Ferguson Burning

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Sigh. Another pox on everyone's house situation and meanwhile it's the day before Thanksgiving, so there must be cleaning and baking more than writing.

I took some time yesterday to read through the grand jury materials just to see for myself. I think it's clear Michael Brown was charging the cop and the grand jury decision not to indict was correct based on evidence (or lack thereof).  And I equally think it's likely the cop could have handled the situation better.  Michael Brown seems to have been a thug as my Right-leaning FB feed says. I'm troubled by the implication, however, that being a thug means you deserve anything at all you get. The death penalty for smoking weed,  stealing cigarillos, and saying, "F-- you" to a cop? When by the cop's own testimony back-up was 30 seconds away?

The great tragedy of the Ferguson riots, beyond one dead black man, one ruined white man and many black businesses (and therefore families) financially devastated, is that they cement in everyone's mind the idea that this is a race problem primarily, when I think it's actually another instance of the real problem we have nationwide with police thinking of themselves as ground forces fighting an insurgency rather than fellow citizens tasked with protecting communities. I am not anti-cop; I'm pro cop. But it's undeniable we have a problem with trigger happy police, police who have no inclination -- or perhaps no training?-- to de-escalate situations.  The Rev. Al Sharpton, a genuinely evil man, has done the black community a double disservice: stoked literal fires in an African-American town and distracted whites from taking problem policing seriously.

Take a moment to watch the video embedded in this page for example.  A man, happens to be a black man, is sitting in a chair in a building's skyway. The chair happens to belong to a bank, but the chairs are just in the open air and look like public property. The police, prompted by the bank presumably, ask the guy to move along. He thinks he's within his rights to stay. No one bothers to say, "Sir, I know it looks like public property, but it's actually private property." No one answers his very reasonable questions, they just lord their power over him -- and it ends in a ridiculous roughing up and arrest. Is there a race dimension? I suppose. I wonder if the bank would have asked a white customer to move along -- or asked the police to get involved rather than simply shooing him themselves.  But I don't look at that video and see whites prejudiced against a black man. I see cops abusing a citizen, and if they'll treat one citizen that way, they'll do it to others as well.

The broader matter is, this is how government officials at every level treat private citizens now. Janet Reno sent armed men to put machine guns in the faces of Elian Gonzalez' law abiding aunt and uncle to "resolve" a case that was peacefully working its way through the courts. The FDA sends armed swat teams to Amish farms to prevent the sale of raw milk.  Almost monthly it seems to me I read a story of the police shooting some dog or some baby in a raid on the wrong house.  Radley Balko wrote an entire book about the rise of the militarized cop. We DO have a problem, and it's not primarily a race problem, it's a loss of solidarity and the very notion of citizenship problem.

Having said that, football player Benjamin Watson has a fabulous post on his Facebook page that pretty well sums up my thoughts. Citing a few excerpts here, but I hope you'll read the whole thing.

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

Unbridled Passion

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NY Mag has a feature piece on what it's like to date a horse. I think it's not satire, though I ain't gonna read it or click on it to find out.

Is this enough yet, or is there some further depravity we must celebrate?

Election 2014, Good News, Bad News

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The bad news is the GOP took the Senate probably just in time to own the country's problems and elect another Dem president in 2016.

The good news? Quite a bit of it!

1. The GOP took the state legislatures and governorships in numbers that will have lasting impact in the states no matter what happens in 2016.

2. The quality of the GOP class just elected. You know how I always complain about Nixon ruining the country -- not with Watergate per se, but because backlash against him caused a wave of the nation's wickedest politicians to be elected? I think there's a good chance Obama just did the same in reverse. (And Henry Waxman, emblem of the nation's wickedest congressional class, retired rather than stick around. Which is perhaps emblematic of his class being vanquished at last.)

I happened to tune in to Rush Limbaugh for a few moments a day or two after the election when he was complaining bitterly about Reince Preibus (GOP chairman) culling candidates in this manner:
On Oct. 1, 2013, 16 potential Senate Republican candidates were met at baggage claim in Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport by trackers—those annoying, hyperactive, politics-obsessed, camera-wielding twentysomethings whose job is to make a candidate lose his or hers. After a series of fundraising events and policy briefings, the candidates met at the offices of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recounted their stories with tales of their personal, belligerent Democrat. “We said that’s interesting; We’d like to show you the video of you and how you reacted to the tracker because we put those trackers on you,” said Sen. Rob Portman, the NRSC Finance Vice Chairman.
Unless I'm confusing this piece with another similar one, I think an earlier version of the story indicated that these faux reporters specifically hounded candidates on abortion and "war on women" issues. This bothered Limbaugh for some reason -- he took it as the Party trying to downplay social issues. I think it was smart. I don't want the pro-life cause at the mercy of the Todd Akins of this world.

[Let me just digress for a moment here to say something about that. Anyone can fumble in a debate situation. But Akin's gaffe -- arguing that pregnancy from rape is a non-issue because it rarely occurs thanks to a biological defense mechanism-- was an idea advanced by Dr. Jack Willkie in the early 1990s. It may or may not have some scientific basis, but in addition to sounding horribly insensitive to the victim of an assault ("is it real rape?"), it's rhetorically weak because it opens the door to the idea that abortion is the right solution to rape cases. Most engaged pro-lifers abandoned that argument swiftly. To my mind the problem with Todd Akin was not that he was completely tin-eared, but more that he clearly hadn't thought seriously about pro-life issues since the 1990s.]

I am tired of the GOP -- both the party and its voters-- accepting as pro-life anyone who says he'll support a human life amendment with no further questions. To my mind, putting people to the test and training them is a sign of taking pro-life issues MORE seriously, not less. The social issues are winning issues in the proper hands, and we have a class of Senate candidates (now Senators-elect) who seem to be stellar: whip-smart, disciplined and of good character -- people who didn't need to run away from abortion and the birth control mandate because they are sure of themselves and know how to give as good as they get. High hopes!

3. The defeat of the "War on Women."  Others have written about this so I won't add much except to say it's naive to think the war on women tactic will just go away. What's been defeated, hopefully, is GOP/pro-life defeatism. (Ditto the whining from folks who default in every election to how much the media are against us and there's no real difference between the parties. Whatevs. The media and party hacks you have always with you. If you can't figure out your way around those things, maybe you're not a good candidate. Those assertions have differing degrees of truth, but they're both just helpless downer talk from people who are essentially apolitical and want the world to just change without anyone having to make political arguments as opposed to moral assertions. There is always something to be done....)

The next few items are just things I personally find yummy in the results.

4.  My 3-decade losing streak is broken.  For the first time in my life a candidate I voted for in a state/local election won. Maryland, of all places, elected a pro-life GOP governor (ditto Massachusetts and, most shockingly, Illinois). I wish him well. The state didn't give him a legislature to work with, but it felt good on election night. (For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my state!) To what do I attribute his decisive win? Two things: Gov. O'Malley's rain tax. (Really? Even Marylanders have some limits). And Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's being a poor candidate. The only thing he was really tasked with as Lt. Gov. was the roll-out of Maryland's Obamacare exchange, which was even worse than the Obamacare rollout itself. And he doesn't come off as the brightest fellow. By the end of campaign season the Anthony Brown signs had disappeared and generic  placards urging us to "Vote for the Democrats" were everywhere.

5. Wendy Davis lost in Texas. That's no surprise, but you know what's delicious? The poster child for late-term abortion on demand didn't even win the women's vote. Along those same lines: though I would have held my nose and voted for him if I were in NH just to wrest the Senate from the villainous Harry Reid, I don't mind that Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire. He ran a great campaign qua campaign, for which I give him credit, but he's a presidentially handsome pro-choice Republican, and had he won a certain wing of the party would be foisting him on us as a presidential candidate. No, thanks.  Ditto gay Republican Carl DeMaio's loss in CA-52. I kinda like the guy in the abstract and setting aside his disastrous ideas about family policy, but had he won he'd have been foist on us as the changing face of the GOP (indeed, the race was close and the Washington Times jumped the gun and ran such a story).

6. Scott Walker, Scott Walker, Scott Walker. I think nothing made me as happy Tuesday night as Scott Walker's re-election, simply because I viewed his race as a straight-up case of good (man of upstanding character, champion of little people) versus evil (public sector union bosses defending graft and incompetence). He proves in the hands of the right guy there are no third-rail issues in American politics.  My current choice for President 2016.

7. My other pet races: Mia Love -- first black Republican congresswoman;  Tim Scott, first black senator elected from the South -- and he's GOP;  Tom Cotton, senator-elect from Arkansas, because he talks to voters like this . (His victory speech --watch it!-- is almost a Reagan-like "time for choosing" speech.)  Mitch McConnell: because some people in the GOP have unjustly accused him of being weak or a RINO, not understanding the guy is a brilliant tactician and parliamentarian to whom we owe much.

For the record, I did endure two heartbreaks Tuesday night. It's astonishing Ed Gillespie almost beat Mark Warner in VA and sad that he didn't. Ditto my man Dan Bongino in a hard-fought congressional battle here in MD. You can tell what kind of man Bongino is by how gracious he is in his concession letter to his supporters.

I also agree with whichever wag on Twitter it was who said the election was not an endorsement of Republicans, but a restraining order on the Democrats. That's exactly right. Conservatives have a brief window now in which to make the case to the working poor, "workers" middle class families, blacks and latinos that their policies are the fairest and best. PLEASE, GOP, do not blow it by a) doing nothing and always being in reactive mode or b) having the first thing you do be passing business tax cuts or repealing the minimum wage hike -- moves which might be good eventually, but will be bad optics in this economy and will slam the open window shut, hard.

Let your first move be surprising, like pushing for education vouchers -- everyone's against the teacher's unions now. Or maybe something like Paul Ryan's opportunity grant w/ expansion of the earned income tax credit. That would help poor families right away, would be difficult for the President to veto, and would get people to sit up and listen.

Michelle to Black People: Thinking Through Issues Not Necessary

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The First Lady in a phone interview to black television:
"And for most of the people that we're talking to, a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this. That shouldn't even come into the equation."
Alrighty then.

The Next Nate Silver

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In a project for his AP History course, Eldest Weed has to follow two Senate races and predict their outcome. On a lark, and because computer programming is in his blood, he created his own election model. Here are the predictions he submitted last week (so they can't take into account late-breaking changes, which I think he will regret).

His bottom line? 47 Democratic seats and 53 GOP-caucusing seats.  Let's see how he does Tuesday night.

* Indicates lowest certainty

GOP
Alaska
Arkansas
Colorado*
Georgia
Idaho
Iowa*
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Mississippi
Montana
Nebraska
Oklahoma (1 & 2)
South Carolina (1 & 2)
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
West Virginia
Wyoming

Democrats
Delaware
Hawaii
Illinois
Kansas (Orman wins)*
Michigan
Minnesota
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina*
Oregon
Rhode Island
Virginia

Transginger Cookies

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Francis: "I Made A Mistake"

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Can't find a source more official than Raymond Arroyo's Facebook page yet, but it seems Cardinal Burke (who was quoted in the press saying it was high time for the Holy Father to clarify Church teaching in the wake of the PR fiasco accompanying this pre-Synod on the family)  got what he wanted. Money quote: 

 I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
Which is precisely what I always have understood him to mean, but I am glad he said it outright to clarify. In full context: 


We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.


Continuing, he made it a point to quote Pope Benedict (and Lordy I wish people who want to freak out about this Pope, or co-opt him as the case may be, would read him and note how often he recurs to Benedict): 


His [the pope's] duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

It's worth reading the whole thing for the list of temptations (right and left and human) to which we are subject and his confidence in the Ignatian discernment process. 

Update: I see Arroyo is using Vatican Radio's provisional translation.