Hillary Clinton Made a Great Speech

At the A.M.E. Church conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 8th, the day after the killings in Dallas. The full speech is here, with excerpts below the video:

Partial transcript of her remarks:

Gun violence is ripping apart people’s lives. They’re trying to tell us. And we need to listen.

I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people. I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks and getting assault weapons off our streets gets you demonized.

But all these things can be true at once. We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated equally in rights and dignity. We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. And we do need to reduce gun violence. We may disagree about how to do all these things, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.

Now, I have set forth plans for over a year to reduce excessive violence, reform our sentencing laws, support police departments that are doing things right, make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on guns. For example, there are two important steps that I will take as president.

First, I will bring law enforcement and communities together to develop national guidelines on the use of force by police officers. We will make it clear for everyone to see when deadly force is warranted, and when it isn’t. And we will emphasize proven methods for de-escalating situations before they reach that point.

And second, let’s be honest — let’s acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across our society and even in the best police departments. We have to tackle it together, which is why in my first budget, I will commit $1 billion to find and fund the best training programs, support new research, and make this a national policing priority. Let’s learn from those police departments like Dallas that have been making progress, apply their lessons nationwide.

Now, plans like these are important. But we have to acknowledge that — on their own — they won’t be enough. On their own, our thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, either. We need to do some hard work inside ourselves, too….

I’ve tried to say for some time now that our country needs more love and kindness. I know it’s not the kind of thing presidential candidates usually say. But we have to find ways to repair these wounds and close these divides. The great genius and salvation of the United States is our capacity to do and to be better. And we must answer the call to do that again. It’s critical to everything else we want to achieve — more jobs with rising income; good education no matter what ZIP code a child lives in; affordable college; paying back debts; health care for everyone. We must never give up on the dream of this nation.

I want to close with a favorite passage — a passage that you all know — that means a great deal to me and I’m sure to many of you, from Galatians. “Let us not grow weary in doing good” — “for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

Automatic Weapons Again

A statistic from Vox:  More Americans have been killed with guns since 1968 than have died in all of our wars going back to 1776. 

Now, we all know that the purpose of “automatic” weapons is to disable or kill many people very quickly. Rational Americans understand that no private citizen should legally possess powerful weapons of this kind or the ammunition that goes with them. The Constitution doesn’t give us the right to bear any kind of “arms” no matter how dangerous. Making these weapons illegal does not require going down the slippery slope to banning all firearms. The United States isn’t going to invade Texas and even Texas isn’t the Wild West. More guns and more powerful guns means more innocent people being maimed and killed.  

But if law-abiding citizens don’t own such weapons, only criminals will! That’s exactly right. Police and the armed forces will have access to these weapons in case they’re needed. Anybody else who has an automatic weapon will be and should be a criminal.

From New York Times op-ed writer Timothy Egan’s article about our latest massacre:

A day after the California carnage, the Senate decided to do nothing, again, voting down a measure that would have made it more difficult for people on the terror watch list, felons and the mentally ill to buy guns.

Well, it wasn’t as if the whole Senate made that decision:

YEAs (Do Something) — 45
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Coons (D-DE)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Hirono (D-HI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Peters (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs (Do Nothing) — 54
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Capito (R-WV)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Coats (R-IN)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Gardner (R-CO)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

So, I have two recommendations. The first is for Democrats (D) and Independents (I): 

Support rational gun control, do what you can to make your position known and always vote, but never, ever vote for a Republican. 

The second is for Republicans (R):

Seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional. 

~~~~~

Times columnist Gail Collins describes some of the rationalizations offered by Republican politicians in support of doing nothing.

At Least the Cop Wasn’t Thinking At the Time

A high school student in South Carolina disrupted a class by talking on her phone. The teacher and a school administrator demanded that she leave the room. She refused. A police officer assigned to the school was summoned. He told her again to get out of her chair and leave the room. She was now sitting quietly and no longer using her phone. She said she had done nothing wrong and wanted to stay.

He reacted by flipping her and her chair upside down and dragging her across the floor. The white police officer, who is also one of the school’s assistant football coaches, did not break the black girl’s neck.

From the New York Times article, which includes a link to the video:

Witnesses to Monday’s incident said that in an Algebra 1 class, the girl, a sophomore, was on her phone, and the teacher told her to put it away. The teacher summoned an administrator, who brought in the deputy. The adults repeatedly asked the student to get up and leave the class, but she refused.

When the altercation occurred, students stood up, confused about what was happening, but the deputy told them, “Sit down, or you all will be next,” said one student, Charles Scarborough, 16. Adding to the surprise and confusion, several students said the girl was usually quiet and not a troublemaker.

The deputy also detained a second student, Niya Kenny, 18, who told a local television station that her only offense was objecting to his treatment of the other girl.

“I was crying, like literally screaming, crying like a baby,” Ms. Kenny told WLTX. “I’d never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl.”

As she protested, she said, “he said, ‘Since you’ve got so much to say, you’re coming, too.’ ”

I can almost understand the cop’s reaction. He got frustrated and gave in to his worst impulses. He didn’t de-escalate the situation. He treated the girl as if she were a dangerous criminal. He treated her worse than he’d treat a dog. But I presume he wasn’t using all his mental faculties at the time. His lizard brain, his adrenaline and his racism took over.

What I can’t understand at all is that people read the article and watched the video and then composed a comment to the Times suggesting that the girl was responsible in any way whatsoever for what happened to her. She disrupted the class. She refused to get out of her chair. She wasn’t respectful of authority. Maybe she provoked the cop’s reaction. We should wait for all the facts before passing judgment.

What total bullshit. Let’s face it. Many of our fellow citizens here in the United States would make good Nazis and there doesn’t seem to be much the rest of us can do about it. (All right, I do understand it.)

There’s more here, including how a police officer using more of his brain could have handled the situation.

The Riot, the Police and Some Music

I spend a lot of time on a web forum devoted to a certain great musician. Because some of the site’s visitors have ties to Baltimore, the riots and the effect they’re having on the city are being discussed — in a thread supposedly devoted to something else. Emotions obviously run high in such situations, which partly explains why one person who says he lives in Baltimore called for “the police and National Guard to show no mercy”.

I didn’t want to get into this topic on a musician’s website, but it eventually seemed necessary to add another point of view:

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Since what’s been happening in Baltimore keeps being discussed, here’s something from The Atlantic:

Justice demands that participants in the riots are identified, arrested, and charged with whatever crimes they committed. Their unjustifiable violence endangered innocents, destroyed businesses, and harmed the economic future of largely black neighborhoods; they earned the frustrated contempt of Baltimore’s mayor and members of its clergy and strengthened the hand of the public-safety unions that are the biggest obstacles to vital policing reforms.

But a subset of Baltimore police officers has spent years engaged in lawbreaking every bit as flagrant as any teen jumping up and down on a squad car, however invisible it is to CNN. And their unpunished crimes have done more damage to Baltimore than Monday’s riots. Justice also requires that those cops be identified and charged, but few are demanding as much because their brutality mostly goes un-televised. Powerless folks are typically the only witnesses to their thuggery. For too long, the police have gotten away with assaults and even worse. The benefit of the doubt conferred by their uniforms is no longer defensible.

I didn’t realize until today that putting handcuffed suspects in the back of police vans without strapping them in and then driving with sudden stops and starts and making sharp turns so that the suspects get bounced around is common enough in cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia to have been given names like “rough ride” and “nickel ride”.

People have been paralyzed and otherwise injured in both cities and won millions of dollars in damages. The investigation isn’t over, but it’s reasonable to assume that this is how Freddie Grey had his spine and larynx destroyed while he was driven around the city in the back of a police van, before he fell into a coma and died.

The Atlantic article concludes:

I believe it is as necessary now as it was in 1968 [when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about such things] to simultaneously insist upon the following: that riots are to be condemned; that they are inextricably bound up with injustices perpetrated by the state; and that it is a moral imperative for us to condemn both sorts of violence.

The whole article [by Conor Friedensdorf], which isn’t very long, is here.

The Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke, “Stand By Me Father”, the early 60s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weYZt3FAqi4

Ben E. King, “Stand By Me”, 1961
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwZNL7QVJjE

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Well, it’s a music site so it seemed best to stay somewhat on topic.

A Neutral Observer Might Detect a Pattern Here

Ijeoma Oluo, a Seattle writer, has been tweeting “Don’t Do That and They Won’t Kill You” advice since yesterday. New York Magazine helpfully provided an annotated list of the fatal encounters she’s described.

Much too often, the apparently dangerous and criminal behavior at issue seems to have been “Being in Public While Black”.

Do many cops really see black Americans as so much more lawless and threatening than the white Americans they meet up with?

Today I saw a link to the video below. It shows how unreliable direct perception can be. It’s called the McGurk Effect in honor of the scientist who discovered it. From Wikipedia:

The effect was discovered by accident when McGurk and his research assistant … asked a technician to dub a video…. while conducting a study on how infants perceive language at different developmental stages. When the video was played back, both researchers heard a third phoneme [a perceptually distinct unit of spoken language] rather than the one spoken or mouthed in the video.

A couple weeks ago, in Cleveland, two cops responded to a 911 call, which can be heard here. The person who called 911 said that someone in the park (“probably a juvenile”) was scaring people with a gun (“probably fake”). 

It isn’t clear yet what the 911 dispatcher told the two officers to look for, but the black 12-year-old with the authentic-looking pellet gun was shot as soon as they arrived on the scene. From the New York Times:

Tamir Rice was killed by a rookie Cleveland police officer who quit a suburban police force after his supervisors determined two years ago that he suffered a “dangerous loss of composure” during firearms training and was emotionally unprepared to cope with stresses of the job. The officer, Tim Loehmann, 26, shot the child within two seconds after his patrol car pulled up next to the boy.

The Cleveland police said the child, who had what turned out to be a replica gun that shoots small plastic pellets but looks like a semiautomatic pistol, was told to raise his hands, but instead reached to his waistband for the object. Surveillance video of the killing that was released last week showed, however, that the shooting happened so fast it was hard to know whether the officer issued any real warnings or whether the boy could have understood them if he did.

I wonder what the young cop who had been fired by another police department saw when he and his veteran partner drove into that park. I wonder what the more experienced officer saw. It’s possible, even likely, that they didn’t see the same thing. Whatever each of them saw, however, it’s clear that one of them shouldn’t have arrived in that park with a gun in his hand, ready to use it, given what he apparently perceived.

New Video From That Day in Ferguson, Missouri

New witnesses to the apparent execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have come forward. CNN has cellphone video of them watching what happened and, oh yeah, they’re two white contractors from out of town. Isn’t it funny how that “white” part makes a big difference (to us white people)? The video and the description of events offered by these witnesses is strong evidence that Michael Brown was indeed executed that afternoon.

What People Say Happened in Ferguson

The town of Ferguson is near St. Louis, Missouri. It has a population of 21,000, so it’s big enough to have a small police force. Everyone agrees that Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, around noon on August 9th. The results of the official autopsy haven’t been released yet, but it’s been reported that it will substantially agree with a second autopsy done at the family’s request: Wilson shot Brown approximately six times.

I spent some time recently trying to find out how many witnesses to the incident there were and what they had to say. It wasn’t easy, but two sites had some details. One was Wikipedia and the other was The Root. The latter is a magazine devoted to African-American news and commentary founded by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Donald Graham, Chairman and CEO of what used to be the Washington Post.

Here’s a summary based on these two sources and a statement made by the St. Louis County police chief on August 17th:

Officer Wilson ordered Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson to walk on the sidewalk, not the street. Wilson and Brown got into a physical altercation while Wilson was still in his police car. A shot was fired in the car, which may or may not have struck Brown. Wilson’s face was apparently bruised during the struggle. Brown then ran away. Wilson got out of his car, chased Brown and fired again. Apparently, none of these other shots hit Brown until Brown turned around and faced Wilson. At that point, Wilson continued to fire, killing Brown. Overall, Brown was shot four times in his right arm and twice in his head. Brown’s body ended up about 35 feet from Wilson’s car.

Whether or not Brown raised his hands to surrender after he turned around, or fell toward Wilson, or decided to move toward Wilson, is now a matter of dispute. However, the four people who claim to have seen the shooting and who have been identified so far (Dorian Johnson, Piaget Crenshaw, Tiffany Mitchell and James McKnight) all indicate that Brown wasn’t threatening Officer Wilson at that point. They suggest, in fact, that Wilson executed Brown. On the other hand, Officer Wilson, who still hasn’t been directly quoted, is said to have felt threatened. The wounds Brown suffered are consistent with Brown having surrendered and fallen toward the ground, although they don’t rule out Brown having moved toward Wilson with his head down.

If this were the only evidence presented and I was on the jury, I’d have to conclude that Officer Wilson was guilty of second-degree murder. It wouldn’t be first-degree murder, since there’s no evidence of premeditation. Firing his weapon at Brown as Brown was running away indicates Wilson’s willingness to use deadly force. The consistency of the four statements from people who apparently didn’t know each other (except for the two women, one of whom supervises the other at work) implies that Brown had stopped running and was giving up. Is there reason to doubt that this is what happened? Of course, it’s possible that Brown meant to stop Officer Wilson from firing at him by moving toward Wilson. But so far there is no good reason (which is the definition of “reasonable doubt”) to think that Wilson was in danger when he killed Brown.

At some point, it would be helpful to hear a police officer admit that the deadly force he (it always seems to be “he”) applied to some black man or some crazy person wasn’t necessary. He’d explain that he was angry and excited and fearful and his emotions took over. He’d remind us that police officers hate it when their authority is challenged. He’d also remind us that he’s only human and that having the power of life and death over one’s fellow citizens will sometimes inevitably lead to misuse of that power. He’d further admit that, when it comes right down to it, he’s like too many Americans in feeling that some people’s lives just aren’t as valuable as others, especially black people’s. 

Update:

The New York Times ran an article two days ago concerning “conflicting accounts” of what happened in Ferguson. To her credit, Margaret Sullivan, the Times‘ Public Editor (which is similar to an ombudsman), points out here that:

The story goes on to quote, by name, two eyewitnesses who say that Mr. Brown had his hands up as he was fired on. As for those who posit that Mr. Brown was advancing on the officer who was afraid the teenager was going to attack him, the primary source on this seems to be what Officer Wilson told his colleagues on the police force. The Times follows this with an unattributed statement: “Some witnesses have backed up that account.” But we never learn any more than that…[The Times story] sets up an apparently equal dichotomy between named eyewitnesses on one hand and ghosts on the other.