put purplish states such as Iowa and Colorado?
How would the infrastructure be organized? Will I need a passport to visit the Grand Canyon? How do you split the federal government and its various jurisdictions?

More basically, the whole bloody Civil War was fought, in part, to keep the Union intact; the splinter would make that sacrifice in vain. Moreover, Lincoln’s rationale for not allowing the breakup of the Union is that there was no mechanism in the Constitution to do so; ipso facto, it ought not to be done.

In any case, I don’t think people are that binary. Sure there are your “racist, theocratic barbarians”, but most of the rest of us are in the spectrum. And subtle racism shows up in the mainstream media, which many people buy into. I noticed this piece on 60 Minutes how Tom Coburn (R-OK) got along with Barack Obama (D-IL) when they were both freshman Senators in 2005, and even enacted legislation together where they could find common ground.

Just not feeling this divided nation thing.

Then Dan Van Riper jumps in:

Well, I’ll ask a more pointed version of Uthaclena’s question. With all this subtle propaganda from above calling for the USA to break up, do you think that the United States will survive intact as a nation by the end of this decade? (I suspect not, and I hope I’m very wrong.)

Let’s look at the people who could actually pull off this coup. I mean other than the 99% if they could get their act together.

1) The armed forces. I suppose they COULD be mobilized if they were conned into thinking that it was for the greater patriotic good. But it’s not like the Egyptian army, an entity unto itself, that could make or break the government.

2) The police. Too decentralized. Not like the corrupt Mexican police. Although it COULD happen in a few places, despite efforts by the brass. And I’m really unsettled by the recent US Supreme Court ruling that police officers are permitted to violate American citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights if the violation results from a “reasonable” mistake about the law on the part of the police.

3) Some right-wing coalition. It is true that there are more hate groups under Barack Obama than ever, that there are 41 states that have an active chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, and that there are anti-government types such as alleged cop-killer Eric Frein out there. Can they work some loose affiliation with the Clive Bundy supporters and disrupt things? Maybe.

My feeling, though, is that at least some of these groups will dissipate somewhat when Obama leaves office because the myth of the terrible black Kenyan sticking it to the white man won’t be sustainable anymore.

Felony disenfranchisement: keeping the ballot away

The prison population has grown fourfold in the past four decades, while the nation’s population has increased by less than 50% in that period.

felonvotingThe Significant Other of a good friend of mine wrote on Facebook:

I think that Felony Disenfranchisement should be kept in place forever. Our Supreme Court ruled the that the 14th Amendment gives all states the right for deny ex-convicts to vote..To put it simply “” If you broke our laws and were not able to follow our laws”,,””I for one ,,do not want to give you the “”right”” to elect those who make our laws “GET IT” ????

I was sorely tempted to let it go, but there was something about “GET IT” ????” that just pushed a button.

I replied: “That notion suggests that there is no forgiveness, no chance at redemption. Current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society, essentially facilitating recidivism. I TOTALLY disagree.”

Specifically, there are several reasons why disenfranchising felons who have served their time is a very bad idea:

The United States, while slow to embrace a more universal suffrage, nevertheless has a history of correcting the limits on the vote. The 15th Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Amendment 24: notes that voting “shall not be denied or abridged.. by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” Of course, the 19th Amendment allowed women the right to vote, and the 26th, the right for 18-year-olds.

There are mountains of data that confirm that conviction and sentencing people for the same crime is influenced by class/wealth, and yes, race and ethnicity. If Person A gets off with a misdemeanor, and Person B is slammed with a felony, that’s hardly equal protection under the law. To further the injustice after prison is piling on.

It is also well-documented that the United States has far more people in prison than any country in the world, far more than when Richardson v. Ramirez (1974) was decided in the SCOTUS. The prison population has grown fourfold in the past four decades, while the nation’s population has increased by less than 50% in that period.

And why is that? Could it be the over policing of America, where your daily actions are being incrementally criminalized?

Those convicted of crimes often come back to a community where it is difficult to reintegrate into society. Denying people the right to vote further isolates those individuals.

Finally, and I bring this up because the individual I quoted above has often pointed to a personal Christian faith, it seems counterintuitive to me that if Jesus forgave our sins that we not forgive the sins of others.

April Rambling: Buy the niece’s new album, and end Daylight Saving Time

“Your attention to detail often makes you isolated and aloof, but your heart is also deeply passionate and romantic.”

New album from Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact the debut release from San Diego-based eclectic soul/funk band. RJ is my niece, my sister Leslie’s daughter.
From NBC San Diego: “Not everything on April Fool’s Day was a joke. Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact released their self-titled debut and it’s no laughing matter. Channeling everyone from Candi Staton and Betty Davis to Morcheeba and Brightback Morning Light, these 12 tracks of soul and funk are stunners. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”
Another review.
In this picture, she’s the one in the blue dress.

After watching this video, I’m even more convinced than I was before: Daylight Saving Time is a waste of time. Having tried to schedule a phone call from the UK at a point when the US is in DST and the UK has NOT yet moved to British Summer Time, I know of which the speaker is talking about.

Everything wrong with the US prison system in under 4 minutes.

That dreadful US Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC has made buying politicians so much easier. If the case confuses you check out this video. Definitely watch the cartoon United States of John Roberts.

There are more ways to arrange a deck of cards than atoms on Earth!

Former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville was caught Shoveling Snow While Black, at his own residence.

We are all just stories in the end. Yes, I’m the Roger mentioned therein.

Leave me alone, but not now. I’m convinced that MOST of us are like this; certainly, I am.

Dustbury pointed me to this: I didn’t willfully start out forgetting you. It was something that just happened, an occurrence that took place over time, little by little…

Melanie: People who heal. Also, Knowledge comes from what you add, wisdom from what you remove.

Two moments, one sister.

Evanier on Advocating for your family at the hospital, plus a follow-up. Plus his Tales of My Grandmother.

Animation: Johnny Cash on gospel music.

Tosy’s ranking U2 songs: 100-91.

The J.D. Salinger of Sick Songs, Tom Lehrer. More Lehrer.

Jack Nicholson’s descent into homicidal madness re-cut into uplifting family film trailer.

Microsoft released a video on the story behind their “Bliss” default desktop photo for its Windows XP operating system, for which it is no longer providing technical support.

Less interested in the comic book review that the reference to the New York World’s Fair, which I attended, though not until 1965.

In one of those Facebook memes: “I’m Picard: Few are smarter and more reliable, but that doesn’t mean you’re bad in a fight. You surround yourself with great people, but maintain a strong devotion to the chain of command. You’re fiercely loyal to your friends and family, but never had time to start one yourself. In the minus column…you can be a touch boring.” And speaking of which: Picard’s tea. Also, Trek-lit reading order.

I’m also Led Zeppelin: “You’re an overachiever and a perfectionist. You work hard at what you do, and it shows. Your attention to detail often makes you isolated and aloof, but your heart is also deeply passionate and romantic. If you continue to refine your skills, you’ll eventually become one of the greatest ever in your chosen field.” Third sentence is almost certainly correct.

The Gandy Dancers.

An Aesop fable comes true.

Great newspaper headline, with proper grammar.

14 Arcane words every freelancer should use.

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 21 and Chapter 22 and Chapter 23. TG this ends soon…

Because Muppet Outtakes Are the Best Outtakes. Also, I remember this Jim Henson AmEx commercial.

Kids react to technology: rotary phones and Walkmans.

Judgmental city maps.

For Kibler [Arkansas] Police Chief Roger Green, “providing law enforcement to the Crawford County town is not much different than policing larger cities.”

V is for a Virginia Slave Law

Based on the age of Blair Underwood’s ancestor, and the age of the slaves, it was believed that the slaves were likely his parents or other relatives.

The one television program the Daughter and I watch together is an NBC show called Who Do You Think You Are? It involves stars looking back at their genealogy. An episode we saw recently featured actor Blair Underwood, which I hope you can find here or here or here at the third notch 21 minutes in, with him walking down the steps.

What Underwood discovers is that one of his ancestors at the end of the 18th century, Samuel Scott, actually owns property in Virginia. He is distressed, though, to discover that Scott also owns two slaves! Well, until the researcher he is with explains to him the Virginia Slave Law of 1806 [Shepherd, Statutes at Large, III, 252; passed January 25, 1806]: “The General Assembly moved to remove the free Negro population from Virginia with a law that stated that all emancipated slaves, freed after May 1, 1806, who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year, would forfeit his right to freedom and be sold by the Overseers of the Poor for the benefit of the parish. Families wishing to stay were to petition the legislature through the local county court.”

This was known as a manumission law by which someone who was a free black could be enslaved, or re-enslaved. Based on the age of Scott, the ancestor, and the age of the slaves, it was believed that the slaves were likely his parents or other relatives, protected by the “peculiar institution” rather than being forced to leave the state, or worse.
It appears that modern-day Virginia is now involved with a new Jim Crow attitude:

Virginia knows it has DNA evidence that may prove the innocence of dozens of men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Men just like [Bennett] Barbour. So why won’t the state say who they are?

“Bennett Barbour was convicted in 1978 of a rape he didn’t commit…The Commonwealth of Virginia learned that Bennett Barbour was innocent nearly two years ago when DNA testing cleared him of the crime. Virginia authorities, however, never informed Barbour of his innocence.” An irritating story.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

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