America in the 60s & 70s and America in 2020: For Better or Worse?

(This is a bit of a long one, but it is an interesting topic and, hopefully, worth the read)

The good ‘ole days may not have been as good as we’d like to believe, or were they better? An intriguing question. As I often do, I like to use the words of others with my own to illustrate the commonality of our experiences.

Here’s a quote one of my most influential teachers,

“The past is delusion; the present, elusion; the future, illusion.” Dan Walsh

With the past, we often twist Shakespeare’s words about the evil men do.  Instead of “The evil men do lives on, the good is oft interred with their bones.” We change it to, “Our fondness for the wonderful memories of the past live on, the evil is oft interred in the deepest recesses of our brain.”

In a reaction to a recent piece, https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2020/06/13/a-eulogy-for-the-police/, Paul Edward Cary, who enjoys debating many of my positions (respectful of our differences and, on the rare occasion, our agreement) argued the United States has declined in moral character over the past 50 or 60 years.

It sparked an idea.

Was America a better place in the 60s and 70s? Are we a nation in decline? I decided to see what I could discover.

While measuring morality is subjective, there are other benchmarks we can use to test the hypothesis. I looked at various historical events and national attributes—health, infant mortality, education, civil rights, Supreme Court cases, and crime.

Supreme Court

Time magazine did a project several years ago seeking opinions from a variety of law professors and legal experts on the most influential—for good or bad—Supreme Court cases.

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2036448,00.html

Often the court serves as a catalyst for change in society, righting wrongs embedded within the fabric of American lives. Some would argue these decisions were not always for the better. But here are the most beneficial and the most troubling in the 1960s-70s contrasted with those the court decided in the 2010s.

In the 1960s, several cases sparked major changes and controversies. Fifty or sixty years sounds like a long time ago. But to those of us alive in those years, thinking back, it’s hard to accept such cases were necessary.

Loving v. Virginia (1967), which found restrictions on interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), which protected freedom of the press in the realm of political reporting and libel. 

Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), which established the one-person, one-vote concept in legislative apportionment.

2015 saw the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage ruling.

Perhaps the cases necessary in the 60s and 70s set us on a better, more moral path. The law professors saw them as positive cases. Yet, that they were necessary paints a troubling picture of a segregated and less open society.

On the negative side, many professors were critical of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). The case removed campaign-spending limits on corporations and unions, and Bush v. Gore (2000), which resulted in George W. Bush’s winning the presidential election.

Of all the cases I looked at, this one from 1973 troubled me. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973).

“This decision held that inequities in school funding do not violate the Constitution. The court thus said that discrimination against the poor does not violate the Constitution and that education is not a fundamental right. It played a major role in creating the separate and unequal schools that exist today.” (From the Times article)

The controversial decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) appeared on the lists of both the best and worst decisions. Without once again venturing down this rabbit hole, I’ll leave it to you to decide if this contributed to our “moral decay.”

I know my lawyer friends will all pipe in with their own favorites. Still, the very need for the cases decided in the 60s and 70s casts a shadow on the perception of a more fair or moral American society.

As further proof of the importance of court-imposed mandates, one need look no further than our own backyard and the 1970s desegregation of the Boston School system.

The case—Morgan v. Hennigan, 379 F. Supp. 410 (D.C. Mass., June 21, 1974)—decided by U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Garrity, required Boston to bus students to various schools to achieve a racial balance.

That a court, in 1974, had to force a city the size of Boston—a city which prides itself on its contribution to the very founding of this nation—to comply with the findings of Brown V Board of Education, a twenty-year-old refutation of the concept of separate but equal school systems, is astounding. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/boston-bussing-case/

But before we take too much comfort in this decade being better than the past, there is this. In Cleveland, Mississippi, the school district finally stopped contesting a ruling from 1965 regarding the desegregation of its high schools.

The city agreed to desegregate the schools in 2017, having fought against it by various legal maneuverings for fifty-two years. http://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/articles/305/the-last-stand-of-massive-resistance-1970

1960s News Stories

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 3, 1963 (UPI) – Five firemen stood less than 50 feet away today sweeping methodically with a high-pressure hose and sending hundreds of racial demonstrators tumbling in the street.

The force downs a man as fast as a charging tackle on a football field and is no less damaging.

I was in a corner telephone booth dictating a story as a crowd of chanting, singing, gyrating Negroes surged time and again into the face of a police blockade. Spray hung across the intersection like fog.

When the first powerful blast hit the front line of anti-segregation marchers, they toppled and rolled in the streets, clinging to the curb and to each other.

As the hose swung away, they jeered the firemen, taunting with catcalls. But the ones who didn’t flee at first soon were routed by the full force of spray.

Then the firemen turned their attention to a small group of Negroes on the corner where I was standing.

“Let’s get those people out of there,” an officer shouted.

The firemen swung the hose quickly and the gush of water splattered the seven Negroes on the corner. They fled into a restaurant and the firemen followed, playing their hose in the restaurant for two or three minutes.

“They’re turning the hose on us,” I shouted to another newsman.

Elvin Stanton, of radio station WSGN, jumped into the phone booth with me. We braced for the blast of water which hit the glass wall with a roar.

The water was brown, then a boiling white froth which roared through the cracks in the booth, sloshed under the booth and soaked our feet. Then they turned the hose on an upper ventilating slot and our shoulders were soaked.

I kept yelling that we were reporters, but the torrent kept pounding on the glass booth. Somehow, the glass held until they turned the hose around.

We walked out. As we strode soggily by the firemen, one turned and asked: “Did you get wet?”

SELMA, Ala., March 7, 1965 (UPI) – State troopers and mounted deputies bombarded 600 Negroes with tear gas Sunday when they knelt to pray on a bridge, then attacked them with clubs. Troopers and posse men, under orders from Gov. George C. Wallace to stop the Negro “walk for freedom” to Montgomery, chased the marchers nearly a mile through town, clubbing them as they ran.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law on May 6. The purpose of the law was to close loopholes from the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and dealt primarily with voter disenfranchisement. The act created penalties for anyone who tried to obstruct voter registration and extended the life of the Civil Rights Commission which had been set to expire. It also established federal inspection of local voter registration polls in an effort to counter-act discriminatory laws in the South that worked to disenfranchise voters on a racial basis.

Vietnam

And then we had Vietnam, or more correctly Viet Nam.

While our involvement in Viet Nam began long before the 60s, most Americans wouldn’t have a clue where the country was until 1965.

Here’s one interesting tidbit of history.

June 8, 1956: The first official American fatality in Viet Nam is Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. He was murdered by another American airman as he was talking with local children. His wife lobbied for years, finally succeeding in 1999, to have his name added to the Viet Nam Wall Memorial.

Think about that for a second. The first official American casualty in Viet Nam was murdered by a fellow American.  It gets no stranger than that. Perhaps had we taken that as an omen, we might have decided the avoid the whole thing.

But we didn’t. And when I said it could get no stranger, I was wrong. Fitzgibbon’s son joined the Marine Corps…and was killed in Viet Nam.

Here’s a brief historical timeline of the 60s and 70s and the routes of involvement.

1960 The United States announces 3,500 American soldiers will be sent to Vietnam.

July 1964. Gulf of Tonkin incident. U.S. warships come under fire by North Vietnamese gunboats in two related incidents. There is little doubt the first incident happened. The NV Gunboats were responding to an earlier bombing attack on two North Vietnamese held islands by U.S. and South Vietnamese Naval forces. 

The second incident, which Lyndon Johnson would use to escalate American involvement, is in doubt. Johnson secretly confided to his advisors, “for all I know, the goddamn Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

On March 6, 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore near Danang,

March 16, 1968 The My Lai massacre—known as Son My in Viet Nam—where American soldiers killed nearly all the people—old men, women, and children, including infants—in the village of My Lai. The months-long military campaign known as the Tet Offensive (January 30–September 23) topped Vietnam news.

Amid the carnage of Viet Nam, on July 20, 1969, Americans put a man on the moon.

1973 The Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by the Nixon administration, reached agreement after five years. Nixon secretly orchestrated a delay in the talks during the 1968 Presidential Campaign through back-channel communications with the North Vietnamese government promising better terms. He then took 5 years, at the cost of almost twenty thousand more dead Americans, to settle the war.

1973 All U.S. Combat troops leave Viet Nam. 500 American POWs return from North Viet Nam.

Military advisors remain until 1975

April 1975

The U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government surrendered to the Communists on April 30, ending three decades of war in Vietnam. Hours later, the first Communist tanks rumbled into the capital.

During Viet Nam, anti-war protesters and racial strife tore apart the country.

May 4, 1970, National Guard troops fire on war protesters, killing four, at Kent State University.  Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19.

Several National Guardsmen were charged in the killings, but they dismissed the cases.

1971

Attica prison riot

Native Americans forced from Alcatraz after citing an 1868 Treaty allowing them to live on the island

1972

Supreme Court rules against the death penalty

The last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan, aboard Apollo 17 in December 1972, brought an end to the Apollo program.

AIM seizes Wounded Knee, SD
The American Indian Movement (AIM) seized the hamlet for 90 days before surrendering. It was a protest of violations to American Indian treaties over the past centuries.

The 60s and 70s were the decades of hard rock ‘n roll.

Crime and Punishment: Police, Violent Crime, & Prisons

Police

The debate over racial bias in Law Enforcement is the latest controversy to roil the nation. In 2014, the Obama administration passed a law— the Death in Custody Reporting Act—requiring Law Enforcement agencies to track all in-custody deaths and report them to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has never created the database or received any information from the nation’s law enforcement agencies. We cannot identify a problem if we operate in the dark.

But we can compare the nature of a policing, and the relative dangers associated with being a cop, by tracking the numbers of officers killed in the line of duty.  These numbers take into consideration all manners of death, not just violent encounters.

Officer Killed in the line of duty

19702402010181
19712532011188
19732402012144
19732792013135
19742852014161
19752572015167
19762062016181
19772022017184
19782182018185
19792242019147

One officer killed is too many, but the trend has been declining. In the 1960s and 70s, during the height of racial tensions and anti-war protests, they targeted police officers with snipers and bombs. Yet, over time these incidents have grown less and less frequent. The media hype of today amplifies and distorts the level of violence beyond reality.

Killed by Law Enforcement

1970-1979      No accurate statistics exist

2015-2019     5400 and the average per year is consistent (1000). Still, unarmed Black men are more likely to be killed by the police than white men based on a preliminary analysis of the limited data. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/)

Violent Crime

Homicides

1970-1979      191,690 (9.06 per 100,000 population)

2010-2019     155,034 (4.8 per 100,000 of population. 2019 numbers projected based on average # of homicides of the previous nine years as final numbers from FBI not yet available. Again, there are racial disparities in murder rates, but the overall numbers even among various races are lower.)

Violent crime per 100,000 populations. Rates climbed in the mid-1960s, peaking in 1990-91. They have consistently declined since then.

1970                451

2019               387.2 

Prisons (Number of prisoners)

1970                196,000

2010               1,570,00

Health and Education

MVA Fatalities Rates per 100,000 population

1970    25.67

2018   11.18 (last year data available)

Infant Mortality Rates

The U.S. is far behind other developed nations in infant mortality. Comparable country average (nations with similar levels of development such as Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan) is 3.4 per 1000 live births

US Infant Mortality Rates per 100,000 population

1970    26

2015   5.8

Literacy Levels

The U.S. is 7th in the world in literacy rates. The ability of most Americans to read sits at about 99%, although there are racial disparities. Educationally, Americans sit in the middle of the world curve in terms of analytical abilities in math, science, and reading.

In the 1970s, the U.S. led the world in education. Clearly, we have failed in the promise of public education.

Defense spending as a % of GDP

1970    7.8%

2018   3.16%

Education vs. Military Budget

1970    Military $79.1 billion   Education $1.0 billion

2020   Military $989 billion ($160 billion increase over 2 years)  Education $64 billion (10% decrease over 2019)

Culture

#1 in Music Billboard Chart

1960 Theme from A Summer Place (Percy Faith)

1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)

2010 Tik Tok (Kesha)

#1 Movie

1960   Swiss Family Robinson

1970    Love Story

2010   Avatar

#1 T.V.

1960   Andy Griffith Show

1970    Marcus Welby, MD

2010   Breaking Bad

In the culture category, while I may be prejudiced here, but the 60s and 70s win this one, hands down.

___________________________________________________________

Can we say the U.S. has suffered a decline, moral or otherwise, over the past 50 or 60 years?

Probably not.

Yet I can make an argument we have become more socially open and accepting. We embrace a more democratic form of social interaction, minimizing the once formidable lines of separation between races, ethnicities, and religions. 

Despite the constant bombardment of “breaking news,” we have become less violent people. By all measures, we have seen a reduction in homicides and other crimes of violence.

The burgeoning prison population and the de-emphasis on education are troubling. The overwhelming number of people are in prison for non-violent crimes. Imprisonment has little to do with crime reduction. It turns people into career criminals doing life on the installment plan.

What drove the reduction in violent crime? Many theories abound.

Some claim the high rates of incarceration take violent offenders off the street. This seems logical, except with a fifty percent recidivism rate, it is only a partial explanation.

Increased community policing efforts is another suggestion.

Reduced opportunity to commit crimes due to the prevalence of home surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras, and other technology such as DNA evidence is a factor. The “graying of America” is another possibility with the average age rising above the mean for those most likely to commit crimes.

Two wild theories relate to reduced violence within society. One, proposed by Rick Nevin, a Virginia economist, claims a correlation between eliminating lead from gasoline and a reduction in violent crime.  In a peer-reviewed study, he makes an interesting case. He even wrote a book on the subject, Lucifer Curves. (https://www.amazon.com/Lucifer-Curves-Legacy-Lead-Poisoning-ebook/dp/B01I3LTR4W)

An even more controversial theory, by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, and John Donohue of Yale University, argued that the 1973 Supreme Court Case of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortions was a significant contributor to reduced incidents of violent crime.

Research shows unwanted children had higher incidents of psychiatric problems and propensity to violence. Eighteen years after the decision, when those pregnancies legally aborted would have reached the age of 18, the start of the range of age of most violent offenders, the incidents of violent crime decreased.  Controversial, to say the least. Critics of the theory tend to oppose abortion, so a full analysis is lacking.

These matters are all complex and intimately related. I doubt one explanation can account for the data. Yet, an honest look at comparing and contrasting the America of the mid-20th century and the one we live in today would show a vast overall improvement.

We have not suffered a “moral” decline. We have entered an age where we are overwhelmed with information absent any legitimate controls over the validity or veracity.

Fake news is a real phenomenon, but it is not characterized by just the things we disagree with. If there has been any decline, it is in our undervaluing the benefits of education.

The world becomes a more stable, safer, and fair place when we fundamentally understand our differences. There is no single path to a better America. Yet there is one certain path to our demise and decline, ignorance.

Until we set our minds to creating the best educational system and opportunity for success in the world, we will continue to look to the false memories of the good ‘ole days.

Our success lies in seizing the day, not clinging to the past.                                   

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A Eulogy for the Police

Friends, Americans, Countrymen (in a non-gender specific, judgment-less way) lend me your ears.
I come to bury the Police, not to praise them.
The Evil that some cops do lives after them;
The Good by most is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with the Police.
The noble protesters hath told you the Police were ambitious.
If it were so it was a grievous fault.
And grievously would the protesters have the police answer for it.
 Here, under the leave of the protesters and the rest—For these protesters are honorable people,
so are they all honorable people,
Come I to speak at their defunding and disbanding.
The police were my friends, I once stood among them, they were faithful and just unto the country and their charge.
But the protesters say the Police are ambitious.
And the protesters are honorable people.
The police hath brought many captives off the street
Whose deeds did vex the citizens and the land.
Did this in the Police seem ambitious?
When that the desperate and abandoned hath cried, the Police were there when no others came to help and wiped their tears.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet the protesters are honorable people.
You all did see that on their service, we offered them little in appreciation, let them suffer the demons of their work, pilloried them for being human and prone to human frailties.
Yet still they chose to stay, do their duty, and stand on that thin blue line.
Was this ambition?
Yet the protesters say the police are ambitious
And sure, they are honorable people.
I speak not to disprove what the protesters spoke,
But here I am to speak of what I do know.
You all did love them once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to abandon them?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And people have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in the coffin there with the police,
As will all of us should these honorable people have their way
And I must pause till reason returns.

Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

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A Reformation: Restructuring Law Enforcement is Just One Element of a Complex Problem

The wailing, crying, and calls for defunding or eliminating police forces is about as idiotic an idea as ever was conceived. It is comparable to saying we should abandon medicine because a few doctors engage in malpractice or eliminate all lawyers because some innocent people are convicted.

You don’t fix a problem by irrational acts. Nor do you ignore a problem because it is complicated and does not lend itself to simple solutions. If we are serious about addressing racial disparity—within Law Enforcement and society as a whole—we must address all the factors contributing to the issue.

Incidents of black (primarily) men being killed by police officers does not automatically show racial bias. There is a host of studies—https://www.pnas.org/content/116/32/15877,  https://www.nber.org/papers/w22399— that contradict the premise of bias in use of lethal force against blacks by law enforcement.

And there are studies which show there is a bias in use of force—both lethal and non-lethal— by the police against blacks. (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0141854)

What do these contradictions tell us? They tells us we don’t track the data in any meaningfully significant way to draw reasonable conclusions. This leads us to form anecdotal inferences based on personal experience—either positive or negative encounters with the Police—on traditional media reports of incidents, or from social media information.

Using such varied, unreliable, and unconfirmed sources, coupled with our implicit biases, lends itself to forming powerful, but not necessarily accurate, assumptions. The tendency to confirmation bias is inevitable. By ignoring information which contradicts our own perspective, we handicap our ability to understand the full scope of the problem.

Racially motivated use of lethal force by law enforcement—if a full and impartial analysis of the data shows that to be true —is just one aspect of a much bigger problem.

Yet, if the perception among minorities is a systemic racial bias by law enforcement, and a propensity to use lethal force against such groups by police officers, it is critically important we both capture and analyze the data and address the perception as if it were reality.

Arguing the data shows no bias—absent comprehensive and thorough analysis–only fuels mistrust. Ignoring the possibility the data is insufficient to understand the problem is equally dangerous. It is assumptions—blacks are more likely to be involved in violent crimes by nature, cops are inclined to shoot blacks—that have created the problem.

Cultural misconceptions about groups we do not belong to i.e., minorities, cops, etc. all add to the problem. Education is the key to solving such false beliefs, but the process will not be easy or swift.

While we can strive for the ideal, we must face the realities of life.  There are bad people in the world who will assault, rob, attack, and murder their fellow humans. One of the primary functions of Law Enforcement is preventing such crimes and apprehending those who would commit them.

That will not change for the foreseeable future. Using force when necessary to perform such responsibilities will always be an element of policing. Improving the process of hiring officers, eliminating the often political nature of such practices, is critical. Better training in the use of minimum force necessary to accomplish the goal is paramount to reducing unlawful or excessive use of force.

For example, the RI Municipal Police Training Academy training syllabus lists 106 hours of firearms training, 154 hours of Traffic Enforcement, and 57 hours of Police Community Interaction and Dealing with Special Populations.

I suspect the training regimen for most law enforcement agencies would reflect the same allocation of training time.

While I am not suggesting a reduction in firearms training, the emphasis in the initial training phase is on weapons and tactics. Such programs set a tone for priorities. We miss an opportunity to equip officers with skills to de-escalate violent situations and reduce the need for lethal force. This is the best time to give officers confidence in their ability to communicate and interact with the community.

Such skills are as critical as the ability to know how and when to use lethal force in the complex fog of situations officers find themselves in on a daily basis.

The factors which lead most to commit crimes—poverty, lack of education, unemployment, drug addiction—are outside the control of the police.  These must be addressed by our society before we can hope to change the nature of police agencies.

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”

Aristotle “Politics”

Awareness of the factors that contribute to crime is important. But causality is not a defense to criminal behavior, it is a mitigating factor we must take into consideration when applying appropriate means of correcting such acts.

Three major reformations need to occur before any meaningful restructuring impacts police interaction with the public. Until these matters are addressed, law enforcement will be the agency of last resort for dealing with the problems of society. Under the current structure, they are ill-equipped, ill-trained, and improperly organized to address these problems without these changes.

The three urgent elements requiring change are these.

  1. Judicial reform
  2. Prison reform
  3. Educational reform

If Justice is not equal under the law. If access to Constitutional rights is limited by one’s financial resources. The inevitable results are what we see happening across America.

Blacks account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, yet make up 37.5% of the prison population. We need to understand the reason behind this. There is no race-based propensity for crime, poverty is the primary driving factor regardless of the race of the offender. There are a host of contributory reasons and an unfair Judicial System tipped against poor defendants is one of them.

Coupled with Judicial Reform is Prison Reform.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons budget for 2019 was $7.1 BILLION.  The Federal recidivism rate—those who are released from prison and re-offend—is 49.3%. Almost half of the people we put into the prison “Corrections” system return to prison.  (https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2016/recidivism_overview.pdf)

In Rhode Island, the recidivism rate is 50%. (https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/recidivism-rates-by-state/)

Does funding a program with a 50% failure rate sound like a wise investment? Couple that with the Federal government embracing private prisons—facilities that need prisoners to be profitable—and you have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Annual spending in 2018 on just prisons in the United States:  $182 billion

If one measures success by our rates of incarceration—we have the largest prison population and the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world—we wildly succeed in imprisoning people and are terrible at corrections and rehabilitation.

Unless the goal is to fill these private prisons, we are good at that. But the cost to society for our policy of mass incarceration is enormous and of questionable benefit. https://www.vera.org/publications/price-of-prisons-what-incarceration-costs-taxpayers

This leads to the key element, the lynchpin of the problem—flawed and unequal public education. Here’s a stark fact of how we set our priorities from a study by the US Department of Education.

“Between 1979 and 2012, state and local government expenditures grew by 107 percent to $534 billion from $258 billion for elementary and secondary education, while corrections spending rose by 324 percent to $71 billion from $17 billion.”

In the 2021 budget, the President has proposed a 10% reduction in spending for the US Department of Education. The same budget calls for a 1.6% decrease in spending for the Bureau of Prisons.

There are myriad related issues—lack of addiction treatment, mental health care, housing, employment opportunities—which all compound the crime problem. Focusing exclusively on the police masks the real problem, and will do nothing to solve the long-term issues.

It is unfair to target law enforcement alone when considering ways to eliminate racial bias in public safety.  Police officers reflect society. The implicit biases we all carry inevitably affect our interaction with others if we are not cognizant and continuously alert to the problem.

Education is the key to better understanding.

Yet absent complete studies clarifying the level of racial bias in applying force by Law Enforcement, it would be wise to err on the side of caution and focus on the issue.  More attention within agencies to the possibility of prejudice will inevitably lead to better policies and controls over the use of force.

The very nature of humans precludes the elimination of all force by the police in many circumstances. There are bad people in the world who will commit violent crimes and resist efforts to stop them. While some level of force will always be an element of being a police officer, we must remember the root causes behind criminal behavior. Lawful application of necessary force is not the problem, brutality is.

Improving trust between the police and the minority community is a two-way street. Refusing to report information of criminal activity, particularly involving firearms and gang activity, because of a perception the police will either over-react or not show up at all just perpetuates the mistrust.

Minority communities rightfully expect police departments to change their behavior and treat everyone fairly. These same communities bear a responsibility to cooperate with the police to eliminate the criminal element which casts a shadow on these communities.

Trust requires both sides to move toward middle ground. Failing to act is not an option. Understanding the causes behind most criminal activity—and the shared responsibility to act to change things—rests with all of us.

Except for the rare sociopath, most crimes result from societal conditions often outside the control of the person committing the crime. Poor educations, inadequate employment opportunities, drug addiction, and mental health issues all contribute to causation.

There is little doubt about the prevalence of racial disparity within America. There is also little doubt things have improved. But until we eliminate as much as humanly possible the unfair treatment of others because of the color of their skin, the lofty goal of all men being equal will remain an illusion.

Until we address these issues, nothing will change. Not within police agencies or society at large. America is a country with a promise of equality unmet by reality. 

We all bear a responsibility to face it and change things.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed — Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Langston Hughes

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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.

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