1 oil at 2.49

gasoline at $ 2.40 a gallon ? not there yet, but we will be soon. Enjoy the fun while it lasts

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As everybody with a car key knows, gasoline pdices have fallen in the Boston area by at least one third. Gallons that cost us about $ 3.70 last year now go for $ 2.50.

Those of us who drive, celebrate. Those of us who don’t, are missing the fun. Actually, it’s more than just fun. It’s a big deal. Oil is the world’s one vital, immediately fungible commodity, upon which a major part of all the world’s cash is spent and invested. Millions of people work in the oil industry; thoiusands more in natural gas extraction and delivery. It is indeed a big deal; and when the oil price shifts as enormously as it is now doing, big consequences ensue.

More about those consequences later. First I want to outline why the huge oil price drop is taking place. The answer is simple : oil supplies rarely disengage from demand by even one percent. Most oil transactions are cash deals in which delivery is immediate. No one in the entire chain of oil – to – market inventories much, because liquids bulk huge; there’s not much place to put them. Once extracted, oil moves ceaselessly from delivery to refinery refinery to terminal, terminal to dealer to customer.

Oil’s constant, super efficient movement from extraction to consumption has the same effect, when supply and demand shift, that a stalled car has on traffic on a freeway. It doesn’t take much of a ripple to upset the oil market — and thus its pricing.

This time, however, oil prices have fallen not because of a break in demand — nothing unusual has happened there — but because of over-supply. Saudi Arabia, which still controls about one-quarter of the world’s oil and dominates the OPEC cartel of oil-producing nations, has refused to cut back production even as US production of oil has reached its highest level in decades. (Fact : we’re now an oil exporter nation.)

Even as consumers now use more gasoline than they might have a year ago, over-supply has left much produced oil without a buyer except at cut-rate prices. So the question arises : why are the Saudis doing this ?

In part their decision is political : a 33 percent fall in crude prices has seriously hurt the economies of two major Saudi enemies, Iran and Russia. Not to mention Venezuela, whose economy, dodgy even with oil at $ 120 per barrel, has lost all of its clout (hello, Cuba) now that oil fetches varely $ 60 per barrel.

The Saudi decision also has an economic motive : fracking, as a method of oil extraction, has become so inexpensive that it has enabled Canada and the US — we invented the process — to produce oil as cheaply as, or more cheaply than, the Saudis can o by traditional drilling.

Our two nations, Canada and we, threaten to outflank the Saudis’ dominance of oil markets. The Saudis are fighting back, trying to downgrade oil prices to where it becomes unprofitable for us to extract by fracking. (“Fracking'”is short for hydraulic fracturing, a water-pressure method by which shale and tar sands are dissolved and the oil held within them extracted.)

The struggle going on around oil costs has given a huge boost to the economy, enabling consumers to spend much more on stuff other than gasoline and heating oil than last year, and this at a time when incomes are increasing nationwide. But the same struggle is causing major diusruption to alternative-energy initiatives. no sooner has the cost of producing solar power become competiive with fossil ful prices than fossil fuel prices have suddenl dropped big time.

Yet the big issues in fuel politics remain. Sio,me day they will become vital again : alternative fuel prices don’t have the sme up and down volatility as do oil and gas ; the millions of people who work in the oil and gas industry can’t readily be redeployed ; alternative energy doers not subject us to the vicissitudes of international politics ; carbon emissions are still a major world climtae impact; and the innovation necessary to create a nationwide alternaive-energy grid will, of itself, enormously boost and reshape the nation;s economy.

There’s every reason to want America to move to a fuel grid that isn’t oil or gas. And not only America. This is the world’s issue. The dislocation is going to be huge as it is : what happens to the millions who now owrk in oil and gas ? What becomes of the businesses — the transport, extraction, and refining businesses in particular, and the oil traders working world-wide — and of the huge billions of dollars that move through them ?

Right now we are enjoying a ton of fun driving cheaply and buying lots of other stuff that we had not expected to afford. I wonder what the next chapter in the long and dramatic epic of oil will tell of.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 mccain and cheney

John McCain : restoring our nation’s honor; Dick Cheney : not his best moment at all

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Senator John McCain summed the torture mess up : torture is not who we are; we cannot do what the enemy does because we are not like them, we are better than that.

McCain was a victim of torture himself. He knows that tortured men will say whatever their torturers want to hear. He knows that the intelligence gained by torture is no intelligence at all. He also knows that it violates laws our nation has enacted, treaties we have signed, conventions we have committed to. He knows that it breaks our nation’s word.

He passionately supports the release of the “torture report”: by the senate ihtelligtrnce Committee. So do I. The timing has political implications, perhaps, but to me, any time is a good time for our nation to hold a kind of “truth and reconciliation” conversation. Because as the report makes clear, for the years that torture ruled, we had no honor. And without honor, who are we ? No different, no better, than our enemies.

McCain asked, “you tie a man to the floor until he freezes to death and you don’t think that’s torture ?”

All this, we know. You know it, I know it. So let the nation’s soul. searching begin. Build a legacy of apology, of “never again.” And what next ? How do we gain the intelligence that we need to fight wars against terrorists ? If not to squeeze and frighten captives, what is the CIA tasked to do ? Here’s my answer :

1 .Intelligence for war is a military matter. It should be conducted by the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines. By SEALS. By Rangers. By judge advocate corpspeople. That’s how it was done in World War 2 and in Korea. If America calls upon our armed forces, it is armed forces that we should task to do “intel.”

Our armed forces obey the rules, treaties, laws, and conventions, if only because they know that if we do not treat captives as we have promised, our foes won’t treat our people properly either. Even then, there are abuses. can we forget Abu Ghraib ? But Abu Ghraib happened in a time when we “took the gloves off.” The message was sent, and our troops dearly paid the price.

Military interrogators have a superb record of gaining “intel.” The success of military campaigns depends on their doing it the right way. Can’t we let the military do its job and not have bureaucrats do its job for it ?

2. The CIA has no business operating in military mode. it has no business operating prisons or sending war captives to other nations’ prisons. The CIA’s mission, at founding, was to gather “human intel.” The CIA is tasked to recruit informants, behind enemy lines or in terrorist havens, to tell us, of their own observation, what is going on in the enemy camp.

Perforce much of what such agents tell us is mistaken, or half mistaken. It’s up to CIA specialists to assess the “intel” thus gathered.

As we have learnbed from the report, the most effective “intel” gained by the CIA was old-fashioned human intelligence. Couldn’t they see that ?

Just as the CIA should not be doing the work of our military, so it should not be doing the work of our State Department. The CIA has no business engaging in political games overseas, no business undermining foreign governments, no business hanky-pankying with black marketeers or arms dealers.

No military man, no matter how capable, should ever be appointed CIA director. The CIA must never be even slightly militarized.

A man whom I admire highly tells me that he knows great people in the CIA. I believe him. The problem is not that many CIA people are highly thought of, it’s what the CIA directors task them to do.

Lastly, no executive officer, not even at the highest level, should ever be allowed to misuse the CIA as Vice President Cheney evidently did, in those horrible days after 9/11, when much of our government lost sight of its strength and fell into the fear trap that we are now exiting. If one can believe what is being reported, the President himself was not informed of all the actions commanded by Cheney. If that is true, it was an impeachable offense, and Cheney should even now be censured for it.

In the wake of Cheney’s commands, superficially authorized by the President, government lawyers drew up exculpatory memos that violate all kinds of oaths lawyers are supposed to swear to, not to mention subverting the nation’s honor and making it harder by far to win the war. For which, these lawyers should be strongly censured too.

Some who feel as I do have called or prosecution of the people responsible for ordering these acts. I disagree. The nation needs to recover its honor, not lash out. The torture report and the reforms I suggest fully heal our soul.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Reid and McConnell

been a long time since we’ve seen this : Senators Reid and McConnell discussing rather than slinging insults at each other

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Yesterday the US Senate voted 56 to 40 to enact the $ 1.1 trillion dollar FY 2015 Budget Bill that has caused so much political ruckus and loud-speak. We stand with those who voted for the bill, and here’s why.

The bill contains many provisions we do not agree with. That is certain. But in an era of Federal budget retrenchment, when the argument for deficit reduction has carried the day — not that we agree with it, but it is what it is — it is axiomatic that people can’t expect all their Federal initiatives to be funded. Much good stuff is left out; some has been cut. Yet the process does not end here. Funds not appropriated in the “Omnibus” budget bill can always be restored later.

The vote was almost perfectly bipartisan. 27 Republicans voted Yes, 18 No. 24 Democrats voted Yes, 21 No. State seemed to matter more than party. in almost every state, Senators voted the same way, regardless of party, either Yes or No. This solidarity included ME, NH, MA, RI, NJ, PA, MD, MI, MS, AL, GA, OK, CO, NM, NB, SD, ND, OR, ID, WY, MN, IA, OH, IN, VA, NC, DE, RI, VT, AR, AZ, and AK. Senators differed — again, regardless of party — only in CA, HI, NY, CT, FL, LA, WI, KS, TX, UT, NV, MT, KY, SC, MO, WV, and TN.

From the volume of noise being raised on the spending side, you’d think the “Omnibus’ were the end of the road. It isn’t.

Much noise has also been bruited on the cut-spending side. This seems less justified. The cut-spending folks succeeded in paring much that probably shouldn’t be cut, from the size of military pay raises to funds for the EPA, IRS, and “Race to the Top.”

In addition, Senate opponents of the Dodd-Frank Act, which placed significant restrictions on the use of ordinary bank depposits to fund derivatives trading, succeeded in cutting back that Act’s application to hedge trading by farm businesses. Supporters of Dodd-Frank — notably our Senator, Elizabeth Warren — treated this change as a cataclysmic event requiring the threat of a government shutdown rather than approve. Really ?

Perhaps the most curious adjustment in the Omnibus bill is to expand the size of allowable donations to political committees — from $ 32,000 to $ 320,000. has nothing to do with the Federal budget; it’s in the Omnibus only because — so the story has it — the GOP is worried about funding its 2016 nominating convention. I’m not sure what to make of this provision, but again, I don’t think it’s a cause for raising the hue and cry. It’s simply a result of Citizens United, a ecsion controversial to be sure.

The bill makes almost no change at all in the parameters of deficit-reduction budget policy established two years ago by Congress after way too much drana hopefully not to be revisited. We have not read its entire 1,600 pages,l but we have read a detailed synopsis of its provisions as provided by the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Harold Rogers. It might be worth your while to read what’s actually in the bill, and not in it, before you unleash the four winds of hell against it. Here’s the link :

I suppose you can justify the noise and opposition as a means of maintaining a constituency for a different budget policy than deficit-reduction-first. Unhappily, that policy change seems less crucial now than it did back in 2009-12, when the regressed national economy seemed to me to require deficit spending big-time. Today, with the economy rapidly improving — albeit unequally — deficit reduction makes good sense. Those who object to a deficit-reducing budget now object too late.

It would not surprise me at all if the next chapter in the nation’;s Budget drama were one of expansion, as rapidly increasing Federal revenues allow Congress to restore appropriations — such as military pay and EPA funding — that have been reduced in the 2015 Omnibus. And maybe even to amend the Budget objectives legislation enacted in 2011-12.  After all, a big election is coming, and realism is once again the majority outlook in Congress despite the clamor coming from the irreconcilables.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ transition team member (Health Team) Jack Kelly of Charlestown with LtGov Karyn Polito (l) and the Governor (r). To his right, Rebecca Love

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He hasn’t been sworn in yet — that date is January 8th — but Charlie Baker’s 170-plus transition teams tells us a lot about how he will govern as well as who he will call upon to deliver his goods.

The first task is to read the list of names, so here it is, in a link to the news story in which it was announced : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/12/11/advice-charlie-baker-wants-lots-names-many-transition-committees/WkDAsvFlXN6aKvMSS1bm3K/story.html

There are five teams mentioned in the media story : Schools; Better Government ; Jobs and the Economy; Health; and Community. This list by itself tells us what Baker’s agenda priorities will be. None is a surprise. His entire campiagn focused on these five areas of concern, of purpose, and of his personal expertise.

The difficulty arises with the specific names chosen, or, should I say, with who, or what kinds of people, were not chosen. Because politics is so bound up with the personal – it is through people, after all, that things get done — it matters when entire interests get left out, or when other interests are over-represented. In this regard, many activists will take issue with who Baker has chosen and not chosen.

Most likely to generate controversy are the members of his Jobs and the Economy committee and the Community Committee. More about that later. First, his Schools team.

The composition of this team will not please opponents of lifting the charter school cap. It’s weighted almost entirely in favor of school innovation, including charters, and having former MFT (Massachusetts Federation of Teachers) head Paul Toner aboard seems almost a declaration of war with the current MFT head, a teacher union firebrand who ousted Toner from his much more flexible approach to the State’s education decisions. That said, it’s a big plus to see Chelsea Public schools superintendent Mary Bourque named as well as legendary Boston Latin School headmaster (emeritus) Michael Contompasis. Good, too, that almost everyone on this team is a city person. it’s in the cities that the “achievement gap” resides and in the cities that it must be solved. I am betting that this team will advocate transformations of education as radical as those proposed last year by Boston mayoral candidate John Connolly, who, even though not named to the schools team (probably a mutual choice), has to be quite pleased with its orientation.

As for the Community Team, why are so many real estate people on it ? Is this not really a Housing and development team more than a “Community” team ? Housing is definitely a public policy priority; but for “Community,” an even higher priority is personal clout and credibility. It seems to me that a Governor would want his “Community” committee to feature the people who campaigned most effectively for him and who are now looked to by the voters who listened. Yet the only people on this committee who fit that description, so far as I can tell, are Paul Treseler of west Roxbury, Robert Lewis and Chris Jones of Roxbury, Marc Laplante of Lawrence, Kevin Mullen of St Brendan’s Dorchester, and Bing Broderick of Haley House. All are terrific choices : but why are Meghan Haggerty of Dorchester, John Sepulveda of East Boston, Phil Frattaroli of the North End, Kristen Phelan of Downtown not named ? Why not Marty Keogh of Hyde Park and West Roxbury ? Why no Haitian or Cape Verdean ? No Viet Namese ? Why no major Hispanic leader ? Why no one from South Boston, Fall River, Lynn, Pittsfield ?

and why so many advocacy group spokespeople ? I thought the object was to go directly to the voters, not to them via opinion brokerages, as it were.

Perhaps Baker’s thinking that every political person he might name has as many enemies as followers, because that’s how it is when you are a precinct-level campaigner. The more effective you are, the more neighbors you have defeated. Yet activists are not fools. They expect their winning neighbors to have the Governor’s ear, and most of them want that to happen, because the entire neighborhood benefits from it.

I think that Baker has missed an opportunity by not making his “Community” team less about housing and more about outreach and input.

Baker’s Jobs and the Economy team also puzzles. How can the Governor seek advice on jobs and the economy but not include at least a couple of labor leaders ? Yes, almost every labor union in the Boston area passionately opposed Baker — and were quite foolish to do so. Yet much of their opposition had to do with control of the Democratic party looking to the 2016 presidential nomination. Every union leader with half a brain understands that the Governor, especially a building-boom man like Baker, has plenty to offer to union rank and file. Obviously you do not ask advice from a stubborn oppositionist like Robert Haynes, or open doors for the AFL-CIO’s negative-campaign stink bombers. But it was, i think, a bad decision not to have at least one leader from Local 26 Hotel and Hospitality workers on the Jobs and Economy team, or someone from SEIU. These unions are not irrevocable enemies of the Baker agenda, not at all.

Perhaps these reasonable unionists preferred to stay outside the inner circle, and perhaps they and Baker agreed thereby. If so, good enough. As it is unionists do have one strong transition team advocate in Chelsea City manager Jay Ash, who is a co-chair of the Jobs and Economy committee, and another good advocate in building trades leader Mark Erlich, of the Council of Carpenters.

To sum up : Baker clearly intends to govern through institutions, agencies, and bureaucracies first of all. I would have preferred a more informal, people orientation, but bureaucracy and agency are how our state is organized these days. Badly organized, too.

It takes agency minds to reform agency cultures and procedures. Baker is himself an agency mind. He promised to make bureacracies and agencies work better. Whatever his economic and education biases — and these are quite clear — at least the stuff that he wants will get done and the services he wants will be delivered, to those who need them most.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Fall River mayor recall : Last night’s Mayor recall debate brought out all the attacks and accusations…at last.

The Local Vocal

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^ Mayor Flanagan, nose in the air; to his right, six of his seven challengers : Shawn Cadime, David Dennis, Sam Sutter, Ronald Cabral, Paul Anderson, Mike Miozza

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You don’t get recall elections unless there’s some serious anger going on in a city’s publioc affairs. Serious indeed are the accusations that gave rise to Fall River’s mayor recall election, and last night, at BK’s Beacon Tavern, the full gamut of anger and accusation was unleashed at Mayor Flanagan by several of his challengers.

As negatives are haht a recall is about, and not good when unvoiced, it was healthy to hear what is being said, off stage, all over the city about mayor Flanagan voiced in full public view at the WSAR-hosted Forum. And there is plenty : surprise cuts in the city budget, a pay-as-you-throw recycling initiative instituted without any City Council input; a “culture…

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1 poverty is not a crime

Poverty is not a crime : protesters appealing to reason. is there any reason out there ?

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Those who wonder why people of color distrust the police need not look only to bad policing. First look might go to the criminalization of poverty.

If you want to own a car — and having a car enables you to move much more freely than by public transit, thus to get to work more quickly and to more places — your cost doesn’t end with the purchase (or the lease). There’s insurance to buy, a driver’s license to pay for and, if you get a parking ticket, fines to pay, all of which tote up penalties in a hurry if not paid on time. There’s also the excise tax, and its penalties that add up forever.

As a recent Harvard Law BULLETIN article (link provided below) pointed out, these fines and penalties put much money into the coffers of cities and towns. And because they are criminal, they can — or could until recently — land people in jail if they’re not paid. Add to that “probation fees” and, in some cases, making people in jail pay for their incarceration, as well as profit or the private firms often hired to enforce these burdens, and you’ve got quite a racket going at the expense of people who haven’t much money ever.

Link : http://today.law.harvard.edu/fighting-unequal-justice/

This particular abuse has been pushed back, thanks to the young lawyers profiled in the Harvard Law article, but many other criminalizations of poverty remain. The driver’s license fee, the penalties for renewing a license late, the risk of driving without insurance because you can’t afford it. And none of this even begins to address the penalties we place on people who are under court order to pay child support, or the penalties we impose on people who sometimes sell their food stamps (EBT in Massachusetts) because they haven’t the money for home heat or clothes for the kids or whatever.

And if you end up with a criminal case and live in poverty, you have to get to court on time, even though you may not have transportation to get there, and to wait in court (or at the probation officer’s office) all day long only to be told to come back in a month, for another all day wait; all of which means a day off from work or, just as likely, no chance to hold a job at all because you’re always having to be in court.

Nor does the criminalization of poverty end there. people who liove in financial crisis every day often lash out. Domestic violence abounds in families living on the edge ; partly because nobody has any security at all, or because they can’t handle the disrespect that comes with argument, or because police are called to the house when an argument erupts, or because families in crisis sometimes turn to drug dealing (or to thievery) because the money is just that good and they simply want to have it. And o course we, the “normal” people, see all this and our first thought is to blame the poor or being…not like us.

And it’s true : public assistance to families in poverty is paid with taxpayer dollars, and so we taxpayers, not unjustly, insist that those dollars be spent as we enact by law they be spent; and we cry “foul’ when some of those dollars are spent differently. Unfotunately, our outcry also reinforces the deparation of poverty people from the rest of us and so adds the barrier of distance to that of penalty.

This is the ground upon which police now come into communities of poverty ; many of which are people of color, because just skin color, in our society, is all too often an occasion for separation; and people of color who live in poverty are thus doubly separated. Then, into their lives, all too oten come police, most of whom are not people of color even in cities where people of color are the greater number. Even the most professional of police, the best trained and the wisest, are still too justly seen as agents of the criminal enforcement system that imposes all those fines, penalties, burdens, obstacles, and frustrations upon people who at the best of times live in the moment, when they’re not being visited by child welfare agents or truant officers, landlords looking for back rent, or utility people coming to shut off the gas because the bill has gone five months unpaid.

Why do we impose the most financial penalties upon the people least able to pay them ?
You tell me. I certainly have no answer for it.

But one thing I do know : those whose everyday lives have been made criminal, for profit or punishment or just because — see the police quite opposite from how gthe rest of us see them. It’s a wonder that people of color haven’t taken up the hue and cry long before now — except that people who love every day of every year in crisis lack all political power; are not heard; are not seen ; tend to vote in fewer numbers; and thus do not exist, for us or, sadly, even for themselves.

For the time being it looks as though the greater society we live in is ready to make big reforms. To police practices, and maybe to the culture of criminalized poverty as a whole. I hope it happens. The next time, things won’t be so simple.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 boston protesters

^ protests for very good reason. Police civil rights violations must stop !

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NOTE : this story is Part One of a Two-part Series on Civil Rights Injustice in Today’s America.


So many civil rights denials occur every day in our struggling nation that it’s almost unfair to single one of them out as “the.” Yet that is what we face. We know right now — should have known all along; why didn’t we ? — that bad police are the single most crushing civil rights problem this country confronts.

Confronting, indeed. From Ferguson, Missouri to New York City, from Cleveland to the Carolinas, and at various places in between, one bad police event after another injure our attention.

Some of these bad-police incidents seem the result of mistake. Some can be explained by the event itself. Many others, however, defy justification. There is none for such as the shooting, in Cleveland, of a 12-year old boy with a toy gun; for the chokehold killing of Eric Garner, in New York City; for the tasering of a boy named Bryce Masters — an event that has gone viral on social media; for the beating up of a woman in a Texas town jail by officers at that jail. Nor can there be anything but punishment and Justice department takeover of the Cleveland, Ohio police force, callousness run rampant, evidently, through the entire department.

Many of these bad police events are racial. Clearly many police departents view people of color as suspects simply because. The phrase “driving while black” became famous for a  reason ; drivers who are of color get stopped far, far more often than white drivers. People of color get harrassed almost no matter who they are. Can we forget the Cambridge cop who arrested Harvard Professor Henry Quarles a few years back for breaking into his own house (because he had forgotten his door key) ?

Quarles is a man of high influence; he knows the President, and the Pres8ident came personally to Quarles’s defernce. Black citizens who lack such clout have no kind of luck.

Over and over again, Black citizens are stopped by police, harrassed, even abused, occasionally injured, sometimes shot and killed. Who can forget the cop who, in North Carolina a few years ago, killed a Black college football player who had been in an auto accidernt and approached the policeman for help ?

In that case, as in the matter of the woman punched in a Texas jail, prosecution followed. So too has NYC prosecuted bad police, sometimes successfully. Yet for every such success far more cases never have consrquences. We are stunned — as we should be — that a Staten island grand jury just this week refised to indict the NYC cop who put Eric Garner in a chokehold and killed him, an event fully captured on a clear, gruesome video.

As the Garner tragedy shows, Black people are also far more likely to be arrested for minor matters. Garner was selling loose cigarettes ! Why did that “crime” demand an arrest at all ? Most police forces would have simply cited him a ticket to appear in court. (It is said that neighbors complained about Garner. Does that justify his being arrested rather than cited to court ? I think not.)

The Garner matter will now be investigated by the Federal Justice department, as the Cleveland police department has been and as that of Fergiuson, Missouri is now undergoing. This comes none too soon.

The Justice Department should conduct a review of the parctices and culture of every major city police departement in the nation. If it finds a pattern of infraction, it should bring civil rights cases under Title 18 — laws that exist for a reason.

Police departments must hire officers of color. The department must “look like the neighborhood it serves,” as progressive Mayors now phrase it.

Police departments must rigorously train new officers, review its officers’ adherence to rules of engagement, discipline those who violate these rules, prosecute when warranted, dismiss from the force officers who do not conform. Nor can a police department make excuses for officers who break the law.

Too many police departments view their situation as “us against them.” That must change. The police must see themsleves as both us and them, exactly as do the rest of us.

One further point. We the people are right to protest these violations and to do so vigorously, passionately, But blocking highways and public transit, or shutting down shopping malls, is not at all part of rightful protest. This movement needs the public’s support. It has no business making life difficult for the rest of us. Keep the egos in check, lose the moral contempt, and focus your eyes on the mission.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^^ you can see it all right here, the entire grisly killing.

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This time there is no mitigating evidence. This time, unlike with Michael Brown, a camera filmed the entire sequence. It’s all right there for everyone to watch.

This is how NYC police kill a man.

They’re actually quite accustomed to it. Unarmed Black men get shot by NYC police with some regularity. many die. A New York Times article published just yesterday told the sad history of killings of unarmed, totally innocent public housing occupants by NYC police patrolling stairwells and hallways. Nor are these all that NYC police have killed, or abused, or harrassed as amatter of speciic policy.

Some have actually been charged, convicted, and jailed. The torture of one Abner Louima, in Brooklyn, who was sodomised by police using a broom handle, resulted in two policemen convicted of felonious assault and battery.

But not this time.

This was no Michael Brown matter. Eric Garner did not assault the officer,m did not reach for his gun, did not punch him in the face. The officer in that cases had some justification; in this case, none at all. You can see why, right there, in the video.

Picture it : a large man is arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. that alone makes one go, WTF ? You arrest a man or selling cigarettes not taxed ? Why can’t you just write him a citation and tell him to appear in court ? is it necessary to arrest him ? Not that we cn see.

But not only is Eric Garner arrested for this heinous, shocking offense (!), he is then put into a chokehold that violates the NYC Police Department’s own rules, and is held in that choke hold until he dies. You can see it all, every detail, on the full length, clear video.

The officer, one David Pantaleo, told a Staten Island grand jury that he had no intenhtion of killing Mr. Garner. Probably so; but kill him bhe did; and by pursuing actions of harrassmnet that the NYC police have been pursuing, against Black men, for many, many years as a matter of express policy.

Those harrassments violate the civil rights of people and are intended to do so, a policy of keeping a full court pressure on against men o color no matter who they are or where. The goal has been, hit them for the small stuff and they’ll not dare to do the big stuff. That’s like saying, kill them, and they’ll definitely commit no crimes.

In this country we accept that crime takes place even though it should not, because the alternative is a police state in which no one has any civil rights unless the police grant it. That is not America.

A Federal Grand Jury will now sit. It should indict Mr. Pantaleo. He should be tried; he should be fired from the NYC police. If convicted — of manslaughter, probably — he should be sentenced. Police must understand — must learn — must accept — that they cannot just take any measures they feel like taking against whomever they feel like taking them. An unarmed man accused of a minor, economic, entirely non violent crime is violently killed. This is not OK.

Repeat : it is NOT OK.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Ron JohnsonFerguson protesters

Without ^^ this (captain Ron Johnson at Ferguson) we get this ^

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Because of the events that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri, and aggravated by protests all across the nation, proposals for reform of police practices have arisen loudly enough to command our attention. Some proposals make sense; others do not.

The Ferguson events make clear that its police and the citizenry distrust one another profoundly. The Michael Brown matter should never have happened. A policeman who didn’t view his patrol as an mass of fear and danger would probably not have sassed Brown the way a prison guard barks at an inmate. Had Brown not acquired a distinct dislike of police, he probably would not have responded as recklessly as he did.

We have all seen the vidclips; seen the militarily-geared Ferguson police treat protesters as the enemy; seen them wreak war on peaceful citizens and on the media — a foolish move, and one that went far to put all police forces at odds with citizens. It is not surprising that we, the citizens, now demand that police practices reform big-time.

The President has suggested that police forces no longer arm themselves with military gear. that seems common sense to me. Just as our Armed Forces may not be deployed for police duty, so should police should not be outfitted as Armed Forces.

Unhappily, many police forces face criminals who are also armed militarily. Our utterly unjustified “Second amendment” chickens have come home to roost. We cannot have 310 million guns, of all kinds, loosely on the streets, with no public safety controls, as the NRA and its hate-mongers demand, without forcing police to take up even stronger arms. The police of no other first world country face anything like the gun mania that holds much of America in thrall. Police in many European nations went about, until recently, completely unarmed. Terrorism has changed that, yet even now European police hardly ever look like the 101st Airborne Division, as do many American police forces.

Thus the President’s suggestion — and I repeat that it’s a good one — cannot advance unless at the same time the nation moves to collapse the trafficking in guns and ammo that infects so much of this nation.

Other suggestions make no sense at all. Of these, I especially object to body cameras for police people. If we ask the police to trust the community they sleeve — and we should and must ask this — then likewise the community must trust the police. It’s not a one way street.

Which brings us to the real issue in all this : racism. I don’t buy the mantra that most police are racists. but I do buy that they see a lot of Black crime. The number one cause of death among young Black men is murder. Black men have a very hard time in America, almost no matter who they are; can we blame them if they become angry about it ? I’m glad they get angry about it. But their anger often infects every other Black man’s life with danger, real and present danger..

The police see this going on and, because police are trained to be suspicious of things going on, they draw the conclusion that all Black men must be seen as suspects. It’s a wrong conclusion to draw, and often a deadly one, but it’s not a senseless conclusion for police to make, given the violence that murders so much of Black America.

The best trained police forces understand that the violence they deal does not inure to being Black and male; that it arises from poverty and racism; and that it cannot simply be policed out of existence. The best police forces have many Black oficers on staff, even Black captains and supervisors. And this is a reform that is in our power to make successfully. The mayor of Ferguson now promises to make his city’s police force representative of a community that is 70 percent Black.

That won’t be the sole answer, but it will build mutual trust between police and people. On that, all else in police work utterly depends.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere