Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Citizens of 4F: June 27, 2017

The United State of Trump motors on. The legislature now has made it clear they want to move 22 million Americans off their health insurance in order to redistribute wealth back to citizens who are already affluent, and the Supreme Court is about to once again give businesses the right to discriminate based on religion and sexual preference. Recent special elections in which Republicans have won 4 out of 4 tell us that we have moved from the U.S.A to U.S.T. and aren’t swinging back, despite or melancholy hopes.

So this morning on the #4 bus into downtown Minneapolis, I began to evaluate my fellow passengers according to demographics that I can’t ignore.

In the last election, Minnesota went narrowly for Hillary Clinton, but only by the smallest of margins. And since this morning’s passenger assortment is mostly white and male, it seems pretty likely that it hews close to the national average that elected The Orange One into office.  So….

Arguably, the unholiest of the four
riders of the apocalypse...
Of my 25 fellow adult passengers on my bus this morning, half of them are standing in the aisle and did not vote at all in the last election, and may not have ever voted. These folks, studies suggest, may not know who the vice president is, nor their U.S. senators, and almost certainly do not know who their U.S. Representatives are. And as regards state politics, the only elected official they may know by name is the current Governor, though even that is not a slam-dunk. Such is the level of disinterest and apathy. Not that I can blame them, exactly. If the options are sitting next to Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, aren’t we all tempted to stand?

Of the remaining 50% on the bus, perhaps one voted for an off candidate, such as Gary Johnson, who ran as a Libertarian, or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Or maybe they got no votes at all.  
...followed closely by this numb-nuts.

Of the other 12 or maybe 13 passengers on my bus who did vote in the last presidential election, 6 or 7 sitting on the right voted for Trump, and 6 or 7 sitting on the left voted for Hillary. Pretty much a tossup. In other words, out of 25 passengers on this bus, the Dems and Repubs each talked only 6 or 7 into taking a seat.

Many of us liberals saddened and depressed by the last election have spent much time in the last few months imagining that we must now convince one of the 6 or 7 Trump voters with their butts planted on the right side of the bus that they must switch seats to sit on the left.  But think about it for a moment. The reality is that 2 or 3 of those folks already have “Deplorable” labels on their underwear or maybe even tattooed on their inner thighs. (Hillary may have been stupid to say so, but she was right). And sitting next to them are a larger bunch of folks willing to overlook deplorable labels because they are too fearful of ethnic minorities or a gay people or liberal women.

Not that the Ragin' Commie is much better.
Do we really thing any one of these people is going to change seats? You’d have more luck converting a Baptist into a Hindu than to talk a Trump voter into taking a seat next to Bernie Sanders or Al Franken, who are yacking up a storm sitting just behind me. And don’t get me started on Nancy Pelosi, who none of us want to sit near.

But here’s the thing. About half the passengers on this bus didn’t vote at all. They are just standing in the aisles, bored and frankly repulsed by what they see. All that’s necessary is to make friends with a single one of them. What is shameful about our nation is not the 25% of  passengers that sit on the right side of the bus, and not even the  10% or 15% of 'em with "deplorable" stamped on their underwear. No, what is shameful is the 12 or 13 passengers that are standing up while we on the left ignore them.

Forget about those sitting across the aisle, my friends. They ain’t movin’. If we didn’t win a single one of the four recent special congressional elections when the Republicans are led by the worst excuse for a president since Warren Harding, who are we kidding?
And here I have no words...

But I suggest we each have a look at those folks standing in aisle, the ones who have no desire to sit by any of the four loudmouths shown here or others of their ilk. Offer up the seat next to you to a single standing passenger and make friends with him or her. Suddenly, the bus changes its destination, and we’re headed back towards America.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Enough is Enough

Another recent horror involving a policeman killing a young black man occurred right here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as you probably know. The case is that of Philando Castille, who was shot to death by a patrol officer in the Twin Cities neighborhood of St. Anthony by Patrolman Geronimo Yanez. Yanez was acquitted by a jury this week in Ramsey County, where St. Paul is located. 

Now, I am not one who thinks that EVERY young black man who is shot by police is the victim of murder. For example, in the Ferguson MO case, after reading carefully, I could see how a jury might give the police officer the benefit of the doubt. There was another case in Minneapolis last year, in which  in which I wasn't pepared to automatically throw the cop in jail for using deadly force. 

But Geronimo Yanez is a different matter. I don't know if you saw the dashboard video (look for it if you haven't), but once I saw it, I cannot see how a reasonable jury would not find criminal blame for the cop. 

It plays out like this: 

1. A young black man named Philando Castillee passes a St. Anthony squad car, and  the driver of the squad car, patrolman Geronimo Yanez decides to pull Philando over—ostensibly because his tail-light is out, although later he says "the wide-set of the driver's nose made me think of a robbery suspect." Translation: Philando is black. 

2. Philando pulls over gently to the curb, waits with his hands on the wheel, rolls down his window. Upon being asked for his driver's license and registration, he hands the officer his registration, then very politiely and quietly says that he has a firearm. The officer says, "Then don't reach for it."

3. Philando says "I'm not reaching for it," but does begin to reach for his wallet, which is in his back right pocket, behind the front pocket where the handgun is located. Also in his wallet is his permit-to-carry. 

4. Upon which, Officer Yanez screams not to reach for it, and simultaneously pumps seven bullets into the car, five of which hit Philando, another going through the seat into the back seat near where the toddler daughter is sitting strapped into her car seat. Less than a minute has passed since Yanez got out of the squad car. When you view the tape, it is the incredible speed with which the tragedy unfolds that really hits you. 

5. As Philando dies, he cries out "I wasn't reaching for it."

Later on, there are some telltale quotes from Yanez on the matter during an interview with BCA officials investigating the shooting.  One is the fact Philando's wide set nose "reminds" Yanez  of a recent robbery suspect. Two, that Yanez smells marijuana in the car, and immediately upon being told that Philando owns a gun with permit, he wonders if Philando is a drug dealer, or carries a gun to protect himself from other drug dealers trying to rip him off. 

Two things don't pass the smell test here for any reasonable person. One, no Minneapolis area police officer bothers at all this stuff as small as a burned out tail light. There are just too many more serious matters to think about. There is no way any white man ever gets stopped for something like this. Second, marijuana is a minor, minor thing in the Twin Cities these days, and no policeman imagines that this a casual smoker is some kind of big time drug dealer. The officer stopped the car simply because Philando was a black man, and being a black man, he's assumed to likely to be a drug dealer.  
(By the way, Philando had been stopped 49 times by police in the last few years, virtually always for nonsense reasons, most of which did not even elicit a ticket.)

6. The handgun that Yanez later claims to have seen on Philando's leg is later found still in the young man's pocket. During interview and at trial, much is made of the possibility that the gun simply fell back into his pocket after Philando is shot to death.  Yeah, right. 

7. At trial, Yanez trotted out the standard policeman's defense:  "I feared for my life." And the jury bought it, hook, line and sinker. 

Enough is enough. We all know that if Philando had been white, he would still be alive. 

 I don't think officer Yanez is a bad fellow, necessarily. But he is a terrible cop, and he panicked in a a way that was utterly unprofessional and criminally liable. But in today's culture, fear is used to justify just about any crazy thing you do. And policemen have learned that the way out of any such tragedy is simply to say that they feared for their lives. 

The thing is, just because you are afraid (or say you are), does not excuse negligence that kills another human being. Even if you are a policeman, you should be held accountable for serious lapses in judgment.  This may not have been murder, but it sure as hell was negligent manslaughter.

Undoubtedly I have some bias in this, since my son-in-law is a young black man who has braided hair about the length of Philando's. Being a dark-skinned black man, white police officers undoubtedly would even see a resemblance between my son-in-law and Philando Castille. And David, too, gets stopped or followed by cops for nonsense, bullshit reasons. All the fucking time. I am scared to death for him. 

God in Heaven.  Enough is enough. Fear cannot be used as an excuse to justify any goddamn behavior you like. Not even for cops. Especially for cops.