The Execution of Eric Garner by the NYPD

He didn’t want to be arrested, but he shouldn’t be dead.

It was hard to miss Eric Garner.  He was 6-4 and between 350 and 400 pounds.  He was hard to miss, but easy to kill.

Garner was protesting a NYPD officer’s attempt to arrest him for selling illegal cigarettes.  Several cops wrestled the father of six to the sidewalk as he yelled, “‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Get off of me, get off of me.”   Sgt. Daniel Pantelo applied an illegal choke hold on Garner who apparently suffered a heart attack and died.  The event was captured on video as the cops angrily ordered a man recording the assault on Garner to step away.

To serve and protect, huh?  Who protected Eric Garner from the NYPD.

I’m sure some apologist for the cops will say this was all Eric Garner’s fault. He had no business being a 400 lb diabetic with chronic asthma and resisting the po-po.

But mostly he had no damn business being so Black. That’s always a crime.

This story will fade from the headlines. My attention to it will not. I will await to see how justice handles a gross injustice.  On social media I’ve seen talk that Garner’s killing is simply another manifestation of life and death under the oppressive boot of an aggressive, militaristic police force that acts as an occupying force to keep the niggers, spics and poor White trash in their proper places.   Well, there may be some truth to that, but let me say this about the talk of Americans living in a “police state.”

The NYPD has a long and troubling history of police brutality, but there is a difference between police “brutality” and living in a police “state.”

In a true police state, Eric Garner would never be stopped by the authorities, accused of selling illegal cigarettes and die as an officer executes an illegal choke hold and executes him on the spot.

In a true police state, Mr. Garner would not be allowed out on the streets to freely roam as he likes. He would be stopped, compelled to produce his identification, state his business, and suffer detainment and incarceration should the authorities dislike his response.

This is not the reality of the situation. The reality is Black men being belligerent with White cops never ends well and when you’re big and scary-looking on top of being Black that simply compounds the drama.

People are looking for a devious, Machiavellian explanation for the sorry fate of Eric Garner when the age-old, obvious one explains it well enough

This is not a police state.

Unless these cops walk.

As they walked for Clifford Glover.

As they walked for Randolph Evans.

As they walked for Patrick Dorismond.

As they walked for Eleanor Bumpurs.

As they walked for Anthony Baez.

As they walked for Sean Bell.

As they walked for Amadou “41 Shots” Diallo.

THEN it’s a police state.

Garner was summarily executed on a New York sidewalk.

LeBron Proves You CAN Go Home Again.

I’m back. Get it?

It’s a good thing for both LeBron James personally and for the city of Cleveland specifically that after a bitter four-year estrangement, he’s coming back to the Cavaliers to try to finish what he started. It’s an even better thing for those of whom live in Ohio where this whole “is he or isn’t he” scenario has played out in real-time.

The way James handled The Return beat the hell out of the public relations fiasco that was The Decision. Everything about The Decision was overstated, overblown and a barely concealed flipping the middle finger to Northeast Ohio where James toiled seven years carrying a Cavaliers team mostly devoid of talent. Bitter feelings and bad karma abounded on both sides though Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert carried it too far with a poison pen letter soaked in Haterade that could be found on the team’s website as recently as a week ago.

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE

You can take it to the bank.

Not one of Gilbert’s non-James teams finished above .500. The bank stayed closed.

That letter has since been scrubbed from the Cavaliers website, but the Internet never forgets no matter how much Gilbert wishes it would.

LeBron’s words to Sports Illustrated (and quite noticeably not ESPN) were far more gracious in showing the grace, class and maturity he had developed in four years that were missing in Gilbert’s published temper tantrum.    If you haven’t read it you definitely should.   It’s pretty damned impressive reading.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

Michael Wilbon, who is from Chicago, said it well when he noted James has “Midwestern values” and he honestly LIKES living in Northern Ohio. James could live anywhere  on the planet. What’s so terrible about going back home?

When LeBron left four years ago and more importantly, HOW he left was awkward, clumsy and a hot mess of hype, bad juju and ugliness. He went out like a punk. I called him “LeGone” and meant every word of the contemptuous vitriol I spat his way.

But a funny thing happened over the last four years. My harsh feelings toward James disappeared. How he played on the court with the Heat and how he lived his life off the court with his family won me over. We never hear about James getting in trouble, being busted for drugs, shooting up strip clubs at 2:00 am, banging women coast to coast and dropping’ Little LeBrons all over the U.S.A. From all appearances, James is a solid, stable Family Guy who stays out of the headlines with all the usual non-sports related shenanigans.

Will the second time around be just dust in the wind for James?

As regards Dan Gilbert goes he was a total a-hole the way he handled LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. He spewed contempt for his lone superstar. But for all his bluster, Gilbert had to know how screwed he really was once James left town. He said they would win a championship before James did but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Check the Cavs record since the ’09-10 season.

09-10: 61-21 (James’ last year in Cleveland)
10-11: 19-63
11-12: 21-45 (lockout shortened season)
12-13: 33-49

If you were Dan Gilbert wouldn’t you pretty much kiss LeBron’s ass to get him back?

Dwayne Wade weighed in with his own thoughts on his former teammate’s return to the Buckeye State:

As a friend and a teammate, I am sad to see my brother LeBron leave to begin a new journey. In 2010, we decided to come together all for one goal — to win championships and we succeeded. We were friends when we first joined the league and created an unbreakable bond the past four years. Our collaboration will always be very special to me both personally and professionally. We shared something unique and he will always be part of my family. LeBron made the right decision for him and his family because home is where your heart is. I know this was not an easy decision to make and I support him in returning to his roots. As an organization, a community, and as individuals, we achieved the goals we set when we first signed on together. We are champions.

Washington Wizards v/s Miami Heat December 18,...

King James and D-Wade say goodbye to all that.

Classy, but then the Miami Heat is a class organization as other well wishes to Lebron from team owner Micky Arison and general manager Pat Riley have echoed Wade’s sentiments. When James returns to Miami in the future he knows he will hear the boos of the disappointed fans, but they will likely be drowned out by the applause of the grateful ones remembering the four consecutive championship appearances and two wins King James led the Heat to.

If Wade is ready to move on, why should I hate on LeBron for coming home to take care of unfinished business? Sure he may never win a championship with the Cavaliers, but it won’t be because he didn’t come back to try.

There are plenty of unlikable owners who own great teams. I am not going to boo the Cavs because their boss is a jerkwad. Plenty of us have worked for bosses who were bastards, but we did the job and cashed the check anyway. Why should we hold James to a higher standard then we do ourselves?

Let’s be honest here. James did what he thought was best for him and his family.  I know there are “fans” who honestly believe LeBron should have put their needs ahead of his own.   They need to set the alarm clock and wake the hell up.

Welcome Home King James.   Now can I get back to focusing on NFL football camps opening Friday?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the “Return of the King.” You got a problem with that?

 

The Supremes Swing to the Right

We’re The Supremes!

The Supreme Court handed down their last decisions dealing crippling blows to the reproductive rights of women and labor unions. Liberals are taking some small comfort in a blistering 35-page dissent by Justice Ginsburg’s but the reasoning of the losing minority of a Supreme Court decision matters only for a day or so and then it belongs to the legal scholars and history books.

The Hobby Lobby case got all the ink and headlines because it’s a horrible slap at women and their reproductive rights, but the conservative majority stuck it to labor unions too. If these two traditionally Democratic voting blocs still want to sit on their hands (and wallets) after the gut punches Roberts and company handed them, they deserve whatever dark plans the Republicans have in store in for both of them should they retake the Senate and hold the House.

While today’s pair of horrible decisions might seem like distinct issues, in fact they are both part of a larger war on women and workers.

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating.

The Harris case is specifically about home care workers in Illinois. Who are home care workers? Women. Poor women. Lots of African-Americans, lots of Latinos, lots of undocumented workers. Home care workers are a major emphasis for SEIU right now; a close friend of mine has spent over a decade on a campaign to organize them in one city alone. Harris threatens all of this. But moreover, it shows how little Alito and the boys care about rights for women wherever they are. It’s hardly coincidental that this case comes down the same day as the contraception mandate. The Court evidently believes that the home is not a workplace, but of course it is a workplace, especially if someone is getting paid to do work. That it is women working in the home, as it has always been, just makes it easier for conservatives to devalue that work.

Of course, it’s about more than just working women and it opens the door for Alito and Roberts’ continued desire to mandate the New Gilded Age, so no doubt we will see new challenges to public sector unionism that will probably reach the Court in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. I am not a legal expert, but my guess as to why Abood wasn’t overturned entirely is that there wasn’t 5 votes for it yet.

Regardless, both of today’s decisions are very much about keeping working women without power both on the job and at home.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“What? Me Retire?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, when we hear in 2016 that both parties are the same because of [insert pet issue here] and therefore vote for vanity third party candidate, let us remember this day and these decisions. If you think Strip Search Sammy Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the same, you might want to rethink your positions.

Indeed.

What matters most and in fact the only thing that matters to those disappointed, dismayed and disgusted with how the Court came down in these cases is Justice William Brennan‘s Rule of Five where Brennan would hold up five fingers to his clerks and say, ”Five votes can do anything around here.”

Brennan was a prophet and the Roberts Court is the proof of it.

From 1801 to 1940, less than 2 percent of the Supreme Court’s total rulings were resolved by 5-to-4 decisions. Since then, more than 16 percent of the Court’s rulings have been decided by “minimum-winning coalitions.” In the two most recent Courts, more than a fifth of all rulings were decided by 5-to-4 votes.

Scholars consider these narrow decisions the most political. Research indicates that 5-to-4 rulings are the most likely to be overturned by later Courts. They carry the same legal authority as more unanimous opinions — but not the same moral authority. In this vein, the one branch of government designed to be above partisanship echoes the rise in hyperpartisanship seen throughout Washington.

The Roberts Court has decided more cases by a 5-to-4 ruling (about 21.5 percent) than any Court before it, though only by a narrow margin. The previous Court, led by William Rehnquist, decided 20.5 percent of its cases by this minimum coalition. That rate, however, represents roughly twice the share of 5-to-4 rulings in the Stone Court, during World War II. And the Stone Court had more than three times the rate of 5-to-4 decisions of any Court prior.

Roberts noticed the trend early in his term. “I do think the rule of law is threatened by a steady term after term after term focus on 5-4 decisions,” Roberts told The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen in 2006. “I think the Court is ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t, it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution.”

Justice Ginsburg is 81. Stephen Breyer is 75. With the Court’s term over, the speculation will begin again will either one retire while President Obama and a Democratic majority are still in power? It’s doubtful for multiple reasons.

Neither Ginsburg or Breyer’s departure tips the Court’s ideological balance. But what if Antonin Scalia (78) or Clarence Thomas (66) were to get a sudden itch to go fishing’ or spend more time with their families? Or just leave the Supreme Court to try out for The View?

Okay. It’s not gonna happen. Scalia and Thomas will announce they’re secret lovers before ever they allow Obama to appoint their replacements.

But even if one of the Justices were to suffer an untimely demise, there’s no way a Republican-controlled Senate would allow Obama to tip the axis of power of the Court to the liberal minority.

This is the current membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think there is anyone Obama could nominate Al Franken and Ted Cruz would both vote for?

As far as Brennan’s Rule of Five goes this is a battle the Left lost years ago and it may take many years before they begin to win any.

But the last people I want to hear from are the smug elitists and professional cynics who say “there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.” Yeah, sure. Look at how the justices selected by Democratic and Republican presidents voted and tell me that one again.

Don’t tell me you’re appalled (or even surprised) by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority deciding corporations have more rights than women. Tell me what you’re going to DO about it. The first thing is to vote and keep the Senate in Democratic control. That is, unless you want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling President Obama whom he will allow to sit on the Supreme Court when a vacancy opens up.

"Me?  And justice?  Now THAT'S funny!'

“Me? And justice? Now THAT’S funny!’

Mississippi, Hot Damn!

Bad guy versus Worse Guy

There is a runoff election tonight in Mississippi in the race between incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, who is backed by the Tea Party and other right-wing activists.  Cochran has the support of the GOP establishment who prefer his bland predictability and being a good soldier to McDaniel’s radicalism which would make him a potential wild card and threat to Mitch McConnell’s plans if the Republicans take control of the Senate.

Nobody paid much attention to the race until McDaniel forced Cochran into a run-off in the primary.   Cochran is expected to go down in flames to the hard-charging McDaniel.   In an act of desperation, Cochran is pleading for Mississippi Democrats, especially Blacks to save his seat.  Republican are sending poll watchers to “observe” Democratic voters.

The only reason the Republicans are sending “poll watchers” is not to protect the integrity of the vote but to intimidate Black voters. On the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer where Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner lost their lives buried in the Mississippi mud, this is a repulsive act of Good Ol’ Fashioned Southern Racism.

Mississippi Goddam, anyone?

As regards Sen. Thad Cochran, if he isn’t isn’t cut from the same dirty cloth as James Eastland, John Stennis, Theodore Bilbo, Trent Lott and the other undistinguished gang of losers, idiots and bigots Mississippi keeps sending to the upper chamber in Washington, he’s only a more genteel and low profile version.

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Sena...

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Senate from Mississippi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

He’s been there a long time (36 years), is a committed supporter of pork barrel politics and has accumulated a horrid record on social issues.

Cochran is received an 11% rating from the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance, but that’s positively sparkling compared to his 0% rating by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record and 0% by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

Not that the challenger (and almost certainly the next U.S. Senator from Mississippi) is any sort of prize. In fact, McDaniel is even less appealing than Cochran.

McDaniel, who surprisingly led Cochran by 1,400 votes in the June 3 primary, has been able to mask how far right he really is. Investigative magazine Mother Jones in 2013 reported that McDaniel was featured speaker for a neo-confederate, pro-secessionist conference in Jones County where many attendees wore Confederate uniforms.

Last Saturday, The New York Times, which has sent two reporters to cover the runoff, interviewed Carl Ford, a 77-year-old lawyer in McDaniel’s hometown of Ellisville. A staunch McDaniel backer, Ford admitted being active in the county’s Sons of Confederate Veterans.

What The Times didn’t know is that Ford had been a Klan lawyer who in 1998 served as a defense attorney for the late Sam Bowers of Laurel. Bowers was Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. The White Knights was a Mississippi-born group which the FBI charged with plotting several brutal murders.

Bowers was three times prosecuted as the mastermind for violent racial crimes. A state jury in 1967 deadlocked by one vote on convicting Bowers for the firebomb slaying of respected Hattiesburg grocer Vernon Dahmer, an NAACP voting rights leader. Retried in 1998, with Ford on the defense team, Bowers was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Dahmer murder. Bowers died in prison in 2006.

I have no doubt a Tea Party prick like McDaniel will do his best to get that NAACP rating down to zero and make the dead and damned souls Stennis, Eastland and Bilbo smile on whatever rock in hell they’re squatting on.

If there were a way for both Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel to lose, the U.S. Senate would be better for it. It’s equal parts laughable and contemptible that Cochran is looking to Black Democrats to save his worthless old ass.

This is some real “the devil you know” shit.

If I were a voter in Mississippi tonight, I’d hold my nose, pull the lever for Cochran and tell any “poll watcher” to bacdafucup off me.

No matter who wins nothing good is coming the way for Black Mississippians from either of these two good old boys.

"Do I whistle 'Dixie?'  Why yes, I do.  Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)

“Do I whistle ‘Dixie?’ Why yes, I do. Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Is Free. That’s A Good Thing, Right?

Prisoner of war? Deserter? Both?

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009. Tonight he’s a free man.

Welcome back, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Members of the Taliban handed over the only U.S. service member known to be held hostage in Afghanistan on Saturday morning in exchange for five Afghan detainees. The deal, which the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years, was brokered by the government of Qatar. “Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” President Obama said in a statement, after he delivered the news to the soldier’s parents. “And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.” According to a senior Defense Department official, when Bergdahl was safely aboard a helicopter, he wrote the letters “SF?” on a paper plate, meaning “special forces?” A team member responded, “Yes. We’ve been looking for you for a long time,” at which point Bergdahl broke down in tears.

Not everyone is happy about how this deal happened. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mi) went on CNN to blast the Obama Administration for dealing with the Taliban.

“I’m extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists and agreed to swap five senior Taliban leaders who are responsible for the deaths of many Americans. This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”

House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-CA) and ranking Senate Armed Services Republican James Inhofe (R-OK) released a joint statement:

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”

“I’m a U.S. Senator, dammit! Respect my authority!”

And of course John McCain had something to say.

“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands. I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.”

Apparently the Obama Administration didn’t tell “senior Afghanistan officials” of the impending exchange and the New York Times reports the president may have done an end run around Congress which explains why Republicans are fuming so.

That, and of course they can’t abide the thought the Kenyan Socialist with no birth certificate has done it again.  If Obama walked on water, laid hands on the blind and lame and they could see and walk while feeding the masses with only some bread and fish, the Fox News headline would be “Obama Still Talkin’ that Income Inequality Crap, Can’t Swim.”

By now even Obama knows there is nothing he can do Republicans will give him any credit for and it is futile to go looking for any.

If Bergdahl’s release reminds the many there is a price only a few of us are paying for fighting this forgotten war and most of us don’t have to share in that cost that alone makes the deal worth it.  There’s been a lot of discussion about the current mess at the Veterans Administration that cost former General Eric Shinseki his job and not enough on how the system is being overwhelmed by the influx of new patients from the Iraq and decade-old Afghanistan wars.

The best way to avoid these sort of situations and the resultant schisms that come from them are not to play at war anymore and particularly not when you’re not going to go all-out to win. Haven’t we learned from Viet Nam what happens when the United States goes to war in places the American people don’t really want to be for reasons they don’t understand?

A lot of people die and not much of anything comes from it.

Prediction: Republicans will give Obama an earful for a week or so, but after their hissy-fit passes most Americans will give the president credit for not leaving Sgt. Bergdahl in the hands of the Taliban than worry about the five prisoners he was exchanged for.

Personally, I would have traded every prisoner at Gitmo to get one American soldier out. Set ‘em free now and kill ‘em all later if you must, but leave no man behind. Even one as problematic as Bergdahl.

the president and Bergdahl’s parents meet the press. Now the tough questions start.

 

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How Not To Talk About Mass Murder.

Welcome to the chalk outline. Mind the blood stains.

I’ve fed my inner right-winger pretty thoroughly with all this death penalty stuff, but along comes this month’s regularly scheduled mass shooting spree.  America averages a mass killing every two weeks which are different from shooting sprees.  By now, you already know more than you wanted to about the latest one as details about the killer (if not his victims) continue to flood out.

Here’s what I’m not going to do.  I’m not going to mention the shooter’s name.  I’m not going to watch his creepy video or read his even creepier “manifesto.”   I will the skip the armchair sleuthing for motives and amateur psychoanalysis for possible motives.  That’s the territory of the cable TV “experts” and I don’t want to horn in on their act.
This is the Internet.  You don’t need a blog to tell you more of what you already know.

This murderer was unknown to me a few days ago.  I will deny recognizing his existence a while longer.

I am confident the Bill of Rights is resilient enough to survive this latest “gutting” of it the NRA and gun fanatics fret over in much the same way it has every previous mass shooting in America. The organized stalwarts of the Second Amendment have been quite efficient in controlling the sort of conversations we the people have about mass murder and the use of firearms in these tragic, but all too common, events.

We seem to have fallen into an automatic response to these sort of things. First things first: let’s name the shooter, speculate on what his motives might be, (because it nearly always is a male).

Later we can get to the mundane little details like who our shooter killed in his rampage and much later we just might get around to what the efficacy and effectiveness is of using a gun when you absolutely positively want to kill a lot of human beings in as little time as possible.

This is how Americans deal with mass shooting events.

1. Speculate and theorize in the absence of facts.
2. Emphasize how terrible this is and how sympathetic we are to the wounded and the slain.
3. Do NOT bring up guns. It’s too soon.

Remember Columbine? Or would you rather forget?

If those three fast and easy rules to discussing mass shooting events are too much to remember, then remember this:

BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!

If you’re in some undemocratic country without a Bill of Rights like China reading this please translate this to read “Blame the stabber. Don’t blame the knives he stabbed people with!”

Me? I multitask. I BLAME THE SHOOTER. AND THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH TOO!

When it comes right down to it, I don’t care why these guys go off.   Their backgrounds and motives and reasons are only interesting as far as understanding their crimes.  But understanding why mass murderers commit murder doesn’t seem to be preventing or stopping them from murdering.  There are a lot of dudes just like this one who have poor self-image issues who can’t attract the ladies who don’t go out and slaughter innocents.  ALL and I do mean ALL of the attention is given over to the killer and his issues, motives sad feelings and staggering narcissism and days later we get a blurb or two about the victims.

It’s no wonder so many of these loners/losers lash out this way. At long last the world is finally paying attention to them. It shouldn’t.

We learn a lot about these killers. less about their victims and nothing about how to prevent the next mass killing.   We’ll be back here again and sooner, rather than later.

jaredloughner

Different names. Same kind of crazy.

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“Welcome to the 9/11 Memorial Museum(and Be Sure To Check Out the Gift Shop).”

Exit Through the Gift Shop? (photo credit: Sue Edelman)

Here’s Today’s Daily Outrage courtesy of the New York Post:

The museum at Ground Zero tells the dark story of the 9/11 terror attacks with spectacular artifacts and exhibits. It pays heart-wrenching tribute to the innocents and heroes killed that day.

It also has a gift shop.

The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.

“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” Diane Horning said.

She and husband Kurt never recovered the remains of their son Matthew, 26, a database administrator for Marsh & McLennan and an aspiring guitarist.

About 8,000 unidentified body parts are now stored out of sight in a “remains repository” at the museum’s underground home.

“Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant,” said Horning, who also objects to the museum cafe.

“I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.”

It’s easy to be reflexively angry when you don’t what it is exactly you’re angry about.

Is a gift shop in a 9/11 museum in bad taste? Gee, I don’t know. Does the snack bar ruffle some feathers too? Should there be no restrooms either because taking a leak there would be disrespectful?

It’s called the National September 11 Memorial Museum. It’s not just a 9/11 memorial. And you have to pay to get in ($24 admission for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids 7 to 17). Who’s going to do this? Tourists,  and New York City has a ton of those. Who else would want to buy a 9/11 Memorial hat or T-shirt or toy fire truck?

How many of the critics losing their minds over a $11.00 coffee mug have actually been in the museum? Perspective matters and getting all riled up over a gift shop nobody is forcing anyone to buy anything from without knowing how it fits into the larger picture is more than a tad premature.

English: Construction of the National Septembe...

English: Construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York magazine sent their architecture critic to visit the museum and here is part of what he saw:

In late May 2002, the place they still called ground zero had become an immense and pristine hole. Truckload after surreal truckload of mangled steel and ash and gruesome finds had been carted away, leaving a flat expanse of concrete and rock. One final column from the Twin Towers remained standing, a 36-foot totem of rusting steel emblazoned with cryptic notes, duct-taped snapshots, and a running tally of dead bodies. But even with the cleanup declared done, workers kept raking the floor with ordinary garden tools, hunting for some infinitesimal shard of human bone. Today, the floor, the column, and one of those rakes are reunited in the National September 11 Memorial Museum, a huge and spectacularly mournful institution in the bowels of the new World Trade Center.

For years, I have stayed away from reminders of 9/11 and the weeks that followed. The most exhaustively recorded cataclysm in history yielded fictionalized movies, documentaries, YouTube clips, eyewitness accounts, TV news reports, police-radio tapes, and endless documentation. I avoided it all. Instead, I remained focused on the drama of reconstruction, visiting the site many times to watch swarms of hard-hatted welders cauterizing the urban wound. I did, however, have an early preview of what a museum might be like a decade ago, when I visited Hangar 17 at JFK. There, crushed emergency vehicles, twisted girders, sections of the broadcasting antenna, half a dozen bikes still chained to a rack, and a lump of fused metal, concrete, paper, and glass were all laid out in an improvised architectural morgue. The last column was stretched out there, too, housed in its own dehumidified area. The hangar tour was draining, and, years later, the prospect of revisiting that archive of mass murder in its place of origin makes me fibrillate with dread.
The museum is buried in a crypt beneath the crime scene, but I enter through the silvery origami-like pavilion designed by Snøhetta, whose architects have anticipated some of its visitors’ more primal anxieties. Large windows look onto the memorial plaza, where the atmosphere is a mixture of reverence and casual cheer. Outside, kids take selfies with the names carved in bronze and the big shiny towers beyond. Inside, all is bright light and blond wood and soothing necessities like the coat check and bathrooms. A wide staircase descends into darkness; alongside it, a pair of tremendous steel arms reaches up into the light. This is the first trace we see of the ruined behemoths, two of the linked tridents that formed the towers’ gothic arches. Weathered but unbent, they thrust vertically past their new home’s weave of angled struts, mute reminders of the original buildings’ enormity. They also stand as signposts to the Stygian galleries below.

Flower at September 11 Memorial

Flower at September 11 Memorial (Photo credit: pamhule)

It’s not just craving for forgetfulness that slows my step, but skepticism, too. I wonder where the museum experience will fall on the spectrum from anodyne to brutal—whether disaster will morph into prurient multimedia entertainment or force visitors into a morbidly earnest trudge. Virtually every decision in this enterprise has been controversial: the underground location, the inscription from Virgil’s Aeneid (“No day shall erase you from the memory of time”), the ticket price ($24), the gift-shop souvenirs, the placement of unidentified human remains in an inaccessible chamber just off the museum’s main hall, the inclusion of terrorists’ photographs, the short film about the rise of Al Qaeda, and more. Given this swarm of sensitivities, will the museum fall back on pieties and pabulum? The more I think about the task of perpetuating the recollection of that day, the more doubts flock: How can a museum chronicle unsettled history, or interpret an event we don’t fully understand? How can an exhibit be meaningful to those who were showered in ash that day and also to children who have yet to be born? I think of that field of ravaged metal at JFK: How can those relics be installed in a museum without converting them into aesthetic objects, beautifully lit but stripped of violence and specificity?

Burdened by these musings, I walk down the long staircase into the minimalist Hades designed by Davis Brody Bond. I am greeted by a murmuring choir of recorded reminiscences from all over the world, reminding me that 9/11 was a global event. The dark floors and austere sarcophagal aura make me wistful for the light above, but the architects have taken care to lead visitors gently into the depths. Underground spaces can be disorienting, but this one comes into partial focus at the first overlook. Shock arrives in ripples of recognition. A ramp winds down toward the foundations, where the cut-off columns that held up the Twin Towers sit embedded in Manhattan schist. A pair of building-size boxes, containing the memorial’s waterfalls and coated with glistening aluminum foam, hang in the immense cavern like geometric stalactites. I have arrived at bedrock level, the floor of the concrete bathtub, separated from the Hudson River by a 70-foot-high section of “slurry wall” so brawny and raw that it could almost be a segment of the Hoover Dam. It’s here that the collapsing skyscrapers came to rest, here that the worker with the rake knelt and scraped. That great trench has become a vast vault, containing some of the nation’s most eloquent ruins. The tale that this museum has to tell is partly about dimensions—the inconceivable scale of murder, the size of the weapons, the targets’ bulk, the worldwide aftershocks. Doing it justice requires a lot of space. The biggest artifacts are back, and as I stare at all that crooked metal, thick girders bent by the force of a speeding plane, I find myself trying in vain to conjure up the extremes of violence that formed it. The last column is standing again, dwarfed just as it was when the hall was an open pit, only now a touchscreen allows visitors to zoom in to the scrawls and taped mementos and read a digital text label for each one. After all, a museum’s job is not just to preserve but also to explain.
Before anyone gets all hyped and bent out of shape over the presence of a gift shop (so you can show all the folks back home you went to the National September 11 Memorial Museum!) perhaps they would be better served to pay the ticket price, enter the exhibit hall, walk the floor, see the sights and weigh the significance vs the trivialization of the whole endeavor.   If people are unhappy now they may very well be the same ones who were unhappy when the idea of a 9/11 museum was first floated.

The next time we visit New York we will decide whether we want to go visit the museum.   I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for such a grim experience.

But if I find I am and I’m so inclined, maybe I’ll buy a $40 FDNY rescue dog vest. Or not.

For only $10.95 this lovely coffee cup can be all yours. Impress your friends!

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Is Michael Sam a Hero or a Hustler?

Michael Sam is in a spotlight he put on himself.

In the entire history of the NFL, there has never been a seventh round draft pick quite like Michael Sam.  His story is unique.  He inspires and he polarizes.   On his chiseled physique rests the hopes, dreams and aspirations of an untold number of LGBT Americans who may care nothing about pro football, but are pulling for the first openly gay player to make a team’s roster.

But the feel-good aspect of Sam’s story was sidetracked by the revelation that a reality TV program for the Oprah Winfrey Network was in the works.   NFL officials were aware of this before Sam was drafted in the last round by the St. Louis Rams, but none of the teams were told.   Would it have lessened Sam’s chances of being selected?   Without a doubt.

As a rookie, Sam stands to make a minimum salary of $420,000.  Excluded is a signing bonus and other contract bonuses negotiated between the player and club.   Sam’s contract can’t be renegotiated until after three years and he would not receive any salary until the regular season starts.  If Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster, he gets nothing but the bonus money.

If Sam were to play for the three years of the contract, his minimum salary would to $495,000 in the second year and $570,000 in the third.

Michael Sam (and friend) get the good news.

“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” said Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist and one of the show’s producers. “We’re going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn’t interfere with his primary goal.”

Bragman didn’t say how much Sam stands to make from the show, but you can bet it’s more than his rookie salary.

The pay range from the No. 1 pick to the last at No. 256 is more than $22 million.   Compared to Sam,  Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall selection of the Houston Texans will sign a $22 million contract, including a guaranteed $14 million signing bonus.   That last part is crucial because unlike the NBA or MLB, contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL.  If Sam bombs out at the first practice, that’s it.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey, the NFL and to a lesser extent, the Rams, are hopeful that isn’t the case and the Michael Sam shows ends before it barely gets started.   But there are no guarantees Sam will be on the team’s opening day roster.   As a borderline player who was not highly coveted despite his SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Sam is unlikely to find many other teams to latch on if the Rams cut him loose.

It is understandable why Sam would agree to the making of a reality show on his journey to the NFL.   Unless he make it in the league, his star will never shine brighter and burn hotter than it does now.   The time to maximize the Michael Sam Brand is now when the interest is there as well as the cameras and commercial endorsements.

What this does is shoot a hole in Sam’s assertions he wants to be known as just a football player and not any sort of celebrity.   Let’s be honest here.  If Sam wasn’t a gay man, there would be no story here.  He’d be just another guy taken in the last round of the NFL Draft trying to impress his coaches by winning a roster spot.

Making money while you’re trying to make a football team isn’t a bad thing, but there’s no way Sam can honestly claim he only wants to be regarded as just another guy.  He’s not.  He’s a celebrity and whether he makes the team there will be books, talk shows, and a ton more deals coming his way.

Sam’s representatives are making all the typical sounds of how this won’t become a distraction, but it already is.   Nothing about Sam leads me to believe he is stupid or naive and he’d have to be both not to know how this would look to the casual football fan who doesn’t care if Sam is gay, doesn’t mind if he kisses his boyfriend on camera, and only expects him to make plays and be about the team, not himself.

There is a strong conservative streak in the NFL.   When a straight player like Chris Kluwe made too much noise about gay rights, it was suggested by the front office that he should pipe down and when he didn’t, Kluwe was out of a job and out of the league.   If Sam becomes the go-to guy for what the gay athletes position is, it’s not going to be well-received in the locker room in St. Louis or NFL headquarters in New York.

While Sam deserved a shot and thought he should have been drafted higher, he pretty much went where he was supposed to go. Sam is a classic “tweener.” Not big enough to play on the line and not fast or intuitive enough to play linebacker. Even if he hadn’t been drafted there are reports he would have received invitations as an undrafted free agent from no less than four teams.

What Sam has said he wanted most was exactly what he got. He wanted to be treated like just another football player and nothing special.   It seems that wasn’t true now and while he’s still worth pulling for, his status as an underdog has given way to that of a savvy hustler, and that’s a little disappointing.   The burden is on him to prove he’s not just hype, but a change agent on the football field, not reality TV.

Michael Sam could be another Jackie Robinson, but if he doesn’t watch it he could end up as the next Tim Tebow.

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