Archive

July 12th, 2016

A tragedy beyond color

    Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Both statements must be made true if the heartbreaking loss of life in Dallas is to have any meaning.

    The killing spree that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded should be classified as an act of domestic terrorism. The shooter, identified as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, apparently believed he was committing an act of political violence. Our duty, to honor the fallen, is to ensure that Johnson's vile and cowardly act has the opposite impact from what he sought.

    Johnson, who was captured on video shooting one officer in the back, was killed when police, who had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate his surrender, sent a robot his way bearing an explosive device. Enough about him, except this one thing: He said he was motivated by hatred over the deaths of two more black men -- Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota -- at the hands of police.

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A Week From Hell

    Last week was yet another week that tore at the very fiber of our nation.

    After two videos emerged showing the gruesome killings of two black men by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a black man shot and killed five officers, and wounded nine more people, in a cowardly ambush at an otherwise peaceful protest. The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said, “He was upset about Black Lives Matter” and “about the recent police shootings” and “was upset at white people” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

    We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.

    There is so much loss and pain. There are so many families whose hearts hurt for a loved one needlessly taken, never to be embraced again.

    There is so much disintegrating trust, so much animosity stirring.

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The Clinton Contamination

    It says a lot about our relationship with Hillary Clinton that she seems well on her way to becoming Madam President because she’s not getting indicted.

    If she were still at the State Department, she could be getting fired for being, as the FBI director told Congress, “extremely careless” with top-secret information. Instead, she’s on a glide path to a big promotion.

    And that’s the corkscrew way things go with the Clintons, who are staying true to their reputation as the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of American politics. Their vast carelessness drags down everyone around them, but they persevere, and even thrive.

    In a mere 11 days, arrogant, selfish actions by the Clintons contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington — Barack Obama, James Comey and Loretta Lynch — and jeopardized the futures of Hillary’s most loyal aides.

    It’s quaint, looking back at her appointment as secretary of state, how Obama tried to get Hillary without the shadiness. (Which is what we all want, of course.)

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Officers killing, and dying, in a vicious circle

    Thursday's shooting of 12 police officers in Dallas suggests spiraling violence: The cops were shot during a protest against the shooting of black men by police. A vicious circle of retribution would be something new for the U.S. where, unlike in other developed countries, killings by police far outnumber officer deaths in the line of duty.

    The point that police kill more people in the U.S. than in European countries has often been made. It's intuitively understandable: American cops must deal with armed criminals more often because guns are more widely available, and the dominant culture is pro-gun, so people have less of a problem using weapons. For all that, however, relatively few officers get killed.

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A nightmare for black Americans

    Wednesday night I dreamed about my brother's death.

    He's alive, to be clear. Late 20s, in good health, has a great job, just moved states. He's fine - for now.

    The feeling of "for now" is new. I'm a black woman living in the United States of America, but I didn't grow up with a pervasive sense of fear. I was taught that things were getting better - they're always getting better. Look, we've moved past slavery, past Jim Crow. The civil rights movement worked!

    Thinking back, perhaps my parents - like all black parents - were less convinced than I was, and rightly so. Immigrants from Nigeria, a pharmacist and a nurse, they were middle-class professionals obsessed with our educations and far more interested in pushing us to get ahead rather than in looking back.

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July 9th

Confronting both nostalgia and amnesia

    The haunting U2 lyric, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for," captures what many Americans seem to feel about politics in 2016. And a lot of us are looking backward.

    Donald Trump's pledge to make our country great again captures the longing of some of his supporters for a time when our country was less diverse -- and when a less open global market created the circumstances for a large, well-paid working class.

    Trump doesn't talk about it, but incomes also rose because of a robust union movement. The era of labor power feeds nostalgia on the left for the glory days that ran from the 1940s through the 1960s when living wages underwrote strong families and upward mobility.

    The postwar era "was an extraordinarily good time to be a worker," says the historian Jefferson Cowie. "For the very first time in U.S. history, business, the government, and workers all accepted unions and collective bargaining as legitimate pillars of American working life."

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Why police shootings so outrage black America

    It has become leaden and disheartening, the series of tragic slayings of young black men by police. One can accept the statistics suggesting that the problem is not as bad as we think. One can buy entirely the existence of a "Ferguson effect" -- the idea that increased scrutiny of police actions has led to increases of violent crime in cities. One can concede that the far greater problem facing black America is the way our young men are killing one another.

    And yet, somehow, the incidents of police shootings weigh heavily upon the soul.

    The latest well-publicized shooting occurred in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, and came just days after white officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed a black man they were trying to arrest. In the latter incident, two separate bystander videos confirm that he was already pinned to the ground. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating.

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Why I refuse to share video of Alton Sterling's death

    Overnight, we learned the name Alton Sterling. Thanks to a graphic video, we've now seen his death at the hands of Baton Rouge police officers in a convenience store parking lot. Taken with a bystander's cellphone, the video shows Sterling being Tasered, thrown on a car and then on the ground, with police officers on top of him. It cuts away as multiple shots are heard, leaving Sterling's lifeless body on the ground.

    Sterling is one of 122 black Americans shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. He joins Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and many others who became hashtags and trending topics on social media soon after their deaths. And like many before him, Sterling's death can now be watched in graphic detail, shared constantly.

    In some ways, the video is helpful. It's the only record the public has seen of Sterling's death -- reportedly, the body cameras worn by the officers involved became dislodged as Sterling was restrained, and it has also been reported that police confiscated the security camera footage recorded by the convenience store.

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NATO can reduce threat of military escalation

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit starting Friday in Warsaw will probably lead to increased -- and unnecessary -- tension between NATO and Russia. Yet it may also yield good results: Acknowledging the increased hostility might make it possible for the two sides to ensure there are fewer dangerous incidents.

    The most imminent threat to NATO countries today has little to do with Russia. Rather, it's instability in the Middle East -- the chaos that has created the refugee crisis and spawned well-funded human-trafficking networks. This threat is killing people right now, in Syria and Iraq but also in the West, in terrorist attacks and in leaky boats on the Aegean Sea. Yet NATO is doing little to counter these threats. As an organization, it is not involved in operations against Islamic State, and though it's dispatched a maritime force to the Aegean, it's not playing a particularly active role there.

    Instead, NATO is finding it easy to leave behind the times when it had to "go out of area or out of business" and concentrate again on its Cold War-era goal of confronting Russia. That will be the central team of the Warsaw summit.

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Georgia doesn't have to endorse the KKK

    The Georgia Supreme Court handed a victory to the Ku Klux Klan in its quest to participate in the state's Adopt-A-Highway program. On a technicality, the court upheld a trial court finding that Georgia's decision to exclude a Klan chapter violated the group's free-speech rights.

    The High Court seemed to want to avoid deciding the core free-speech issue, which is too bad because it's an important one. The best reading of U.S. Supreme Court precedent would have allowed the state to block the Klan from participating. The government should be able to choose its partners when it's essentially selling a state endorsement to civic groups for a fee.

    Georgia's highway project works like similar programs in many other states. The Department of Transportation invites volunteers to remove litter along stretches of state and federal highway. The program is open to organizations, businesses, families, or other civic groups. In exchange for agreeing to adopt a stretch of roadway, the group gets a sign -- approved by the department -- stating that the section is being kept clean by the named group.

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