Black on the Blue Line

Truth and reason are eternal. They have prevailed. And they will eternally prevail; however, in times and places they may be overborne for a while by violence; military, civil, or ecclesiastical.

Thomas Jefferson

During my career with the East Providence Police Department, I had the privilege of working with many outstanding local, state, and federal officers and agents. One of those federal agents is a man named Matthew “Matt” Horace, whose law enforcement career spanned twenty-six years.

I met Matt when he was a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. We worked several cases together—wiretap, undercover narcotics, weapons—and I came to respect Matt as a dedicated and committed professional.

Matt has since moved on into the private sector, bringing his talents and experience to bear on security and other issues important to successful business operations. He has appeared on a variety of media shows–CNN, CBS–as an expert in use of force.

Recently, I wrote a piece on my blog that created a stir among the thousands of followers who regularly read my blog. This piece, First, Admit the Problem Exists (https://bit.ly/2XZ2JO3) acknowledges the existence of endemic implicit racism within law enforcement agencies.  The piece was shared hundreds of times across a wide spectrum of platforms.

The reactions were varied and, sometimes, troubling. Everything from “thank you for writing about this important subject” to “Blacks commit more crimes, that’s why they have more contact with cops.” Troubling to say the least.

It’s one thing for me, a white man who never faced rampant discrimination because of the color of my skin, to talk about the matter. Matt, a black man in a profession that, until just a short time ago, refused to allow people of color into its ranks, brings a much more personal and poignant perspective.

Matt has done this through a magnificently researched and incisively written book. He details both the overall experience of persons of color with law enforcement and some troubling personal experiences that underscore the extent of the problem.

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement (https://amzn.to/3coAD48) lets everyone feel the tension and fear many black men and women experience when interacting with police officers.

But the book is more than just a detailing of this disturbing phenomenon in America. Matt’s unique perspective also puts one in the shoes of law enforcement and the often-chaotic moments leading to a decision to use deadly force.

Implicit Bias plays a big part in this issue facing law enforcement.  Matt details how implicit bias, more so than the absence of explicit or overt bias people often point to as a counterargument to these discussions, as the real issue we need face as a society.

Implicit Bias:  bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs: implicit bias in cases of racial discrimination.

The ensuing violence over the past few days and, as Matt points out in the book, the long history of violent reactions to fatal encounters of blacks with law enforcement, often results in unintended consequences. The violence is a cry of frustration. Yet the violence and destruction often reinforces the implicit bias held by those who only see the violence and not the cause behind it. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, the celebrated Civil Rights activist and proponent of non-violent protests, had this to say about such incidents.

” It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.”

 It’s one thing for those of us who’ve stood on the thin blue line to talk about and acknowledge these matters. While necessary and key to bridging the chasm between the black community and the police, it is only part of the solution. It is infinitely more impactful when an experienced professional such as Matt Horace, who knows both sides of the line, puts it so bluntly before us.

Perhap this will trigger more than talk followed by inertia.

I would encourage those who wish to understand the problem to read this book. The time to insist on change—permanent, responsible, and effective—was never more critical.

“The wrongs inside police departments are not about a handful of bad police officers. Instead, they reflect bad policing procedures and policies that many of our departments have come to accept as gospel. To fix the problem requires a realignment of our thinking about the role police play and how closely they as a group and as individuals are knitted into the fabric of society. Do they stand apart from societal norms, or will they uphold their motto of “To Protect and Serve”? Are they to be looked at as the men and women who sweep up the refuse left by our refusal or inability to tackle societal problems, or are they partners in our efforts to provide a vibrant and supportive community for all? The decision is ours.” Horace, Matthew. The Black and the Blue (p. 219). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition. https://amzn.to/3coAD48

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First, Admit the Problem Exists

The first step, the most important step, to solving a problem is to admit there is one. Police officers reflect our society; there are the overwhelming majority of good officers and the few, but dangerous ones, who harbor racial prejudices that impact their approach to the job.

Racial prejudice is endemic to America. The long torturous road to racial equality is not yet fully paved. Cultural misunderstandings, ethnic stereotypes, even geographic differences breed prejudice. The results are always tragic and often deadly.

While all of society must speak out and take a stand against racial prejudice, police officers, by the very nature of the authority they carry, bear a heavier burden. They must balance the oft-necessary use of force in enforcing laws against the fog of conflict they often operate in. More than any other segment of society, they need to recognize it is not a black and white world.

The nature of law enforcement—the uniforms, weapons, aura of authority—draws interest from a somewhat narrow spectrum of society. Rational people run away from gunfire, cops run towards it. We are all better for it that there are those among us willing to risk themselves to save others, even at the cost of their own life. No greater love…

Most seek the job to make a difference, to accomplish some good in the world, to make their neighborhoods, towns, and cities safer.

However, some seek the job to hold authority over others. These officers embrace the Us vs. Them mentality where everyone is guilty until proven innocent.  Every department has them.

Some departments do a better job of weeding out such officers. Others do not. Until agencies instill a sense of responsibility within the rank and file to work to remove such officers from their positions, situations like Minneapolis will happen again and again.

It is often politics within agencies that protect dangerous officers. This is a blight on the profession and a serious issue prolonging the problem.

EPPD

I served for twenty years with the East Providence Police Department. Every officer claims their department is the best. Pride is an important element of being a cop. But I would pit EPPD officers against any in the world in terms of professionalism.

Yet we had our share of problem officers. Some of it was generational, residual attitudes from a different time in America. But some was just plain ignorance. We did our best to deal with them. While we may not have been perfect, the majority of officers did their best to control the few problem children.

We can hope, with each new generation more embracing of our differences, officers holding these attitudes will fade into the past. But for now they are alive and well and we need to face them.

Being a cop is a dangerous job. The very nature of the job, if you want to survive, demands constant preparation for the worst to happen. A suspicious nature protects officers from complacency or letting their guard down. Yet, understanding they can resolve most situations with no or minimal force is key to minimizing deadly confrontations.

When one spends years on the streets seeing the worst of situations, it is easy to become immunized from the trauma. Officers develop a somewhat perverse sense of humor as a shield against the tragedy they see daily. Protecting oneself from the effect of traumatic incidents is one thing. Forgetting that you took on the responsibility to deal in a fair and impartial manner with everyone you come into contact with violates one’s oath to serve and protect.

Last, officers themselves need be a voice to point out and identify those among them who fail to act under the law and with common decency. The thin blue line is a necessary protection for society. We are fortunate that a few women and men will stand on that line and protect us all. But it does not confer on them the right to ignore those among them who act on racial prejudices out of some misguided sense of loyalty.

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Voter Fraud: A Myth Wielded as a Weapon of Voter Suppression

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Donald J. Trump, November 27, 2017 Tweet

Stung by the ignominy of losing the popular election vote to his opponent in 2016, Mr. Trump seized on a convenient, and false, premise to explain why most of the country did not vote for him.

Not that it mattered. Electoral votes decide an election, but this was just a preview of the ego-driven megalomania for acceptance this President so craves.  His claim to winning the Electoral vote in a landslide was also exaggerated.

Electoral count
Trump 306
Clinton 232

Popular vote
Clinton: 65,844,954 (48.2%)
Trump: 62,979,879 (46.1%)

By contrast, President Barrack Obama received 365 electoral votes in his first election and 65,915,795 popular votes.

Again, none of this mattered.

What matters is Trump is sowing seeds of uncertainty over the upcoming election by propagating the myth of widespread voter fraud. He took this need to convince others of this fallacy to some extreme lengths. None of which have demonstrated evidence of voter fraud at any meaningful level.

On May 11, 2017, Mr. Trump formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-establishment-presidential-advisory-commission-election-integrity/)

One task of the commission was to investigate,

“those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

During its tenure, holding just a few meetings and after a public plea for comments and information, the commission received seventy-seven comments. https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=GSA-GSA-2017-0002-0180

Seventy- seven comments from a country of 320 million. The commission did not live up to its lofty expectations.

On January 3, 2018, a mere eight months after creating this commission, Mr. Trump ended the commission with this statement.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry. Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”
Donald J. Trump January 3, 2018 https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-termination-presidential-advisory-commission-election-integrity/

Homeland Security assumed the mantel for investigating election fraud. They didn’t bear the burden for long. They offered the following.

“Asked whether the DHS has immediate plans to pursue voter fraud issues, agency spokesman Tyler Houlton said it ‘continues to work in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity.’”
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-dhs-idUSKBN1EU1YF

“Despite substantial evidence” Mr. Trump chose not to use the power of the Federal Government to pursue violations of the sanctity of our elections. Most criminals refuse to cooperate, that’s hardly grounds to discontinue a legitimate investigation. He put the blame on the states, but it offers little cover to what amounts to Presidential impotence or incompetence.

Or could it be something else?

Could it be the whole idea of widespread voter fraud is the fraud?

Since uncovering actual evidence of fraud—widespread or otherwise—would be an important story to break, many organizations and media outlets have done what Mr. Trump’s commission was unable or reluctant to do.

They uncovered the truth that voter fraud is not substantial nor widespread, but rare. The Brennan Center for Justice said in 2017 the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%.

“It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/truth-about-voter-fraud

Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote in an op-ed. “While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah.”

The Heritage Foundation, on July 28, 2018, issued a report with the headline, “Report Exposes Thousands of Illegal Votes in 2016 Election.” They argued the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity—still functioning at the time—had a difficult and important job ahead.  

They cited information from a report done by the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative non-profit organization.

“The Government Accountability Institute obtained voter registration and voter history data from only 21 states because while some states shared it freely, ‘others impose exorbitant costs or refuse to comply with voter information requests.’
These 21 states represent ‘about 17 percent of all possible state-to-state comparison combinations.’
The Institute compared the lists using an ‘extremely conservative matching approach that sought only to identify two votes cast in the same legal name.’ It found that 8,471 votes in 2016 were ‘highly likely’ duplicates.”
Extrapolating this to all 50 states would likely produce, with “high-confidence,” around 45,000 duplicate votes.”

(https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/new-report-exposes-thousands-illegal-votes-2016-election)

The Heritage Foundation also released a report documenting 1,285 cases of voter fraud and 1,110 criminal convictions. https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud

These numbers hardly match the hyperbole.

Despite this claim of “rampant” fraud, the President dissolved the commission.

So, if the Presidential Commission failed to find evidence of voter fraud, and studies by a variety of organizations show fraud to be minimal, why promote a premise shown to be false?

The answer is as simple as most truths are; to suppress votes by blocking meaningful election reforms. By clouding the issue with lies and fallacies, the President sows doubt about election integrity. Yet, when confronted with evidence to the contrary, he and those who support him ignore it.

The United States trails most developed nations in voter turnout. Wouldn’t a comprehensive reform of the election process—extended voting opportunities, mandatory voter registration, improved security to ensure voting integrity, perhaps even a mandatory voting requirement—be something the President would want to foster?

(https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/ and https://www.idea.int/data-tools/data/voter-turnout)

Limiting the time to cast a vote for the election for the President of the United States—the most powerful political position in the world—to one Tuesday in November is ludicrous.

A country that put a man on the moon should be able to ensure every eligible America can vote without any undue hardship. All the means to insure those who vote are eligible should be on the table as part of the process, but the primary goal should be to increase voter turnout.

I know this may be heresy in some circles, but issuing a government identification form for free at the moment a voter registers seems obvious. Crafting appropriate and constitutionally valid voter identification laws should be a goal to foster greater confidence in voter integrity.

In these times of the pandemic, when the likelihood of the virus being a major consideration at election time is real and potentially deadly to the most vulnerable among us, maximizing the opportunity to vote should be an imperative. We need to find a way to increase mail-in ballot opportunities, lengthen in-person voting times, and remove obstacles to voters getting to the poles.

The legitimate fear of contracting the virus facing many Americans should never be an obstacle to voting. If we are truly a nation embracing the Democratic values of our Republic, securing everyone’s right to vote is paramount. Nothing should derail us in this cause.

Neither should a President, bent on promulgating falsehoods, use a myth to roadblock voting reform and suppress the vote of the most vulnerable among us. This stable genius needs a refresher course on truth and Presidential responsibilities.

In anticipation of the onslaught of anecdotal rebuttal links that will flood the reactions to this post, I offer this site as one example. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/01/07/five_states_face_federal_lawsuit_over_inaccurate_voter_registrations__142089.html

Here’s a quote from this piece.


Five States Face Federal Lawsuit Over Inaccurate Voter Registrations

.By Mark Hemingway January 07, 2020

In 378 U.S. counties, voter registration rates exceed 100% of the adult population, meaning there are more voter registrations on file than the total voting-age population, according to a new analysis by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Based on data the federal Electoral Assistance Commission released last year, the new analysis indicates that a minimum of 2.5 million voter registrations are wrongly listed as valid. It suggests widespread lack of compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires states to remove people who have died, moved, or are otherwise ineligible to vote from the rolls. While having excess registrations isn’t proof of voter fraud, voter integrity advocates note that it does create opportunities for deception, such as allowing people to vote twice in different precincts or submit invalid absentee ballots.  (emphasis mine)

Every election since the first has had some element of voter fraud. We should strive to eliminate as much of this as is humanly possible. But the overwhelming evidence indicates voter fraud has no significant impact on elections on the national level.

A more worthy goal would be to find ways to encourage every American who is eligible to vote. Under such circumstances we would have a truly representative government.

In those rare cases of actual voter fraud, maximizing the number of legitimate voters will further dilute the effect of fraudulent votes and remove the opportunity to “rig” an election.

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Fate, Chance, and Choices

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

(Some thoughts on life and nature. Brought to you by the sacrifice of others we remember this Memorial Day)

A tiny baby blackbird, apparently fallen from its nest, drew my attention the other day. One of the adult birds, male or female I could not tell but I assumed it was the mother, attended to the little guy on the ground. I couldn’t tell if it was a scolding or an encouragement to stay brave, so I continued to watch.

Nature and Life

The adult flew off, leaving the little guy hopping and fluttering on the ground, unable to fly and pleading for its mother to return.

Often the drama of nature is right before our eyes. It is not where you look but when. I just happened to look at the moment this drama unfolded.

My first instinct was to do something. Return it to the nest, care for it until it could fly. My wife and daughter often tease me about my need to help. They say I am a boy scout. In many ways, they are correct. Something inside me compels me to do something, even when I am uncertain of what to do.

Like the case of a bird fallen from a nest and the reality of nature.

I struggled with the choice but decided I should let fate and nature take its course. The stark reality of life, and its ultimate logic, is if you can’t fend for yourself, you perish. Nature is not cruel, it is not heartless; it is agnostic to survival.

Some live, some die.

But I was still troubled by not doing anything to help a fellow living creature.

Perhaps it is not that nature is indifferent about life, about who or what lives or dies. Perhaps nature knows life is a continuity of existence that goes on forever. Whether we have self-determination—free will—to live our lives or whether it is all pre-destination, in the end, doesn’t really matter. Life preceded us, and life will continue after us.

As it would for this little guy.

In this case, the boy scout won out, and I captured the little guy, returning him to his nest. For the rest of the day, the two adults took turns calling to the little one who answered back but clung firmly to a branch just outside the nest.

If he chose not to fly, or could not, he would perish, and other living creatures would feed off his body. If he flew off, he might live a long life. I will probably never know if my interceding extended his life for just a moment or if he is now enjoying the freedom of flight.

If someday hence, I come out to find evidence of a bird’s excretions on my windshield, I’ll take it as a sign that while his life may or may not have continued, life does.

I hope the little guy gets to leave his mark on many windshields and flies long and far under a warm summer sky.

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A Presidential Dilemma: Rationalizing Irrational Behavior

Our illustrious President, in his continuing quest for a magic wand to end the devastation from SARS-CoV-2, made a shocking statement. When someone who makes shocking statements as a matter of habit says something to rouse great consternation across an entire spectrum of political beliefs it is quite an accomplishment.

Mr. Trump announced he was taking Hydroxychloroquine in combination with other drugs as a preventative treatment for SARS-CoV-2. He claimed—without actual evidence, but that goes without saying—that thousands of front-line medical personnel were doing the same. Somehow that statement rang hollow.

Mr. Trump is the king of sui generis hyperbole and prevarication. But I needed to do more research to see if I could uncover some justification for this course of action by the President. A risk-averse President can do much damage to our country, risk comes with the job. But a President who would ignore risks in pursuit of a political gain is infinitely more dangerous.

To further educate myself on the risks and benefits associated with this drug, I sought medical experts. I asked three respected physicians, with decades of experience, when it is appropriate to prescribe such a treatment regimen.

Their response did not quell my concern for this matter of grave consequence to the country. I asked these doctors in separate emails, none were aware I was asking other physicians. Their responses were strikingly similar.

The bottom line:

There remains little evidence to support the use of Hydroxychloroquine for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 (emphasis mine).

The only real prophylaxis (preventative use) of Hydroxychloroquine is for malaria.

It is used for the treatment and maintenance of Lupus and refractory Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not really prophylaxis.

There are lots of side effects of this drug:

Cardiac Arrhythmias
Visual changes, visual field defects/retinopathy (irreversible)
Liver dysfunction
Blood dyscrasia & anemia
Muscular weakness; Neuromuscular dysfunction / Seizures
Alopecia
Weight Loss
Severe hypoglycemia
Renal impairment.

Here’s my personal favorite. One of the side effects of Hydroxychloroquine is potential changes in emotional lability.

Emotional lability means a person may have sudden and exaggerated changes in mood, with poorly controlled powerful emotions that may include anger, dysphoria, sadness, or euphoria. Makes one wonder, doesn’t it?

Other psychiatric or nervous system side effects include nervousness, irritability, nightmares, psychosis, and suicidal behavior.

Look them up for yourself https://www.drugs.com/hydroxychloroquine.html

And here’s a link to a site being touted as a definitive answer that the drug is effective. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16115318. The drug shows promise, but that is a long way from widespread safe acceptance as a valid medical treatment. From this study comes the following language in regards to treatment of SARS-CoV-2,

“No effective prophylactic or post-exposure therapy is currently available.” 

Using a bit of logical deduction, a dash of the Socratic method, and tricks I learned to interpret my daughter’s facial expressions before she learned to speak—some were more obvious than others— I can deduce three possible circumstances prompting Mr. Trump’s pronouncement.

  1. He is lying about taking the drug—history may support this conclusion—and is doing this out of some warped sense of “reassuring” the country that a miracle is just around the corner.
  2. He is taking the drug because he has tested positive for the virus and, out a similar warped sense of reassuring the country, has chosen to keep this a secret. Perhaps he fears a corollary conclusion that if he can’t protect himself from the virus, what chance do we mere mortals stand?
  3. He is taking the drug and does not have the virus. This is the most troubling. He is risking serious side-effects based on, at best, isolated anecdotal reports of the drug’s effectiveness or, at worst, he is delusional, which the drug may compound.

Perhaps the cabinet and VP might want to familiarize themselves with the 25th Amendment again just in case.  Doubt me? Review the side-effects of taking the drug.  One should stand out.

Alopecia: Male pattern baldness. It causes the hair to fall out in patches.  If the President is taking the drug without a valid medical need, he must have skipped over that side-effect. Maybe it was in the Presidential Daily Briefing he enjoys NOT reading.

I mean, there is no one on the planet more fixated on his hair than POTUS. If that mop of hair started to fall out in clumps it could foul the engines on Air Force One. If it were in his power he would silence the wind whenever he emerges from the White House to attend his Nuremberg-style rallies.

If we see a new Cabinet position—someone standing right behind Mr. Trump with a fishing net to catch the clumps falling out—we will have our answer. The last thing this country needs at the moment, to borrow a line from Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, is a President afflicted with “serious mental diseases suffering endemic plagues of delusion and obsession.”

It’s not magic we need or wishful thinking. It’s deliberate, managed, and thoughtful dedication to finding a medically sound solution coupled with a considered approach to reopening the country.

Somehow a President promoting the use of a drug contrary to all medically acceptable standards does not lend itself to improving the confidence in his administration.

A drug-addled Mr. Trump is the stuff of nightmares.

(P.S. maybe we should let the President see this study out of Canada. https://thesource.com/2020/05/18/new-canadian-study-says-marijuana-may-prevent-the-coronavirus/)

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Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

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Truth vs Facts: Who Knew There is a Difference?

The President’s campaign has funded a site called The Truth Over Facts. (https://www.thetruthoverfacts.com/)

When I read about it, it took me aback. Surely even the President knows that Truth and Facts are, or at least should be, interchangeable. But since he is the President—and has access to vast amounts of secret things like the alleged “Presidential Book of Secrets”—I thought due diligence required a more thorough look into the matter.

Could the President and his campaign be correct? Is there a difference between Truth and Facts? Could he be doing the country, nay the world, double nay the universe, great service by telling us the Truth over Facts?

I investigated the real meaning behind the words, Truth and Facts.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary—which, in Truth, might be under the control of the Deep State but I don’t know this for a fact—the definition of these two words are, as I suspected, remarkably close.

Truth:

(1): the body of real things, events, and facts: ACTUALITY
2): the state of being the case: FACT
3) often capitalized: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality: a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true
truths of thermodynamics
c: the body of true statements and propositions
2a: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
archaic: FIDELITY, CONSTANCY

Fact:

a: something that has actual existence
space exploration is now a fact
b: an actual occurrence
prove the fact of damage
2: a piece of information presented as having objective reality
These are the hard facts of the case.
3: the quality of being actual: ACTUALITY
a question of fact hinges on evidence

Now it would seem these words are so close in meaning as to be interchangeable. Could it be there were finer differences between them? Differences so subtle yet critical that Truth could hold sway over fact?

I turned to history to see if I could find an answer. There I found many examples of Truths that were, in fact (pun intended,) not Facts.

In Ancient Greece, the birthplace of Democracy, the Socratic method, and a host of other pinnacles of human achievement, the accepted Truth was a host of Gods ruled the world. They required devotions, worship, and sacrifice to appease their vanity and avoid their wrath.

It turned out not to be a fact.

In 17th century Europe, if one approached the most educated gentlemen—for they were all men as a related “truth” was women were unsuited for the rigors of intellectual pursuits and better suited to producing male heirs—and asked about the cause of shipwrecks, they would tell you the Truth. The accepted Truth was, shipwrecks are the work of Sea Witches.

It turned out not to be a fact.

In 18th and 19th century America, the accepted Truth was black men, women, and children were mere chattel, to be bought, traded, or disposed of as suited their masters. These people of color were inferior to the white man and in need of care. Good for manual labor and little else.

It turned out not to be a fact.

In the mid-20th century, in an educated, mostly Christian (if such an appellation carries any positive validity) Germany, an entire culture of people were slaughtered because the accepted Truth was the Jews were responsible for all of Germany’s problems. In Truth, the Jews were an inferior and debilitating race.

It turned out not to be a fact.

This brief romp through history caused me much consternation. If some closely held and accepted “Truths” could turn out not to be Facts, how can Truth over Fact be anything but the propagation of the opposite of Truth, which is lies?

According to Webster, an archaic meaning of Truth is: FIDELITY, CONSTANCY.

By creating a website inferring that there is a validity to Truth over Facts, Mr. Trump shows his Fidelity and Constancy to embracing anything that suits his purpose. As long as he and many of his supporters see it as Truth, they can ignore the Facts.

But I will give him this, the political process we embrace in America fosters creating truths that may conflict with facts.  People want to hear things they believe despite any facts to the contrary, and whoever fills that void we vote in. Mr. Trump understands this better than most.

I suppose Mr. Trump and his campaign strategists also deserve kudos for such a creative and inspiring title for the website. TruthOverFacts sounds infinitely better than ShitWeMadeUp.

Perhaps it is also time for Merriam-Webster to redefine Fact.

Fact:

The once precious, now lost, art of telling the Truth.

P.S. I didn’t think this was necessary to say, but it is likely the site is a poorly orchestrated parody and not intended to be real. The first hint, which I thought would be self evident to most, was the fact there is just the one page. Nevertheless, when the parody closely mimics the actual behavior of the creator it blurs the line. In simplest terms, he may have meant it as a parody or sarcasm but his reputation, for once, gave the site credibility in the sense that it was not out of the realm of possibility for Mr. Trump. Such are the tribulations of a fool who believes the pronouncement of a stable genius.

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Taking a Stand on Principle: Choosing Which Law to Enforce is Not the Way

Several police unions—FOP lodges in North Providence and Warwick—have published a letter to their members saying they should not comply with enforcing the Governor’s edict on wearing masks in public.

Their argument—that such a directive by the Governor puts the police in the adversarial position of enforcing an unpopular and controversial policy—is persuasive but sets a dangerous precedent. When officers sworn to uphold the law willfully abandon this obligation because of public sentiment or beliefs, it poses a dilemma.

The police are often put in untenable positions. The unions serve a critically vital role in protecting their members from the intrusion of politics within agencies. But unions are not the best forum for determining what policies to follow, what laws to enforce, or what constitutes constitutionally or medically sound emergency policy.

If the circumstances were reversed, and a police agency faced opposition to enforcing existing laws by a segment of the public who disagreed with the law, they would abide by their oath of office and take whatever appropriate means necessary under the law to enforce it.

While police officers should not be expected to follow orders blindly—an equally dangerous situation—expecting them to fairly enforce the law is a societal necessity. We grant them discretion in most matters under such expectations. Yet decisions on the constitutionality of laws need be decided in the appropriate forum, the courts.

If the police union sought a stay from the courts, seeking guidelines for enforcing the policy of compelling people to wear masks in public, that would be entirely appropriate.

If the police union, in the confines of their internal meetings, encouraged officers to exercise great discretion in enforcing such policies absent any such guidelines from the court, that would be entirely appropriate.

But issuing public statements which encourages officers to defy the edicts of the Governor is a slippery slope. Pitting the refusal of one agency to enforce the law against another which chooses to enforce it is fraught with danger.

Where do we draw the line?

The legislature enacts laws, the Rhode Island Constitution grants certain emergency powers to the Governor to act in the best interest of the public during times of emergency— one might argue thousands of dead Americans qualifies as such an emergency— and police officers are empowered to enforce the law with a modicum of discretion.  But it falls on the courts to determine the constitutionality of such actions.

Unions should zealously protect their members. They should speak up when circumstances warrant. Yet they should refrain from encouraging officers to shirk their responsibilities or insert themselves into matters best left handled by the courts and elected officials.

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Rights, Responsibilities, and Obligations

There is much talk about the rights of people to go about their daily lives free from government directives and restrictions. No one who understands the Constitution disagrees with such a position. But discussing rights without including the responsibilities and obligations such rights include obscures the point.

The final evaluation of the success or necessity of the social distancing, business closings, and other measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 will be a long time coming. Our knowledge of the virulence, infection rates, mortality rates, and recovery rates will take time to correlate as we gather data.

Responding to pandemics require judgment calls. These decisions impact lives. Failing to implement a reasonable plan to minimize the impact on people and medical resources can lead to disasters.

Overreaction can have the effect of the “boy who cried wolf” as people discount what they perceive as a draconian and unnecessary intrusion on their lives. When a genuine crisis arises—such as the one we face now— past poor experiences would cause people to ignore it.

We need to base the decision to relax restrictions on several factors.

  1. Our best and considered analysis of the risk of a renewed spike in exposures and infections.
  2. Our experience in treatment options learned throughout the pandemic so far and the demand capacity available in our medical facilities, including equipment stockpiles.
  3. A scientifically valid projection of the availability of improved drugs to treat and a vaccine to prevent the virus.
  4. The long-term economic impact on the country, businesses, and those forced onto the unemployment rolls.
  5. The rights of individuals to live their lives without restrictions.

These are not simple matters. They require a well thought out strategy that takes each factor into consideration in crafting a path back to normalcy.

Yet the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—the famous words from the Declaration of Independence—also come with obligations and responsibilities.

You have a right to live your life, and no one can deny it. But this right does not come without an obligation to allow others the same right.

You have the right to liberty but cannot deny others the same.

You may pursue whatever makes you happy, but not if it denies others the same joy.

No one can predict what the effect of relaxing restrictions will bring. It is one of the most critical judgment calls we will ever make. But we should remember almost eighty thousand Americans have died during this pandemic. Arguing over how we tally those deaths and whether it was underlying conditions or the virus itself that were the cause is an exercise in futility.

People died after contracting the virus. We need respond now, with the best information available, and re-evaluate once all the data is in. Then use that information to plan for the inevitable next one. Assuming facts not in evidence is dangerous.

The reality is, it won’t matter to those who may yet die what was the primary cause until we control this virus. Something has changed in the world and we need be very smart about how we deal with it.

Reasonable expectation of fulfilling your obligations to others does not infringe on your rights, it is a guarantee that others meet the same obligations.

The fact is we do not have a clear picture of the course, level of contagion, or proven method of controlling, treating, or preventing this virus. Until we do, focusing on your obligations to ensuring the rights of others is as important as insisting on exercising your own.

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Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

Signup here for my email list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU