Excerpt from Divine Providence

Coming this fall from JEBWizard Publishing, a new book by Joe Broadmeadow with Pat Cortellessa

Divine Providence: The Mayor, The Mob, and The Man in the Middle

Here’s the excerpt. To be notified of updates, author appearances, and pre-release discounts sign up for our email list here.

This is the story of a Mayor who would be King, The Mob, who would demand its share of the kingdom, and a man caught in the middle. A story so unique, so endemic to the city, so uniquely Rhode Island, that it casts a spell even to this day.

Divine providence: The mayor, the mob, and the man in the middle
by joe broadmeadow

Introduction

The echo of the court clerk’s announcement of guilty on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) count still reverberated in the halls of  Judge Ernest Torres’ court as the implication ricocheted at the speed of light throughout Providence.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, the inimitable, affable, yet darkly complex Mayor of Providence, tarnished forever as a convicted felon. The Providence Renaissance, forever linked to Buddy in fable if not reality, now facing having the curtain pulled back on the myth enveloping the man..

As Shakespeare said, “the evil men do….” The good Buddy would now be buried in the Federal Prison system, removed from the City he loved almost as much as he loved himself.

All that remained now was for someone to pick up the pieces in City Hall and steer the City forward.

Pat Cortellessa—the long-time nemesis of Buddy, fresh from the courtroom where he watched the trial and verdict unfold— now stood in city hall with the man who would bear the burden of acting Mayor, John Lombardi. The scene was surreal, unimaginable just a few short months before. Few expected Buddy to be convicted. Most thought Buddy would emerge dirtied but otherwise unscathed, back in the Mayor’s office once again running his domain. Now the celebration of what many viewed as the end of corruption in City Hall was on.

Pat made his way to the Mayor’s office and walked into what was once the exclusive domain of Buddy. The office, trashed by the celebration, held echoes of so much promise and so many disappointments. Pat wandered over to the window overlooking Kennedy Plaza. The Cafe Plaza building, a prominent place in the plaza, the site of so many battles with Buddy, stood as a reminder of the now former Mayor’s penchant for exerting his control wherever he saw an opportunity.

Pat wondered if it had all been worth it. All those battles fighting for what he believed was right for the city, now mere memories. Buddy was no longer a force to be reckoned with, the conviction took that away. Where it would lead was anyone’s guess.

What lay ahead for Pat, he could only guess. But the memories of the war with the City and Buddy had taken its toll. How had it all come to this?

This is the story of a Mayor who would be King, The Mob, who would demand its share of the kingdom, and a man caught in the middle. A story so unique, so endemic to the city, so uniquely Rhode Island, that it casts a spell even to this day.

And Buddy was now out of sight…but he was far from finished.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

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

If I Had Known There Was a Test…

Recently I wrote a piece about why I intend to vote for Joe Biden rather than against President Trump.  (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2020/08/21/why-joe-biden/)

This sparked the usual round of responses both for and against. At one point, I was asked my opinion on a litany of issues.  These were both too complex and too numerous to answer on social media alone, thus the genesis of this latest blog.

File:Test-Logo.svg - Wikimedia Commons

And he went to Paris looking for answers
To questions that bother him so…

Jimmy Buffett, He Went to Paris

As always, I welcome anyone who wishes to write a piece addressing these or any issues. Submit it to me (joseph.broadmeadow@gmail.com) and I will happily publish it on the blog. My only caveat is the discussion be respectful. Passion is good, impoliteness is not.

Now, here are the questions and my answers.

Are you for legal immigration?

This one is easy. I support legal immigration. No rational person supports illegal immigration, if by illegal immigration you mean someone unlawfully entering this country absent a legitimate amnesty need. But there are exceptions. Creating a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children by their parents without legal documents is the American thing to do.

However, there needs to be a time limit on the window of opportunity.  For example, once an individual reaches eighteen years of age or, if already 18 or older, upon the creation of this program, they must apply for the citizenship process within two years.  Miss that window of opportunity, and you are subject to deportation.

Are you for free enterprise?

Again, an easy one. Yes I am. But government regulations play an essential role in ensuring a level playing field. Labor laws, OSHA regulations, EPA standards, and others are all necessary to protect workers, customers, the environment, and those operating a business.

At one time, child labor was a significant contributor to a free capitalist market. Such conditions and practices are abhorrent and government regulations necessary to prevent such abuses.

And Joe Biden hit on something critically important to free enterprise, labor unions. 

Labor unions, more than government regulations, made workplaces safer, pay and benefits more fair, and established a balance of power between management and labor. The pendulum swing away from union membership is partially responsible for the earnings gap. In 1983 union membership was 20.1% of workers, today it is 10.1%.

In 1965,the ratio of CEO to Worker compensation was 20 to 1. In 1989, it was 58 to 1. Today, it is 278 to 1. CEO compensation has risen 940% while only 11.9% for workers.

That some unions were corrupted is not an indictment of all unions or union members any more than the prosecution of corporate executives, say Brietbart for example, is an indictment of all executives.

Are you for energy independence?

Seeking energy independence is a critical national security matter. I support renewable energy research and alternative energy sources.  Coal, which accounts for almost 25% of electricity production in the US (and more elsewhere) combined with other fossil fuels (which account for 62%,) are two of the most significant contributors to anthropogenic accelerated global warming.

The Department of Defense, those ultimately responsible for defending this nation, has identified climate change as one of the most significant national security challenges facing this country.

We are at the point where the level of Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference (DAI) with the climate may be unrecoverable. Energy independence for the US must also include a significant investment in new energy sources, not just a surge in coal mining or improving fossil fuel extraction technology.

I know this may be heresy to some, but nuclear energy provided by the latest generation of reactors is dramatically less harmful to the environment, and safer overall, than fossil fuels. From an overall safety and environmental perspective, the more you know about fossil fuel, the more concerned you become. The more you know about nuclear energy, the less concerned you become. Once again, it is science that offers the answers, non politicized and unbiased.

Are you for more government regulations?

I support necessary government regulations; Health and Safety (OSHA), labor laws, automotive safety standards, FDA regulations. Speed limits on roadways limiting the speed at which cars can operate, even though they are capable of much higher speeds, makes everyone safer. Same thing with most regulations.

Do you support abortion on demand?

I support a woman’s right to choose and the guidelines laid out in Roe v. Wade.  The one aspect of Roe that gets lost in the rancor and emotion is that Roe was about fair and equitable access to abortions. Abortion for medical reasons has always been legal. It was the discrepancy in access to abortions that Roe addressed.

Wealthy individuals always had access to safe and legal abortions because they could afford to find a doctor who would deem the procedure medically necessary. 

Poor people did not have that option.

The decision to seek an abortion, for whatever reason, is the most difficult personal choice a woman has to make.  The government has no business interfering with such a significant private matter.

The other myth of abortions is that women will use this as birth control.  The data shows otherwise.  I suggest one read the book The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion (https://www.amazon.com/Turnaway-Study-Consequences-Having-Denied-ebook/dp/B0831S4XB2)

One certain way to reduce the need for abortions is a comprehensive health care system offering contraception, family planning, pre- and post-natal care and support, and a strong system of child care assistance for those in need.

Do you think the Iran deal was a good one?

I believe the Iran deal was the best solution to an insoluble problem absent the elimination of theocratic governments. What is now clear, by withdrawing from the Iran agreement, the US has created more instability in the region and lost any opportunity to build a coalition against further nuclear development by Iran.

Instead, we have left it to the Israelis to deal with the problem militarily, which increases the likelihood of open conflict in the Middle East.

The only lasting solution to the Iranian problem will have to come from the Iranian people. By imposing sanctions on a government that cares little for the welfare of its citizens, the ones who suffer most are the very people we need to achieve success.

Much like the Treaty of Versailles, we are imposing draconian demands that will, over time, have the exact opposite effect to what we need in the region.



Organizations like BLM will never gain the support of a majority of Americans until they decry the illegal possession and use of firearms as much as they criticize the actions of law enforcement.

Are you for defunding the police?

Another softball. Of course not.  But re-evaluating the tasks assigned to police departments and reallocating funds to more appropriate solutions makes sense. This trend toward the militarization of police (begun when I was on the job and no one embraced the toys more than us) was, in hindsight, a mistake.

But with that said, the reality of American society presents different challenges to police officers than other developed democratic countries. While police officers in many countries do not routinely carry firearms, the fact that there are 300 million weapons in civilian hands makes arming American officers critical.

Most gun owners never commit a crime. But the easy availability of weapons—both legal and illegal—makes their use in the commission of crimes more frequent and thus more of a risk factor.

Organizations like BLM will never gain the support of a majority of Americans until they decry the illegal possession and use of firearms as much as they criticize the actions of law enforcement. 

The implicit racism by many officers to persons of color is reinforced by the number of crimes committed by those who illegally possess weapons. This is not blaming the victims of unlawful police actions. This is bringing to the forefront the realities cops must deal with on the streets.

The perception of persons of color having a higher propensity to violence is one of the worst aspects of implicit racism, yet it is equally promulgated by ignorant racists and those who commit violent crimes with firearms.

And the inequities in the criminal justice system–where persons of color face longer sentences and make up a disproportionate number of those in prison–further reinforces the myth absent an understanding of the conditions behind the statistics.

Each of these factors reinforce to equal measure the misconception.

Do you think we should defend Federal Buildings?

Defend them, of course. Intercede in local situations absent specific requests from local law enforcement or elected officials, or absent evidence of abdication of responsibility by local authorities, no.

Do you think cities run by Democrats are thriving? (if so, name one).

This is my favorite. This is the classic example of how correlation does not equal causation. For instance, I could argue there has been an increase in violence in Chicago and other cities since 2016, when a Republican President took office. It correlates, but it doesn’t mean it caused it.

(Now if we want to argue the rhetoric coming from the administration—saying the white supremacists in Charlottesville were good people, for example—creates an atmosphere provoking violent acts, that might be a different discussion.)

To infer from data like the FBI crime reports, which are the ones most used to make these assertions despite FBI warnings against drawing such conclusions, distorts the reality.  In one more accurate study of gun violence in Chicago, 70% of the non-fatal gun injuries happened within areas containing just 6% of the city’s population. The study referred to these as “micro-geographic hot spots.”

There is no reliable way to gauge the political affiliation of a city’s administration to the city’s economic health as a significant factor in whether or not a city is “thriving.” 

One could argue that under two Republican mayors, Giuliani and Bloomberg, NYC saw an increase in violence and a downturn in economic viability. Under Giuliani’s tenure, New York suffered the most significant terrorist attacks in US history.  Does this mean a Republican-led city, or country, is more likely to face a terrorist attack? It may correlate, but it does not establish the cause.

Do you think the virus came from China?

I know the virus came from China because the CDC, WHO, and a host of other organizations–based on verifiable scientific pathogen methodologies–have traced the virus origin to China.

Do you think China is run by an evil regime?

China is a communist country with capitalistic overtones economically and a repressive dictatorship on civil liberties. The implication of these two questions being linked is that China intentionally released the virus.  While this makes for a great novel, the evidence suggests otherwise. Unless one wishes to abandon all rationality because of the equally deadly viral affliction of unprovable, often paranoid and irrational , conspiracy theories. I will adhere to staying with the evidence.

As a footnote, I am confident Bill Gates and Dr. Fauci, should they ever conspire to take over the world, would come up with a more controllable and effective method. 

Do you believe that the Muller investigation was legit and that the FISA Court was not deceived?

If we cannot have confidence in a man of proven character such as Robert Mueller to act in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the law, there is no hope for us. I would say Mr. Mueller’s refusal to offer a conclusion as to the President’s culpability in the matter, much to the chagrin of those who oppose the President, is a clear indication of Mr. Mueller’s character and integrity in rising above the temptation of political gain.

I would also refer you to the Senate Intelligence Committee report as to the indisputable fact of Russian interference in the election and the undeniable evidence of criminal activity.  As to the FISA warrant, there has been no evidence produced of any intentional misrepresentation of facts by the FBI in the warrant application. Acting in good faith is the standard in seeking warrants when evaluating information submitted in support of the application.

Sometimes, the information used to obtain a warrant turns out to be incorrect or inaccurate. But the level of probable cause needed to convince this court of the need to surveil American citizens is a high bar and, in this case, did not depend on just one dossier or alleged element in the application. 

Do you think BLM is controlled by avowed Marxist?

First, BLM is not a centralized organization like some would believe. They tend to be independent groups across the country operating under a common banner.  That someone who is an “avowed” Marxist is involved in such a group is not surprising, but they do not “control” the group.  And while I see Marxism as a failed philosophy doomed by the very nature of humans, to embrace such a philosophy in its pure theoretical form is both lawful and acceptable under our concept of free speech.

Do you think Joe Biden bribed the Pres. of Ukraine to remove the Prosecutor investigating Burisma?  

No, and no shred of reliable evidence proving this allegation has ever been shown. That is the standard of our criminal justice system, innocent until proven guilty. Much like Mr. Trump is not guilty of collusion with the Russians.

Are you for funding health care for illegal aliens?

If one means an otherwise capable adult who enters the country illegally to work, no. But it is more complicated.

What of an injured or ill young child brought here illegally by their parents?  Would you have us deny treating the child? Would you have us let them die because of their immigration status?  Or a pregnant mother? You would deny her the choice of abortion and refuse her treatment to bring the child to full term?

These are not yes/no situations, they are much more complicated.

Until we resolve the overarching issue of immigration with effective and humane programs, finding solutions to problems such as healthcare will be impossible.  

Why are people fleeing democratically controlled cities?

Migration patterns to and from cities are in constant flux.  The political affiliation of the city’s administration is a very low consideration in such decisions. The reasons people leave or move to cities vary with the current economy, crimes, employment opportunities, etc.

I would argue much of the most recent exodus from major cities is because of the disastrous manner in which we handled the pandemic.

Cities like New York with diverse populations, large numbers of foreign travelers, and serving as major points of entry into the country were more vulnerable than other less cosmopolitan cities.  These are not circumstances or conditions predicated or created by the political party holding the mayor’s chair.

To imply people are “fleeing” cities because of the political affiliation of the mayor contradicts the facts.  People leave cities for a variety of reasons, very few of them political.

I’ll give one example. There was a massive exodus from Boston after the school desegregation order. Whites who could afford it fled the city. The real estate market and rents collapsed; lower-income people filled the gap. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cities experience changes all the time, and the most significant factors driving it are almost always outside the control of the local political structure.

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Each of these issues is complex and requires a deliberate and comprehensive analysis to craft the best solutions.  I would argue that, despite the constant repetition from this administration about ‘yeah, but what about what Obama did,’ the evidence of corrupt practices and wrongheaded policies put in place by Mr. Trump is more compelling and I believe he has done significant long-term damage to this country.

The facts bear this out. Not one principal member of the Obama administration in eight years was ever charged, let alone convicted of a crime. And if politics influences the Justice Department, even under a Republican Congress, nothing came of investigation after investigation into the Obama administration.

Yet under President Trump, in less than four years, we have the following.

Mr. Trump’s personal attorney (Michael Cohen) charged and convicted.

Mr. Trump’s White House national security advisor (Michael Flynn) charged and convicted.

Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) charged and convicted.

Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman (Rick Gates) charged and convicted.

Mr. Trump’s former campaign advisers (Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos) charged and convicted.

And these are just the top-line indictments. If ever there was a model for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) case, the Trump administration is it.

When asked to explain his being surrounded by so many people he worked with being convicted, Trump was at a loss for words. Instead, he tried to avoid the question with the usual “But Obama spied on my campaign,” despite this fallacy being disproved.

In fact, had the FBI and the Justice Department not investigated Russian efforts to influence and support the Trump campaign (as detailed in the Senate Intelligence Report) I would argue they should be charged with Obstruction of Justice.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

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

We Are Not So Different from the Past

“What is past is prologue,”

William Shakespeare: ‘The Tempest’ (1611) act 2, sc. 1, l. [261]

After I posted a recent piece (Link here), a friend reminded me of a book I’d read several years ago called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The book is a masterful piece of science fiction writing.

Published in 1937, the book tells an imaginative tale of the universe. Told with the dust from World War I still settling, the pain of the depression fresh in the minds of many, and the rise of fascism—both foreign and domestic—on the horizon, Stapledon offered some interesting perspectives.

I decided to re-read the book. Several lines from the introduction caught my eye. These words, written more than eighty years ago, speak of the political chasm between the left and the right, liberal and conservative, that some see today as a new phenomenon.

Perhaps it is not.

Stapledon recognized the vast differences between the left and the right and felt the need to warn his readers of the reaction his words might foster

“At the risk of raising thunder both on the Left and on the Right, I have occasionally used certain ideas and words derived from religion, and I have tried to interpret them in relation to modern needs. The valuable, though much damaged words “spiritual” and “worship,” which have become almost as obscene to the Left as the good old sexual words are to the Right, are here intended to suggest an experience which the Right is apt to pervert and the Left to misconceive.”

It would seem our differences have always been with us. Technology has just made it easier to write or publicize whatever one believes without the safety mechanism of editing, writing with any semblance of logic, fact-checking, or subjecting oneself to the criticism of those one hopes to influence.

We can merely block those who hold opposing views or claim them to be fake.  By ignoring or discounting those with whom we disagree, we lose the opportunity to meld opposing views into a consensus of real value.

It would seem we may have always been this way.

While each moment may be unique to those in the middle of it, there really is very little new under the sun.

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American Svengali

“What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
Trump looked down and shook his head while this question was asked.
“I think it’s a very nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers, and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC, and Concast, I don’t call it Comcast (the parent company of NBC News) for whom you work. You need to get back to good reporting.”
“Let’s see if it works.”
On chloroquine, Trump said: “We ordered them. We have millions of units ordered.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984, however, told the same briefing there was no evidence the anti-malarial drug worked, and its safety risks are unknown.
Trump predicted: “People may be surprised.” * (source multiple outlets)

Mr. President, that is an understatement. I dare say it will shock the entire country.

John Barrymore as Svengali , A still from the 1931 eponymous movie

Mr. Trump is allergic to facts and prefers a sycophantic propaganda-driven media to fawn over, and accept without question, his every word, pronouncement, and declaration no matter how absurd or contradicted by facts. This President cannot handle basic questions that anyone in his position, under these circumstances, would know a reporter will ask.

This man is not responsible for this “Chinese” flu. Still, his ineptness and resistance to early decisive action—considering his well-known disdain for intelligence briefings (which alerted him to the potential crisis with Covid-19 as early as January)—is barely mitigated by VP Pence and Dr. Fauci. History may show the actions of this President failed to prevent increases in hospitalizations, deaths, and the unprecedented collapse of the American economy. (Story link)

In those same intelligence briefings, some Senators—both Democrat and Republican—were smart enough to see the looming financial crisis yet acted in a manner devoid of any sense of honor or decency.

They worried more about their personal well-being than the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see the names of others, privy to the same briefings, who took similar actions.

Regardless of who they are, anyone who used their positions of trust to insulate themselves from the coming financial collapse should resign immediately.

Now there are many rational Trump supports who make cogent and articulate arguments to support the President. Different perspectives, and differences of opinions, are what drive this country to greater achievements.

The very nature of the national emergency may have forced Mr. Trump into taking action. Still, his supporters are correct in arguing he is doing something. If he learned to let someone else have the spotlight, VP Pence and Dr. Fauci, it would mitigate much of the criticism directed at him.

He just cannot help thrusting himself into the spotlight–everything is “beautiful”–even if his statements are devoid of facts, or are outright falsehoods. Yet that has been his pattern since he entered the political forum.

His supporters’ parroted argument that they knew what they were getting—a crude, inarticulate, bull-in-a-china-shop personality—and wanted this politically inexperienced outsider to drain the swamp, falls short under scrutiny. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

If they were seeking such a candidate, they could have done better than this accident of circumstances. The swamp is getting deeper and murkier, it is not draining and the snakes are now poisonous.

Here’s a prediction. However this all plays out, Mr. Trump will resort to his usual course of behavior. He’ll blame all the negative consequences on VP Pence and Dr. Fauci and kick them to the curb. You heard it here first.

For those in the administration and Congress who went along with this Svengali-like personality, when the judgment of history comes on how you followed Trump lemming-like over the cliff, you can invoke the Svengali defense.

In court, a Svengali defense is a legal tactic that purports the defendant to be a pawn in the scheme of a greater and more influential criminal mastermind.

Convincing people he is a “mastermind” might be a stretch. You may have to work at that.

Or, you can say you were just following orders…

*Author’s Note: There is much discussion and disagreement over using Social Media for political discussions. I see the forum as the perfect opportunity to reach a wider audience than might be available to newspaper opinion pieces (which I also write) or other traditional forums.

I have people who read, and comment, on my pieces from all over the world. It opens a line of communication and exchange ideas well worth pursuing.

I also see Social Media as the perfect environment for choice. You can read what I write, respond, agree, disagree, or ignore it completely. The reader has full control.

Polls show a range of opinions on the use of social media for political discussions.

Some of that may be generational where younger generations use social media like my generation used the telephone and my parents generation used cards and letters.

Some of it may be most people are more concerned with being entertained on Social Media by goat videos, sophomoric memes, or jokes than as a source of information.

But what is undeniable is Social Media can have a positive impact when used with proper caution. While using single source reference sites such as Google or Wikipedia may offer some fact checking, accepting the content on Social Media as reliable on its face is dangerous.

But it does offer a platform to stimulate the consideration of multiple points of view. I don’t write these things because I believe I can persuade anyone to change their minds. I write these things so that everyone who reads it will know there are differences of opinions out there.

People often fall into the trap of confirmation bias. If they read something the agree with, they accept it at face value. If it is something they disagree with, they ignore it. By reading different points of view with the intent of understanding–not accepting but recognizing–different perspectives, it opens a door to further understanding.

If I write something that later proves wrong or inaccurate, I try to correct the error. I can admit mistakes. Yet I still see the social media platform as beneficial for the discussion of all topics.

The tone of the discussions is also problematic. Keyboards instill unwarranted courage in some. In a face-to-face discussion, no one tolerates name calling. Most participants would be reluctant to engage in such crass public displays. The anonymity of the online presence acts as an invisibility cloak, masking identity.

My posts all go on my blog, in my name, linked to a variety of Social Media sites and shared by those who follow my blog. I enjoy a polite if intense discussion on differences. I try to be polite and if I cross the line, I apologize, but I still see the platform as beneficial. It gives voice to people who may not otherwise have it.

To make a comparison to when I was growing up. I watched 3 channels, 6, 10, and 12. Then Channel 38 and 56 came along. Once again, I liked them for their entertainment value.

I didn’t watch PBS Channel 36, I wanted entertainment, not enlightenment. I wanted the Three Stooges, not a history lesson. If I wanted to be informed, I watched the news.

Yet, over time I did begin to watch more serious shows. The TV, once just a source of entertainment, became a widespread source of communicating information and bring the wide world into out living room.

Social media, just barely into it’s second decade, is a changing phenomenon.

I think many would prefer Facebook and Twitter and the plethora of others to be just another form of entertainment. As those accustomed to using Social Media almost from birth take over positions of responsibility and political office, that may change as it adapts to their particular preferences.

For myself, I will continue to post and welcome agreement and disagreement from anyone who wishes to take part. I do hope the discussions can be civil, I try to resist–not always with success–resorting to sarcasm, but sometimes I cannot help myself and for that I apologize. But we should still use the platform to express our ideas.

For it is in our differences we find solutions. Perhaps Social Media may be the platform where we once again embrace compromise.

Here are some links to polls addressing the situation.

How Fake News Kills Cops

The prevailing trend to choose what one believes in the media is not just problematic, it is dangerous.

According to some media outlets, there are two virulent plaques in America. The first is that the police are killing people in the course of their duties more than ever before. And that there is a racial bias to the shootings.

This is not just false, it is demonstrably false based on many data sources from official government agencies to multiple media outlets that show a consistent reduction in these incidents.

statistic_id585152_people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-2017-2018-by-race

https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

The second dangerous misconception is that the number of officers killed in the line of duty is higher than it’s ever been and rising. Again, the premise is not supported by the numbers.

US officers killed as the result of crime, 1970-2015

(Green) Officers killed as result of crime      (Red) Preceding 10-year average

Cops killed

http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/

Preliminary 2018 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities 

January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. January 1 through July 15, 2017

2018 2017 % Change
Total Fatalities 76 73 +4%
Firearms-related 32 27 +19%
Traffic-related 27 28 -4%
Other causes 17 18 -6%

Please note: These numbers reflect total officer fatalities comparing
January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. 
January 1 through July 15, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36826297

Now, this is where these two fallacies form a deadly combination. The perception of those inclined to unlawfully possess firearms or otherwise commit a crime, when confronted by police officers, tend toward a more violent level of resistance.

From the officer’s perspective, they anticipate each confrontation likely will pose a deadly threat to themselves or their fellow officers. Officers aren’t trained to apply different risk assessments of suspects based on skin tone. We teach them that every encounter is a potentially deadly one. It is a necessary survival mindset, but one that must be tempered by experience and sound judgment.

When officers operate in an environment rife with false or inflated perceptions of risk, the appropriate level of caution and tactics may be unreasonably amplified.

The false perception of a problem, promulgated and promoted by the media frenzy,  masks the reality and the results are deadly.

There is also the political factor officers face; both internal and external. Politicians and some members of the command staff, far removed from the realities of the street, are quick to criticize officers for political expediency or job preservation. Decisions made in difficult circumstances under enormous pressure with mere seconds to choose are autopsied for days by people who may have never found themselves in such situations.

Thus officers confront the perfect storm; all-to-common violent behavior by individuals with no respect for law, an atmosphere charged with perceived high levels of risk, and the possibility of being thrown to the wolves by politics.

Is it any wonder officers are shying away, either intentionally or by direction, from effective street policing. As a friend of mine, a former supervisor with a federal agency, liked to say, “Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems.”

Officers have the right to live and to protect themselves. We owe them the opportunity to do their job based on sound judgment and accurate information.

The loss of any officer is a tragedy. Even with the number of officers being killed showing a decline, one is too many.

Police officers must face the reality of the number of weapons, both legal and illegal, in this country. This almost guarantees a tragedy. Whether it is a felon with an extensive and repetitive criminal record on the street because of the incestuous nature of the lawyers (prosecutors and defense counsel) and judges minimizing cases for expediency or an angry and distraught individual, absent any prior criminal record, the guns pose a danger.

Add into the mix a “corrections” system that in many instances in nothing more than an advanced degree program for crime and you have all the ingredients for a fatal encounter.

Combine the misconceptions of these false and fable-like stories with the prevalence of weapons in America and tragic incidents like the most recent shooting of an officer and an innocent bystander in Weymouth, MA will become more and more common. The trend toward fewer police-suspect confrontations will end and likely grow.

Cops will die all because of a lie.

 

Guest Post: The Political Machine Reexamined by Professor Nicholas Easton

Guest columnist Nicholas Easton is a community activist, former member and President of the Providence City Council during the turbulent Cianci administration version 1, and Political Science Professor. 

My recent book, The Political Machine Reexamined, for which I am still seeking a publisher, examines in considerable detail, the political machines that so dominated American politics for over a century.  What is unique, though, is that I mount not a critique, but a strong defense of this phenomenon.  Furthermore, I make an argument that the Democratic party should return to building machines. I synopsize that argument herein.

democrat-donkeyTo begin let me lay out a few propositions. First is the idea that, generally speaking, for at least a century or so the Democratic Party has represented the economic interests of the poor and the Republican Party has represented the economic interests of the wealthy.

Second is the idea that, generally speaking, there are only two sources of power in our democracy, money, and people.

Finally is the idea that, given the two previous assertions, Republicans will win most political battles based on money and Democrats will win those based on superior organization and mobilization of people.

Many Democrats have come to recognize this problem and urged the party to focus more on capacity building and the so-called ground game. When it does so, however, it tends to approach the problem by trying to raise even larger sums of money and use that to support efforts to knock on doors and make phone calls before individual elections. While this seems to have worked fairly well in the special elections since 2016 one wonders if such an effort is sustainable with nationwide elections this year. There is also the question of whether Democrat’s recent success is simply a function of having a great enemy in Donald Trump.

There are two fundamental problems with this recent approach. First, it again relies on money, a game the Democrats simply can’t win. Second, it addresses only short-term wins and doesn’t really build capacity at all, it simply gins up turn out at a particular time. What’s needed is a fundamental reexamination of the way the party approaches elections.

My invocation of the machine model is not accidental as it serves several purposes. First of all, it is provocative and meant to be so. The Democratic Party needs a profound shakeup. It is absolutely ridiculous that the party that represents the interests of an overwhelming majority of Americans is so out of power. Second, the party needs to re-examine the fundamentals of its approach, not just individual pieces. Knocking on doors is great and communicating with voters is great but communicating with them only at election time is insufficient to building long-term change. And long-term change is indeed what is needed. The Obama election offered an opportunity for sweeping change, but it only lasted for two years as we got completely outmaneuvered in congressional elections for the following six years and with the possibility of losing complete control of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future the party has to think about long and broad change in its approach.

Third, there are significant reasons why the machine model worked and I lay out some of those reasons in my detailed examination of 18 characteristics of the machine, characteristics that are both significant and separable. Foremost among these is the so-called “exchange system” which basically means you do something for people before asking for their vote as opposed to making vague promises of the Nirvana that will result from your ascension to power. Another very significant characteristic is the 24/7/365 full-time nature of the machine.

Finally, my book debunks the myth that machines were more corrupt than present-day politics. For example, hiring people based on a test as opposed to who they might know only assures that higher social classes will beat out lower ones for jobs that may not require any specific skills. Such practices turn the poor into Trumpers.  And contracting out public services means that jobs are handed out by the same people who contribute tons of money to Republicans to get the contracts, and they are certainly no less corrupt. Think Blackwater and Kellogg, Brown and Root (a division of Haliburton).

In my book, I examine these things in much greater detail. Thus, people can reject my central claim of a need to return to the machine and yet, by looking at how the machine worked, find many valuable pieces that can be very useful to rebuilding the party. For example, I note that machines were usually a coalition.  The present-day party which relies on women, African-Americans, Hispanics, environmentalists, gays, Jews and others has a lot to learn about the management of coalitions. I also included 80 interviews with former residents of the machine neighborhoods in Providence indicating strong support among the populace for this institution.

At this point in time, I find myself extremely torn. I believe and I hope that the outrages that we have endured under Trump will indeed bring the expected Blue Wave and bring Democrats to significant power in 2018. The question is, in their euphoria will they believe that the problem was messaging and now they found the right one and all is well. The problem is not the message it is the messenger and he needs and deserves a thorough self-examination.

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Forget the Silent Majority Worry about the Soft-Spoken One

U.S. President Richard Nixon on November 3, 1969, said, “And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.” Nixon’s plea to this so-called ‘silent majority’ is similar to Mr. Trump’s pandering to his not-so-silent and decreasing supporters.

Both presidents missed the point.

The majority of Americans are neither silent nor rabid. They are mostly reasoned, rarely pugnacious, and care deeply about their country.  They are neither “my country, right or wrong” zealots nor “America has failed in its responsibilities” apologists.

free speechIf they are guilty of anything, it is an innate sense that America can survive any administration, any do-nothing Congress, or any political crisis. Yet, when faced with such a mess, this soft-spoken majority will rise to the occasion and let their voices be heard at the polls.

They do not focus on party affiliation, Congressional majorities, or rhetoric. What they focus on is ensuring the country steers itself back to the slightly conservative side of centrist policies.

It has been the hallmark of the most successful periods in American history.

Resisting involvement in European internecine wars until it became necessary.

Formulating trade and foreign policies guided by a modicum of consideration for any adverse effect on the rest of the world.

Implementing meaningful government programs to sustain and support people in need while assuring an equal opportunity to rise out of poverty through access to education and hard work.

Some would argue we have stepped away from that America.  I would agree. Post-World War II America went through growing pains as a world power, stumbling in places, i.e., Vietnam, South America, while achieving great things elsewhere.

The changing nature of asymmetric warfare, the growing number of nuclear-armed countries, and globalization has changed the geopolitical world we live in.

And we must change with it.

The fissure of partisan politics has grown over the last several Presidential administrations, hastened by the death of a Congress once guided by the art of compromise.

Through this, the majority of Americans may have lost their focus. But no more. The rising tide of change is evident everywhere. No longer will the majority of Americans sit back and let the screamers and the schemers control the field. No longer will lobbyists pull the strings of the PAC money addicted Congress. No longer will the country suffer a President who embarrasses America on the world stage

The soft-spoken majority will not raise their voices, chant slogans, or poison the public discourse with lies or ‘fake’ anything.  They will take to the ballot box and send a clear and unambiguous message.

“Give us back the America we love.”

Shakespeare’s God and Ghost

Whenever I write something that challenges (or perhaps outright denies the validity of) religious beliefs, I am often reminded by one of my favorite teachers from years ago (apologies Mr. Walsh) of this quote from Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Act 1, Scene 5)

william-shakespeare-194895-1-402

HORATIO
    O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET
    And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

This quote is often used to counter such arguments by implying there are things we don’t, and perhaps cannot, know for certain.

The existence of an omnipotent god being the big one.

I would argue the opposite. The quote comes when Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet. He denies what is right in front of him. Hamlet’s line is as much a criticism of the limitations of our beliefs as an argument that we can’t know everything.

I would suggest that Hamlet is pointing out that, in the presence of new information, long-standing beliefs change.

In Shakespeare’s time, the Copernican theory of a heliocentric solar system was still being met with death by fire at the hands of the Catholic Church. Today, we have found over 3000 extra-solar planets orbiting other stars.

Galileo, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was under house arrest for confirming the Copernican theory. Today, only the lunatic fringe cling to such ideas of an earth-centered universe.

Isaac Newton, born shortly after Shakespeare’s death, began developing Newtonian physics that held sway until the introduction of Quantum physics. Even those who study such things have barely scratched the surface of the strange world of quantum entanglements. Einstein’s characterization of “spooky actions at a distance’ now is accepted a fact.

My point being that much of the most dominant religious dogmas, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic, have their roots in times of limited scientific knowledge with widespread misunderstanding of natural phenomenon.

A first grader today has a more in-depth understanding of the reality of the physical world than the most educated Roman or Greek or Islamic intellectual at the time of the founding of these religions.

Professor Tom Nichols of the Naval War College writes in his book, “The Death of Expertise” about the demise of our ability to question things and seek knowledge. We have lost our ability to think critically. We’ve been “Googled” into relinquishing analysis and discourse.

He writes, “The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance,” He laments that many Americans are “proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue.”

The idea that most Americans believe in Angels is astounding. They may argue that something inexplicable must have been an Angelic intervention but it doesn’t establish that as fact. All it does is illustrate that there are some things we do not yet understand.

Yet being the important word in that sentence.

I do not claim to have the answers, no one can. But I think history teaches us with each passing moment long-held beliefs based on faith alone have fallen to the inevitable progress of human inquiry.

By falling back on Shakespeare’s quote as a means of saying we must accept things because we can’t explain them or disprove them flies in the face of the progress of knowledge.

In Shakespeare’s time, there was disagreement at the point of a lighted torch on whether the earth circled the sun. Some four hundred years later, a man stood on the moon. Over the next decade, man will stand on Mars.

Not that science alone can offer all the answers, but the scientific method does offer a roadmap of how to get there. By questioning hypothesis, by repeating experiments, by continually adding to the sum of human knowledge we will grow our rationality.

All one need do is look around at the world today to see the risk of faith-based politics. Those who subscribe to mystical messages from unseen gods as a guide to managing human affairs are as much a threat as a terrorist bomb. Not one of the “inspired word of god” texts leaves out some cataclysmic end to the world with the saving of the faithful and the utter destruction of the unbelievers. Ever wonder why such blind faith is so important to an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being?

If you believe in hell and the promise of everlasting torment for those who are not “bathed in the blood,” or any other such dogma that is a true threat to the peaceful existence of humanity.

By thinking, we grow. “Cogito ergo sum” I think, therefore I am. The more we think and learn and investigate, the better we will live.

And that is why, despite Hamlet’s words, I question and doubt.

In All Fairness

President Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. The rancor and rejection by those who oppose Trump now rises to a new level of vitriol. I place myself in the ranks of those who did not vote for Trump. I find his initial actions in office to be counter-productive at best and terrifying at worst. I have great apprehension for the near future of this country.

But, with that said, let us not forget the process of government given to us by the founding fathers. One created to weather such storms.

Let us not forget the constitutional concepts upon which these nominations proceed to Congress. They are to “advise and consent.”

When President Obama (oh where, oh where have you gone?) nominated Judge Merrick Garland, the Republicans acted like fools. Spouting all sorts of nonsense about election year nominations being improper.

No doubt someone will point out that more people voted against Trump than voted for him. They’ll suggest this as a reason he should not nominate anyone.

Nonsense. As much nonsense as blocking election year nominations.

Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing. They subverted the constitution. They knew the hearing to “advise and consent” is not about the nominee’s positions, but about their qualifications. Garland was as qualified as Gorsuch appears to be, philosophical differences aside.

These differences are not a basis to reject a nominee.

We cannot scream about violating the spirit of America with a religious test (couched in fear) that bans immigration based on being a Muslim, then seek to block an otherwise apparently qualified nominee for the court because we disagree with his opinions.

Democrats need not follow the Republican circus act. They can follow the rule of law and Senate decorum.

Quotes are like friends, we pick them because we like them. Facts are like blood relatives, often uncomfortably embarrassing. We can quote all we like by cherry-picking decisions by Gorsuch. The fact remains that on the surface he appears qualified for the position. If a Senate hearing discovers otherwise, so be it.

And that is all the constitution requires.

History is replete with justices who turned out to be much less rigid than expected.

If Justice Gorsuch demonstrates his qualifications for the Supreme Court, the Senate should advise and consent. If we demand the Republicans follow the law, and criticize them when they don’t, we must ourselves take the high road.

To do otherwise is to cast aside 200 plus years of our way of conducting the people’s business. There are those in Congress who do not care, those of us with some rationality left should.

The alternative is inertia in government.