Friday, April 24, 2015

The Ferguson Syndrome is a test to the founding fathers construction of the United States

To preface the following remarks is to say that I think I'm pretty typical.  If placed in the bell curve of the rest of Americans understanding and feelings about the world I think I'd fall in  about the middle with the rest of the 66%.  On the edges are the Obama's, Sharpton's and Clinton's views while on the other edge are the Hannity's, Bushes,  Kennedy's and Savage's.   Thus I think my take on the events of Ferguson Missouri is probably pretty much the same as most people.

There are some events in the world that on the face of it don't seem so significate.  Like the assignation of Duke Ferdinand.  Country leaders are getting murdered all the time.  Look at our own number of presidents killed in office.  But Ferdinand's killing set off a World War.  Hopefully Ferguson won't be that bad.

On the face of it the killing of a black man by a white police officer doesn't seem so significate either.  Even despite the color contrast police shoot criminals all the time.   But look at the aftermath of this particular incident.   Law enforcement around the states now have a heightened sense of prudence.  This isn't that they have been doing anything particularly wrong it is now they have a greater sensitivity to the public perception of their law keeping.  That in of itself is not a bad thing.  

I think that even without the fanning of the racial flames of the Afro-Americans in Ferguson that this greater effort on the part of police to act correctly would have been an outcome of the Ferguson shooting anyway.  From a distance, watching the Ferguson event unravel on television and reading about it on blogs and news outlets I wondered how was all this going to play out.

I called it a syndrome because of the components of the sad event came together in such a way as to be indicative of a disease.  This specific disorder stems from a number of entwined factors that if brought together again will result in the same outcome.  Let me detail the factors as I see them for the Ferguson event.

  1. Setting the stage.
  2. The trigger event.
  3. Community reaction to the event.
  4. Government reaction to the event.
  5. External to Ferguson reaction after the event.

Setting the stage was years in development.  I don't have Ferguson's arrest records; but it goes with saying that a predominant black community (66%) is going to have black people arrested for crime more than white people.  People will say that having a police force of mostly whites does not help the situation.  In this day and age, regardless of what the Eric Holders and Al Sharptons will tell you that I don't think that is so.   Here is my reasoning.  I am going to try and resist interjecting solutions in this piece.  What I'm striving for is understanding.

  1. Police officers regardless of color do not hire on to fulfill some sort of racial agenda.  The first day on the job they don't say to themselves, "I'm really looking forward to stomping some minorities today."  They come on to the job with the desire to uphold the law and maintain order.  Yet police are people too.  They get wore down, become callused with dealing with disrespect and law breaking over and over.  Not only disrespect to them but to others in the community and to property as well.  It doesn't matter their ethnicity.  I think that a black policeman if their background is similar to the community they serve may come to the fed up point a little later than their white counterparts.  But, they will get to that point. 

  1. Part of the stage being set are those things that they don't have direct control over.  A place like Ferguson is time worn.  I have driven through towns similar to Ferguson that I haven't been to before and commented this is an old place.  I see houses with siding needing paint.  I see lawns that need mowed; I see yards that need lawns and the typical joke of broken down cars on blocks in the front yard is not some much a joke as partly true.  There are several reasons for this.  Foremost is the area, meaning the people, are economically depressed.   This is mostly not their fault.  If they don't have money for grass seed and still eat then they don't have grass.  If they have grass and not money for gas for the lawn mower if they even have a lawn mower then the lawn doesn't get cut.  This is mostly not their fault it's systemic of the country and their area in particular.  Secondly is they are unhappy, sad, depressed or some variant of that because they barely make ends meet and they don't even know it.   This sadness breeds apathy.  Okay, the yard can't have grass but does that mean it has to have paper plates, potato chip bags, beer/coke bottles, broken furniture and cars up on blocks in it?  Of course not.  Yet when people get into that kind of condition they lose spirit.  They simply don't care how their home looks; there are greater concerns to put their attention too.  On the whole of it, this setting wears down the populace of Ferguson setting  up an unhappy mood over all and because of that it doesn't take very much to flare that mood into anger and physical acting out.   They are frustrated because of their lack of control over their circumstance thus it doesn't take a lot for them to project their woes or lay blame on the police, the state and the country as a whole. 

All it takes is a trigger event to surface all this pent up frustration by the majority of the people in Ferguson.  It doesn't have to a huge event like the shooting of Michael Brown.  In Los Angeles the Watts riots was because of a beating of a black man, Rodney King, by police.  In Ferguson it was a fatality shooting unfortunately for Brown. 

The community of Ferguson's initial reaction to this event was outrage.  I wouldn't add disbelief because to the black population of Ferguson it was all to believable.  Then as tugging on a ball of twine the situation begins to unravel.  People took to the streets with accusations that the police abuse their authority.  They did not have any clear picture of what expired except a young dead black man lied in the street for four hours before being removed.    Aside of the fist waving and yelling it wasn't till until the governments, state and federal got involved that Ferguson really started going sideways. 

Look at the government reaction.  Here are some reactions that adversely affected the people already upset in Ferguson and many in the rest of the world.

  1. The Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri vows to prosecute the officer.  He says this within hours of the shooting.  
  2. The Department of Justice swears to investigate the Police department because if it's complexion and the police officer swearing to get full weight of the law brought forth on to them.
  3. The President of the United States makes parallel comparisons to Jim Crow law of the late 1800's and how the racial divide in the U.S.  is as bad if not worst than it's ever been.
  4. Prominent black leaders descend on the Ferguson community and from the podium and pulpit literally scream hate speech driving a greater wedge between black and white people. 

Few are heard that call for patience and reason over the din of those mentioned above.   This sets the ground work for more upsetting events like the black man that died of a heart attack in New York at the hands of police that brought about the murder of two New York policemen in their patrol car.

Who is hurt in all this?  There is direct and indirect consequences.  First the direct effect, the city of Ferguson is torn up.  The area that is torn up is the area that can least afford to be damaged.  Infrastructure, streets, poles, electrical service  and property are damaged and in that process looting and damaging of local businesses that are of small owners that live and serve the community.  Many are permanently put out of business.   Ferguson will never recover fully from the mayhem.   Yet, those like Al Sharpton go away back to their home states and affluent neighborhoods with the idea of the good they did for those poor folk down in Ferguson.   They added to the syndrome like the festering of a wound treated with dirty hands.  The indirect consequences are far reaching as other communities are sensitized to perceived wrong doing by authorities.  Flaring up of smoldering racial hatreds like the one that brought about the murder of the two New York policemen. 

Yet for all that our system is so well built by the founders of our country that we can and do prevail with the rule of law.  In the end the truth is known.  Michael Brown was a criminal and likely due to his size and personality would have done harm to the policeman if he could have.   Both the Grand Jury and eventually the Department of Justice vindicated the policeman's action.   The rule of law carries the day despite the ill wishes of people in power that want it otherwise. 

In times past in other countries rulers, kings, dictators and the like established a rule of law to control the people.  In the United States we have a rule of law that controls the President, Congress and Courts and all the rest of us so that the people as a whole cannot be abused.   Our leaders power stems from upholding the rule of law not the other way around.   The Ferguson event is test of that concept and bears witness to the granite foundation our countries government is set upon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A repost from Hall's Perspective - Is the System really Broken?

In a word, No.  Our countries framing fathers, as astute as they were about the human condition, could not have fathomed the complexity of the country their form of government would have to manage.   Yet, in their own time they realized what was good about some components of government modeled on the British should be maintained like the court system and other aspects such as having a monarch was detrimental to the overall condition of man.  The Bible backs that up and their having lived under a King confirmed it.   Thus knowing that the country needed a executive to take the country into the future there had to a means of controlling the office when persons like Presidents Taft, Polk, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Obama held and hold the positon.   Then, of course, would be the tug-of-war between the two.  So, the third arm of the judiciary was put into place principally to protect the construction of the constitution.   Then rulings by the Supreme court are done in light of what the constitution permits. 

All that in its simplistic description has turned out to be the best form of government in the recorded history of mankind.   Even still, as well put together as it is the founding fathers put off and delayed for later generations problems they knew they could not address and put in place our present form of government.    The principal one of the time was slavery.   Second, was monetary with the funding of the government.   Even then money talked; the congress voted to assume the revolutionary war debts of the states which the states were eager to go along with and that strengthened the federal government in the process.  Yet, with the tit for tat between the federal government and states rights our form of government bounced precariously along until the civil war.  After that, the federal government reigned supreme.  Fortunately our construction of government was still controlled by representatives of the people.   As to the party system, an old saying is birds of a feather flock together. 

George Washington was the first and last of the no party presidents.  Since then everyone has aligned themselves along with one set of ideals or another according to how the party platform was framed.    Issues of concern were things like shall there be a national bank, paper money be allowed and if a runaway slave should be returned to the owner if caught, should Texas be annexed and if Missouri should be a slave state or not.   Later, it was how long ought to be a work day and how old a child has to be to be worked, what's a fair wage.   Now is can gay people marry,  can we lay a pipe across the country, should Iran have a nuclear bomb,  are women allowed to abort an unwanted child whenever they want to.  People come down on both sides of these with a degree of passion that rivals the near beating to death of Senator Sumter with a walking cane by a congressman that thought he was righting an insult Sumter committed in a senate speech vilifying the congressman's relative. 

As we flock to our party and cast our vote we really cross our fingers and hope that the people we put in office are true to their word as to being like minded with us.   As a democratic republic, we place these people in place to create laws and vote in a manner that is good for the country as a whole and our state, district and us personally.  We trust them to acquaint themselves with the particulars of what they do vote on and some times we have to realize that they have more information in hand that may preclude what we feel about something.   You would think the days are gone of politicians telling one group from the back of the train platform one thing and another group something else.  For instance, telling southern California growers you will funnel water from the delta to their fields and then go to Sacramento in northern California and tell them no way would you ever siphon off water to southern California.   The situation is politicians still do that and even though we can put sound bits next to each other and hear for ourselves the disparage between them the people still get voted into office.   Why is that? 

Jesus said, "Ye, who is without sin cast the first stone".  For the most part people try and overcome their baser selves, live by the golden rule, be truthful and have integrity and we would love to see those people we put into political office be better than we are in those regards to being selfless and grasp for the greater good.  Many are that way, they are quietly working almost in the background oiling the bearings of the government keeping it running smoothly sweeping away as they can the gravel people like Al Sharpton throws into the works.  A few of them percolate to the surface and become a lightening rod for their parties platform.   Presidents have pitted themselves against congress over and over throughout the centuries.  Andrew Johnson only avoided getting thrown out of office by one senator vote for breaking a law enacted by congress to hamper him.  As you study the presidents the most successful and endearing presidents  with their party, the people as a whole and reported favorably by historians are the presidents that worked closely with congress.  They rarely got their hands slapped by the Supreme Court for over reaching their constitutional authority.  

Do you suppose the people that voted for the past few governors of Illinois that are and have been in prison said as they cast their ballot, "I'm sure he can do a lot of good for us before he gets caught and jailed."  I suggest not.  Would you feel bad or feel you wasted your vote on a crook, a deceiver, a man feathering his own nest or those of his cronies?  If not, it isn't because you're bad, but that you didn't know all you needed to and trusted the party to put the right fellow before you.   This is the same for both major parties. 

Our system isn't broken, just the opposite.  It works excellent.  It is malleable, we let things bad things happen, true, but we do it at the ballot box which is the same place we can go to correct it.   This current administration in the white house is treating the system  like Stretch Armstrong trying to see where the limits are.  The system won't break.  Congress hasn't been as dutiful as they ought to have been to reign in the executive branch, the Supreme court has tried but has no enforcement arm and relies of the executive branch to enforce the law.  This is not the first president to thumb his nose at the Supreme court and congress and probably won't be the last.  Regardless of who is elected in 2016 is unlikely they can do anymore harm to the country than has already been done.  But, if Iran gets an atomic bomb we might have rethink that.  

Transparent and Accountable

Excerpt from the Dems Platform:
21st Century Government: Transparent and Accountable

President Obama and the Democrats are committed to rethinking, reforming, and remaking our government so that it can meet the challenges of our time.

I had started out commenting on the whole paragraph and ended up with the following addressing only the first sentence of that heading copied from the DNC platform.

  1. This is probably one of the truest statements made because the Democrats led by President Obama has on the past six years nearly fulfilled their promise to rethink, reform and remake our government. That problem is that this makeover of the government has not helped many and hurt more.

  1. Rethinking is true.  Not new thinking; but pretty much a rehash of the LBJ and Nixon mindset. Establishing enemies list to sic the IRS and Justice department on to and a backdoor intrusion on our right to privacy with monitoring by the NSA.

  1. Reforming:  Reforming is a natural process with the moving in of any new administration.  They throw out the previous cabinet and form a new one.  There is a layer of bureaucrats I call the spoils layer that lays over the top of all government agencies that each and every party hands out to the loyal participants of the election process.  That is okay, expected and accepted.  It is also the reason that IRS, NSA, the Justice department, Department of the Interior and so on can circumvent the law and in the end literally get people killed like Fast and Furious and Benghazi because they think like Obama and know there is no penalty.  

  1. Remaking:  Out government does not need remaking. Our system isn't broken.  See, my post "Is the System really broken?" However, true to their word Obama and his insiders are remaking the government and not in a good way.  There has been a few times in the past where the bulk of power to govern the country has swayed from congress to the executive branch and back again. Lyndon B Johnson tried to wrest control of the senate as vice president and the senators of his own party prevented it.  Because they had a solid understanding of the separation of powers. The Democrats of today don't seem to have the same sense of the construction of our government. I say this because they have not pushed back on Obama at all on anything important that anyone can tell. 

  1. All the above is "so that is can meet the challenges of our time".  Beside some of the challenges Democrats has fostered over the past six years which I will go into later let's consider some of the challenges at the time they took control.  Which are close to the same as they are today.
    1. Unemployment
    1. War in foreign lands
    1. Devaluation of homes
    1. Crashing of several manufacturing entities
    1. Crashing of several financial entities

Across the nation unemployment hasn't really changed much since Obama took office according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Not withstanding a few fluctuations it's been about 4-6% since 2004 not withstanding some local regions are really bad nearing and toping 10%.  Now with that said, Republicans will say we are more worse off that you can imagine because the discouraged job seekers that have dropped out of the search for work thus are no longer reported on the official unemployment statistics.  They consist of about 90,000 people as of 2013.  Out of a work force of 110 million that may not seem like a lot to you. Unless, you are one of them.

Most everyone wants a job, but for a main issue for the parties to squabble over I think is pretty much a waste of breath.

War in foreign lands is a really hot issue with just about anyone that cares about anything. A lot smarter people than me has addressed this situation, both Democrats and Republicans. They both have excellent arguments.  The isolationists that tend to be more Democrat want us to mind our own business and leave the world alone. How can we argue with the idea of us all just getting along?  No one, really.  But is that the reality of the world? Out nation from post civil war to WW1 had a relatively good period of isolationism and peace enough to expand, grow, bring in the industrial age and set into place the infrastructure that put the U.S. in the dominant spot on the world theater when we finally stepped up and took an active role in the first world war. Communism is to small countries like Jessie Jackson is to corporations.  Countries said to the USA pay us and we will not go to the communist where Jessie Jackson says pay us and we won't sue you for not having enough black people on payroll.   The Cold War is over and is paying countries now necessary?  Perhaps, I think to some degree no.  So why would we engage in conflicts in other countries?  I think for two fundamental reasons. First is we are honoring our word, a treaty.  Japan for instance is not a mighty warring power because we told them we would protect them if they didn't build up an army again. We told Israel we would always stand by them.  How we doing on that? Not so well from what I see.   This is just to spark some thought.  I could go on and on at the sake of the other points.  Perhaps I'll return to this in it's own post.

Dropping home values has been one of the most crushing things to happen to the middle class in the memory of most.  I have seen over the years homes rise and fall in value along a fairly predicable path trending upwards. But to see it crash like a stock market Black Friday was not seen but by a few.  I cannot tell you the particulars as to the nuts and bolts of it in this post.  Basically, the foundation for this crash was set up by the Clinton in the early 90s with the blessing of the Republican congress to deregulate the investment houses and permit them to act like banks and invest in markets they should have stayed out of like home mortgages.  Then with the continual relaxing of sound lending standards like the ability to repay a loan people were getting in mortgages they could not maintain for long and didn't. Housing markets have yet to rebound to their former levels.  They will though in time.

Lets lump the manufacturing and financial entities collapsing together.  Essentially it's the same thing other than the segment of market they serve.  This is another that could take up its own posting to some length.  In the end, whether you think they should have been bailed out or not, they have been.  All and all I think that we are all better off for the bail outs.  It is certainly evident the government wastes more money in other ways than to shore up the backbone of our financial structure. What is irksome is the blame game.  Like the crash of home values these entities had their demise set up long ago well before Bush 42 and Clinton.  The primary reason they failed is the housing crash underwriting on bad paper and the debt load.  When the economy took that nose dive in 2009 people stopped buying new cars and stopped saving so as to eat. That was money that did not go into Chevy's bottom line, inventory starting stacking up and investment companies had no extra cash to lend and no one could pay their bills.  Thus over the waterfall we all have gone.

Humorous Payback

The USS Brewton FF-1086 was the last Frigate I served on.  I was the LPO which is the leading petty officer of 3rd division.  Made up of sonar techs, ASROC gunners mates and torpedo men.   We all had to eat.

So, really, you think.   Eating is what we all hope to do every day at least a few times.  Shipboard food is really very good.  The Mess Specialists cook up some good stuff according to a strict healthy varied menu.  There are only a few of mess cooks, though.  The mess decks and galley need cleaning.  Stores (food) has to be brought up from the lockers and freezers (refers) for the cooks to use and then the crew needs to be served as they file through the mess line.   The fellows that do all that are sent by their divisions as a mixture of ratings like, sonar techs, electronic techs, boiler men,  machinist mates, fire control techs and most the rest of the ship's crew.  These men are each division's lowest rated men.  Firemen and Seamen rated at E2 and E3.  They will serve their tour of mess duty for one to six months before getting back to their own division and working at what they were trained to do.   A Petty Officer is a rating that begins at E4.  They are typically never assigned to collateral duties like mess decks. 

The Ensign pops into Sonar Control one evening underway and tells me that we have to send another man to the mess decks.  I said we already had two seamen there and had no more.  He said then send a third class which is an E4.   We had no less than ten of them, so I shrugged and said okay. 

The most senior third class petty officer we had was PO3 Bolds.  He had less than a year left on board having been there already over 3 years.  I reasoned that if this trend continued that the others would be around long enough to get their turn, so I assigned Bolds for a three-month stint in the mess decks.

He was not happy and let me know it in terms that I shan't repeat here, but went anyway.    A week or so later the galley was serving for noon meal breaded cod which is always good.  I was in line with my divided steel tray when I came to the fish.  PO3 Bolds was serving.  He looked at me and said, "Only two pieces.  If you want more, you have to come back."  Okay, I thought I knew that.  He then pushed around the fish in the pan till he found two pieces about an inch long each and dropped them on my plate and told me to move on.  After loading up on veggies, I sat down and ate my bite of fish.  Noticing the line had eased up I went back and got more fish; Bolds had moved on to something else at that point, so I got some good sized portions. 

I still chuckle to this day when I recall this episode.  He certainly got his payback. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

If you Smoke tobacco - Don't

Smoker, you are okay today.  You don't have throat cancer and your bronchial are clear.  Your heart is strong.  Your fingers are only mildly yellowed. You use a good smoker's toothpaste to slow the yellowing affect on your teeth.  Keep in mind though that the chemicals in tobacco are accumulative in the tissues of your body.

All is good for you today.  Are you familiar with Russian Roulette?   That is where a person puts one bullet in a six shot revolver and spins the chamber so that the placement of the bullet is unknown.  Then they put the gun to the head and the trigger pulled.  That 16.6% chance of dying.   But if the bullet is aligned with the barrel it is 100% sure of dying.

Now load your gun with a cigarette in each barrel.    Every time you figuratively pull the trigger you have a 16.6% chance of dying.  Then one day the cigarette in the barrel will be the one.  Like the bullet it will be  100% sure of killing you.  Unlike the bullet though, it will not be a quick death.  You will linger.  You will be wearing a hose on your head with a green bottle hanging from your belt.  Your throat will tear as the cancer eats you up.  The efficiency of your heart will decrease till you can't walk.  Your lungs will rot and die and you will suffocate. 


Just saying…


Smoke one more

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Foul Mouthed

As a person we evolve our personalities.  Hopefully for the better. 

I don't cuss or swear.   It hasn't always been that way.  As a 24 year old First Class Petty Officer on a Frigate I could throw out a crude spew from my mouth that could practically cling to the bulkheads.  Everyone did.   As is said, birds of a feather flock together and flock we did.  Yet, we had our factions.  There were Snipes, Twigits, Deck Apes, Skivvy Wavers, Sparks, Gunners and of course Zeros.  In order not to be factionless, every group had their varying levels of initiation to be a well working component of the group.  I was a sonar man so our hazing was rather mild like sending the new guy to the supply department for a box of Sonar contacts compared to the new Snipes that ended up with a butt full of #90 gear oil from a grease gun. 

Sometimes our evolving comes about gently over time and other times its an epiphany.  For me it's been more a string of epiphanies that has made me a better person depending on who you ask I suppose.

I was on the main deck.  That's the deck open to the sea coming up from below.  Going on up from the water is the 01(oh one), 02 (oh two) respectively; going down toward and under the water is the 1st deck, 2nd deck and so forth.   I was just coming out of the hanger bay heading for the hatch to the first deck when I crossed paths with a Third Class who's name is lost to me over time.  He pleasantly greeted me as we crossed paths.  As I put my foot on the first rung of the ladder I returned with a barrage of vile degrading obscenities and descended to the first deck and headed for the mess decks.  The mess decks was about 30 feet away.  By the time I entered the mess decks I stopped up short as it sunk into me as to what I jerk I was.  I turned around and went back up to the main deck and found the fellow and apologized to him.  Sadly, it was such a common occurrence that he stated he hadn't noticed my rude behavior. 

I vowed that I would stop swearing and cussing.  I didn't cuss or swear before I joined the Navy and I was determined that I would return to that.  It wasn't easy.  I slipped from time to time, but being aware of it pulled me up short each time and the occurrences became further and further apart and now years and years apart. 

As the years move on and I became a Chief Petty officer it became evident to my fellow sailors I was not typical.  I didn't cuss, drink alcohol or coffee.  I was true to my word and expected the same.  I told my men that I didn't expect them to stop cursing if they wanted to only not to do it when they were talking to me.  There was a line on the evaluation forms for personal reviews that addressed "Expressing oneself well  orally and in writing".  Which is generally always marked with the highest marks.  I told my men that I did not consider swearing and cursing expressing oneself well.

I never have considered myself better or above any other.   Yet, when it comes to language I found I look down my nose a little at foul mouthed people.   It seems a bit thoughtless, inconsiderate and slow minded for people to be foul.  

Of course, they are not all that all the time.  In the Bible I read in the Book of Matthew that which proceeds from the mouth comes from the heart.  I was unaware of that when I decided to stop cussing.  But now that I know that when I think about It would anyone consider their hearts as harboring such foulness as to spew it from the tongue would continue to do that.  Some people, yes but for most people is probably no.  

I submit there is no good time for foul mouth cursing and swearing.  The argument that we are in an environment where everyone does like being a sailor or a construction worker  or a politician on open mike  doesn't hold water.  

In conclusion.  If you swear, cuss, curse and otherwise express a foul mouth.  Think is that really what you want people in world to hear from you?