Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stop Taking The Bait

Bill O'Reilly's sophomoric attempt to shade Maxine Waters wasn’t funny: you don't go after our Auntie no matter what! He thought he was being clever with his James Brown joke, but ended up stepping in a pile of his own oral feces. He tried to diminish the points she was making about the Trump administration and got away with it. We should call out his ignorance, but we can't allow it to overshadow the statements that put it on display. a lot of the outrage I’ve seen on social media has been just as distracting as his failed attempt at humor. After 20 plus years in public life we know O'Reilly is a bigot and that Fox news will defended him no matter what he says or does; these facts have no bearing on this issue. Representative Waters was engaging in a monologue on the House floor about the legacy of discriminatory practices in our country and the faux patriots who seem to sit out every fight for equality. Instead of addressing that issue O'Reilly chose to punt. Bill O’Reilly’s childish response to her polemic has gotten more traction than the substance of the comments she was making: this offends me more than any bad joke the serial misogynist, racist, and domestic abuser could ever tell.

Bill O’Reilly, like a lot of people tasked with defending this administration, would rather obfuscate the real issues at hand with ad hominem attacks and faulty logic than address them. We have to stop taking the bait. O'Reilly succeeded in changing the conversation. He issued a weak apology on his show and then proceeded to slyly attack the congresswoman further proving her point about the way "patriots" address discrimination and equality. Yes, we have to address the ignorance around us, but we don't have to reward it with wall to wall coverage. We have to find a balance. The media should start treating this administration and their defenders like petulant children and stop rewarding their bad behavior with attention. I know this seems hypocritical in a blog about this subject, but we have to do better- All of us!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

No Wins: Money, Power, And Disrespect

I don't care if Colin Kaepernick ever plays another game in the NFL! Don't get it twisted: I'm deeply troubled by the prospect of a law abiding citizen having his dream stripped from him for making a political stand about an issue that's important to millions of Americans, but I don't care if he ever plays again. Colin is trying to get a job from a league that prefers "the help" be subservient rather than independent. His crime was far more egregious than not standing for a flag and a song: Colin is being punished for disrupting the herd. The moment he didn't kowtow to the wishes of the league and end his protest he became a nuisance, but when he inspired others to protest he became an enemy.

I had close to 1,000 words written juxtaposing the way NFL owners and general managers have publicly treated players with domestic violence, assault, and rape arrests versus the way some of them have spoken on and off the record about Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem protest, but the truth is: that's a false dichotomy. Rapist and domestic abusers are welcomed back to the NFL because their crimes don't challenge the authority of the league. When a player, irrespective of race, beats a woman, she's the victim. When Colin and the players who joined him in protest defied the wishes of the commissioner and their owners, the league was the victim. Power doesn't like to be disrespected. I don't believe all of the owners refusing to sign a quarterback who can help their team win are racists: I'm sure some just really love money and aren't willing to risk losing any for a few more wins. What does the owner of a 4-12 team gain by signing a guy who gets them to 7-9 if they miss the playoffs, their team faces boycotts from "real Americans", and they are at the center of weekly tweets from the petulant child who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 4 days a week?     

What we're seeing is the NFL equivalence of an unruly slave being beaten in public to send a message to the rest of the plantation. I know some #wypipo get upset when anyone references slavery, or compares athletes to slaves, but William C. Rhoden hit the nail on the head in his 2006 book Forty Million Dollar Slaves when he wrote, "Black athletes still find themselves on the periphery of true power in the multibillion-dollar industry their talent built." There's a dynamic at play in sports and entertainment that rarely occurs in other fields: the "help" has the ability to become more famous and almost as powerful as their employers. There are very few owners in any professional league who are as popular as their star players. For every Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones there are 25 owners who could walk into a mall and not be noticed. In the trailer for the Justice League movie one of the characters asks Batman what his super power is; he responded, "I'm rich." Being rich is only a super power if people acquiesce to it. The moment the boss can't control you with money he/she can't control you at all. The NFL couldn't stand a dozen or more liberated men on each team. This wouldn't affect the product on the field, but it would challenge the hierarchy team sports thrive on. Colin has to be sacrificed to keep the rest of the league in line.   

Most quarterbacks hit their prime in their late 20's and early 30's, so there's a chance Kaepernick's best seasons are ahead of him. It's hard for me to believe that he will make it through the preseason without a contract, but stranger things have happened. We live in a country that prefers their protestors dead. Muhammad Ali died last year and America posthumously resurrected his legacy. Many of the same people who hate Muslims and protest movements for justice pretended to love a Muslim who inspired many to protest for justice. Colin upset a fragile subset of the American population; these are the people who throw tantrums when they hear traffic has been blocked by protestors, yet they ignore the reason for the protest. If Colin Kaepernick never throws another pass he has already solidified his place in American history. He was Black Lives Matter in front of the American people every week. He didn't ask for the attention his protest received. He didn't ask others to kneel in solidarity with him. Colin didn't talk about what he was doing until he was asked. He literally protested the way white people have told Black people to protest since the end of slavery; he proved to the world that there isn't an acceptable way to highlight racial disparities in our society. He forced Americans to go on the record about police brutality and race. I don't care if he ever plays again, because one day Americans will be forced to save face and pretend like they supported what he was doing. I hope he manages the money he's made responsibly: this could be the end of his lottery ticket.

Friday, March 17, 2017

No Justice In A Sleepy Little Town?

In less than 16 months the current Bath County Board of Supervisors have done everything in their power to show the citizens of Bath County they are incapable of governing without controversy. Every time it looks like they've put their latest imbroglio behind them the second Tuesday of a new month rolls around and some new drama grabs our attention. This new normal has damaged the the reputation of the county regionally. One of the unintended consequences of this board's actions is the damage they've done to the legitimacy of the Bath County Sheriff's Department, the Commonwealth Attorney's office, and the General District and Circuit Courts. Every level of the legal system has had to ignore or excuse the insults and violations of the law committed by elected officials. This has created a double standard in the community that feeds the disenchantment many citizens feel towards their local government.  

The latest addition to the growing list of embarrassing behavior by Bath County politicians occurred on Tuesday, March 14th, when another Board of Supervisors meeting ended in what the Commonwealth of Virginia code § 18.2-415 classifies as disorderly conduct in public places. The statute reads:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: A. In any street, highway, public building, or while in or on a public conveyance, or public place engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed; 
(There are two other provisions that deal with intoxication, but they aren't relavant to the antagonistic and disrespectful atmosphere created by our elected officials and seemingly condoned by law enforcement.)

For 15 months the citizens of Bath County have witnessed the public execution of civility and decorum at the hands of their elected officials. In addition to the half dozen incidents of disorderly conduct committed in front of law enforcement, the current board has racked up questionable terminationsrecall campaigns, resignations, arrests, court dates, and a Noelle Prosequi that completely disregarded a Virginia State Police investigation and a Grand Jury's indictments. There are audio and video files of elected officials chastising citizens and issuing threats against them. Local law enforcement has chosen to view these incidents as disconnected from each other. Part of law enforcements inability to act is fear of political retribution. I had a law enforcement official say off the record, "I'm worried about my pension...This board has gutted whole departments. I have to think about my family." Most of the deputies know if they make an arrest or issue a criminal complaint the odds of getting a conviction against any elected official are slim to none. This impotence has only made public gatherings more contentious as certain people know there will be no consequences for their behavior. This makes the job of security that much harder.

An organized crime syndicate wouldn't be able to destabilize the Bath County criminal justice system as effectively and efficiently as the Board of Supervisors have. This is a shame because there are some admirable people who are having their reputations flushed down the drain because of their affiliation with a governing body that hasn't shown the ability or willingness to govern. Bath County faces some very serious economic challenges over the next few years. I hope this board can get it together and govern, but I haven't seen sufficient evidence of that happening anytime soon.

This is a tangential sequel to another post about abuse of authority.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Corporate Thug Dealers

As I was reading about the drug crisis in West Virginia there was a passage from the article that really stuck out to me:

A Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation last year found that...drug wholesalers shipped over 780 million doses of opiate painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state, or roughly '433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.

After reading the article I had a some questions: If wholesalers are shipping the drugs into West Virginia through legal channels, at what point in the distribution network do they go from controlled substances (contained in government regulated environments) to the streets? The wholesalers aren't shipping these drugs into West Virginia on a whim, so who's ordering them? If a reporter could collect all of this information, why can't federal and state prosecutors?

Breaking Bad was a huge success, but I don't know any street level guys who can turn opioids or synthetic opioid derivatives into oxycodone or hydrocodone, yet the victims of pharmaceutical malfeasance are the public face of this epidemic. The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute the drugs are never seen as complicit. If law enforcement doesn't get serious about locking up chief executives and doctors, poor whites throughout Appalachia will continue dying from the drugs that are flooding into their communities. If Isis was doing this to rural America their would be a concerted effort to end the carnage.

The reaction to this crisis by local law enforcement in many counties has been feeble at best. Opioids are easier to get than Marijuana. In the new war on drugs the courts double down on the punishment for black and brown people involved in the crisis, they provide treatment for whites who are the "victims", and law enforcement completely ignores the white collar criminals making the money. As long as there's no consequences for those at the top of the supply chain we won't see a change. 

During the Vietnam War, U.S. soldiers were the victims of a similar drug epidemic; they were getting hooked on heroin. The heroin they were using was coming from Afghanistan. It was some of the best dope in the world. How did heroin from the middle east find its way into a war zone in the far east? (For those interested, research the Golden Triangle and Air America.) Vietnam was a drug dealer's heaven: highly stressed young men with disposable income. This is similar to what we see in rural America, but with less money. There are pharmaceutical companies getting richer at the expense of the misery poor whites are experiencing. I've heard more ineffective politicians address this issue than I can recall. They talk tough, but none of them are delivering. I'll take this new version of the war on drugs serious when I see coordinated raids on distribution sites, pharmacies, and clinics. When I see people pulled off of golf courses and out of hospitals I'll know America is serious about opioid addiction. Until then, I'll watch what passes for justice in the absence of justice.

Here's the link to the article.