MAYOR WALSH’s POLICE REFORMS : SOME GOOD, MORE NOT SO GOOD

walsh

Given what has been said and done this season against our police forces, I have looked at Mayor Walsh’s police proposals very skeptically. Was my reluctance justified by what I have read ? Read the task force recommendations for yourself, then tell me whether skepticism has any basis —->> https://www.scribd.com/document/475570498/Boston-Police-Reform-Task-Force-Recommendations-to-the-Mayor#from_embed?campaign=SkimbitLtd&ad_group=126006X1587340Xc4fd461afbde719210d7f3311239083d&keyword=660149026&source=hp_affiliate&medium=affiliate

To be clear : I am opposed to much of what has now been accepted by Mayor Walsh and even by Commissioner Gross.

The task force convened by Mayor Walsh began in biased circumstances and under political pressure from protesters and rioters. No elected official should EVER undertake anything thuis demanded :

the Mayor convened a Task Force when people across Boston and the United States were protesting police misconduct…”

The above statement proves too much. Just because accusations are laid of misconduct does not mean there was any.

“…that all too often has had deadly consequence for people of color and demanding institutional change to local law enforcement infrastructure.

“deadly consequence for people of color” has occurred, this we all know. But “all too often” suggest that such deaths are commonplace when they are no such thing. They are, in fact, very rare. Of course deadly consequences should never occur, for people of color or otherwise, and our society should insist that police departments require significant training and certification of all who seek to become officers. Governor Baker’s police training and certification bill ought to pass.

And now to the actual recommendations., all of which Mayor Walsh has agreed to :

 The Task Force recommends that the City and the BPD undertake the following:

1. Create an independent Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (“OPAT”) with full investigatory and subpoena power, i.e. the ability to call witnesses and to compel the discovery of documents, to replace the Co-Op.

2.  Formalize and expand the BPD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

3.  Expand the BPD’s use of the body-worn camera program where it increases police transparency and accountability, and continue to ban the use of biometrics and facial recognition software.

4.  Enhance the BPD’s Use of Force policies (Rule 303,Rule 303A,Rule 303B,Rule 304) so that they articulate clear and enforceable disciplinary code of consequences for violations and infractions and hold the BPD publicly accountable for the violation of these policies.

Item One : absolutely opposed. Police out on a call cannot be second-guessed by those who aren’t at the time and place or engaged in the circumstances. Here is where the current BPD’s de-escalation policy gives officers their principles. Here, too, is the crux of Governor Baker’s training and certification. It is crucial, when examining events after the fact, that the examination NOT be done by persons with an anti-police, accusatory agenda. Every profession regulates and polices its own. Why are police officers not entitled to the same self-governance respect ?

2. Conditional. Officers should always be chosen for their excellence and not for their biology. I would support diligent efforts being made to recruit officer applicants from every ethnic group and social identity interest; but who shows up, shows up; and who succeeds at the training academy succeeds. I also support ( 1 ) an application process that disqualifies persons actively belonging to militias, bigotry, or other such groups whose purposes pit people against one another ( 2 ) a preference for so-called “community policing.”

3. Officers say they approve the body camera device. If they approve it, I am OK with it. Crucial, however, that videos taken by body cameras never be selectively published. Publish it all, or do not publish, period. Too many of the recent cases in the news look very different wen all the video is published than they did when initially sensationalized.

4. I don’t like the accusatory, judgmental tone of this recommendation. Also note : disciplinary hearings should never, ever be public. First of all, reputations are at issue. Second, why would anyone ever seek a policed career if she knows that she will be second guessed constantly and that the merest complaint will cause her loss of reputation, job, and even peace in her off duty life ? Complaints must be written, signed by the person complaining, notarized, and put through an initial assessment before any kind of formal disciplinary hearing be scheduled.

Let’s note that the “emergency” police reform bills enacted by the two parts of our legislature have snoozed for months in committee, as legislators realize that there is no emergency and that much of what is in the two bills is unworkable, even unConstitutional. It is a shame that Mayor Walsh feels it politically important to enact what the legisalture has wisely deferred. I am hoping that once he is re-elected — as i am fairly sure he will be — he will let much of the Task force’s agenda fade away, as it should.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

EXCELLENCE, NOT GEOGRAPHY

exmas

Boston’s School Department is proposing to apportion admission to Boston Latin, an exam school, by geography. We oppose this plan. (You can access it HERE : file:///C:/Users/Customer/Downloads/Exam%20Schools%20Admission%20Criteria%20Recommendation%20to%20SC%20FINAL(3).pdf

The only criterion that an exam-admission school should honor is excellence. Is that not the whole point of having admission by exam ?

Proponents of geographic admission say that exams disadvantage children of color. I disagree. Kids taking the exam, in the sixth grade and again in the ninth, have presumably attended Boston schools for years. If some come to the Boston Latin exam less prepared, is that the kids’ fault or the school system’s ?

Perhaps some fault rests with the parents. Let us not assume that, however. The parents of any kid aspiring to examine for admission to Latin know full well what is going to be asked of their kid. Is there a parent, of whatever skin hue or national origin, who does not want her kid to ace that exam ? To suggest that any parent faces the exam challenge slack is to condescend grievously.

My own parents pushed me very, very hard when it came to school performance. My Mom — youngest of six children of a penniless immigrant, East Boston tenement family –worked a full time job at a Boston newspaper, sometimes bringing home the next day’s edits and staying up till two AM: yet she had time to go over my reading with me, and my math, and my geography, so that when it came time to take the SAT high school admission, I would be prepared. My Dad wasn’t able to help, as he was a house doctor often making house calls at 3 AM (for $ 3 and $ 4 a call, if the patient even had any money) and then getting up at 8 AM to take my Mom (who did not drive) to the train station.

My Mom had a saying : “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

I suspect that most of today’s immigrant and dark skinned parents know and follow that rubric. I have such a parent in my own extended family; and though she has enormous issues in her own life, she stops at nothing to push and prepare her kids for school excellence. Her older daughter is now attending University on full scholarship after getting all A’s in high school.

I think it is therefore a terrible injustice to push Boston’s school system’s failings onto the backs of families who live in under-achieving school districts.

This is not to say that geography is irrelevant in exam admissions. I went to Princeton,. and that I came from Massachusetts, not New Jersey, was a factor in my admission (although I also had the grades needed.) Princeton very much wanted to admit students from, say, Idaho or overseas; but if geographic diversity was desirable, it did not overrule or even qualify scholastic excellence. Admission was done by a point system : exam excellence, 5 points; school grades, 5 points; extra curricular activism, 3 points; legacy, two points; geography, one point. I was not a legacy, but I did have most of the other points and so was admitted as a 13 out of 16. ( Today a 13 out of 16 might not be enough ! )

All of the above said, my view is not the be-all. There are other views, of actual Boston school parents embroiled in the matter, that deserve our attention. Here’s what one parent — a personal friend — said on facebook this morning :

They don’t have a friggin test and because BPS was misusing it. The affluent have tutors for a year out sometimes more. The last paragraph is key: “Who would be less likely to show up for the test administration: a child of working immigrant parents in East Boston, or a child whose parents have been paying for test prep for the last two years,” asked Green. A test in the 6th grade should determine your future. The pressure is insane for 11 year olds. There is no reason it can’t be performance based, essay submitted, some sort of huge research project etc. but giving kids one chance on one day to decide their future is bullshit. (BLA mom here)

The level of disconcert that she expresses ought to concern those who administer Boston’s schools. The great disconnect is not between exams and parents but between the School system and parents.

The current plan must be set aside for at least much extended, open discussion.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE MR. TRUMP ?

TRUMP

^ saying “goodbye” as he prepares his flight to Kazakhstan after defeat ?

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Yesterday at a rally the President of the United States quipped, “if I lose to Biden, maybe I’ll leave the country.”

Even as a quip, this is not normal. Nor is it usual that many people think he might do just that. Many of us opine that he has good reason to flee the jurisdiction. This too, is not usual. Yet there is basis for the opinion. Mr. Trump owes almost $ 1 billion to lenders, much of it Russian; he is leaving behind him a trail of crimes that the nose-weakest bloodhound could follow. He has been able, as President, to shout down the accusations and to intimidate almost all who could testify directly to them; yet once he loses, all of that is gone. Or almost all.

I say ‘almost” because he retains a solid core of true believers.

That I employ the noun “belief” to a person of politics, not of religion, is also not normal. How comes it that millions of 21st Century Americans, living in a secular nation built by science and experiment, skepticism and show-me, grant BELIEF to a politician, any politician ? Respect, yes, that we give to politicians who have earned it, and rightly we give it. (Trust, sure — although as Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify.”) But belief ? Mr. Trump is not a pastor or a priest, he is  not a God, not an object of worship like the icons of Byzantium. Far from it; to the non-believing observer he appears as he most likely is, a thoroughly corrupt, ignorantly selfish, indulgently cruel,  faker and liar who makes his way by stiffing those who deal fairly with him. To a non-believing observer, he is just another stagecrafted caudillo, a man who insists that his word is law.

Before the late 17th Century, religion and government partnered, and each upheld the other. Religion had, almost always, thus linked with the public authority. From the times of Pharaoh to the Temple priests of Israel, from the time of Constantine to the accession of Lotario de’ Conti as Pope Innocent III, kings, dukes, and counts took to account the utterances and pronouncements of bishops and preachers, sometimes stabilizing, more often troublesome. But that was then. Beginning in the 1640s, when Duc de Richelieu, adviser to King Louis XIII, became the first chief minister to separate political interests from religious ones, Western civilization’s leaders have pushed religious interests ever farther from the power center. It became a private matter. That view is guaranteed to us in our Constitution’s First Amendment. Religion is free to exercise but cannot affect in any way governance of the republic.

In Europe, religion, pushed completely out of politics, retains today chiefly a tourist, artistic interest : we visit its great cathedrals and abbeys and appreciate its great works of art. The Pope does have power, mostly organizational; and financial, but of political influence has next to none. Europe’s politicians,. too, have plenty of power, but hardly any are worshipped — the continent has far too tragic a memory of what worship of politicians occasioned there. So why is the situation different here in the USA ?

Why is religion itself so vastly more alive here than in Europe ? Perhaps that’s because free exercise, separating religion from politics, insulated religion from the perils and transactions that make politics a skeptic’s art. In Europe, religion continued to be political all the way into the 20th Century and so was swept aside by more timely belief systems. Here, however, the will to believe was free from public responsibility for anything and so has been able to retain its followers, who see in it escape from the harsh fates of politics.

There is the rub: escape from harsh political fate. Is that not what Mr. Trump promises, or seems to promise, to those who yearn to escape ? Once you travel the escape route, all sorts of impossibles become tangible, and Mr, Trump’s believers are, if anything, inundated with waves of impossibles, untenables, loony stuff, absurdities. After all, in a world free of proof, the more absurd an absurdity, the more sense it makes. George Clinton of the 1970-1980s band Funkadelic, liked to tell us “free your mind and your ass will follow.” He was on to something. Free your mind, and a heckuva lot more than your ass will follow.

Yet Mr. Clinton also liked to say “free of the need to be free”; and that is the reverse side of freeing your mind of common sense and its platitudes. You don’t have a need to be free once your mind is free because it’s already there. Having freed your mind, you are now ready to become unfree, as unfree as your free mind leads you to. Thus take hold the quackery of Q, the nonsense of a “deep state,” the utter implausibility of Trump’s so-called “hoaxes.

So it has long been with all manner of vaudeville medicine salesmen. And if P. T. Barnum said his “there’s a sucker born every minute” without explanation, the explanation is easy : people want to believe, and the more ephemeral a wisp, only belief will validate such a viewpoint or a claim, The surer it is that some people will believe it utterly.

The mountebank intimidated by conscience can’t mange it. It requires a faker wholly without scruple to win the most devoted believers. The wilder his claims, the more certain to find devotees. The more constantly he claims them, the more enthusiastic his believers become. He works them up, frenzies them, stews them  in his kettle of crackpot. This is why Mr. Trump[ doe snot stop, nor qualify his prophecies, nor moderate his accusations. This is why he doesn’t take a break. Were he to take a break, or to moderate, it would all come crashing down, absurdity conquered by fact., This he cannot allow, nor can his cult.

Remember Jim Jones ? To us on the outside looking in, it all seemed cuckoo — who the blazes would buy such crap ? Well, now we know who. A lot of ordinary people buy it. It will always be thus.

Until the soap bubble bursts and one’s hands are seen to be dirty.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

SICK AND TIRED

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice

^^^ a duffel bag full of smelly socks would be of more use than these overpaid selfie-sticks

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We the voters of America are sick and tired.

We are sick and tired of “shaking things up.”

We are sick and tired of the lies, the insults, the corruption, the tin-pot Mussolini.

We are sick and tired of the riots, the obsession with statues, the bigotry and the preaching.

We are sick and tired of the schlepp games being played by so-called Senators and Congresspeople.

We are sick and tired of green new deals, but also sick and tired of beardos bearing Confederate battle flags.

We are sick and tired of attention seekers and instagram “influencers.”

We are sick and tired of a minimum wage that isn’t enough to sustain a pet parrot, much less a family.

We are sick and tired of never-ending campaigns, sick and tired of plump pocket donors, sick and tired of wing tip selfishness and genderfluid socialism.

We are sick and tired of a Congress that can’t get a trip to the toilet done without dirtying the tile but thinks it can bogard the lives of vulnerable immigrants.

We are sick and tired of nutty conspiracy hippies.

We are sick and tired of braggarts and newcomers, sick of pissy egotists and paunch-tongued hippo-crats.

We are sick and tired of bicycle tyranny.

We are sick and tired of having to be sick and tired.

Justin Amash is right ; the two party system of politics is now nothing but competing arenas of avaricious slapstick comedians.

Justin Amash said it : most voters want just to be left alone to work out their lives and accommodate to their neighbors. Government to them has become an imposition, and worse, a late night Marx Brothers, a kettle of absurdity.

We are sick of that, tired of this, amused no longer,and beyond anger. We deserve better, and the drinkers of donor piss and eaters of zealot vomit — who currently misrepresent us — know we deserve better. Better than them. better than the political parties.

The Constitution is a superb document, built on the solid foundation of skepticism, erected by check and balance, topped off by high ideals that its skeptical structure recognizes lie beyond the power of mere humans to achieve.

Speaking of the Constitution, isn’t Amy Coney Barrett something special ? I am impressed wildly by her. I dislike her jurisprudence; but her presence and intellect radiate just as Fiona Hill’s did at the impeachment hearings eight months ago.

Of Barrett and Hill we are NOT at all sick and tired. Of them we are awake and hale.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

INCOME IS THE PRIORITY REFORM

JOE

What will a Biden administration work first, once it has been inaugurated ? (I am assuming that Biden will in fact be elected; as of today, all the polls forecast a landslide Biden win.) I beg that he and his team work on income inequality first.

Our economy cannot aspire to its actual potential if most people haven’t enough money to participate. In and around big cities, the minority who have plenty command the prices for most everything. The more costly the item, the more that the well-off command it — real estate being the example that shuts out the most people. Boston is trying all sorts of unworkable fixes in search of a solution, none of them responding to the basic fact : people do not have enough money. There really is no other wise way but to raise — by law or otherwise — the wages that workers earn.

If it costs $ 500,000 to bring qa housing unit to market, you can try, artficially, to make that purchase “affordable” by restricting the sale price. Yet this does not work. The builder cannot offer one home at a loss without pricing the next home higher than market in order to cover his loss on the “:affordable” unit. This conundrum can be avoided, however, if a potential buyer earns enough to afford a market-rate home.

So, what do I suggest ? This : the minimum wage should be at least $ 15/hour, maybe $ 22/hour in hot-spot big cities. (Geneva, Switzerland just raised ITS minimum to $ 25/hour. $ 30/hour, frankly, would not be too high in places like New York, San Francisco, Honolulu.)$ 15/hour sounds radical, but in fact it’s timid. At $ 15 an hour, a full-time worker earns barely $ 600 a week. That’s not at all enough to afford stuff in Boston, much less New York. Two $ 15/hour incomes would suffice, yet even these, pooled together, would leave little room for discretionary purchases. At $ 22/hour, a full time worker earns $ 880 a week. That begins to approximate enough, but by no means is a $ 3520 monthly income a liberation.

Businesses would certainly not survive having to take on the entire burden of such large raises in pay, and I am not asking them to. (Yes, I am asking businesses to do better. No business should be able to get away with paying workers so little that they need taxpayer assistance to get by.) What we can do is appropriate taxpayer money to provide people — includng those who can’t work or who work only part time — a basic monthly income, as some have suggested. $ 2,000 a month has been advocated; it seems generous to people living in not-so-prosperous regions and hardly enough for people living in booming cities, yet it is a start, and with interest rates at little above zero, deficit financing of this Federal support begs to be used.

A Biden administration should enact Federal support legislation, and it should work on two accompanying reforms : curbing stock market speculation and short-term strategies; and raising taxes on money income of more than $ 2,000,000 annual. There is absolutely no reason why top executives of large firms should get paid tens of millions of dollars yearly.  Firms can pay executives in stock — which the Securities Acts of 1934 and 1940 require them to hold for five to eight years — but in cash, why ? It is all too easy for director boards to grant huge pay to the executives they supposedly oversee. Boards should include at least two members who are union or who represent a firm’s wage workers. Instead, big firms should be financially and legally encouraged to pay their wage workers more — maybe much more.

Some will say that these reforms are socialism. They are not that. But yes, they constitute a significant limitation on management discretion. I cannot oppose this sort of limitation. Allocations of the nation’s commercial money are out of whack. Because they are out of whack, a major portion of our people cannot buy into the discretionary economy, and it is there, in non-essential purchase, than economy finds its most vibrant growth, its innovations, its legitimacy in the minds of those who vote. Survival purchases, such as food, cell phone, clothing,. transportation, utilities, and child care certainly fuel the economy, but these purchases can’t grow much. Their only growth is population increase. Discretionary purchases, however, can expand. There’s a whole universe of goods and services that people can buy if they have the money to buy them.

I’m looking to a Biden administration to get this ball rolling — in a big way and broadly-based.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

JUSTICE BARRETT ? WE SAY “NO”

The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is  influencing swing voters - The Economic Times
President Trump no0mnates Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court. We oppose.

Soon enough, the Senate will consider the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court. We at Here and Sphere oppose it.

Our reasons for opposing Judge Barrett are purely ideological. We have no dispute with her intellect or her legal acumen. It is clear from what even opponents have written that she excels at legal analysis and that she writes very readable opinions, which too many Judges do not. None of this, however, changes our mind about opposing her nomination.

We also have no dispute with her faith. A person’s religion, by itself, should never affect their fitness for an office to which they have been directed.

Unfortunately, however, Barrett appears, from her own written words, to believe that the law should subordinate to faith. That view contradicts one of our Constitution’s basic premise, that religion cannot be a test for office or a measure of the public law of State and nation.

There are many in America who now believe otherwise, that the Constitution and its guarantees to all are inferior to the precepts of a faith and that people are Constitutionally justified in denying basic civil rights to others if said rights contravene their “sincerely held’ faith. We reject this view.

You may fully observe your faith, if you have one, but the Constitution’s guarantees make it clear that your faith cannot impose its opinions on anyone else. People, of course, are free to subject themselves — and the rights sworn to them in the Constitution — to the strictures of a faith. In no circumstances, however, can anyone be allowed to restrict anyone’s enjoyment of the Constitution’s guarantees without said person’s freely given consent.

The case that comes first to mind is a woman’s right to determine the outcome of her pregnancy. Some religious assert that a woman does not have that right because, so they say, the fetus in a pregnancy is a life in being. That is a religious opinion, however. The law does not say so. The law gives full priority to the pregnant woman. It is her body, and one has the right, so says our law, to control her body — all of it. In other words, where religion is certain, the law is skeptical.

The Constitution rests upon that level of skepticism. It says, in effect, “certain beliefs may be true, or may not be. To protect the rights of all, we will err on the side of doubt rather than of certainty.”

The Framers lived barely three generations from wars of religion in which people degraded, tortured, burned, and killed one another for this or that belief or lack thereof. And to what end ? What did the society the Framers inherited gain from having arisen out of wars about beliefs ? Only a conviction that futility was the consequence, that every such abuse only proved that abuses of that kind should never again occur.

People who believe as Judge Barrett does, about abortion, and about marriage equality. gender identity, and the like — decrying them all — may be right, but they may also not be right, and our law, schooled by the wars of religion that preceded us, chooses to preference the “may not be,” the doubt, the skepticism about certainties that can only exist by tyranny of one kind or another; and we are not a tyranny.

Our preference for the “may not be” is kin to the basic assumptions of our law that one is innocent until proven guilty by clear and convincing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. it is kin to evidence, period. It is kin to our common wisdom that charges and accusations are insufficient to determine an outcome no matter how fervently they are believed by those who bring them. Judge Barrett, with her preconceptions — her believed certainties — stands outside these basics of the law. Does she accept these basics ? If so, how can she not apply them to matters where her faith is sure but the law refuses to be ? Is she a lawyer or a preacher ?

I am profoundly unclear on which she is.

Soon enough Judge Barrett will have to answer Senators’ questions, some of which are sure to address the sorts of matters I have discussed. we will then learn whether Judge Barrett is a lawyer or a minister of religion. If she cannot convince us that she is a lawyer and not a preacher, her nomination must fail.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere