A brief history of headboards

A brief history of headboards

The first headboard in recorded history comes to us from hieroglyphics in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The ancient Egyptians didn’t originally use headboards, however, when the Pharaoh Khufu’s wife Henutsen found out that he was building this massive pyramid replete with extravagant his and hers burial chambers, she insisted that the rough, oblique stone slabs were not conducive to a good night’s rest, and she demanded matching headboards. Below is the hieroglyph found in the burial passage of Khufu installing the headboard on Henutsen’s bed. It’s lost to history whether that is an ancient prying tool in his hand, a pry bar of course being an absolutely critical headboard installation/removal tool, or whether it represents a stream of blood coming from his head, a result of the nearly universal injuries sustained in all headboard installations.

Of course, we now know from ancient Arabic translations of the scrolls of Turin, that it was indeed the headboard that caused Khufu to kick Henutsen out of the Great Pyramid and have her buried in a much smaller, mostly unknown pyramid called G1.

We next find mention of the use of headboards with the emperors of Rome, starting with Julius Caesar. Caesar, of course, never used a headboard in his royal villa until Cleopatra started coming over from Egypt to visit. On her first visit, she was dismayed to find that Julius slept on a simple platform elevated off the floor on goat milk crates, and on her next visit, she brought from Cairo not just a headboard, but a full sleigh-style bedframe, much to Caesars dismay. It was this bedframe that caused Caesar to not really care about the consequences, throw caution to the wind, and cross the Rubicon, going to war with his compatriots.

Shortly before Caesars death, we know that Cleopatra began having an affair with Mark Antony, and that she also insisted that a headboard be added to his bedchamber. It was, in fact, this headboard that caused Mark Antony to rule that Cleopatra and Julius’ son, Caesarion would not take over as Julius’ heir after his assassination. When Cleopatra fled back to Egypt after the ascension of Octavion, she took both headboards with her. However, the damage the headboards caused to the Roman Empire was irreversible, and, as we know, it eventually fell from glory.

The next time a headboard was used was in England in 1327. Here’s what we know from this dark period in European history:

Edward II was deposed by his wife Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, after Edward II refused to install a headboard on the Royal Mattress, and Mortimer promised Isabella a headboard if they could rule England together. This of course, led to Edward II’s son, Edward III leading a successful coup against Mortimer in the Hundred Years War, and to eventually lock both Mortimer and the headboard in the Tower of London where he starved to death after eating as much of the headboard as he could stomach. History lessons are short-lived however, as upon Edward III’s return from the brutal fighting of the Hundred Years War, he discovered that his wife, Philippa of Hainault had also installed a headboard on their bed. Edward III died of a stroke in 1377 while attempting to get the headboard to stop squeaking every time he shifted in his sleep.

The next Monarch to experience his lover’s insistence upon a headboard, was Henry VIII. Henry was perfectly content to sleep on a mattress pushed against the wall, and his first (and best) wife, Catherine of Aragon, was fine with that. It wasn’t until Henry shoved her to the countryside so he could hook up with Anne Boleyn, that things began to fall apart for him. Not only would the Catholic Church not allow him to divorce Catherine so he could marry Anne, Anne insisted on installing a headboard and a FULL BEDFRAME on Henry’s perfectly acceptable, completely comfortable mattress that was on the floor and shoved against the wall of the Royal Bedroom in Windsor Castle. Henry thought he was fine with it, but, like all men, he soon realized what a completely unnecessary pain in the ass it was to have to deal with a headboard and a bedframe, particularly when one has to move around to various castles and towers, so, with obvious necessity, Henry had Anne beheaded.

Obviously there are numerous other people in history who have fallen victim to their wife’s insistence on using a completely unnecessary headboard. Emperor Hirohito created a legion of Kamikaze bombers by making pilots remove and install headboards over and over until they lost the will to live. Hitler’s hatred of the Jews stemmed from the fact that they introduced the headboard to Bavaria, headboards being very useful for hiding their bags of gold. In Salem, Massachusetts, witches were identified by entering women’s bedrooms and arresting any who had a headboard on their bed. Joseph Stalin so hated headboards that he had murdered or sent to Siberia every general and politician in the Soviet Union who used a headboard, in what was originally known as The Great Purge of the Headboard Users, though it’s been shortened by historians to just The Great Purge. Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the United States and the western world in general, was not an effect of a difference of religious beliefs, but rather the United States’ insistence on exporting headboards to Muslim countries. In fact, the reason that Navy Seals were able to get the drop on Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad was because the CIA secretly dropped headboards around Pakistan with a note to please deliver to several of bin Laden’s wives, one of whom accepted delivery and had it installed without bin Laden’s knowledge. That headboard had a GPS tracker that led the Seals right to the compound.

As I sit here in frustration after the arduous task of removing the headboard from my own bed in preparation for a move, a task that has led me to have numerous malignant thoughts, I can’t help but wonder when we’ll learn the lessons of history and finally rid this society of the evils of the headboard. We know that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and I worry for future generations of men who will have to install and remove these unnecessary and burdensome beasts.

Can’t we just end the madness, once and for all?

An open letter to Conservatives – from one of your own

It’s hard to be a Conservative sometimes. This is one of those times, and in reflecting on the status and future of the Republican Party, I think things are only going to get worse. The Republican Party and conservative values seem to be standing on a vast and crumbling precipice.

And, it’s all our own fault.

I’m a right-leaning centrist who was raised with conservative values. Not only do I like the things typically associated with conservatism, I like the idea of those things. I love the Second Amendment. I love the concepts of duty, patriotism, and love of God and Country. I love the idea of teaching our children and our grandchildren how to shoot guns, how to hunt, how to split wood, and how to farm. I like the idea of an honest day’s work for an honest buck. And, even though I’ve personally stepped away from nearly all of these conservative fundamentalisms, my heart and my soul are still instilled in their conceptions.

Nearly half the country holds the values I’ve mentioned above, and yet, these values, this way of life is in big trouble. It’s dying, and that impending death can be easily traced to just one person.

Donald Trump.

Now, I will accept that it’s possible that many conservative values were doomed for history’s scrap heap of failed ideals even without the influence of Donald Trump. The evolution of humanity is something that can be fought only in vain, and conservatives seem to be uniquely adept at disregarding this truism. Traditionalist notions that marriage is a covenant between God, a man, and a woman, or that a woman’s right to choose is nullified by creationism, or that America is divinely inspired and protected are all very clearly destined to fail. And conservatives seem very loathe to accept the defeat of these “ideals.” The rigidity of this type of thinking was always going to be a problem for the Republican party. These ideas are just simply not compatible with an evolving society. One need only look to Islam, a religion that is a bastion of ultra-conservatism doomed for failure, to see the bleak future of conservative Christianity. Those Imams who propagate Muslim fundamentalist ideas such as the stoning of rape victims, forced marriage, and death to infidels and sodomites are appropriately the targets of unremittent scorn and derision, and they’re not that far behind, evolutionarily speaking, ultra-conservative Christians.  

So, Trump doesn’t necessarily hold full responsibility for the downfall of the Republican party, however, his elevation to the highest office in the land will almost certainly be viewed by historians as an accelerant to our inevitable fall.

When Donald Trump stormed into politics in the 2016 elections, he seemed to be a compelling and enticing alternative to the stuffed-shirt candidates normally thrown to the top of the Republican ticket. Trump held many conservative values such as strict border control and immigration policies, a strong military, a vocal opposition to appeasement of aggressive world leaders, and a deep respect for law and order. He showed strength and conviction in his values, both good and bad, he unhesitantly tossed aside traditional notions of presidentialism and decorum. At the same time, he seemed to be somewhat a centrist on liberal ideals like gay rights and abortion. He promised to “Drain the Swamp,” and to “Make America Great Again,” slogans that were objectively amazing from a marketing perspective, even if they were lacking in substance. The tempering appointment of the more conservative traditionalist Mike Pence to the ticket, along with the anointment of arguably the most irredeemably flawed and despicable candidate to ever ascend to the top of the Democratic ticket, Hillary Clinton, made a Trump presidency an assurance.

And, like nearly half the country, I voted for him. I believed in him. I bought in to the enticing idea of a magnanimous and benevolent billionaire who would make decisions that would be for the good of the country, decisions that were business-oriented, immune to the malignant influence of corporate and foreign lobbyists. There were warning signs…plenty of them, and though I had some deep concerns, I was desperate for a candidate who was outside of the establishment, shunned even by that very establishment, and one who was quite vocal about fighting the status quo and stoppering the whirlpool of decrepit swill that Washington politics had become. Like so many of you, I hoped for change and eagerly anticipated the draining of the swamp. And, like so many of you, I was disgusted by the end result. The grifting conman, the charlatan who showed up to the pillar of democracy flashing a beautifully enticing game of three-card monte and convinced us to wager our dignity, our respect, and our future.

The Donald Trump presidency will be remembered as a massive failure, quite possibly the worst presidency in history. Right up until the election in November, Trump had a chance to cement a decent legacy. Liberals will not agree, of course, because they’re blinded by their hatred of the man they call, “The Orange Buffoon,” but Trump actually accomplished some great things in his presidency. For starters, he kept us out of any new wars, and even ended or greatly reduced the engagements of current wars, and this is something that none of his predecessors for the last few decades can lay claim to. He was successful in implementing criminal justice reform, softening the Justice Department’s stand on drug enforcement, tightening and shoring up illegal immigration, strengthening our borders, and rebuilding and refurbishing our military. However, these accomplishments will eventually be forgotten by the categorical disgrace of the last few months of his presidency.

When Trump lost the election to Biden and immediately declared that there was massive fraud, it was a first step in a dangerous direction, but not surprising in any way. He had been saying and implying for years that he would not accept a loss, and that the only way he could ever lose the election would be due to massive voter fraud. His legal team would go on to file sixty-five lawsuits trying to overturn the election. They would lose sixty-four of those cases, their one victory being overturned by the appeals court and affirmed by the state supreme court. Along the way, Trump would claim that the losses didn’t matter, that losses were necessary in order for the cases to reach the United States Supreme Court where he would win a massive victory. With six of the nine USSC Justices conservatives, three of whom were appointed by Trump himself, this didn’t seem like an impossible goal. Trump’s attorneys, consisting of a powerhouse of far-right lunatics like Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani, made numerous overtures that they were privy to a secret horde of stunning evidence of wrong-doing, information that would shock the world and prove that Donald Trump was the actual victor. Sidney Powell went so far as to state that she was getting ready to, “release the Kraken,” indicating she was in possession of irrefutable evidence the magnitude of which would forever tarnish the Democratic party and completely vindicate Donald Trump.

Cue the crickets.

She went on to make unfounded and easily refutable claims that the voting machines were rigged by their builders, Dominion Voting Systems, which, she claimed, was founded in Venezuela to rig votes for Hugo Chavez. Her further claims that Dominion bribed the Georgia Governor and Secretary of State (both Republicans) landed her with a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit.

Lin Wood has claimed that Georgia Governor Kemp and SecState Raffensperger colluded and conspired with the Chinese to rig the vote for Joe Biden. He called for their imprisonment, claiming that a secret cabal of international communists, Chinese intelligence agents, and rogue Republican “never Trumper” officials contrived to steal the election from Trump whom he claims garnered a full 70% of the popular vote. Just a month ago, Wood claimed that SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts was involved in the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, that Roberts was a child trafficker, and that Jeffrey Epstein—who he says is still alive—can confirm all of these facts. After January 6th, when Vice President Pence certified the election results, Wood called him a child molester and called for his execution. (These comments have since been removed by Parler where they were posted.)

Why do I have to even mention these formerly fringe lunatics? Because the President of the United States listens to these dangerous fools. He believes them, encourages them, and supports them. And that fact alone is incredibly scary.

No evidence was ever presented to any court in any state that even remotely approached proof or even that of the low bar of reasonable doubt of voter fraud or election tampering. Zero credible evidence–not a shred–was ever presented, despite the pompous blustering of Trump’s high-priced legal eagles. The Supreme Court went so far as to refuse to even hear the cases, so lacking in merit that they were. In a 7-2 decision nonetheless, where the two dissenting judges, Thomas and Alito only dissented because they thought the case should have at least been allowed to be filed. Even in their dissent, they stated they would have rejected the claims and granted no relief had they heard the arguments. It was a resounding defeat of epic proportions. And this from the most conservative SCOTUS in more than 70 years!

And still, Trump carried on, shouting from every virtual and electronic rooftop that he had been wronged and defrauded, that he had won the election “by a landslide,” and that the Democrats had stolen it from him. He tweeted the following after the Supreme Court decision:

“The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom! No Courage!”

Tweet after Tweet after Tweet followed, with Trump begging anybody to act illegally and find a way to overturn the results of the election. Vicious attacks against former supporters followed, and he continued his Twitter rampage by making hundreds of unfounded accusations and by repeatedly, maliciously, and intentionally lying over and over and over to the American people and to his supporters.

And, many of them started to believe it all.

If you’re one of those who fell for his con, it’s okay. It’s kind of hard to blame you. Many of you believe that Trump was anointed by God, and that his victory was actually prophesied. And if that’s true, then how else could he have lost other than the devil stepping in to interfere? The devil in this case is, of course, the Democrats. If you think I’m maybe just talking about a few fringe right-wing lunatics, I’m sorry to inform you that this is a movement in the Right that is frighteningly large, and growing. People like Anna Khait with 300,000 Twitter followers, Matt Couch with 500,000, and Jack Posobiec with over a million are preaching this and other far right nonsense to their wide audiences. Anna Khait, as I write this today, has just indicated that Trump is STILL GOING TO WIN THE ELECTION AND BE INAUGURATED TOMORROW BECAUSE GOD HAS DECLARED THIS TO BE A CERTAINTY! Her tweets have had tens of thousands of likes and thousands of retweets reaching many times her actual Twitter follower count. (Which dropped by about 50,000 after the Twitter purges last week.) Memes and images like this one are making the rounds of Twitter, being shared and retweeted over and over:

The very idea that Donald Trump is such a paragon of virtue that he is God’s chosen representative to lead the United States for two terms is so beyond comprehension that it leaves me flabbergasted. Donald Trump is, in the words of Sam Harris, “a walking bundle of sin and gore.” He’s uncouth, immoral, vain, arrogant, and a dozen other adjectives that embody the very definition of sinner. How he became the true north of the Far Right will be forever beyond my grasp.

I’ve often been worried that by voting for Democrats I’m aligning myself with the party that contains what I’ve always considered to be the most dangerous fringe group in the country, the Radical Left. People like Representative AOC who claimed that looters during the BLM riots simply wanted loaves of bread to feed their families, and Representative Ayanna Pressley who claimed that GOP congressmen who didn’t wear a mask were committing chemical warfare. The party of those who believe in diversity of all types save opinion, where intolerance reigns supreme and Cancel Culture via Critical Race Theory is the guiding light. The party that gave power to the fringe and fraudulent group, Black Lives Matter, and gave Antifa permission to rouse the rioters. The party that was just fine with mob violence until it arrived on their doorstep, spearheaded by conservatives. The party that has an insatiable appetite for division and violence—provided such violence meets its unilateral objectives. This element of the left is disgusting and frightening. However, after seeing the awakening and rising of the Quacks of the Fringe Right, I’m far more terrified of them. Raving lunatics like the attorney, Brian, who had tens of thousands of followers before Twitter finally yanked his account, who believed that Trump’s Space Force was going to activate a satellite on inauguration day and black out all communications so security forces could arrest every democrat in Washington D.C. are reigning disinformation upon feeble-minded conservatives, and they’re attracting followers in droves. QAnon and OAN driven fake news is being sourced by millions as of higher worth than true, legitimate news agencies.

These quacks of the far right are the truly scary ones. It would seem to be a no-brainer to disavow and suppress these people, yet mainstream Republicans have capitulated to them—and to their Supreme Leader, Donald Trump—at unfathomable levels.

It’s okay if you voted for Trump in 2016. It’s even okay if you voted for him in 2020, in spite of the woke telling you it’s not. We have reasons for voting the way we do. Maybe you didn’t like Joe Biden, or you believed he’s in cognitive decline. Maybe you’re sick of the left and their judgmental condemnations of all dissenting opinions. Maybe you’re afraid of leftist policies and higher taxes. If you voted for Trump, you had a reason, and that’s perfectly okay. But if you’re not at least a little bit relieved that he didn’t win, if you’re not at least a little bit glad that we won’t have an objectively dangerous and divisive lunatic at the head of the most powerful country on Earth, then you’re in a cult, unable to see through the fog that surrounds you.

Donald Trump has made a concerted effort to overthrow our democracy and burn our Constitution. There are reports that he had Oval Office meetings in the last few weeks where he considered declaring Martial Law in an effort to stop the Biden inauguration. His call to the State of Georgia trying to get them to find enough votes to give him a victory was almost certainly a violation of the law. His efforts to get Mike Pence to withhold certification of the votes in Congress, and his turning on Pence and calling him a coward when Pence refused to violate his constitutional mandate were reprehensible, unforgiveable, and beyond the pale. He is an insurrectionist by any definition of the term, and that alone is enough reason for us conservatives to band together in disgust and outrage and to disavow this man forever.

What do we stand for as Americans in our current environment? What do we stand for as conservatives, as Republicans, as decent humans with our current belief system? Trump has desecrated our entire system of government. He sent a mob to the Capitol armed with months of lies and misinformation. The sitting President of the United States inflamed a mob of his supporters and sent them storming down Constitution Avenue as insurrectionists to disrupt the democratic process and the certifying of the vote of an election that he lost. What does that say about our democracy? What does that say to the enemies and detractors of democracy in communist countries? What does it say to suppressed people globally who might one day wish to fight for their own freedom, and might look to democracy and to the United States as an answer?

On January 6th, a shirtless Viking, a tactical guerilla with a bundle of flex cuffs, an Auschwitz emblazoned cast-off from Orange County Choppers, and a Confederate flag-waving suppressionist stalked the hallowed halls of the seat of our democracy hunting down the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives like some crazed, Stephen King inspired, dystopian version of The Village People, and the President of the United States implicitly and explicitly encouraged and supported this. You can sit and rightfully make claims of the left’s hypocrisy, but you can’t compare these acts to the degeneration of a BLM protest that resulted in the looting and burning of retail stores. This was completely different. This was an inspired, driven, and meticulously planned assault on our democracy and our constitution. This was an act of insurrection. It was an act of war, perpetrated on the American people by the President of the United States.

This was premeditated in every definition of the word. For years, Trump had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. On at least half a dozen occasions he flat-out said that the only way he could lose the election of 2020 would be through fraud. He verbally freerolled his way to this result in a meticulously planned operation. He knew that his words held power and sway over his legion of cultists in a way perhaps never before seen in the history of our democracy. And he never backed down, he never swayed in his insistency that it was impossible for him to lose legitimately despite losing every court case. The court record alone is a thoroughly resounding quashing of any insinuation of fraud and impropriety, and yet, his cult remains entranced by his lies, his deceit, and his rhetoric. If you think that Twitter was wrong to revoke the platform he used to inspire this insurrectionist, seditious mob of lunatics, then you’re just not thinking this through. With tens of millions of rabid followers who believe his every word, many of whom are knowingly deranged, he has intentionally destabilized our society for years now. Trump used Twitter to summon a mob of his followers to Washington D.C. on January 6th, and then he inflamed them and turned them loose. The ramifications of Trump’s continued access to such a powerful platform are unthinkably severe.

The lies that Trump has disseminated and the poison that he has spread will long outlive him. Trump is maybe the kind of guy you want to hang out with. Have at your hunting camp. Shoot a game of pool and drink whiskey with. Have over to your private island filled with underage girls. He’s Bill Clinton after a traumatic brain injury. But there has never been a man so ill-suited to serve as President of the United States.

According to this new poll by the Pew Research Center, 57% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters want to see Trump remain a major political figure for many years to come. You have got to be out of your mind, Republicans. Whatever level of conviction you’re going to hold to your values, it has to be clear at this point that Trump is not the standard-bearer of your way of life. Unless you’re a billionaire who wants to play golf 250 days a year, Donald Trump cannot be the man to whom you will pin your hopes, your dreams, and your future. He will be the death of the Republican party, and like an apocalyptic King Midas, anything he touches will be forever inundated with his putrid stank.

We should want Trump to be convicted in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Otherwise he will permanently rend apart the Republican party. Should he run again in 2024 and lose in the primaries, there is literally nothing in the history of his life, or his term in office that would indicate he will take that loss gracefully and fade silently into the night. Among allegations of further voter fraud and tampering by the RNC, he will surely splinter the GOP and strike out as an independent, a move that will assure a fractured base of conservatives for decades to come. The future of the Republican party depends on Trump disappearing from the limelight forever.

Conservatives created the monster that is Donald Trump. And then we lost control of that monster. We have been manipulated by a madman, a cretin of the most vile kind. It’s up to us to reign him in by disavowing him, by admitting that we were wrong, and by accepting the punishment that is Democratic governance of our country for the foreseeable future. We took our chance, loaded up on the pass line, and rolled snake eyes. And now, the marker has come due, and it’s time to pay it with a smile on our faces. Tomorrow, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Donald Trump will be at his home in Florida when it happens, his petty, petulant vindictiveness shining through brightly in his refusal to meet Biden at the White House and welcome him to his new home like tradition and civility demands. Trump is a disgusting human being, and it’s time we rise up and make sure that America knows that we acknowledge it.

Our country is shattered. Our division has never been wider. It’s up to us to bring it back. On our current trajectory, we are headed toward civil war, and that serves no greater good.

A case for invoking the 25th amendment

In the early afternoon hours of December 23rd, 2020, President Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting lasted for just over an hour and, shortly thereafter, President Trump departed the White House to head to Florida for the holidays. What was said in that private shadowy meeting is unknown, but it’s not too difficult to speculate on the nature of what could have been so vital for Trump to have spent the hour prior to his vacation in a hastily convened and unscheduled meeting with the vice president. After all, the president had been almost maniacally focused for the past two months on absolutely nothing but overturning the results of the election.

Whatever was discussed between the two during that long meeting, and whether or not Trump spent that hour pressuring Mike Pence to engineer a coup, only the vice president knows, however, we do know that shortly after that meeting Trump became focused on the path to victory running through Mike Pence’s role as President of the Senate. Trump’s earlier efforts that included scores of court challenges in numerous states had failed. So had his seditious call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, the audio of which was recorded and publicly released. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/us/politics/trump-raffensperger-georgia-call-transcript.html)

Aboard Air Force One, just after his meeting with Pence, Trump retweeted a message from one of his supporters—since deleted—stating that Pence had the power to unilaterally refuse to certify the electoral college results. At a rally in Georgia on January 3rd, Trump gave the following comments:

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy, because if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”

Trump continuously pressured Pence to act during his more than 75-minute speech to his crowd of supporters, saying, “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.” He later stated it again: “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, it’s a sad day for our country.”

He also, of course, sent several implicit Tweets with the same desperate and extreme pressuring message:

Trump’s statements and the underlying threats, both implied and explicit, and likely the long meeting in the Oval Office clearly resulted in the vice president holding deep and ponderous meetings with his staff and attorneys. On January 6th, just moments before calling the joint session of congress to order to begin the certification process, Pence released this three-page letter to his fellow lawmakers: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/read-pences-full-letter-saying-he-cant-claim-unilateral-authority-to-reject-electoral-votes I’ve pulled a few of the relevant passages from the letter where Pence clearly implies that he was pressured by Trump to act unilaterally and illegally:

“Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design. As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority…It is my considered judgement that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not…Four years ago, surrounded by my family, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which ended with the words, “So help me God.” Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to the Almighty God. When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the Electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and history. So Help Me God.”

What drives the Vice President of the United States to pen a letter such as this one, a letter no vice president in the history of our country has ever felt a need to write? Again, we can only speculate, but you’d have to be a complete moron to think that Pence’s motivation was anything but a response to the considerable pressure being applied from above.

Shortly after the Vice President gave his speech and opened proceedings and the letter to congress was made public, Trump tweeted the following:

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Trump then, in a petulant, revenge-driven storm of anger and pettiness, proceeded to ban Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff, Marc Short from stepping foot into the West Wing. Twitter has since deleted the above Tweet, claiming that it was used to incite violence, namely the angry mob that stormed down Constitution Avenue and breached the Capitol—something that hasn’t been done since the British army managed it in 1814—in an attempt to halt the constitutional process and to forcibly interfere in our revered democracy, rioting and causing destruction that resulted in one rioter being trampled to death and another being killed by the Capitol Police.

And this death and destruction lies at the feet of the President of the United States, who urged this angry mob forward on their mission with a speech outside the White House minutes before.

“We are going to walk down…to the Capitol…You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, you have to be strong.”

Trump shoved these protestors—minions and puppets whom he has been inflaming for the last two months by plying them with lies about treachery, theft, and deceit in the election—down the street to the Capitol, inciting them into a mob and turning them into insurgents before their march toward their destiny with death and destruction.

Even afterwards, when Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and even the previously ardent Trump supporter, Lindsay Graham were hastily distancing themselves from the mayhem of this horror of a presidency, denouncing the actions of Trump and the mob, and world leaders were issuing statements of outrage and disgust, Trump still couldn’t find it in himself to show even a reflection of remorse. He gave a televised statement outside the White House urging the protestors to quit and to go home, ending it with a message that he feels their pain, that the election was fraudulent. “Go home. We love you. You’re very special. I know how you feel.” This was in stark contrast to his message to rioters from this summer whom he called “dangerous scum” and upon whom he urged the Justice Department to convict with mandatory sentences of ten years in prison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sma-oAJv91o

Former presidents leant their voices in disgust of the deplorable mayhem orchestrated by their successor. Obama said, “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”

George W. Bush, the only living former Republican president showed his disgust as well: “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic…I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”

Since his reckless and seditious actions, and the subsequent banning by Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram of his ability to post, Trump’s administration seems to be falling apart. Trump’s aide, Dan Scavino, had to send a message via Twitter from the president in the very early hours of this morning, a Tweet that wasn’t even sent from his public account, but rather from his personal account. White House staffers were caught off-guard, completely unaware of the statement that Trump had made through Scavino.

The President of the United States pressured his vice president to subvert our democracy and orchestrate an illegal coup to overturn the results of a fair and free election. When that didn’t work, he gathered an army of supporters, incited them into an angry mob, and sent them marching down Constitution Avenue in a seditious and riotous horde. These actions are treasonous and deplorable, and although the proof of Trump’s criminal malfeasance may not be enough for a court of law, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, and that is maddening and terrifying.

Luckily, the constitution doesn’t require proof in a court of law. Mike Pence needs only suspect Donald Trump of perpetrating these crimes. And Pence has the lawful authority vested by the Constitution to act on these suspicions.

The 25th amendment provides for the president to be removed from power. Although the 25th amendment has been invoked several times in the history of our country, most recently by George W. Bush on two occasions when he was undergoing a surgical procedure, section four of the amendment has never been invoked.  Section four of the 25th amendment reads as follows:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Section four requires only that the vice president and the majority of the president’s cabinet (currently 15 members, pending resignations that are coming fast and furious as the inner circle flees the floundering ship) to agree that the president is unfit to lead. If Mike Pence can convince just eight cabinet members that Trump isn’t fit to serve the remainder of his term, they need only deliver a signed letter stating that to the President pro tempore of the Senate (currently Chuck Grassley) and the Speaker of the House (currently Nancy Pelosi), and the vice president is immediately vested with the power of the presidency.

That’s it.

Trump can fight it, but the Senate wouldn’t even have to hold a vote. They have 21 days to even assemble and vote on the matter, and by that time, Biden will have been inaugurated and Pence will have turned over the reins of power.

President Trump was the architect and orchestrator of one of the most notorious days in the history of our country. It’s time for Mike Pence and the Trump cabinet to step forward and take a stand. It’s time for them to say enough is enough.

It’s time to invoke section four of the twenty-fifth amendment.

Book Review – A Promised Land by Barack Obama

In A Promised Land, the first volume of his highly anticipated presidential memoirs, Barack Obama provides a sweeping and vivid portrait of his life leading up to his entry into politics as an Illinois State Senator, and concluding in the midst of the third year of his presidency with Operation Neptune’s Spear, the mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. Mercifully, the memoir spends very little time on his early life, a mistake often made by long-winded memoirists who tend to reflect on their early years with something approaching myopic nostalgia. Obama limits the story of his early years to just a few pages, a mere setup to a long-lingering questioning of his early and murky career motives and the true objective of his decisions during that time. He quickly moves to his decision to run for office, first in the Illinois state senate, then rapidly to the U.S. Senate, followed by his run for the presidency. All along the way, he seems surprisingly and somewhat comfortingly irresolute, a shocking admission for a career politician. He also reflects on how Washington changes a person, worrying about being drawn into the muck of politics:

I questioned what might happen to me the longer I stayed in Washington, the more embedded and comfortable I became. I saw now how it could happen—how the incrementalism and decorum, the endless positioning for the next election, and the groupthink of cable news panels all conspired to chip away at your best instincts and wear down your independence, until whatever you once believed was utterly lost.  

Throughout the book, Barack Obama shows some real insight into his thoughts on partisanship. When reflecting on one of the big scandals of his election run where, in regard to why working class voters tend to elect Republicans, he made the comment, “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” He expresses a deep desire to recant that sentence and replace it with what he claims were his actual convictions as below:

“So it’s not surprising then that they get frustrated,” I would say in my revised version, “and they look to the traditions and way of life that have been constants in their lives, whether it’s their faith, or hunting, or blue-collar work, or more traditional notions of family and community. And when Republicans tell them we Democrats despise these things—or when we give these folks reason to believe that we do—then the best policies in the world don’t matter to them.”

Although this is obviously the rumination of a man who’s had a long opportunity to reflect on his mistakes, this comes across as earnest and believable. Obama’s writing seems to convey a true and pure desire to be a solid and equitable president who brings the country together. Although I had plenty of problems with his decisions and actions while he was president, when he reflects on many of those decisions, his earnestness is unambiguous and authentic, his motives plausibly benign.

I voted for Obama in 2008, only the second time I had ever voted for a Democrat for president. (Clinton in 1996 was the first.) I didn’t vote for Obama because of his policies, or because of his messaging, both of which I mostly disagreed with at the time. I also didn’t vote for him because of his charisma or his oratory skills, or because of his message of “Hope.” In fact, I didn’t even vote for him again in 2012, choosing to return to my right-leaning views and vote for Mitt Romney. In 2008, I liked John McCain, and I thought that McCain would make a much better president than Barack Obama. And yet, I voted for Obama for one reason: Sarah Palin. Obama himself shares some interesting insight into the drama within his own campaign on hearing the news that McCain had chosen Palin, starting with Joe Biden turning to him and saying, “Who the hell is Sarah Palin?” After a deep dive by his team into her biography and background, Obama says this:

But from the day McCain chose her and through the heights of Palin-mania, I felt certain the decision would not serve him well. For all of Palin’s performative gifts, a vice president’s most important qualification was the ability, if necessary, to assume the presidency. Given John’s age and history of melanoma, this wasn’t an idle concern. And what became abundantly clear as soon as Sarah Palin stepped into the spotlight was that on just about every subject relevant to governing the country she had absolutely no idea what the hell she was talking about. The financial system. The Supreme Court. The Russian invasion of Georgia. It didn’t matter what the topic was or what form the question took—the Alaskan governor appeared lost, stringing words together like a kid trying to bluff her way through a test for which she had failed to study.

Although this is an easy thing to state after the fact, I have to believe and agree with his assessment. This is after all the primary reason why I chose to vote for the candidate I felt at the time was the worst of the two choices.

The book goes through the campaign and the race at a good pace, and he doesn’t dwell for too long on the election itself, getting quickly into the meat of his first year in office and the complex and challenging problems he inherited with a country and a world immersed in a financial crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Although both the House and the Senate were controlled by the Democrats, the Senate’s somewhat recent fixation and enthusiasm for the Filibuster made futile and exasperating his attempts at meaningful legislation. He spends a great deal of time reflecting on the confrontational nature of the Republican caucus toward any legislation put forth by his administration:

You might think that for a political party that had just suffered two cycles of resounding defeat, the GOP strategy of pugnacious, all-out obstruction would carry big risks. And during a time of genuine crisis, it sure wasn’t responsible.

But if, like McConnell and Boehner, your primary concern was clawing your way back to power, recent history suggested that such a strategy made sense. For all their talk about wanting politicians to get along, American voters rarely reward the opposition for cooperating with the governing party.

He goes into a short history lesson of the failures of both parties to win the house or senate via cooperation with the president through the last twenty years or so, a real but depressing look into how our government actually functions, with bitter infighting and iron-grip partisanship that puts personal power objectives well in front of the good of the country. Although he complains about this on numerous occasions, disappointingly he doesn’t cast blame on his own party for their own commensurate tactics with his Republican predecessors, nor does he offer a mediated solution to such deliberately damaging and abhorrent strategies. Admittedly, such a solution may be non-existent beyond congressional term-limits, which seems to be yet another idea that most Americans desire but will never be realized.  

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 caused by the sub-prime mortgage bubble was Obama’s immersion in fire, and it was a doozy, a real threat of an global economic depression that consumed the first part of his presidency. To this day, his administration’s handling of that crisis is still fiercely debated but, regardless of choices he could have made differently, there’s no doubt that his decisions did work in the end, and the U.S. banking industry certainly stabilized much quicker than any of its counterparts around the world. Obama certainly spends some time reflecting on what choices he could have made differently, as he states:

For many thoughtful critics, though, the fact that I had engineered a return to pre-crisis normalcy is precisely the problem—a missed opportunity, if not a flat-out betrayal. According to this view, the financial crisis offered me a once-in-a-generation chance to reset the standards for normalcy, remaking not just the financial system but the American economy overall. If only I had broken up the big banks and sent some white-collar culprits to jail; if only I had put an end to outsized pay packages and Wall Street’s heads-I-win, tails-you-lose culture, then maybe today we’d have a more equitable system that served the interests of working families rather than a handful of billionaires.

I understand such frustrations. In many ways, I share them. To this day, I survey reports of America’s escalating inequality, its reduced upward mobility and still-stagnant wages, with all the consequent anger and distortions such trends stir in our democracy, and I wonder whether I should have been bolder in those early months, willing to exact more economic pain in the short term in pursuit of a permanently altered and more just economic order.

The thought nags at me. And yet even if it were possible for me to go back in time and get a do-over, I can’t say that I would make different choices.

I’m not qualified to judge the choices he made during this crisis—I’ll let the economists do that—but his insight into the thoughts that went behind those decisions is interesting, and his reasoning is certainly compelling.

Obama adds just a small amount of humor to the book, such as this statement about German Chancellor, Angela Merkel:

She was famously suspicious of emotional outbursts or overblown rhetoric, and her team would later confess that she’d been initially skeptical of me precisely because of my oratorical skills. I took no offense, figuring that in a German leader, an aversion to possible demagoguery was probably a healthy thing.

Obama also does a great job of describing and recognizing the bubble in which the American president sits, and his efforts to expand that bubble, from his visits to military hospitals or his attendance at the solemn return and transfer of American soldiers’ remains in an effort to understand the true cost of war, to his meeting with fifteen top American bankers during the financial crisis in an effort to understand their points of view, to his order to his Chief of Staff, Rahm, to have ten letters a day from citizens, good and bad, sent to him to read and reply to. He discusses his desire to take action on numerous occasions, desire that is tempered by his advisors, all of who’s expertise he respected and heeded. When talking about the Iranian revolts, the “Green Movement” of 2009 that posed one of the most significant challenges to the Islamic Republic in recent history, he stews over the merciless recriminations enacted by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Publicly, he gives a series of bland, bureaucratic statements like, “We continue to monitor the entire situation closely,” but privately he balked at such passive action:

As the violence escalated, so did my condemnation. Still, such a passive approach didn’t sit well with me—and not just because I had to listen to Republicans howl that I was coddling a murderous regime. I was learning yet another difficult lesson about the presidency: that my heart was now chained to strategic considerations and tactical analysis, my convictions subject to counterintuitive arguments; that in the most powerful office on earth, I had less freedom to say what I meant and act on what I felt than I’d had as a senator—or as an ordinary citizen disgusted by the sight of a young woman gunned down by her own government.

He also talks about the requisite tempering of his own ambitions and expectations with policy:

The presidency changes your time horizons. Rarely do your efforts bear fruit right away; the scale of most problems coming across your desk is too big for that, the factors at play too varied. You learn to measure progress in smaller steps—each of which may take months to accomplish, none of which merit much public notice—and to reconcile yourself to the knowledge that your ultimate goal, if ever achieved, may take a year or two or even a full term to realize. Nowhere is this truer than in the conduct of foreign policy.

Although he doesn’t spend much more time on that concept, I can only imagine the frustration that someone with the temperament to run for the office of President of the United States must feel as such chafing and arduous delays. For example, the book ends shortly after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and Obama talks about the intelligence that led to the discovery of OBL’s hideout in Pakistan. That information was brought to him six months before Operation Neptune’s Spear was executed, and it’s hard to imagine learning that information and then compartmentalizing it for six months while it’s confirmed and a mission is drawn up. I have a hard time waiting a week or two for something I’m personally excited about like a vacation or a holiday, and the effort to control a natural impulsiveness to immediately take action regarding something as dramatic as intelligence that might lead to the execution or capture of bin Laden seems Herculean.

Some of Obama’s candor and the bluntness with which he approaches his problems come through clearly in the opening of chapter 22:

It’s in the nature of politics, and certainly the presidency, to go through rough patches—times when, because of a boneheaded mistake, an unforeseen circumstance, a sound but unpopular decision, or a failure to communicate, the headlines turn sour and the public finds you wanting. Usually this lasts for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, before the press loses interest in smacking you around, either because you fixed the problem, or you expressed contrition, or you chalked up a win, or something deemed more important pushes you off the front page.

If the rough patch lasts long enough though, you may find yourself in a dreaded situation in which problems compound, then congeal into a broader narrative about you and your presidency. The negative stories don’t let up, which leads to a drop in your popularity. Your political adversaries, smelling blood in the water, go after you harder, and allies aren’t as quick to defend you. The press starts digging for additional problems in your administration, to confirm the impression that you’re in political trouble. Until—like the daredevils and fools of old at Niagara Falls—you find yourself trapped in the proverbial barrel, tumbling through the crashing waters, bruised and disoriented, no longer sure which way is up, powerless to arrest your descent, waiting to hit bottom and hoping, without evidence, that you’ll survive the impact.

For most of my second year in office, we were in the barrel.

Obama’s team decides to arrest this descent into oblivion by pushing for Wall Street reform, culminating in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, legislation that should have been completely bi-partisan, but because of what Obama claims was Republican obstinance toward anything he supported, was only able to clear Congress when Mitch McConnell secretly conveyed to him that he would allow the act to barely pass, their obstructionism working well for them and in full force. Once again, Obama takes the opportunity to disparage, or at least to show his frustration with Republicans and their backroom deals and insincere approach to political gamesmanship without acknowledging that this is a massive problem on both sides of the aisle, the muck and the “swamp” that would culminate in the election of Donald Trump eight years later.

The book goes through the Deepwater Horizon incident, unrest in the middle east, the Arab Spring uprisings, our military intervention as part of the UN operation against Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, and Obama’s interactions with Russian puppet president Medvedev and his string-puller Putin. All of this is well-written, insightful, and a fascinating look behind the scenes that kept me mostly spellbound. Obama is not shy about self-criticism and acknowledgement of his own failings and errors throughout those early years of his presidency, and the humility is refreshing, gratifying, and relatable. He even reflects on the meaning of any of the choices he might have made with this statement toward the conclusion of the book:

Looking back, I sometimes ponder the age-old question of how much difference the particular characteristics of individual leaders make in the sweep of history—whether those of us who rise to power are mere conduits for the deep, relentless currents of the times or whether we’re at least partly the authors of what’s to come. I wonder whether our insecurities and our hopes, our childhood traumas or memories of unexpected kindness carry as much force as any technological shift or socioeconomic trend.

This type of reflection is sporadically inserted throughout the book, the genuine thoughts of a man who had a clear, altruistic vision of what he wanted to accomplish as president. Whether he succeeded with this mission is certainly up for debate, but his motives are unquestionably not.

A Promised Land was an enjoyable and enlightening read, and I highly recommend it. Although I was disappointed that it ended prior to what I feel was one of the biggest failures of his administration—Benghazi—I certainly understand the desire to end the book on a high note with the killing of Osama bin Laden. I’m eagerly looking forward to a similar level of authenticity and verisimilitude in volume two, hopefully sometime in the near future!

Trump’s subversion of our democracy

There is an account on Twitter that has millions of followers, and that, since the election, has sent out 355 Tweets and Retweets regarding the election — more than twenty per day, or nearly one per hour. Of those 355 Tweets and Retweets, more than 200 of them insinuate or flat-out declare that the election was rigged or fraudulent. Victory for President Trump has been declared more than twenty times, about once per day, and these Tweets have been censured and blocked by Twitter on more than a dozen occasions for distribution of false information.

Whose Twitter account is it?

You’ve probably guessed. President Donald Trump’s, of course.

The first Tweet that Donald Trump sent out following the close of the polls on election day came at 12:45 a.m. on election night, and it read this:

“I will be making a statement tonight. A big WIN!”

Four minutes later, at 12:49 a.m., he sent out this Tweet:

“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”

It’s not that this should have been a surprise to anybody. Despite what has become a clear victory for Joe Biden, Trump refuses to concede that he’s lost the election, turning to more and more frantic and dramatic assertions of fraud and theft. His allegations are fully in keeping with his declarations all along that he would be a victim of tremendous fraud and that he would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power. At a rally August 20th, in Pennsylvania, Trump declared:

“So, this is just a way they’re trying to steal the election, and everybody knows that. Because the only way they’re going to win is by a rigged election.”

At a rally September 13th, in Henderson, Nevada, Trump said this:

“The Democrats are trying to rig this election because that’s the only way they’re going to win.”

The harm that Trump is causing to America and our democracy is intentional and systematic. He is deliberately eroding American’s trust in our institutions through the spreading of lies, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Trump is essentially a QAnon conspiracist spewing misinformation while he is the sitting President of the United States.

Let’s be clear about one thing: there is no widespread, significant voter fraud. There will probably be fraud on a greater scale in this election than ever before, but that is simply because more people voted in this election than ever before. The fact is, that our system doesn’t allow for the possibility for significant fraud to that extent claimed by a madman and his cult of lie-spewing sycophants.

Donald Trump is a charlatan. He’s an entertainer. He’s a conman. He has no interest in the health and viability of our democracy. He’s acting in bad faith by pretending that he’s the victim of massive election fraud when he himself doesn’t actually believe that. This stand allows him to walk away a winner in the eyes of his core supporter group.

He’s making a concerted effort to undermine our democracy, and the endgame is difficult to see. He may be attempting to hold on to power illegitimately. He may be setting up a future run at the presidency. He may be attempting to create a media conglomerate for the far right upon vacating the office. He may be simply fund-raising for the Republican party.

Trump hates to lose. He is incapable of admitting defeat, of admitting failure, of admitting he was wrong. He’s pathetically and irredeemably ego-centric. His casino bankruptcies were not failures at operating money printing machines, but just simply the best path forward in exploitation of the tax laws available to him. These actions he is taking are his only path to winning, and he set this entire scenario up months ago. In fact, he set up more than this attempt to subvert our democracy through claims of voter fraud, he also attempted to set up the potential path for him to not only win this election, but to earn an additional four years in 2024! Here are a couple of quotes from him where he lays out this path to a constitutional challenge of his term limits:

August 17 rally in Oshkosh, WI: “We are going to win four more years. And then after that, we’ll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years,” he said.

September 13 rally in Henderson, NV: “And 52 days from now we’re going to win Nevada, and we’re going to win four more years in the White House. And then after that, we’ll negotiate, right? Because we’re probably — based on the way we were treated — we are probably entitled to another four after that,” he said.

This behavior is illegal, it’s subversive, and it’s reprehensible, and those adjectives would describe behavior of this type from a normal person. I’m not sure the right adjectives to use when the sitting President of the United States makes statements of this nature. It’s totalitarian and dictatorial for a start, and downright terrifying as well.  

All I know is, as a voter who was marginally concerned about not voting for Trump, I can now say with certainty that I’m thankful I didn’t. The man’s actions these last three weeks have been a complete and utter embarrassment to our nation.

Let’s make one thing very clear here. Trump and his team know they lost the election. They are fully aware that they’ve been beat, and by a pretty clear margin. In fact, when the dust finally settles, the numbers will make this appear to have been an electoral landslide for Biden. It wasn’t, and we know just how close some of the key state races were, but the electoral vote is going to look like Biden won handily. So, since Trump is a massively egocentric narcissist, his only path forward is to try to subvert our democracy and hold on to power. His team marches out their puppets, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to spew forth a random string of never-ending conspiracy theory buzz words that would give a QAnon Tweet writer a hard-on.

Here’s a Tweet from Sidney Powell, a raging conspiracist and QAnon supporter who is also one of Trump’s attorneys: – “We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to back down. We are going to clean this mess up. President Trump won by a landslide and we are going to prove it. We are going to reclaim the United States of America.”

Sidney is sticking to her word and not backing down either, not even with the Trump legal team running a resounding 0 for 30 on their court challenges in the various states they are claiming they lost due to fraud. Less than a week ago, (November 14th) on Lou Dobbs, Sidney claimed to have a mountain of evidence that would be a bombshell that would wreck the Biden team. She said that she couldn’t wait to, “Release the kraken.” Here’s the clip if you’d like to take a listen: https://youtu.be/SFCXPw1t17o?t=401

This entire mess is dangerous, it’s intentional, and it really probably falls into the category of seditious. Although Trump has every right to challenge the results of the election in court, and although he has every right to decide to not concede the election, his actions are not those of a man who has any desire whatsoever to protect our democracy at the risk of a hit to his own personal ego. Trump has become a deranged maniac who currently, and for the next 60 days, sits in the most powerful seat in the world.

And this is a problem of epic proportions.

How the Liberal Left created Donald Trump.

In the novel, Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, we meet Anton Gorodetsky, an agent for the Light, the powers of good who patrol the streets of Moscow during the darkness to combat the forces of Dark. Lukyanenko spends a lot of time describing a concept of a balance of power between good and evil. In the novel, a motley collection of magicians, shape-shifters, werewolves, and vampires on both sides of the line between good and evil try to maintain and preserve that balance in keeping with an ancient treaty between the forces of Light and Dark. The main character, Anton, is a magician in the titular Night Watch, responsible for keeping the forces of evil at bay through the long, cold Moscow nights. Despite the treaty that demands balance, each side consistently searches for loopholes that will allow them to gain an upper hand against the other. When the strength of one side threatens to shift the balance of power, an unknown, magical and omnipotent force creates a powerful character on the other side called a “mirror” designed to shift the balance of power back to the center.

If you’re a Democrat, you probably think that Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are like the guardians of the Night Watch, responsible for keeping the forces of evil at bay. In your version of this story, Donald Trump and his “basket of deplorables,” the red hat wearing, flag waving, bible thumping, big truck driving, MAGA crowd would be the evil characters, the Others who seek to do harm and create chaos. And, if you’re a Republican, you likely think that Trump is like the leader of the Night Watch, a good, pious man whose sole mission is to fight the evil ambitions of AOC, Crazy Nancy, Hidin’ Joe Biden, Pocahontas, and the rest of the lazy, capricious, “Do Nothin’ Democrats” who want nothing more than to undermine your proud democracy, give everybody everything for free, and thrust us all into a Socialist state.

When Barack Obama beat John McCain in the presidential election of 2008, for many Republicans, this was their worst nightmare. In their view, Obama was a black man with unknown, uncertain qualities who very well might erode the foundation of everything they stood for. He was a Muslim who would seek to bring down Christianity and in fact, his birth country and eligibility to even run for the presidency was in serious doubt. He was weak, and not only wouldn’t stand up to terrorism, he likely secretly sympathized with their cause. All of this in addition to the fact that he was a liberal Democrat who planned to take away their guns, open the borders to foreigners who would seek to change the official language of America from English to Spanish, or maybe Arabic, install free abortion clinics next to the Chick-Fil-A on every other corner, and remove God from their currency and Jesus from their hearts. From the perspective of many Republicans, it’s maybe not a surprise that Obama was considered to be the anti-Christ.

Donald Trump was, if not the first, then definitely one of the most prominent and vocal proponents of the “Birther” movement that sought to question the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate and his eligibility for the office. Trump was quickly elevated to hero status to the masses of Republicans centered in the south, the bible belt foundationalists who not only created and enforced “Blue Laws,” but fervently believed in the moral righteousness of their purpose.

As Trump became more and more vocal with his criticism of Obama and his policies, liberals sank further into the morass of woke liberalism in what seemed to become a competition to prove who could be the most enlightened, least racist person in America. Every single issue, every single statement, every single cause became about racism, and sexism, and transphobia, and homophobia. Liberals could no longer hold back their disdain and contempt for the right, for conservatives who wanted to be left alone and in peace to worship their God, hunt for their food, and to protect the sanctity of marriage. As conservatives dug in their heals and pushed back against the ideals of their woke enemies, liberals pushed even harder, insisting that gender was fluid, that early assignation of gender identity was tantamount to child abuse, and that even a hint of Obama critique was racially motivated and driven. As the left stiffened their backs and refused to budge, Trump’s following became even larger, his calls to patriotism more ardent and more persuasive. This resulted in further scorn from the left, further arrogance, unrepentant derision toward anybody who would question the things they knew to be true, all culminating in the now infamous statement from Hillary Clinton about Trump’s “basket of deplorables,” one of the most conceited, divisive, insulting, ill-advised statements ever made by a presidential candidate in reference to nearly half of the electorate.

And, all of this widened the gulf even further, creating a vast chasm of indeterminate depth, a colossal gap that seems unbridgeable at this point in time.

There is nothing redeemable or laudable about Donald Trump. And yet, nearly half the country loves him. Despite what was arguably one of the worst, most contentious, most divisive first terms in presidential history, by the time the counting is done he will have received more votes than any president running for re-election has ever received, and somewhere north of 49% of all voters will have cast their ballot for Donald Trump. And why is that? How is that even possible?

This is a question that seems to have stumped the vast majority of intellectuals on the liberal left and has led them to believe that this country in general, and the middle to southern states in particular, are completely lost and unredeemable. They think (and often state) this with no regard to the further divide that this creates. Without thought to the idea that they themselves are the root cause of the divisiveness.

I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I voted for him because I believed that the government needed a shakeup. I believed that a businessman would be good for the country. I believed that he would indeed drain the swamp that folks on both sides of the aisle agree has become a despairingly wretched ocean of putrefaction. Unfortunately, President Trump did none of the things I hoped he would do. He divided instead of healed. He showed himself to be a person of low intellect who was filled with hatred, vindictiveness, and a complete lack of social civility. His stratospheric ego and his utter disdain for dissenting opinion combined with his actual power as President of the United States was a real danger to humanity on a global scale. His arrogance, his chronic, almost pathological lying, his charlatanic statements of his own worth and abilities made the United States a laughingstock. His unpresidential, callous, cruel, petty Tweets and statements at rallies were not just uncouth and embarrassing, but dangerous in this unstable world.

And, despite all of this, I nearly voted for him again in 2020. I didn’t, couldn’t actually bring myself to cast a vote for a man of his immoral stock, but I admit, I wanted to find a reason to do so. I was soul-searching and somewhat undecided up until just a few days before the election, in spite of scornful, derisive statements and Tweets from my friends on the left that it was impossible to be undecided at this point, and that, by extension, indecisiveness could only be indicative of racism, homophobia, or xenophobia.

Why was I indecisive and searching for a way to justify casting a vote for Donald Trump, a man I absolutely hate in his role as president? Man, what a good question. The answer to that question can be found in a brilliant podcast by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, and PhD. Here is an excerpt from his podcast, “Making Sense” episode #224, titled, “The Key to Trump’s Appeal.”

A significant part of Trump’s appeal is that he has flaws. Despicable flaws. Obvious, blatant flaws. Flaws of character that cross the spectrum of every aspect of character that we have a word for. He lacks virtue in nearly every aspect of life. While he demands loyalty, he’s an incredibly disloyal person. He’s a paragon of greed, narcissism, pettiness, and malice.

So, what is his appeal?

Trump can only be understood by comparing him with the messaging of his opponents on the liberal left.

One thing that Trump never communicates, and cannot possibly communicate, is a sense of his moral superiority. The man is totally without sanctimony. Even when his every utterance is purposed toward self-aggrandizement. Even when he appears to be denigrating his supporters. Even when he’s calling himself a genius, he is never actually communicating that he is better than you, more enlightened, more decent. Because he’s not, and everyone knows it. The man is just a bundle of sin and gore. And, he never pretends to be anything more. Perhaps more importantly, he never even aspires to be anything more. And, because of this…because he is never really judging you…he can’t possibly judge you, he offers a truly safe space for human frailty, and hypocrisy, and self-doubt. He offers what no priest can credibly offer; a total expiation of shame. His personal shamelessness is a kind of spiritual balm.

Trump is fat Jesus. He’s “grab them by the pussy,” Jesus. He’s, “I’ll eat nothing but cheeseburgers if I want to,” Jesus. He’s, “I want to punch them in the face,” Jesus. He’s, “Go back to your shithole countries,” Jesus. He’s no apologies Jesus.

And now consider the other half of this image. What are we getting from the left? We’re getting exactly the opposite message. Pure sanctimony. Pure judgement. You are not good enough. You’re guilty not only for your own sins, but for the sins of your fathers. The crimes of slavery and colonialism are on your head. And if you’re a Cis, white, heterosexual male—which we know is the absolute core of Trump’s support—you’re a racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, sexist barbarian. Tear down those statues and bend the fucking knee.

It’s the juxtaposition of those two messages that is so powerful.

President Donald Trump would have never been possible in the Ronald Reagan era of Republican politics. President Trump would have never been possible in the George H.W. Bush era, nor even in the George W. Bush era, and really not even as a result of the Bill Clinton era of democratic governance. President Trump became possible only because of the Barack Obama era. To be clearer, President Trump only became possible because of the rise of the far left.

Now, it might be asserted that racism and Islamophobia were the seeds of a Trump rise to power, and it’s at least credible that this is true. However, it was the actions of the far left, the sanctimonious, hubristic judgement that caused the right to rebel. It was the ridiculous revolution against capitalism, reason, and common sense that created Donald Trump. The fraudulent, malicious, opportunistic dogma of groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa that led to Trump’s rise to power. The dangerous echo-chamber rantings and ravings of far-left Socialists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that continue to instill fear into moderate conservatives and liberals alike that continues to give power to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a mirror. He’s the right’s answer to the far left. He’s the extremist that the right needs to combat the extremism of the social justice warriors.

Vindictive, belligerent, bullying, and petty. Who am I describing? Donald Trump, certainly, but also the far left. The vast majority of people in this country don’t agree with or even like ultra-liberalism. We don’t like Donald Trump but we have a hard time bringing ourselves to vote for those of you who align yourselves with those ideals. The reason that I almost voted for Donald Trump despite my hatred of that man in that office is because a vote for Biden meant aligning myself with those on the far-left. And that was despicable.

Defund the Police is killing the Democratic party. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the riots, the rhetoric, the cancellation of anybody who says anything deemed racist, sexist, or whateveraphobic by those enlightened few is killing the Democratic party. Voters in the middle of the political spectrum have a very difficult time allowing people like this to take over the country. And that means that Donald Trump will continue to have power, even though he has lost this election. Unless Democrats recognize that Donald Trump is nothing but a mirror and that they need to tone down the far-left rhetoric, disavow themselves of those dangerous ideals, and separate the core of their party from that ridiculous nonsense and abhorrent behavior, then you can expect to see Trump or another of his ilk in 2024.

And centrists like myself might be forced to cast our vote that way. Because far-left liberalism is one of the most dangerous, most existential threats this country has ever faced. The current leaders of the Democratic party need to seize back control from the lunatics. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi need to disavow the dangerous ideals being pushed by their compatriots or else they will once again lose to someone like Trump.

Sometimes we need a mirror to restore balance and sanity.

The possibility that we sit on the brink of a second U.S. Civil War

The idea of an upcoming second U.S. Civil War has been floating around for more than a decade. However, its only in recent months that the idea seems to have ballooned in many chat rooms and forums across the internet. And, there’s a good reason for this: according to numerous polls conducted by the Pew Research center, the United States is more politically divided today than at any point in our history, including during the time leading up to the first U.S. Civil War in 1861. This widening division in political values began its polarization during Barack Obama’s terms in office, and then exploded during the first three years of Donald Trump’s term.

Extreme political division doesn’t necessarily predicate a descension into civil war, of course. Its merely one of the indicators of the potential of civil war. Very few civil conflicts in history have ever been merely because of political divide. In order for a prosperous society to descend into the madness of civil war you need additional pressures. Things like: extreme unhappiness with the current political leadership, troubling financial problems or poverty, social stress due to outside circumstances or fear of an uncertain future…you know, sort of like all the things we’re currently experiencing.

Not only are we more politically divided than ever in the history of our young country, thanks to Covid-19, our financial future as a nation has never looked more in doubt. Skyrocketing unemployment and ballooning debt with a cavernous and widening wealth gap between the 1% and the 99% has left our society with fear and anxiety about such an uncertain future. Our national debt is teetering into uncontrollable territory. Brutal and draconian lockdowns due to the virus, along with divide as to it’s seriousness and the effectiveness of a wide array of protective precautions have left so many people bewildered and paralyzed by doubt and fear. Politicization of mask wearing and social distancing has spread discontent and anger almost polarly along party lines. Each of these things immersed into a society with a constant influx of agenda-driven news and views have drenched our society in a fuel of discontent as severe as if someone was pouring gasoline upon us.

And, while people like Donald Trump on the right and Black Lives Matter on the left are busily dousing us in gasoline, the media is throwing lit matches in our direction.

In 1861, discontent and political divide had been brewing for years, and was at a high that hadn’t been seen since before the Revolutionary War. When Abraham Lincoln, a republican, won the presidential election of 1860, and before he even took office, seven southern states banded together in outrage and announced their secession from the union. The height of the discontent was with the right of states to self-govern without interference from the federal government, mostly with regard to their rights to continue the practice of slavery. Although Lincoln promised during his inaugural address to not interfere with the southern states’ rights to slavery, that solace wasn’t enough. Confederate forces seized several forts in the new confederate territory and Lincoln ordered the commander of Fort Sumter in South Carolina to hold his ground. Shots were fired by confederate raiders who attacked the fort, and the civil war was born.

The fuel for the first civil war was the divisive position taken between slave owners in the south and activists in the north. As tensions grew, both sides dug in their heels and solidified their positions. Lincoln’s presidential victory was the final straw, and, although Lincoln was committed to avoiding war and peacefully solving the differences, the shots fired at Fort Sumpter was the match that exploded the country into the most devastating war we’ve ever seen.

When political division and discontent are at such extreme levels, the catalyst for the birth of war can easily be something minor and almost laughably insignificant. The Revolutionary War started when a British garrison was sent to destroy a colonial arms depot. World War 1 started with the assassination of an otherwise politically insignificant and unimportant archduke by a lost and mostly incompetent assassin who got extremely lucky. In both of these instances, the rumblings of discontent were building and boiling, but neither of these wars were unavoidable.

The current conditions in the United States feels like a boiling cauldron ready to tumble over. Protestors spill into the streets almost nightly at the faintest slight, stirring up violence, looting, and burning. The media fans the flames, enticing and encouraging the actions of the mob in an effort to get clicks and views. The Coronavirus continues to kill Americans at an unprecedented and increasing rate, while lockdowns cycle back around, killing small businesses and widening the wealth inequality. These types of incidents sow discord and distrust at levels that leave us teetering upon the brink.

Immigration, government aid to the needy, racial discrimination, military spending, and religion have divided us along partisan lines that have coalesced from lively talking points to unbreachable walls of self-righteous indignation. These views transcend demographics and rigidly follow party politics, and this inflexible heel-digging is killing us. Hardly a day passes without Republicans and Democrats accusing each other of actions that betray the nation’s values. Party allegiances have fractured America, trickling down to divide families, friends, and spouses. The American Civil War was well known for pitting “brother versus brother,” and things seem no different now.

A recent Nielsen poll showed that 70% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats agree that the opposing party is a serious threat to the United States. A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES! Because of their party affiliation and differing views on the various subjects listed above. If you seriously thought that somebody was a serious threat to your nation, what steps might you be prepared to take to protect your beloved country? There are a number of people out there fully prepared to take any steps necessary, and they look upon the other party as a serious threat — an enemy combatant even.

A civil war today, almost 160 years after the first will look far different than that brutal conflict. There will be no Mason-Dixon line separating one side from the other. Red states and blue states seceding along present state lines will not be possible. Even California, the bastion of liberalism in this country is not without conservative strongholds, and many states are contentious hotspots of nearly equal numbers of liberals and conservatives. States will be split, with battles and skirmishes spreading throughout the cities and the countryside. A military sent in by President Trump will be a threat to liberals, and a military deployed by President Biden will be a threat to the heavily armed right-wing militants. Guerilla tactics will be deployed, and battles will rage, with each side winning and losing victories. The military itself may fracture. After all, for every General Mark Milley or John Hyten, there’s a General John Kelly or Mike Mullen. Never has there been a more divisive U.S. president than Donald Trump, and military personnel are not immune to strong opinions and side-choosing. In what would seem to be an almost uncontrollable spin toward a bleak future of conflict, fractures and divides will only widen as battles rage.

How do we pull ourselves back from the brink of civil war, if indeed that is where we are? With discontent and political divide at such extremes, there is no easy answer. The U.S. election is tomorrow. If Trump wins a second term, the leftist mobs will riot, that is almost assured. Stores across the nation are already boarded up and bunkered in place, hoping to protect their property from violence. Walmart has pulled all guns and ammo from their floors in preparation for the inevitable looting that will occur. The White House has bolstered it’s perimeter by installing an unscalable fence, keeping the public at bay at a distance never before seen. Police departments across the nation are piling up on less-than-lethal chemical and impact munitions in unprecedented stockpiles in anticipation of the inevitable civil unrest.

If Biden wins, the right is ready to rebel, with Trump already sowing the seeds of revolt on numerous occasions with his statements indicating that he will not accept the results of an election that he claims has been filled with fraudulence from the start. He will almost certainly not concede, even in the event of a landslide against him, and definitely not in the event of a close contest. He will still be the president, with all the powers that office bestows upon him. His words to the White Supremacist group the Proud Boys during the debate a month ago ordering them to “Stand back and stand by,” emboldened his far right-wing observers, with many seeing the message that he might need their support in the near future. Gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in the past few months with stores completely sold out of the most popular weapons and ammunition calibers. These guns have mostly landed in the hands of right-wingers, and as Kyle Rittenhouse showed recently in the Kenosha, Wisconsin riots, they aren’t afraid to use them at the slightest provocation.

It would seem that no matter who wins tomorrow night, or whenever the results are finally tabulated, the United States is set to descend into madness and mass hysteria. A Biden win will throw the far-right into denial-driven fury led by the actions of a president who will not concede and will fight the results all the way to his politically stacked Supreme Court. A Trump victory will throw the far-left into a tizzy that will spill onto the streets with riots, destruction, and death across the country. Into this chaos only a small flame will be needed to destroy the country we know today. A shot fired at police, a federal building overrun, a mob cutting through the White House perimeter fence, a homemade bomb detonating at a governor’s mansion, a National Guard barracks under fire from a sniper position…any of these things and a thousand others could trigger a descension into madness that might result in a devastating and nightmarish civil conflict.

Think of the words of the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Never have any of these words seemed so despairingly inapplicable to the conditions we find ourselves in right now. God has never seemed further from our country. Our nation has never seemed less Indivisible. Liberty and justice for all has never seemed like such a farce. Our country is in a lot of trouble, and we need a savior. It may already be too late. If you’re not prepared, or you think such an action as civil war is an impossibility, you’re setting yourself up to be blindsided by a result that may indeed be already inevitable. One thing that is for sure is that extremist groups are fully prepared for civil war across the nation.

It just doesn’t seem like there’s anyone who will arrive in time. The savior our nation needs is certainly not Joe Biden. And, it’s undoubtedly not Donald Trump. Tomorrow may well be the start of a period of strife and conflict that will take us over the edge. “Now is the winter of our discontent,” wrote Shakespeare to start his play, Richard III. I hope this winter doesn’t prove to be the beginning of the end of our “more perfect Union.”

 

Further reading and sources:

https://www.acsh.org/news/2020/06/01/coronavirus-unemployment-riots-and-summer-our-discontent-14820

https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-race-and-ethnicity-donald-trump-chris-wallace-0b32339da25fbc9e8b7c7c7066a1db0f

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8904169/Fortress-White-House-Crews-begin-building-non-scalable-fence-complex.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2019/8/2/the-disunited-states-how-partisan-politics-is-polarising-the-us

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/us-election-is-america-on-the-brink-of-a-second-civil-war/5JN6LRLT7SZF7J534JCEUBTWXU/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/fear-of-election-violence/2020/10/30/5b4f5314-17a3-11eb-befb-8864259bd2d8_story.html

https://np.reddit.com/r/FutureWhatIf/comments/icoeok/fwi_unrealistic_as_it_sounds_how_would_an/g24v5qv/

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/518142-thomas-friedman-to-cnn-us-potentially-heading-to-second-civil-war

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/fear-of-election-violence/2020/10/30/5b4f5314-17a3-11eb-befb-8864259bd2d8_story.html

Chapter one of my latest novel, The Fortress.

The Fortress

Chapter One

 

“Holen Sie sich auf die Füße!“

The raucous voice rang sharply in his head and he sat up, his thoughts a jumble of confusion. Blood rushed to his face, heat blooming, his head swimming, his stomach lurching with nausea. It was dark, and his vision was blurred as he strained to pierce the gloom, trying to identify the source of the yelling. A cacophony of noise penetrated his head, pounding in his brain, the sound of metal slamming, a rush of footsteps getting closer, more shouted voices.

Shaking his head, he glanced around, his heart rate skyrocketing, his eyes still not working quite right, an out-of-body feeling making it hard to think. Where am I? Putting his hands down beside him, he realized he was sitting on a thin mattress, elevated slightly off the ground. There was a cover of some type on the mattress, cool beneath his palms. A thin blanket lay tangled around his waist, his chest bare, the air cold and prickling at his skin. He felt the rough blanket on his legs and realized they were bare as well, though he was wearing what felt like a thin pair of shorts. A cinderblock wall was on his right side, close enough that his shoulder brushed it, the wall rough and cold against his skin. On his left, through the semi-darkness, he could just make out another wall maybe ten feet away, beyond the edge of the elevated bed.

“Achtung! Holen Sie sich auf die Füße!“

The voice was coming from in front of him now, and he jerked his head up. A man stood in a doorway in the cinderblock wall. The door itself, metal and painted a dull red, a window inset at the top with vertical bars running through it, was standing open. The man in the entrance, the source of the yelling, stared at him with an icy glare. He was tall and thin, wearing some sort of uniform, a metal badge on his chest gleaming softly in the dull, dim light, the source of which was still unclear. On top of the man’s head was perched a flat-brimmed cap like he’d seen in old movies, the type police officers wore in the 1920s and 1930s.The man was carrying a hefty, wooden club, and he now struck it against the metal door, the loud clanging noise reverberating in the room.

The cell, a voice in his head whispered.

The man shouted again, words he recognized as German, though he didn’t speak the language and didn’t understand the meaning.

The fog began to lift from his mind, the walls became clearer, and the room seemed to lighten as if he was waking from a deep sleep. He clearly wasn’t waking though, because he’d fallen asleep on the couch in his office and this was definitely not his office. Which meant he must be dreaming, and this felt like a nightmare. The walls of the cell became clear, cinderblocks stacked neatly, thin mortar lines perfectly troweled. The man, he realized, was a guard of some type, an officer, and he slammed the club against the metal door again, the noise echoing through the small room.

The officer turned abruptly and shouted to someone out of his view.

“Entering cell 249!”

Where am I? the man thought to himself again, and then, disquietingly, Who am I? He shook his head, and the room brightened further, the fog receding from his vision. Sam, he realized abruptly. Sam Cohen. But not really. Not at the moment anyway, the voice in his head whispered.

A loud yell from somewhere off to Sam’s right responded to the guard, and Sam had just a moment to realize that the officer’s last command, had been in English.

“Bist du taub? Are you deaf? On your feet, maggot, before I beat you where you sit!” The officer strode into the room, scraping his wooden nightstick along the concrete wall. He stopped at the foot of the bed and glared at Sam.

It’s not English, it’s still German he’s speaking, Sam realized with alarm. Yet I can understand it…understand it as well as if he was speaking English.

The officer began to raise the nightstick and Sam rapidly pulled the covers off his legs, swinging them over the edge of the bed and standing up. The officer was taller than he’d realized from his bed, towering over him. The bed was also higher off the floor than it had appeared, and the contrast between the actual height of the officer and his perception of that height when he was sitting on the bed, began to make his head swim. He thought he might be sick and he closed his eyes briefly, fighting down the nausea. When he opened them again, the officer had taken another step forward and was staring down at him.

“Are you sick, Erich?” he asked, the question loud and menacing. Although Sam was sick, something told him he shouldn’t let on.

“No,” he replied, or tried to reply. The word that came off his tongue was “nein” and he frowned as he realized he’d answered in German, though his thoughts were in English.

“Then get to the door of your cell and stand at attention for the count!”

He saw it coming at the last second, but it was too late to move out of the way. Pain flared up as the rounded end of the baton bashed into his stomach. He doubled over and fought more waves of nausea, his eyes closed, the officer’s boots clicking loudly as he marched back out of the cell.

Catching his breath, Sam slowly stood up straight, his hands holding his stomach, rubbing it, still in pain. He stepped to the doorway and peered out into what was clearly a prison. What kind of nightmare would allow me to feel such pain?

He was on the second floor, an iron-bar railing directly in front of him, rows of cells across from him separated by a large gulf of empty space, dropping off out of his range of vision. A courtyard of some type, he realized as he stepped closer. By looking across the courtyard, he could see four levels of the prison, dozens of cell doors, most with a prisoner in varying states of dress standing under the door frame. To his right, Sam could see there were only four cell doors before the terrace ended in a white-painted cinderblock wall, an arched and open doorway leading to a darkened room beyond. To his left, he counted an additional eleven cell doors before a walkway crossed at right angles, the cells continuing on beyond that walkway, disappearing into the gloom of the half-lit, cavernous building.

Set above the walkway was what appeared to be a guard station, elevated approximately ten feet above the level his cell was on. It was a round room with windows that reflected the dim light like mirrors, prohibiting him from seeing inside. Surrounding it was a metal catwalk with railings and two sets of metal stairs, descending from each side down to the catwalk. From the round room, which was centered over the courtyard, Sam could see that the guards would have a view of all of the cell doors, both on his wing, and on the wing that ran perpendicular to his.

Guards walked each of the catwalks on all three of the upper levels, carrying clipboards and pencils, batons swinging from their utility belts. Occasionally one would stop and yell into one of the cells, waiting for the prisoner to come to the door before continuing on.

Sam, confused, his heart beating wildly, tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

What was the last thing I remember? he asked himself, his mind racing.

He’d been in his office, his office at the University of Michigan where he was a professor, a professor who had just recently received full tenure. He shook his head again and stared across the courtyard to the cells on the far side. He remembered finishing a lecture. He’d returned to his office and had decided to steal a quick nap on the leather couch. He remembered lying down, closing his eyes…

A klaxon sounded, loudly but briefly, startling him. He observed the prisoners across the way disappear back into their cells. Glancing left and right, he saw the ones on his level had also left the doorways. Unsure of what to do, he stepped back to his bed and swiveled around, his eyes searching. There was a rather large window set into the back wall, wide, flat, iron bars on the outside of the window confirming that this was a prison cell, though a rather nice one from what he could tell. Curtains, opened and tied back, hung from the window so that he could see a dark sky outside, a faint glow of pink on the lower edge cluing him that dawn must be arriving. This realization made him queasy again; it had been well into the afternoon when he’d lain down on the couch in his office.

A small writing desk was across from the single bed where he’d awoken just minutes earlier, an old, wooden chair pushed in neatly under it. On the desk was a lamp and a small notebook which was open, an archaic pencil on top of the page. Beyond the desk was an antique wardrobe, its doors closed.

Sam stepped over to the wardrobe, intending to open it and look for some sort of clue, but he never made it. As he passed the desk, his eyes were drawn to a square mirror mounted on the wall above the writing surface of the desk. It was cheap as far as mirrors go, no ornamentation or even a frame, just a square pane about two feet by two feet. It was not the sort of thing Sam would have expected to see in a prison cell, in fact, it was the exact sort of thing he thought wouldn’t ever belong in a cell, the sort of item that prisoners might use to create weapons like the shanks and shivs that were ever popular in prison movies, though Sam had absolutely no knowledge of their actual popularity in real prisons. Regardless, it wasn’t the mirror that made him stumble over his step, catch himself, and turn to gape into the glass. It was his reflection.

Sam was fifty-two years old. He’d been staring at his reflection his entire life, and there had certainly been mornings, particularly in his younger years, where he’d hardly recognized the bleary-eyed, hungover person staring back at him from the bathroom mirror. It had always been him, though, despite the damage he’d done to himself from a hard night of drinking the evening before. This, however, this was not him, not remotely. The person staring back at him was a complete and utter stranger, a man Sam had never seen before in his life.

Sam’s hair was on the long side, mostly gray streaked with the remainder of the dark brown hair of his youth. Sam’s eyes were brown, his face round with a prominent nose. The man in the mirror was in his late twenties or early thirties, his hair blond and buzzed short, military style. His face was angular, his jaw square and jutting, his nose sharp and crooked, as if it had been broken. The stranger stared back at him with piercing blue eyes that seemed to bore into Sam’s own.

Sam’s mouth dropped open, the mouth of the stranger in the mirror falling open as well, seemingly mocking him. He felt his vision blurring again, his heart rate, which had mostly settled, climbing again, his palms getting sweaty. He shook his head, trying to clear it, the now foggy stranger in the glass mirroring his every move. Some part of him realized he was fainting, and he reached for the wooden chair to steady himself. He missed it and felt himself falling, his clouded vision seeing the edge of the desk approaching at a speed much too fast for his wobbly arms to grab onto. His last sensation was acute pain as his forehead struck the edge of the desk, and everything went black.

 

The Fortress is now available for free by clicking right here!

It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 3 of 3)

In his book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath, he recounts the story of carpet manufacturer Ray Anderson who demanded his staff act as if they were 100% responsible for any environmental issues they caused as a company. He goes on to say, what if a married couple both told the story of their relationship problems as if they were solely responsible? What if teachers told the story of high school dropouts as if the teachers were 100% responsible for every student that dropped out? What difference could be made if people accepted full and complete responsibility for problems they’re maybe only partially responsible for? What if, instead of feeling trapped in an unwinnable situation we were forced to explain the situation as if we were the ones fully responsible? Could we go from feeling like victims of the problem to feeling like co-owners of the solution? What if police officers accepted full responsibility for the killings of unarmed citizens, and what if they worked together to develop a plan to bring an end to it without assigning any blame to anybody else? 100% their fault. And, what if the black community accepted full 100% responsibility for the deaths of the members of their community at the hands of the police, and they had discussions to find ways to stop these deaths that had nothing to do with the police changing, but they themselves changing. What if society said, “Hey, all these deaths at the hands of police officers is entirely our fault. What can we do to fix it?” And, what if all of them did this independently? How many good things could happen? What if all three parties said, I choose to fix this problem, not because it’s someone else’s fault, but because it’s my fault, I can fix it, and it’s worth fixing? Imagine the possibilities if all three parties could look at the root cause of the problems and implement strategies and procedures to fix these upstream causations with downstream correlations.

Let’s start with what the police could do in looking upstream for solutions. Remember, police officers, we’re approaching this as if this is all your fault. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on you. YOU must make the necessary changes to fix the problems.

  1. The first thing would be to weaken the power of their unions and guilds. This is going to be infuriating to some cops because when officers get fired spuriously, maliciously, and injudiciously, as with the firing of Atlanta PD officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan last week, they need the collective bargaining agreements that protect their jobs. However, I know there are a lot of good cops who are right now working alongside bad cops who only have a job because of union protection, and those good cops are appalled and scared for their own safety and the safety of the public because of these protections. Union protections often don’t even allow supervisors to move an officer from patrol duty to desk duty if they feel he’s unsafe, and this is pretty much a travesty that has certainly contributed to many unnecessary deaths.
  2. End the preference point system in the hiring process. We should be striving for the smartest police departments possible. The absolute best candidates are the ones who show intelligence and critical thinking skills, something reflected in your final score on the civil service exam. Some people get extra credit added right to their final score, and this extra credit is known as preference points. Right now, preference points are given to candidates for any number of things including legacy preference, residency preference, foreign language fluency preference, and military preference. Some of these things like residency and legacy preference are absurd. Just because you currently live in a jurisdiction does not mean you will be a better cop. Just because your father or grandfather was a cop does not mean you will be a better cop. I can get on board with foreign language proficiency because that is a valuable street skill, but education preference is also worthless. You can have a college degree and still be dumb, and in fact there’s little evidence that a college degree has any value whatsoever to police work. However, the real preference point issue I want to discuss is military preference points.Prior to 1997 our police departments were soft and officers were dying at a high rate, and somebody decided it would be better to supplement police ranks with soldiers. And this was a good idea.

    Tactically, prior to the North Hollywood shootout, police had little or no training in any weapons other than revolvers and shotguns, and our streets were ripe for the kind of criminal domination we saw in that event. Now, however, our police departments are overrun with retired military veterans, and, thanks to this 20-year war on terror quagmire we’ve been mired in, a huge number of them have actual combat experience. Although it’s good to have some solid tactical police officers with military training, there are too many right now. In fact, there probably aren’t statistics to prove this, but I would bet there are more police right now who have actual combat experience than there have ever been, maybe with the exception of the mid-seventies right after the Vietnam war ended. When all of your training for your entire adult life has been tactical decision making, every problem looks like a tactical problem. Every solution you arrive at is a tactical solution. Military vets tend to have a war mentality along with a blind obedience to authority, and both of these traits should be undesirable in modern policing. Compassion, critical thinking, and outside the box problem solving become back-up options. Instead, everything becomes a military-style movement with maximum force and minimum empathy.

    Contrary to popular police opinion, combat skills translate quite poorly to the civilian policing world. There are very few situations in which combat skills are necessary in policing. The times when those skills might be needed are so limited that we can certainly conduct our own training that is specifically pointed toward civilian combat instead of military combat and arrive at better officers than those who receive their training from the military where civilian casualties are an accepted cost of war.

    This is not meant to disparage veterans in any way. I love the idea of our veterans becoming our police officers. They bring a lot of quality skills to policing, however, intelligence and ability to think critically should be the number one priority in police hiring. A person should not be able to jump over a more qualified candidate for the sole reason that they get extra credit for serving in a war. This practice lowers the overall IQ of the department.

  1. Police officers need more training in both de-escalation tactics and in defensive tactics. When you’re confident in your training you’re less likely to escalate situations. If someone is attacking an officer and he feels entirely confident in his ability to fight hand-to-hand without weapons or tools, he won’t feel the need to quickly escalate the situation to more dangerous use of force levels. Police officers do not receive near enough training in either of these things, and academies should be expanded to enhance them. Additionally, in-service training should be expanded to include instruction in martial arts. If you’re going to give preference points to anything during hiring, let’s give them to masters of defensive martial arts disciplines. Imagine how many fights would end in the suspect being pinned instead of dead if all cops held black belts in Judo. Fear is a primary reason why officers escalate uses of force. Fear that they’re going to lose the fight, fear that their weapon will be taken from them and used against them or the public. Fear is the killer of rational thought. It is what has caused so many of the murders and accidental shootings we’re seeing. Making officers more confident, more capable of handling themselves reduces fear, and that will reduce the number of these critical incidents. Police academies need to stop instilling fear in recruits through the constant barrage of imagery of officers being murdered, and instead focus on making recruits more confident, more capable, and better at de-escalation tactics.
  2. Officers should call their sergeants and command staff by first names instead of titles and get rid of the titles “sir” and “ma’am” completely when addressing senior officers. If you work for a small department or a progressive department, maybe you’ve already done this, but this is still incredibly prevalent in large agencies. This really goes back to the hierarchical nature of policing and the need to implement a program similar to CRM for the airlines. It is now commonplace for captains to insist to the first officer that he call them by his first name as opposed to, “Captain.” The reasoning is that a junior officer feels more comfortable asserting a problem to “Bob” than he does to “Captain Robertson.” The same applies to police. Take a look at this video showing Buffalo police shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground. As a long-time supporter of police, seeing some of the videos of police violence against non-violent protestors during these riots is absolutely infuriating. It’s not that police are making many of these decisions, it’s that they’re following orders. The two officers in this case have been charged with assault, but I can’t help but notice the man behind the two officers. The two officers have actually stopped their advance to have a discussion with the citizen when the officer behind them steps up and says something. I can’t prove it, but it seems like he gives them an order. Maybe just, “Let’s go!” or “Move him along!” or something of that nature. I doubt he says, “Shove him to the ground!” but whatever he says, these officers react instantly, and they shove him to the ground. If they reacted to an order from a superior officer here, part of this responsibility lies once again in the hierarchical nature of police work. Smarter officers with more advanced critical thinking abilities might have heard that order and grabbed the guy by the arm, moving him along firmly but gently. Instead of “Yes, sir,” smarter officers in a less hierarchical organization might have said, “Easy Bob, he’s an old man,” when Sergeant Robertson ordered them to move the man along. Now, it is important to note that there’s a fine line here, and police departments, at least on the west coast have taken some pretty big strides to mitigate the militaristic lean of their forces. It is important for officers to obey orders in most tactical situations. Police training just needs to implement some sort of CRM program for when those orders create a dangerous situation to the public.
  1. Police officers need to be in better shape. Unions have regularly put a stop to physical conditioning standards which exist in hiring criteria but often are considered a violation of contractual rights for fully employed officers. This is why there are so many fat cops out there. Peak physical conditioning should be an absolute requirement of the job. Police officers who cannot pass a rigid physical need to be removed from the streets. Being out of shape endangers both your life, your partners’ lives, and the lives of the community. Being unable to fight because you’re in such poor cardiovascular health leads to lethal force being your only option. This is atrocious, and police departments need to put an end to it. Bring back physical standards for police officers. Every six months make yourselves pass a physical agility test that is equal to the standards for hiring (which, by the way, is a pretty atrociously low bar.) If an officer can’t pass the physical, give them a month to get there, then pull them off the street until they can pass it. It’s so embarrassing to see so many fat cops out there. If you’re a police officer and you’re in shape, I know you agree, so quit protecting the bargaining agreements that allow this. You’re contributing to dangerous conditions for yourselves and for the public. Strive to make the next generation wonder where the inspiration for this image came from:
  2. Police officers need more days off, PTO days without having to give a reason. When you’re having a bad day at work at Amazon, you might punch a package, argue with a co-worker, perhaps cause breakage during package delivery because you’re more careless. When you’re having a bad day as a cop, you write tickets for things you might have given a warning for otherwise. You arrest in situations where you might have cited and released. More importantly, you go hands-on with suspects sooner, your fuse is shorter, your temper is quicker to rise, you become more aggressive, and you escalate situations faster. Police officers have personal lives too, and when they’re having a bad day due to personal issues, they should be able to take the day off without any fear of reprisal. We expect them to be perfectly professional all the time, yet they have bad days just as frequently—and probably more frequently due to the nature of their work—then people in other jobs. And yet, they are still expected to put that behind them, to act professionally, to accept a constant barrage of verbal abuse on the job without snapping. No other job requires you to take abuse like that. This is an impossible expectation to set.
  3. Stop hiring so many young people. In many departments police officers are hired as young as 21 years of age. It costs a lot of money to hire and train an officer, and departments want to get as much time as they can out of them before retirement. However, this is a ridiculous strategy. The immaturity of a 21-year old, or even any officer throughout their twenties is very difficult to measure. People are still growing emotionally and learning during that time, and it often isn’t until something truly awful happens that we discover that this young person was not cut-out for the job. Young people tend to be more into the job for the power and the thrill of driving fast, shooting guns, and arresting bad guys. In this day and age, these are undesirable traits that are quite easy to cover up. Every department asks candidates why they want to be a cop, and every candidate answers that they want to help their community, however, how many 21-year olds truly want to help their community? I’m sure these unicorns exist, but the vast majority of them are lying. They want the badge. They want the authority. They want their friends to look at them with awe. They want to fly down the street with lights blazing and siren wailing and slam a bad guy against a wall to hook him and book him. They want the adrenaline rush that the job provides, and anything else they claim is pure B.S.
    In addition, cops get lied to all the time. Literally every day, with the vast majority of their contacts. This wears on a person, particularly a young person. Immaturity plus a callous indifference brought on by constant deception creates the veteran officers who couldn’t care less about the community and think every single person is a scumbag. Departments need to strive for maturity in their hiring process, and young applicants should be considered completely immature out of hand with a tough bar for them to prove otherwise.
    In addition to this, departments should strongly consider ending the desire for a racially and sexually representative department. Police chiefs are passing up qualified candidates to hire candidates who check a sexual or racial box, and it’s a terrible practice. In addition, they are pushing officers through the training who have no business passing just because they need to fill that quota. I don’t give a rat’s ass if Safeway hires terrible cashiers in an effort to have a racially or sexually diverse workforce. In fact, I’m all for enacting laws and regulations like Affirmative Action that ensure that type of hiring practice. But not in critical jobs where the lives of citizens are at risk. If you want to hire more black officers or more female officers, then target your recruiting efforts toward those citizen demographics, but stop pushing these check-mark candidates through training in situations where they otherwise would have failed. There are so many examples of officers getting into situations where they are so clearly out of their element, so clearly incapable of competently handling the situation, that you wonder how they could have possibly passed the stringent hiring process. The answer, nearly every time, is that they passed because of some external element like sex, race, or nepotism. This needs to end! This is killing people out there. You can see video examples of this here, here, here, and here. There are a hundred more I could link to, but hopefully this illustrates the point. It’s highly probable that none of these people should have ever become cops. There’s little chance they showed competence in simulated stress situations, and yet, here they are.
  4. Stop referring to each other as warrior, or sheepdog. Police need to bring an end to the mentality that they are the protectors of civilians who are all sheep. They need to stop looking at the population as if citizens are merely serfs or the hoi polloi who have no ability to defend themselves and are entirely reliant on the police. Even if this is true, this way of thinking is creating a mindset that is psychologically detrimental to police-community relations. If citizens are sheep then so are police officers. Police are simply sheep who have some training, and there are a lot of civilians who are better trained than the police! In fact, this article states that the average civilian concealed pistol permit holder has more pistol training than the average police officer and is actually a better shot. So, while civilians may indeed rely on the police to protect them from the occasional wolf attack, far more often we are simply relying on the police to be either impartial witnesses for our disputes, or to be agents of the state who are capable of deploying the state’s mechanisms, i.e. dusting our stuff for fingerprints to be run through the database when we get robbed. Police need to drop the mentality that they are warriors and sheepdogs and that civilians are merely clueless sheep who would all be dead if the officers weren’t there to protect them because that is such a miniscule part of what they actually do day in and day out.
  5. Police need to attempt to get the average time of their contentious encounters with civilians way down, particularly with minorities. Recognize the perception, right or wrong, that is out there, and fix it. Multiple studies have shown that the longer an officer spends in confrontation with a suspect, the greater the chance that it will go bad. Police can fix this. They can start by choosing to not enforce some of the more ridiculous laws out there. Police have discretion in most of the enforcement they do, and it’s time to start using that discretion. If someone rolls through a stop sign on a street with no traffic, coming almost to a complete stop but not quite, are you seriously going to tell me that you enforcing that infraction is making the streets safer? If somebody doesn’t use their turn signal while making a turn from a TURN ONLY LANE, have you seriously helped save lives by stopping and warning or citing for that? If someone has a license plate light out, or a tiny crack in their taillight with a wink of white light showing, are you seriously going to tell me that this is a safety hazard? Or, are all of these things just legal fishing expeditions, justified solely because the law is on the books, bored officers looking for warrants, drugs, or whatever else? These traffic laws exist for public safety. Officers enforcing them when there is CLEARLY no safety issue needs to end. Marijuana laws? What a joke. Stop enforcing them. Stop arresting primarily minority perpetrators of minor drug offenses. When you encounter marijuana on a routine encounter, ignore it or destroy it rather than citing or arresting for it, and, even more importantly, let the subject know that’s what you’re going to do right from the start. De-escalate the situation before it even begins to escalate.
  6. Stop lying to citizens in your everyday encounters. I’m not talking about lying during interrogations of detainees suspected of violent felonies, I’m talking about the lying that happens so often during routine traffic stops and encounters. Things like, “Just be honest with me and things will go a lot better for you.” So many times, I’ve seen police encounters where something like this is stated, followed by honesty from the suspect, followed by an arrest for some minor misdemeanor crime like marijuana possession. Let that shit go. Quit trying to get suspects to confess to something in a complete fishing expedition. Not only are you extending the time of contact with the person, you’re eroding what little trust remains. This is the era of video. Everything you do is being recorded. Why then, do you keep doing things that are optically terrible just because you’re legally allowed to? Start thinking about how your actions are going to LOOK to the general public not what the intent of your actions actually is.

Let’s talk about what Black Lives Matter and the black community needs to do in looking upstream for a solution. Remember, BLM, we’re approaching this as if this situation is all your fault. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on you. YOU must make the necessary changes to fix the problems.

  1. Acknowledge that the entire Black Lives Matter movement was based off of poorly interpreted data, and that the entire platform was a scam in the beginning. Admit that when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling in protest to what he claimed were racially motivated and disproportional police killings of African Americans, he was wrong and was fooled by badly manipulated data. Even now with recent events there’s a widespread movement trying to convince people that Kaepernick was correct after all, that police were killing blacks in a plethora of racially motivated murders. BLM has convinced people that cops are killing black people in extraordinary, racist-driven numbers, and it’s simply not true. There is no epidemic of racist cops. Take a look at this study titled, An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force from the National Bureau of Economic Research. I suggest reading the entire study which is incredibly informative, but here’s an excerpt:

On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings

There is plenty of ammo in this study and dozens of similar studies such as this one for Black Lives Matter to acknowledge the auspicious nature of their beginnings and to shift their platform to a more data-driven narrative that complains about police use of force against minorities instead of police killings of minorities.

  1. Acknowledge and attempt to fix the actual problem of blacks perpetrating violence against law enforcement officers. In the three examples at the very beginning of this article, all of the officers were killed by black men. These are the three deadliest attacks against law enforcement since 9/11, and they were all three perpetrated by black men. In 2019, 48 police officers were feloniously killed, 15 of them, or 31% by black men. In 2018 56 police officers were feloniously killed, 23 of them, or 41% by black men. In 2017, 46 officers were feloniously killed, 16 of them, or 36% by black men. In fact, in the last decade, almost 40% of all police officers killed in the line of duty were killed by African Americans. For a demographic that makes up only 13% of the U.S. population, these are atrocious numbers, and the black community needs to acknowledge it. Even looking at this from a police contact perspective, black Americans make up about 28% of all arrests in the U.S., so the number of blacks who murder the officers who contact them is significantly higher than for any other demographic even with that standard. This is a problem, and it falls on the black community to address it.
  2. There is an overall problem of violence in the black community. We’re going to address this as a societal problem as well, but remember, for this exercise we’re using the Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen idea of fully accepting all blame and using that to come up with solutions. The last weekend in May, when protests were flaring up over the police killing of George Floyd, there were 92 people shot and 27 of them died in Chicago alone. Almost every single one of these consisted of black men killing black men. In the past, BLM activists have scoffed at the idea that there’s a black on black violent crime problem, asserting that there’s also a problem of white on white violent crime, and Asian on Asian violent crime. They’ve argued that people tend to murder people of their own race, and that’s partially true. In 2017, 2970 blacks were killed, and of the known offenders, 2627 of them were black. That’s 88.5% for black on black murder. 264 of the offenders were white, or just under 8.9% for white on black murder. 3567 whites were murdered in 2017, and of the known offenders, 2861 of them were white. That’s 80.2% for white on white murder. 576 of the offenders were black, or about 16.2% for black on white murder. This isn’t an anomalous year either. 2018 statistics show almost identical numbers. Although white on white crime is definitely a problem, black crime, both against whites and against each other is markedly and detrimentally worse, and it’s a problem the black community could acknowledge and work on solving. Just acknowledging the problem and addressing it rather than denying and deflecting from it would be a good start.
  3. What is the common denominator in every one of these police shootings of unarmed black men? All of the victims were resisting, fighting, or fleeing. Remember, for this exercise these deaths are not the fault of the police. They bear no responsibility at all. If we look at this as the sole responsibility of the black community, then how do we stop all of these killings? Simply comply. That’s it. All these guys had to do was comply. The black community has ingrained into their youth that the police are bad, and if they get stopped or if they get arrested, they’re going to die. This simply isn’t true, as I hope I’ve illustrated with the surfeit of links to studies throughout this article, but the perception that the police are going to kill them absolutely is true. Parents of these youth and leaders of the community bear a huge portion of the responsibility. Marching with chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe,” and deluging our youth with images and videos of African Americans dying in police hands has done the same thing that inundating police recruits with images of cops being murdered has done. It has instilled fear in both parties of these contacts. Fear is killing us. And irrational fear is killing us irrationally. So many of these shootings didn’t have to happen if the victim had simply complied. When a police officer decides to arrest you, comply. Argue later, sue them for false arrest, take your day in court. Adopt the motto that I’m trying hard to get the police to abandon. “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six” needs to become the new motto of Black Lives Matter.
  4. Accept responsibility for racism. I suspect this will be the most contentious and difficult item of this entire exercise. The black community needs to take a look at why people are racist. It’s important to understand that generational racism is going to take a long time to erase. Many, many generations, but we are moving in that direction. There’s little the black community can do to erase generational racism that is passed from parents to children, but what they can do is focus on people who become racist without an education that instills it. We need studies into why people become racist during adulthood, and the black community needs to look at those studies and figure out what they can do to fix it. If it’s stereotypical perception, then let’s take a look at ending those stereotypes. If it’s cultural misunderstanding, then let’s take a look at how you can help educate people about the culture, how you can get them to embrace it and accept it. Racism can go both ways, and hate and vitriol begets hate and vitriol. If racism is being created by media portrayals of the African American community, then insist that those portrayals end, both with the media and with the subjects of the media report. I don’t know what it is that creates institutional racism, but if the black community figured that out and took responsibility for fixing it, those efforts would leach out to the sufferers of generational racism, cutting down the number of iterations it will take to end that ugliness.
  5. End the false narrative that police forces are rampant with racism. Of course there are some police officers who are racist. Nobody is denying that. What they are denying is that there is a systemic problem of racism in the police profession, and the data seems to back that up. Just the statistic that black officers shoot black people at a far higher percentage than white officers do should back that up. White officers are objectively terrified to shoot when the person at the other end of the gun is black. And this fear is contributing to far more white officer deaths than it should. BLM needs to end this narrative. When you have a solid platform for change, and that platform is fully supported by statistics and facts, then why do you need to augment it with narratives that are half-truths at best and quite possibly outright lies? This objectivity should be a priority for the black community.
  6. Stop deriding those who propagate All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they have appropriated your platform and undermined it. However, acknowledge that they’ve done this out of anger. They’ve done this because your platform was based off of misrepresentations and falsehoods that YOU disseminated. Allow them to feel vindicated, particularly with regard to Blue Lives Matter. Police officers and their friends and family are suffering. Remember, the blue community has suffered more felonious losses at the hands of the black community than the other way around. And their platform was actually based on facts and data. They are feeling unsupported, unappreciated, and left behind, and they’re still showing up and putting their lives on the line every day. Instead of deriding Blue Lives Matter, acknowledge them. Support them. Make your community understand that this is a two-way problem that requires support, compassion, and an open mind.
  7. End the usage of the n-word. Retire that word completely. I know it means “friend” to you. I know that you use it because you’ve, “re-appropriated it.” I know it’s important to your culture, but this word is POISON. I’ve read this article from tolerance.org (and I hope everyone will read it) that explains why you use it, but, as the author says, “The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.” In addition, very few people, white people in particular, are able to understand exactly why you use it. Why is this problematic? Because it’s really divisive. Division keeps us from coming together. Division keeps us from solving our problems, and we need to consider losing the things that are both unnecessary and divisive. The n-word is a relic of a brutal past, and, much like the statues and monuments we’re erasing all over the country, this word should be erased from our vocabulary. Let this word finally die, completely and utterly.

Let’s talk about what society needs to do in looking upstream for a solution. Remember we’re approaching this as if this situation is all our fault as members of society. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on us. WE must make the necessary changes to fix the problems. If you’re a police officer or you’re black, you’re obviously also a member of society, but I would rather you focused on your individual responsibilities above more than on the ones listed below. If all police officers and blacks accept blame in the society category, then there will be nobody to accept in the others, and this approach requires full cooperation from all three points of the triangle.

  1. How is it possible that there are still 24 states in this country where marijuana possession is still criminalized? How is it possible that there are 8 states where you can’t even use it medically, where it is 100% illegal and criminal? This is insanity, and we as a society have to fix this. END THE WAR ON DRUGS. It is a confirmed massive failure. Hundreds of studies have been done on the effect of marijuana legalization in places like Washington, Colorado, and California. Not only has it increased tax revenue and decreased police contacts and arrests, not one of the concerns of fear-mongering right-wingers has come to fruition. There is no increase in property crimes, no increase in DUIs, there is actually a decrease in underage possession, and there is a marked decrease in opioid use, and this last one is true in every state that has legalized medical marijuana as well. Decreasing opioid use and addiction ALONE is a very good reason for marijuana legalization. Minorities have been unfairly targeted for marijuana use, and crime begets more crime. White people have a tendency to use and abuse alcohol. Black people have a tendency to use and abuse marijuana. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419382/) Alcohol is legal. Marijuana is illegal. Laws that shouldn’t exist or that are racist by either design or by application are OUR responsibility to fix. A young man gets arrested and booked for possession, and that leads to a warrant which leads to another arrest and booking, which leads to him being fired from his job, which leads to crime, which leads to further arrests, which leads to not wanting to go back to jail, which leads to running from the police, which leads to his death. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. This is not the fault of the police, and it’s not the fault of the black community, it’s the fault of society, and we need to fix it! I don’t even use marijuana, but it is incomprehensible to me that in 2020 it hasn’t been fully legalized, and the fault for this lies in right-wing extremism, the same people who brought us Blue Laws that prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday. This is nonsense. We must end this. We need to insist that our lawmakers pass legislation to change these archaic laws.
  2. Police are there to enforce our laws. We task them for that job. How then, do we blame them for doing the job we’ve tasked them to do? If we don’t like the laws, there are mechanisms to effect change, but let’s not blame cops because they wrote us a speeding ticket for going 7 over the limit, or they arrested us for possessing drug paraphernalia or having a suspended license. That is LITERALLY their job. They are LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS. We need to treat them with respect when they’re doing their job, the job we literally pay them to do. The courtroom is where you have the ability to argue your case and prove your innocence. Police officers are mandated to enforce laws, and sometimes they get them wrong. Berating them or attacking them makes us part of the problem. This needs to end.
  3. Acknowledge white privilege and acknowledge that there is systemic depression in minority communities and that is the primary cause of black crime. It’s our job to fix this, and nobody else’s. Let’s talk about reparations for a minute. You don’t have to agree that slavery continues to have a detrimental effect on African Americans 150 years later to agree that these communities need a hand. You can agree that pumping money into depressed, primarily black communities will decrease crime and murder, and that reparations can be in the form of investments, both private and public, in the areas that need the most help. A compromise of this type hurts nobody, and it helps our communities heal and thrive.
  4. Allow me two paragraphs of soapboxing and then I’ll stop. I voted for Obama. I have never felt excluded or ridiculed when I’ve announced that to a group of conservative friends. I also voted for Trump, and when I admit that to my liberal friends, I am often ridiculed, demeaned, and my opinions after that point are dismissed out of hand. When I post something negative about Trump to social media, my conservative friends engage me in discussion without resorting to ad hominem attacks. When I post something positive about Trump to social media, I have been blocked, unfollowed, and called racist by acquaintances on the left. Liberals will attempt to justify this type of behavior by exclaiming that any and all support for Trump is misguided or intentional evil, and that he represents the absolute worst of society whereas Obama was a great man. They will attempt to explain to me that siding with righteousness even when it’s misguided is always acceptable behavior. The problem is, they have no ability to see the haughty, patronizing, condescending nature of their stand. The left is incredibly and detrimentally intolerant of any dissenting opinion. They tend to be completely lacking in compassion for anybody who doesn’t share their beliefs. Intolerance of racism is honorable, but it has led to complete fear of criticizing this cancel culture that is destroying us. Leftists have spun themselves into a funnel of righteousness that has made it impossible to criticize even the most ludicrous of stances by the fringe lunatics because of fear of reprisal. They have propagated this culture of calling so many people racist, that even when they see behavior that is so clearly cultural exclusionary extremism as opposed to racism, they are afraid to criticize it lest they be thought of as racist themselves. As a society, we have got to end this.
    We have to stop letting the far-left and the far-right control us. Think I’m picking on the left? As I said before, the far-right is just as bad. They are just as exclusionary and just as judgmental. They thump their bibles and declare their righteousness and moral superiority while often engaging in some of the most egregiously hypocritical behavior our society has ever seen. They will rail against sexual proclivity while lying in their mistress’s bed, or downloading child pornography. They will tell us how evil abortion is, how it’s murder, while they sneak their girlfriend off to another state where she can have an abortion anonymously. They will willfully and wrongfully misinterpret bible verses to declare alternative sexual preferences as morally wrong, while they carry on gay love affairs in secret. The far fringes of our society are the absolute worst of us, and yet we kowtow to them, not just allowing them to have the loudest voices, but actually encouraging them, propagating and fulfilling their lunatic ideas in an effort to ensure that we are not misperceived by those on our side of the centerline. The far-right will deny scientific near-certainties such as global warming or the Covid Pandemic and disseminate obviously fake, thoroughly debunked “news” articles from completely disreputable organizations as their source. As a society, we have to stop this. We have to be reasonable, tolerant, and less rigid with our beliefs. We have to be more open-minded, more thoughtful, and more empathetic to anybody who thinks differently. We absolutely need to approach our decision-making with logic, facts, and science instead of with emotion. We need to rid ourselves of the echo-chamber that our lives have become.
  5. We need to reduce the burden on police officers by developing agencies to deal with non-priority, non-dangerous calls for service. Our police officers have too many hats to wear. Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying. I’m absolutely not calling for a defunding of police in any way. In fact, I think police officers should be paid more money for the sole reason that it helps attract better applicants. Be honest—do you seriously want your police officers to be the type of person who fights that hard for a job that pays $40k a year? What does that candidate pool look like? I want my cops making serious bank. I want it to be a job that intelligent people, critical thinkers and people able to use logic and common sense are flocking to, not just young guys looking to flex. Whatever salary that requires, that’s the salary I want my police officers making. No, the budget for these other agencies should not come from the police unless it’s determined that shrinking the police department because of the reassigning of calls can be done with community safety in mind. I’m not versed well enough in state and local budgets to say where the money should come from, and I’m not naïve enough that I think it’s going to be an easy task, but I do know that our police officers are expected to perform too many tasks, and this is causing unnecessary deaths. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bandwidth existed for these social workers or whatever we would call them to be a volunteer corp. Citizens trained to perform specific tasks on a volunteer basis. There certainly seems to be enough interest in the idea and the desire for change that this is at least a plausible plan.
  6. Take full responsibility for racism. Racism is our fault as a society. We have long lauded ourselves for fighting a war to end slavery, but the rest of the world did this just by deciding it was wrong. Now we’re in another war, and it’s a war to end racism. Unfortunately, some people have taken this too far. They’ve made it their crusade to white-knight themselves and call out even the vaguest hint of racism, and this has had the reverse of the desired effect. It has resulted in a society that has descended into cancel culture, and it has only widened the divide as people compete to see who can discover the most subtle hint of historical racism in present-day objects. You end racism not by screaming and berating and destroying, but by changing people’s hearts and minds. You end racism not by tearing down statues and rebranding syrup bottles, but by having honest conversations. You end racism not with name-calling, insulting, and abusing, but with empathy and understanding. We have failed in our mission to end racism, and this one truly is our fault.

 

These lists are nowhere near comprehensive, and I recognize that the number of bullet points are not equal. I can certainly think of other things to add to the BLM list and to the Society list, but I’m actually hoping that YOU the reader will help me add things. As a member of one of those two groups, what can you add to the list of ways that we can accept full responsibility for the devastating divisiveness in our society today?

How far upstream can we plan in an effort to change our problems before they’re arriving at us? There’s a fable in the book “Upstream” that talks about a child drowning in a river and two citizens that jump in to save it. As they’re dragging the child out of the water, another one floats downstream flailing and choking and they jump in to save that one. Before they even get to shore, another child appears, and then another child and they have their hands full trying to save the children from drowning when suddenly, one of the men jumps out of the water. “Where are you going?” the other screams. “I’m going to kill whoever is throwing these kids in the water,” he answers.

Our society is drowning right now, and the problems are all developing upstream, around a bend, out of our sight, and we are overwhelmed with trying to stop the problems as we see them. What we need to be doing is looking upstream for the source of our problems and finding solutions there. In what way can you contribute to upstream thinking?

On the Karpman Drama Triangle of our current situation, the triangle itself is spinning out of control. The police, the black community, and society itself are in constant flux between The Victim, The Rescuer, and The Perpetrator. The metaphorical triangle is spinning so fast that it’s often difficult or impossible to discern which is which, and that means that we need to all look at the situation as if we are all of these things. We need solutions and ideas for how we can be none of these things, how we can move all of our groups completely off the spinning triangle before we’re thrown off into chaos.

What can you do to help?

 

Thin Blue Line article source material:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Walter_Scott

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/us/fort-worth-police-officer-charged-murder.html

https://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/practice-management/medical-errors-lead-more-250k-deaths-year-us-are-often-unreported#:~:text=Medical%20errors%20contribute%20to%20more,figure%20as%20high%20as%20440%2C000.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html

http://clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/

https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ucr/leoka

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Lane.pdf

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Kueng.pdf

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Thoa.pdf

https://lawandcrime.com/george-floyd-death/two-of-the-ex-cops-charged-in-the-killing-of-george-floyd-were-on-the-job-for-less-than-4-days/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005RUM8E4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 Upstream, by Dan Heath

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-3.xls

https://www.statista.com/chart/21872/map-of-police-violence-against-black-americans/

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/table-30 Crime and arrest rates by crime and race.

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/42tabledatadecoverviewpdf/table_42_arrests_by_sex_2012.xls

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle

https://blog.alaskaair.com/alaska-airlines/company-news/sisters-of-the-skies-pledge/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/indiana-police-release-body-cam-footage-officer-accidentally/story?id=60329163 Officer grabbed her gun instead of her taser

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2019-12-09/accidental-shootings-by-police-expose-training-shortfalls

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTCLV31e9WI Video of officer grabbing gun instead of taser

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKQqgVlk0NQ Video of shooting of Walter Scott

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRMYVFmEmx8 Hispanic officer shooting a mental health worker

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07THBM1M6/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmgxtcbc4iU Sam Harris making sense podcast

http://mwkworks.com/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9qPrPj8bQ) Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs excerpt from American Sniper

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-06/race-and-police-shootings-what-new-research-says

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/32/15877 National Academy of Sciences study of racial motivation in police shootings.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ANYDAO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2 Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avianca_Flight_52

https://lessonslearned.faa.gov/ual173/crmhistory.pdf Crew Resource Management manual

https://www.nber.org/papers/w22399.pdf AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS OF RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN POLICE USE OF FORCE – National Bureau of Economic Research

https://www.city-journal.org/reflections-on-race-riots-and-police?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Organic_Social

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-year-end/

https://law.yale.edu/sites/default/files/area/workshop/leo/leo16_fryer.pdf Yale study on police shootings between 2000 and 2015

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/cream-of-wheat-racist-brands/index.html

https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up2jUCgcaFY Buffalo police shoving 75-year-old

https://havokjournal.com/nation/the-average-civilian-pistol-permit-holder-is-a-better-shot-than-most-cops/

https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2017/tables/table-42.xls Perpetrator profiles for officers feloniously murdered

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls Murder offenders by race 2017

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls Murder offenders by race 2018

https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/does-legalizing-marijuana-reduce-crime.pdf

https://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets/item/marijuana-regulation-and-crime-rates

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419382/ Alcohol and marijuana comparison study by race

 

It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 2 of 3)

There’s a book by Erik Larson called, “In The Garden of Beasts.” It’s a chilling depiction of an entire society—Nazi Germany—that descends from relative normalcy into almost universal madness in just about a year. Unfortunately, as interesting a story as this would be were it fiction, it is instead devastating in that we know it actually happened. And I see it happening again. We are freefalling into almost universal madness and we need to slam on the brakes before we crash.

This three-pronged approach that I’m suggesting is going to require acceptance and change from all parties, the police, the black community, and society as a whole. There’s a social model of human interaction known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. It maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur between people in conflict. In this model, which when mapped out is shaped like an inverted triangle, Karpman assigns the three points of the triangle the names, The Victim, The Rescuer, and The Persecutor. The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, and helpless. The Rescuer’s stance is of someone who is here to help. The Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t help. In reality, the Rescuer is simply avoiding his own problems by deflecting his energies under the guise of concern for the Victim. The Persecutor insists that everything that is wrong is someone else’s fault. The Persecutor is critical of both parties, angry and oppressive, rigid in his beliefs, and sure that he’s right.

Where do police officers, the BLM movement, and society fall in these roles? Depending on your current rigid and unflexing stand, you may think that The Victim is BLM, The Persecutor is the police, and The Rescuer is society. Or, you may think that The Victim is the police, The Persecutor is BLM, and The Rescuer is society. Or, if you’re sitting at home watching the riots with anger, you may think The Victim is society, The Persecutor is BLM, and The Rescuers are the police. The truth is that in my version of this Karpman Drama Triangle the roles are completely interchangeable. The police, BLM, and society are each, at varying times and to varying degrees, The Victim, The Rescuer, or The Persecutor.

I’m going to start with the police.

Most police officers think they’re good cops. Probably close to 100% of cops you asked would tell you they’re a good cop, and most of them unequivocally believe that they are. Many of them actually are. However, an incredibly high number are really just victims of their own observation bias. They’ve genuinely convinced themselves they’re good cops even when they aren’t. When they have a true and rare moment of introspection, when they ask themselves if they’re good cops, they tend to remember the things they’ve done well as a cop. The things that have made them “heroes.” The time they gave CPR to the four-year old girl floating face-down in the pool. The time they comforted the victim of domestic abuse, spent hours with her getting her resources, walking her through the process of getting away from the abuse. The time they bought food for the forlorn family with a cart of much needed groceries and a debit card that was declined. The time they spent hours talking to a troubled teen with an abusive family, gave him their personal phone number, told him to call 24/7 if he ever needed anything at all. The time they conducted a death notification to a parent of a dead child, and sat in their living room crying with them. The times they went above and beyond, when many officers would have just filed a report and moved along, but they didn’t quit, working a case and getting justice for a victim who might not have otherwise received it. The hundreds of times they risked their own life running toward danger as fast as possible, putting themselves in harm’s way for a stranger who doesn’t even appreciate them until they’re needed, and will trash them as soon as they’re gone. And these are the things that do make them a good cop, but what they don’t remember, or what they tend to gloss over, to shove to the dark corners of their minds, are the things they’ve done that make them bad police officers, and in some cases bad people.

Sure, maybe they’ve never stolen from a crime scene, never planted contraband on a suspect just because he deserved to go to jail, never accepted a bribe. But they have done things like pretended they heard a shout for help so they could enter a private residence illegally, or watched another officer claim he heard that plea and said nothing, despite knowing it was a farce. Looked up an obscure law so they had a reason to cite or arrest someone just because he was mouthing off. Stacked charges or infractions just because they were having a bad day and it felt good to spread the misery. Written criminal citations for completely unnecessary or arbitrary violations, knowing the citizen would never show up for court and it would end up in a warrant and the officer would be able to arrest and book the person in the future. Made up a reason to conduct a traffic stop, like improper lane travel, or failure to signal a turn at least 100 feet prior to the turn just as an excuse to check the driver for warrants because he looked shady. Engaged in competitions to see who could write the most tickets under the auspices of keeping the streets safe, but really just to win a bet at the financial expense of a number of people who probably would have been better off with a warning. Spent every day breaking the very laws they’re citing people for, under the color of their authority, laws like speeding, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or failure to wear a seatbelt. Intentionally escalated a situation with a scumbag just so he’d take a swing so that they could beat the shit out of him while yelling, “stop resisting” and then they could book him into jail on a serious felony charge of assaulting an officer. Profiled people based on race and actually justified the profiling because crime statistics back it up. Used unnecessarily painful pressure points and holds that leave no marks, that are impossible to notice on video, and then laughed about it afterwards with their coworkers. Justified stretching the truth or outright lying in court or on a report because they knew the guy was guilty, the truth was unknowable, and the scumbag deserved to be punished. Used an “ends justify the means” mentality and carefully worded a report around that theory to increase the odds of a conviction. Let their friends, coworkers, acquaintances, other civil servants like firefighters, and local celebrities off with a warning when any other citizen would have received a ticket or been arrested. Intentionally targeted minority citizens for specific offenses simply because they’ve seen so many other minorities of the same persuasion committing those same offenses that the officer has lost all ability to be compassionate and objective about that minority class. Enforced laws unequally, giving warnings to people who were polite and citations to those who were rude based solely on those criteria. Escalated situations that they knew could have been deescalated just because they were pissed off and the guy deserved to be punished. Invoked the Thin Blue Line and “It’s us vs them” principles to turn the other way at co-worker wrongdoing. Invoked the “I’d rather be judged by twelve then carried by six” mentality to justify violating someone’s civil rights in some form or another. Celebrated their own or a co-worker’s first citizen complaint under the justification that “if you aren’t getting citizen complaints you aren’t doing your job.” Used the power of their badge to bully, harass, intimidate or threaten, knowing the subject could do nothing about it, knowing there was no legal, civil, or departmental violation that could actually be pinned on them for these actions.

When do the good things someone does as a police officer override the bad things? When do the bad things tip the scales that are precariously balanced on the pivot point of right or wrong? The answer is that even a very few of the bad things can outweigh an enormous amount of the good. If an officer has done every good thing on this list and a hundred others, and only a few of the bad things, he’s probably a bad cop. He has contributed to the anger that has boiled over in society and is currently spewing forth in cities all around the world. He has contributed to the problems that plague our democracy. He has helped to solidify the narrative that cops are all bad actors. If you’re a cop and you know that you fall into this category, it’s okay. You can change things now. Society can be myopic when it comes to looking at the past, as long as the future is in bright focus. When an officer acts inappropriately, uncompassionately, or unnecessarily violent just one time, the victim of that action tells that story. Sometimes it’s on video and the story goes out to the public, inflaming them and solidifying the wall that the Thin Blue Line has become.

The Thin Blue Line is a concept that’s been around for more than a century. It’s a construct by police to assert that THEY are all that stands between organized, peaceful, productive society and an anarchical vast chasm of chaos, death, and destruction. It originated from the Thin Red Line, a Crimean War battle where a small group of Scottish Highlanders fended off a much larger contingent of Russian cavalry. The Thin Blue Line is a novel concept. A heroic construct that allows police officers to feel as if they’re heroes, and allows them to justify poor behavior in the name of the public good. And, at one time it probably was a novel and benevolent idea. But now it has turned from a line into a wall. It’s become the kind of wall that Donald Trump could only dream of, impenetrable, foreboding, and unbreachable. It’s become the very chasm it was devised to prevent. A chasm that separates the police from the citizens they are sworn to protect.

“On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs” is an article by retired lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman, the author of the book “On Killing.” In the article, he describes the idea that the general public are sheep, incapable of violence and even incapable of imagining violence, unable to defend themselves against attack, and completely reliant on their guardians. Wolves are the predators, the criminals, the corrupt, heinous, evil people of society who prey on the sheep and seek to do them harm. Wolves are constantly circling the flock, looking to pick off the weak and vulnerable. Police officers are the sheepdogs, the designated saviors of society, always on watch over the flock, guarding them against the wolves, even when the sheep don’t want them there. To the sheep, Grossman says, the difference between the sheepdogs and the wolves can be difficult to discern, and the sheep may tend to lash out at the sheepdogs thinking they’re going to do them harm. The sheep may not think that they have any need for sheepdogs, that the wolves don’t actually exist, or that their numbers are so small as to be of no concern. The sheep live in denial and that is what makes them sheep.

This concept was glorified in the movie American Sniper with Bradley Cooper where his father quotes him this article, telling him he better never be a sheep and he damn sure better never be a wolf. Police officers have seized ahold of this concept as well, using it much like they use The Thin Blue Line to glorify their role in society. The problem is, this article and this construct are complete bullshit.

True sheep are completely helpless, completely reliant on others to protect them from violence, with zero natural defenses. People are not like that. Sheep are born to be sheep, they have no choice, they can never change. People have full choice in what role they want to play. The analogy sounds great if you’re evil. A wolf is a badass creature with no compassion, no morals, and an appetite for soft flesh. What villain wouldn’t want to be described as a wolf? If you’re a cop, the idea that you’re a sheepdog is incredibly enticing. You are elevated above society, sitting on the hill above the serfs, watching over them. It’s glorious and you’re the unrecognized, under-appreciated hero who does his thankless job day in and day out. Not a bad way to present yourself. But, if you’re a member of society, you’re one of the sheep. Who wants to be a goddamn sheep? There might be no better analogy propagated by police officers to completely isolate, divide, and disconnect themselves from the rest of the population than this stupid fable by LTC Grossman. Much like the Thin Blue Line construct, this story has done incredible harm to the perception of police officers by society and of society by police officers. If you’re a cop and you buy into this propaganda, then everybody you contact is nothing but a sheep. When citizens are sheep who can’t make good decisions and can barely even manage to stay out of their own way, when they can not fathom the idea of danger, or of evil, or they don’t understand that people want to hurt them, then it becomes very easy for police officers to justify all manner of actions against society, under the color of doing it for their own good and protection.

When police officers divide all of society into binary roles of either sheep or wolves, decisions become black and white instead of the multiple shades of gray that actually exist. This type of binary view of society combined with the elevated self-assigned role of protector, leads to abuses on both a micro and macro scale, and contributes greatly to a perception by society that police departments are not just infected by a few bad apples, but that the entire orchard has been poisoned.

And the fact is, police officers are draping this perception upon themselves.

Let’s talk about Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter is an organized social movement that sprung up after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. It became a widespread, national movement after the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in New York City. They claim inspiration from the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The platform for BLM is that police officers are inherently racist and that they kill black people at a much higher rate than they kill white people. Now, they have other platforms and movements within the movement, and I’ll talk about some of those in a minute, but their primary objective is to stop what they see as a rash of racist killings of African Americans by white police officers.

And that entire concept is a manipulated scam.

BLM seems committed to peaceful protest despite the escalated violence we’re seeing right now that has been manipulated by extremists’ causes. As a general statement of fact, I agree that black lives matter. In fact, I identify more with that slogan than I do with “All Lives Matter,” because I definitely do not believe that all lives matter, and they objectively don’t all matter on the same scale. It’s hard to say that you don’t agree with BLM without sounding racist, because how can you possibly think that black lives don’t matter unless you’re a racist. Sort of like with Antifa. It stands for Anti-Fascist. How can you not be against fascism? The problem with Black Lives Matter (and with Antifa) is not that their cause doesn’t matter, it’s that the catchy name is hiding a deeply and fundamentally flawed platform and credo.

Supporters of Black Lives Matter point to the data: On a per capita basis, police officers kill 2.5 times as many black people as they do whites. This is true. African Americans comprise about 13% of the population, and they comprise a little over 31% of unarmed Americans shot dead by the police. Taken in the abstract, this statistic seems horrifying, and many supporters of BLM have pointed to this as a demonstrable example of the existence of a systemic racial bias in police. I would like to point to another stat that will show that the police, in addition to being very racist, are also incredibly sexist. Men make up just under 50% of the U.S. population, but they comprise more than 93% of all unarmed Americans shot by cops. If one of these conclusions is true—that police are racist—than the other also has to be true—that police are sexist—according to these comparable data points. So many people would scoff at the idea that police are inherently sexist and kill men at a higher frequency because of sexism, but they happily accept that the correlation exists with race. They refuse to believe the data that shows that black people commit homicides and violent felonies at a much higher rate than white people do. BLM supporters make justifications for this, citing systemic racism in the justice system and unfair targeting of minorities as the reason for the elevated statistics. Even if you could make this argument in support of petty crimes like theft, DUI, or simple assault, it’s pretty hard to find the correlating path that leads to murder and other violent felony convictions. It’s like the principles of Occam’s Razor and even those of logic and reason are shoved right out the window by emotion when it comes to these police shootings of black men.

However, like so much of the data that has been manipulated and cherry-picked by organizations and even by the media in order to forward a narrative, police do not kill men because of rampant, systemic sexism in the ranks. They kill more men because men commit more violent felonies than women do. A lot more. According to FBI statistics in their homicide database, men commit almost 90% of all murders and more than 90% of all violent felonies. Men also resist arrest and escalate the violence and scope of that resistance far more often than women do, and this leads to more shootings.

Here’s an excerpt from an article from the National Academy of Science that disputes the idea that there is racial disparity in police shootings:

26% of civilians killed by police shootings in 2015 were Black even though Black civilians comprise only 12% of the US population. According to this 12% benchmark, more Black civilians are fatally shot than we would expect, indicating disparity. News organizations and researchers using this method find robust evidence of anti-Black disparity in fatal shootings.

However, using population as a benchmark makes the strong assumption that White and Black civilians have equal exposure to situations that result in FOIS. (Fatal Officer Involved Shootings.) If there are racial differences in exposure to these situations, calculations of racial disparity based on population benchmarks will be misleading. Researchers have attempted to avoid this issue by using race-specific violent crime as a benchmark, as the majority of FOIS involve armed civilians. When violent crime is used as a benchmark, anti-Black disparities in FOIS disappear or even reverse. *bolding is mine.

African Americans commit about 30% of all rapes, about 55% of all robberies, and 33% of all aggravated assaults. Again, this is despite consisting of only 13% of the population. I won’t go into the lessor crimes like burglary and theft because it is almost certainly true that blacks are charged with those crimes at a higher rate than whites are, but the violent felony numbers are appalling. If these numbers make you uncomfortable, don’t worry, it’s not entirely the fault of African Americans. One of the platforms of BLM is that blacks have been discriminated against for so long that they find themselves in a position where economically one has no choice but to resort to crime to stay afloat, and this is absolutely true. Our circumstances in life lead to our decisions, and it’s tough to stay on the right side of the law when the alternative is a life of misery. If your family is starving, burglary or theft seem like easy decisions comparably. If life is continually beating you down, it might be easier to resort to drugs for a release. If you feel constantly wronged by systemic racism, it can feel right to lash out at the apparatus of that racism. Any of these decisions can lead to arrest, conviction, and jail or prison. When you are a convicted felon, society makes it nearly impossible to succeed further, especially when you’re plopped right back into the very soup of despair that cast your original decisions. And so, these decisions escalate and compound and the vicious cycle repeats itself until you feel that you have no choice but to resist arrest because prison is unbearable. Until you feel that the system is stacked against you and there is no escape, and so you embrace the darkness.

It’s a nauseating cycle, and Black Lives Matter is absolutely correct about this type of systemic problem in our society. If you don’t agree with this, you are approaching it from a perspective that comes from true white privilege. Citing examples of blacks who have pulled themselves from the wreckage of the ghetto and become successful is simply pointing to what are indisputably outlier events in denial of the incredibly tough life and circle of bad decisions that encompass the existence of the vast majority.

Poverty will absolutely create criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

This is a society problem on my Karpman Drama Triangle and society needs to address it, but Black Lives Matter needs to own up to the fact that they have a part to play in this as well. Right now, BLM is The Victim and the police are The Perpetrators. Society is acting as The Rescuer with all of the marches and rioting. But the narrative is flawed and destructive actions based on flawed narratives only serve to widen the divide. BLM needs to stop the false narrative going out to our children that police officers are bad. “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “I can’t breathe.” These mentalities and teachings become self-fulfilling prophecies. When black people are convinced from childhood that cops are racist pigs and that they’re going to get killed on a routine traffic stop, they become much more nervous. When they’re nervous they look suspicious. This extends their interaction time with the police officer which extends their nervousness, which draws more questions, which leads to panic. How many of these videos we see of police shooting black men started out with a fairly calm interaction only to escalate into the black person fleeing or fighting? Why are they fighting or running when the cop first makes physical contact for the simple reason that they’re going to either pat them down or to restrain them? Why are so many of them fleeing or fighting when they’re completely innocent of criminal wrongdoing? Why do we see so many black people run from police and then, when they’re caught and sitting in handcuffs and they’re asked why they ran, the answer is, “I don’t know.”? It’s because of fight or flight syndrome. The instinct is kicking in because the confrontation starts with such high energy already. The suspect/victim isn’t able to control that instinct because it has built to the point where it has become a fog and they are no longer capable of good decision making. It derives from an ingrained, indoctrinated idea for their entire life that interactions with the police are going to end in violence or death for them, and this is a tragedy.

BLM needs to educate the public. When a cop decides to arrest you, it is not a negotiation. You are going to be arrested. Whatever that takes. When you resist, the level of violence escalates, and it can escalate quickly. When people fight with the police, it’s not the cop’s job to make it a fair fight. When a cop is getting punched, it’s not his job to just punch back—to stand there in a slugout. He’s going to escalate the level of violence because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen if he loses this fight. He can’t lose this fight for the simple reason that he’s carrying a gun. If he’s knocked out, pinned down, beaten to the ground and incapacitated, and his gun is taken from him, this is a situation where he or a member of the public is often going to be murdered. This is always on his mind. So, he must escalate the violence. He needs to assure that he will not lose this fight. Pepper spray applied to a suspect can scatter in the wind and end up incapacitating the officer. A taser is often ineffective at close range. His asp/baton/nightstick may work, but that can be a deadly weapon too, especially if it’s taken from him. If a cop is losing a fight, particularly if he’s outmatched and outmuscled, he might have no choice but to resort to his gun. It’s not his job to be a champion bare-knuckle brawler, or a Judo blackbelt. It’s a citizen’s job to not resist arrest. When a cop makes a decision that he’s going to arrest you, you will be arrested, regardless of your opinion on the matter, or even of your guilt or lack thereof. And when you decide to resist, you are often going to get hurt, and sometimes you’ll get killed. That’s on you, not on the cop. We are cultivating a culture of resisting arrest which means we’re going to see increased violence in police/civilian encounters.

In his incredible Making Sense podcast #207, “Pulling back from the brink,” Sam Harris says this:

“When a cop goes hands on a person in an attempt to control his movements or make an arrest, that person’s resistance poses a problem that most people don’t seem to understand. If you haven’t studied this problem…if you don’t know what it physically takes to immobilize a non-compliant person, who may be bigger and stronger than you are…and if you haven’t thought through the implications of having a gun on your belt when attempting to do that…a gun that can be grabbed and used against you or against a member of the public, then your intuition about what makes sense here, tactically and ethically are very likely to be bad. If you haven’t trained with firearms under stress, if you don’t know how suddenly situations can change, if you haven’t experienced how quickly another person can close the distance on you and how little time you have to decide to draw your weapon…if you don’t know how hard it is to shoot a moving target, or even a stationary one when your heart is beating out of your chest, you very likely have totally unreasonable ideas about what we can expect from cops in situations like these.”

(By the way, this podcast is one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard, and I highly recommend giving it a listen. It’s about two hours long, but if you’ve read this far into this article, you obviously have a lot of time on your hands. This excerpt was from around minute 53, but you can find the full podcast here: https://bit.ly/2AGumUR)

People often complain when they see multiple cops taking someone into custody. “How many cops does it take to arrest one guy? Come on!” They’ll shout. What they don’t realize is that swarming a combative person is for the suspect’s own good. You should want to see multiple cops making arrests in these situations. The more cops there are, the more likely it is that they’ll feel confident enough that they will win this fight that they don’t have to resort to lethal options. When police get into a fight, citizens expect them to be fair about it and that’s ridiculous. This isn’t a sanctioned boxing match. This isn’t the wild west days where two men meet on the street at noon and draw at a prescribed moment. The cop didn’t ask to be in this fight and he’s not going to make it a fair fight. He’s going to do everything possible to ensure it’s NOT a fair fight. Because, no matter what, he can’t afford to lose. It’s not a bar brawl where the loser goes home with a shiner, a bloody lip, and some hurt pride. The result of losing a simple fistfight when you’re openly carrying a weapon, and, if you’re alive to give a description of the person who won the fight that person will go to prison for a long time, can be deadly. The cop may, and often does, lose his life when he loses the fight. And he didn’t start it. He doesn’t want to be fighting. He wants to go home to his family, so he’s going to make sure that he can do that. He’s going to win the fight however he needs to.

Black Lives Matter should make this clear to their followers. They should encourage people not to resist, to allow themselves to be arrested, even if you know for a fact that you are innocent. If you are falsely arrested, you will have a chance to defend yourself. In some cases, you may be eligible for compensation for false arrest. At the very least you’ll still be alive, and it’s a lot easier and more rewarding to defend yourself from above ground than below it.

The evidence is overwhelming that African Americans receive harsher sentences for similar crimes than whites do. This is a massive problem with the justice system, and this part of the BLM platform is absolutely justified and supported by fact. This is a problem that society needs to solve, so let’s discuss the third point of the Karpman Drama Triangle, society.

Society:

There is NO QUESTION that somebody, probably multiple somebodies, will label me a racist for my regurgitating of facts that definitively shows fundamental flaws in the BLM platform. This is a society problem. We as a society have absolutely lost our collective minds. So many people today have made it their mission to tear down the very fabric of our society and remake it more to their liking. They have assigned themselves a quest to silence any and all opposing opinions and to make a world in which they won’t have to hear any opinion that is at variance with their own little echo chamber. They are attempting to force their own will and vision on the rest of society under the umbrella of being “woke” and pure and righteous, with intolerant indignation toward anybody who dissents.

This tweet by my friend, Liv Boeree says it better than I ever could:

Greyscale – and indeed any colour scale – is beautiful because of its nuance. Like all things in this complex world, there is so much more to it than just right and wrong, good and evil, black and white.

But social media is the antithesis of nuance, forcing us to oversimplify complex ideas and points of view into basic hashtags and memes – a dangerous path, because complex problems require complex answers.

Don’t let the dark side of social media suck your mind into this cartoonish good guy vs bad guy view of the world, because it is making us lose sight of the intricacies of people and reality.

I recently saw this article by Alaska Airlines that claims they’re taking steps to increase the number of African American female pilots in their fleet in an effort to bring that percentage closer into line with their representation in society.

Why? I don’t care about the racial makeup of the cabin crew on my flight, I care about having the safest, most competent pilots available. I think this is fine to do in general, as long as your only efforts along this path have to do with recruiting, but I suspect that what they will do is what every company has done in an effort to diversify…they will push through underqualified pilots just because of the diversity goals they’re trying to reach, and this will make us all less safe. I’m not saying that black females are not every bit as capable of being superb pilots as white males, or white females, or whatever, I’m saying that when you decide that competency is less important than racial characteristics in a role as important to public safety as commercial airline pilot, you compromise all of our safety. If there were qualified black female candidates out there, why aren’t they already pilots? Alaska Airlines is either admitting that they have employed racist hiring policies in the past, or they’re admitting that they’re going to intentionally alter their hiring practices in order to conform to public perception, and either one of these is really bad. Now, in their defense, they do say in the article that they’re focused on recruitment to forward this goal, and that’s great, but what recruitment practices have they been employing already that didn’t encompass black females? These types of knee-jerk responses when public safety is on the line are concerning.

The brand, Aunt Jemima, which features a picture of a black woman on its label, just rebranded to remove that labeling from its products, and it was closely followed by brands like Cream of Wheat, Uncle Ben’s, and Mrs. Butterworth’s. What is going on here? These are more examples of companies deciding that the feelings and opinions of a tiny minority of the country—the fringe far-left—matter more than common sense. Nobody wants a picture of a black person on their label because that is now deemed racist? This is cancel-culture and lunatic appeasement. It takes a true stretch of the imagination to link these brands to detrimental activities against African Americans in any way, and yet, these companies are so terrified of the screaming minority that they want to be seen as enlightened.

Everybody seems to be in a massive competition to try to prove how racist they aren’t, and the way to prove this seems to be constant and vocal virtue-signaling. Facts and logic are being overshadowed by the narrative, and the overwhelming majority of this is spewing from the far-left. Don’t get me wrong, the far-right isn’t any better. In fact, the political fringes of our society have created what is probably the most daunting, most destructive, and existential threat our civilization has ever faced. However, the far-left is unequivocally the most vocal and therefore the most dangerous. It’s easier to side with the left than it is to side with the right if for no other reason than bullying. The left is full of vocal bullies and purveyors of righteous indignation, while the right simply sneers and calls you a snowflake, usually in a message full of misspellings and punctuation errors. The far left will pander to anybody who agrees with them with sickening levels of sycophantic fawning and a complete inability to find any level of criticism. The far right will tell you that they are better than you because both of their lords and saviors, Jesus Christ and Donald Trump have told them that theirs is the path of the righteous.

Both sides are idiots.

If you’re over the age of three-and-a-half and you’re spouting that Donald Trump is the best president of your lifetime, you need to reexamine your history. Actually, you need to rethink your life choices. His divisiveness alone objectively disqualifies him from that honor, not to mention the hundred other things he does and says that make him both a terrible person and a terrible president. If you say that he’s the worst president to ever live, you’re also delusional. There are quite a few good things that he has accomplished and just that fact alone elevates him over a few presidents who accomplished nothing at all for the good of America. If you’re unable to even objectively view the good that he has accomplished, or the bad that he has propagated, then you’re part of the problem. Unfortunately, neither side of this argument seems capable of objectively looking at any fact without spinning it into their narrative, and this is destroying us.

With regard to the police, we as a society expect too much of our police officers. We expect them to be medics, grief counselors, family counselors, teen counselors, domestic abuse advocates, firefighters, targets, and shields. We expect them to be fair and impartial, but at the same time cut us some slack when they pull us over. We expect them to make perfect decisions every single time. We expect them to be robotic, to show up for work every day and never let their own personal problems affect their job performance. We expect them to see the horrors of pure evil, and never let those sights affect their mentality, objectivity, or job performance. We expect them to be emotionless robots who never lose their temper. We expect them to take a barrage of verbal abuse that would have made Ghandi throw a punch. We expect them to know every single law every single time and to never make a mistake in their interpretation of those laws when even the Supreme Court often can’t agree on what the laws exactly mean. We expect them to accept that we will file a complaint or sue them every single time they get something wrong. “I screwed up, I’m sorry,” is NEVER acceptable to us, even for minor, correctable mistakes, and we expect police to live with that and go about their jobs with a smile on their faces.

As of June 15th, 27 police officers have already been feloniously murdered this year. 22 others have been accidentally killed in the performance of their duties. Can you name a single one of them? Unless you’re a cop or a close relative of one, I bet you can’t. For that matter, can you name a single one of the unarmed white people killed by police this year? There are more of them than there are unarmed black people killed, but I’ll bet you can’t name one of them either. However, I bet you can name at least 3 or 4 of the unarmed blacks killed this year or last. And that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem lies in the media portrayal of these killings. Is it a surprise to you to learn that police officers kill more unarmed whites—twice as many, actually—than unarmed blacks every year? It was to me, and that’s because of perception driven by both the media and by social activists.

Police officers in this country make about 10 million arrests every year. Approximately 1000 of those result in the suspect being killed by the police. Taken without any further information, you have about a one in ten thousand chance of being killed by the police if you’re arrested. However, this isn’t the abstract, and the fact is that not all arrestees are equal. You see, many of them are armed and decide to use that weapon against the police or a citizen. Of the 1000 people killed by police last year, only about 50 of them were unarmed. Of those 50, the majority were actively fighting with the police, or at least actively resisting arrest. While quite a few of those deaths are tragedies, and a couple might actually be murders, as a percentage of the 10 million total arrests each year, the number is staggeringly low.

And here’s the thing: This number will never be zero.

If you had a magic machine and could somehow completely eliminate racism in its entirety from our civilization, and if not a single person ever resisted arrest, there would still be people killed by police. 10 million arrests is a staggering number, and some percentage of those will end up dying. We as a society need to find a way to accept that. No matter what changes we make, it will never be zero.

What we can do to lower the fatality number though, is to lower the number of arrests that police make each year. 10 million arrests is ridiculous. A huge number of those arrests are due to drug charges, and many of the fatalities stem from probable cause arrests that are drug related. This is absurd. There is a plethora of information out there that proves that this forty-year war on drugs is an absolute, unmitigated failure, and it needs to end. By decriminalizing drugs, we can instantly cut the number of arrests by a huge number. In fact, just by decriminalizing possession alone, we can chop 1.2 million arrests each year—12 percent of them—and save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. Going into a comprehensive discussion of all the problems of the war on drugs is well beyond the scope of this article, but aside from the far-right extremists, most people agree it needs to change.

Right now, the Defund the Police movement is gaining strength and traction. This is a fringe-leftwing movement. It is not a position held by most liberal people. In fact, it’s such an absurdly lunatic position, that liberals have tried to control the narrative and soften the stance by claiming that Defund the Police just means “moving some resources around.” However, this was not the original intent of this movement, and it is not the current platform of the demented segment of the population that occupies so much of our time and our social media timelines. They truly want to abolish the police entirely, or at least disarm them, under the premise that the police do more harm than good. It is our job as civilian members of this modern society to strongly disavow this concept. It is the job of police officers to figure out how to alter the perception that they do more good than harm, and it is the job of BLM to say, “Hey, this is not our platform. We want change, not anarchy.” But instead, everybody seems to be elevating this concept through their actions or words, and it’s absolutely incredible—and entirely our fault—that it has gained as much traction as it has. Quoting Sam Harris from his Making Sense podcast again, “If you think a society without cops is a society you would want to live in, you have lost your mind.”

In part three of this three-part series of articles, I’m going to talk about how each group: the police, Black Lives Matter, and society, need to accept responsibility for change, as well as how we need to be looking for solutions upstream, a concept taken from the book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath. You can read part three by clicking HERE: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-xM

It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 1 of 3)

On March 21, 2009 in Oakland, California, Lovelle Mixon killed two police officers on a routine traffic stop, and then two further officers who attempted to apprehend him during a SWAT raid.

On November 29, 2009, four police officers in Lakewood, Washington were murdered by Maurice Clemmons at a coffee shop while they worked on laptops.

On July 7, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, Micah Xavier Johnson killed five cops and wounded nine others in an ambush designed explicitly to kill white police officers as retaliation for what he felt were unlawful killings of black men.

All three of these perpetrators were black. All of the murdered cops were white.

On October 12, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas, Atatiana Jefferson was murdered by Officer Aaron Dean who shot her through her bedroom window while she was in her house playing video games with her nephew.

On April 4, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott was murdered by Officer Michael Slager who shot him five times in the back while he was running away.

On October 20, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois, Laquan MacDonald was murdered by Officer Jason Van Dyke who shot him sixteen times, fifteen of those while he was laying on the ground unmoving.

All three of these victims were black. All three of these officers were white.

Why are these shootings so important? What do they all have in common? What makes them all so contentious and so critical to our understanding of the issues our nation is currently facing? Why is the race of both the perpetrators and the victims in all six of these cases of vital importance?

In this article I’m going to talk about police officers, the Black Lives Matter movement, and society as a whole. I’m going to discuss the problems with each of these organizations along with the perspective that each has for the other. Parts of this article are going to be difficult for some people to read, especially if you are the type of person who is dead-set in your opinions, with no ability to keep an open mind. If you’re that type of person, you might as well quit reading right now because this is a long article, and agreeing with everything I say that matches your current view of the world while scoffing at everything I say that is at odds with your current beliefs serves absolutely nobody, including yourself. I ask only that you keep an open mind, read through everything, and discuss with each other and myself anything you may not agree with. My goal with this article is to help pull us back from what I see as a precariously balanced position on the edge of a chasm that is growing exponentially wider and deeper. It won’t be long before we as a society tumble into that chasm with no chance to drag ourselves out. This article was heavily researched and in these days of so much fake news, I believe all of my sources are considered quite credible and well-vetted for authenticity. There are links in the text for everything I’m citing, and all sources are listed at the end of the article.

Before I get started, I want to explain something about the police profession. No matter what your opinion of the police, you have to admit that it is not an easy job. It’s the only job I can think of where you can do everything right and still lose everything that matters to you as a consequence of your actions. It’s the only job where the same people you will put your life at risk for hate you for it. It’s the only profession where true mistakes in decision-making can get you sued for everything you own, fired from your job, and prosecuted criminally. As an example, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University, doctors kill more than 250,000 people every year through medical mistakes. A quarter of a million fatalities because of bad decisions every single year! Somehow this rarely gets mentioned. I would bet that you had no idea it was this many. I know I didn’t. Society understands that doctors do a very difficult job under high stress and that they have to make the best possible decision in a snap moment. We know that medicine isn’t perfect and doctors do the best they can, so we shrug off statistics like this and go about our day. Police officers have the same problem, but people don’t seem to understand or accept that. Police officers are expected to be perfect every time, to make the right decision 100% of the time, to never make an error in judgement, often in snap decisions under high stress conditions, in poor weather, darkness, and completely chaotic circumstances where information may be incomplete or even intentionally false. Police officers kill 1000 people every year and only a handful of those are accidental, malicious, or illegal. Doctors kill 250 times as many, and all of them are accidental, malicious, or illegal. Police officers receive incredible press and scrutiny for these deaths. Doctors complain that their malpractice insurance is too high.

Police departments and public officials want their police forces to closely resemble the racial makeup of their city or county, and there are many good reasons for this that mostly have to do with public perception. Predominantly black neighborhoods want predominantly black officers patrolling their streets and responding to their problems. But this manifests into even more problems. This kind of selective recruitment makes our departments dumber. I don’t mean departments are dumber because black officers are dumber. I mean they’re dumber because this type of race-based hiring means that better-qualified candidates are passed over for lesser-qualified candidates simply because they check a race box. Think this isn’t true? According to an article in the New York Times, there are hundreds of police departments across the country that have more than a 30% positive disparity between white officers and the number of white citizens in the community they serve. Police departments have been actively trying to shrink this disparity for decades because of studies that have shown there is a huge image problem when departments are racially out of sync with the composition of their communities.  This means that they are very often taking extraordinary steps to both hire and, more importantly, to retain officers simply because of their race. This is a dangerous practice when we’re talking about giving someone the power to take your freedom away. Or your life. Police departments should be striving to attract and hire the most intelligent critical thinker and decision maker possible. Bypassing a candidate who scored higher on the civil service test for one who scored lower but is of a certain skin color cannot be good for the quality of the department. Retaining an officer who routinely shows poor judgement or decision-making skills, or passing them through field training just so you have that percentage to an acceptable level is incredibly detrimental to public safety. And this is happening all over the country every day.

When police officers are hired, they’re sent to the police academy where they theoretically learn a massive number of things needed in order to enforce the laws of the land and keep the peace. One of the biggest focuses of the academy is officer safety. Recruits are inundated with a barrage of videos showing officers being murdered in the line of duty. This is a problem because it sets a mindset in the recruit. It tells them that the streets are dangerous, and that’s true, but it makes that cop think that everybody is out to get them. It establishes an ingrained doctrine of fear when it comes to dealing with the public. Recruits are taught how to use instruments of force like pepper spray, tasers, and asps or batons. They spend a hundred hours or more learning firearms. They spend dozens of hours learning defensive tactics like pressure points, limb control maneuvers, and hand-to-hand combat techniques. They also learn how to follow orders. They learn military-like policies and procedures. They learn how and when to salute, how to address a superior officer, how to stand at attention. They learn how to follow orders and they’re taught to not question orders from superiors during critical incidents. They learn how to act in a quasi-military command structure that doesn’t allow dissenting opinions.

This last statement is a huge problem in modern policing.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times bestselling book, Outliers, he describes a study into a strange phenomenon in aviation. Asian and Latin American based airlines were crashing. A lot. Korean Airlines was leading the pack, experiencing a deluge of fatal disasters, and the underlying cause of these crashes was a mystery. Investigators knew from flight recorders that pilot error was a major factor, but why they were experiencing such a huge number of pilot-caused crashes was perplexing. And the crash frequencies were atrocious. In 1977, a KAL 707 wandered into Russian airspace and was shot down. Two years later, a 747 crashed in Seoul. Three years after that, another 747 crashed in Russia, then a 707 went down in the Andaman Sea in 1987. Two planes crashed in 1989, one in Tripoli and another in Seoul, and then yet another crash in 1994 in Cheju, South Korea, followed by a 747 that slammed into a hillside in Guam in 1997. For perspective Gladwell goes on to report a comparison using United Airlines. Between 1988 and 1998, the UAL crash rate was .27 fatality incidents per million departures, or about one crash for every 4 million flights. In that same period, the crash rate for Korean Airlines was 4.79 per million departures, almost 18 times higher than a comparable US airline!

The question was, why? There was no obvious answer. Pilot training was up to standards. The planes were not outdated and maintenance records showed that all maintenance was performed as per regulations. If you haven’t read Outliers, I highly recommend it, and the story for how this unfolds is incredibly interesting, but the answer to why Korean Airlines was experiencing such a high crash rate had to do with the hierarchical nature of Korean society, in particular with mitigated speech in the cockpit. In Korean culture, deference to authority is so deeply ingrained into the psyche, that it was inevitable that it would carry over into the cockpit. Interestingly, investigators looking for an answer to the crash rate found that most of the KAL crashes occurred when the captain was flying the plane as opposed to the first officer. At first this seemed ridiculous. How could the more experienced pilot be responsible for more crashes? The answer was that when the captain made a mistake, the first officer was, almost without exception, afraid to speak up. In fact, he was culturally unable to speak up. Doing so would have been tantamount to questioning the authority of the captain, an unthinkable act in a culture like Korea. If the first officer was flying and made a mistake, the captain would immediately speak up and take control of the plane. In fact, studies found incidents where captains would actually slap their first officers across the face if they made a mistake! And the first officers would bow and feel ashamed to have disappointed their superior. This seems absurd to western society, but was commonplace and completely accepted in Asian society.

The only recourse a first officer had if they saw the captain making an error was to hint around the issue. Things like, “Boy, trying to deice these wings seems like a losing battle sometimes” when the first officer has noticed an alarming amount of ice building on the wing. Or, “Our weather radar sure is useful, isn’t it Captain?” when the first officer has noticed they were about to fly headlong into a dangerous thunderstorm. Or, “It’s amazing how accurate these fuel gauges can be.” when the first officer noted the plane was dangerously low on fuel. As absurd as these examples might seem, these are the types of mitigated statements that investigators found in black box recordings during crash investigations. And it wasn’t just Asian based flight crews either. Latin American flight crews were experiencing similar problems, as with the crash of Avianca flight 52 from Medellín, Columbia to New York City in 1990. This Boeing 707 literally ran out of fuel on approach to JFK because the copilot used mitigated speech in his conversations with the control tower despite the captain telling him to declare an emergency. The tower was completely unaware of their low fuel state as the controller ordered them to circle out for a long approach to landing. The tower remained unaware of the fuel state right up until the moment both engines flamed out and they crashed, killing two-thirds of the passengers onboard.

After these findings, combating mitigating speech became one of the great crusades in commercial aviation. Cockpit Resource Management or CRM training was first initiated by United Airlines in 1981. Slowly, this training migrated to other parts of the world including Asia and Latin America. This training was later renamed Crew Resource Management, and Delta Airlines developed a comprehensive course on the subject in 1993. Mitigated speech is just one of many components of CRM training which is heavily focused on error management, but it also teaches junior officers how to be assertive, clear, and concise in their communications with the captain. It teaches flight crews how to work together in a hierarchical system and standardizes procedures for all of them when something goes wrong. First officers are allowed one attempt to use mitigated speech to address an error, but they quickly escalate that to clear and concise speech, followed by arresting physical control of the aircraft from the captain to correct the error. A decade prior, this type of action would have been unthinkable in Asian and Latin American aviation. This kind of training changed aviation for the better. Korean Airlines went from an airline that was a national disgrace and was under a State Department warning for U.S. travelers, to one of the safest airlines in the industry, with a spotless safety record for more than twenty years now.

Much of what we know of culturally significant hierarchical issues comes from studies done by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede. He created what’s known as Hofstede’s Power Distance Index (PDI). This measures a country’s attitude toward hierarchy and how much they value and respect authority. In low PDI countries, power is something they’re almost ashamed of, something they try to downplay at every possibility. In higher PDI countries, authority is shoved down an underling’s throat, and they are happy to accept verbal and even physical abuse by superiors. The lowest PDI countries are Austria, Israel, and Denmark, all with a score under 20. The highest PDI countries are Malaysia, Guatemala, and Panama, with scores of 104, 95, and 95 respectively. The United States scores a 40, making it the 15th lowest country score. South Korea scored a 60 and Columbia a 67, putting those two countries well above the median score.

So, what does all this have to do with police work? Well, police departments in the United States are a rigid, top-tier hierarchy inside a rather low PDI country. Police chiefs in Malaysia and Guatemala have no issues with teaching police recruits order, control, and chain of command respect because the citizens recruits are quite comfortable in that role. In the United States however, that subservience often has to be drilled into recruits and cadets, and that conditioning begins even before a new hire is sent to the police academy. It is such a pain to teach this kind of conformity and deference to superior officers, that police departments are very over-represented in their ranks by former military veterans. This is intentional and even desired. Military members are very comfortable with authority and power structures. They are grounded in subservience to superiors, a core part of military life. This quality is so desired in police departments that preference points are given to former military members during recruitment. That’s right—smarter more qualified candidates are often passed over in favor of candidates who served in the military and were honorably discharged.

Is this a problem? Yes. I believe this is one of the biggest problems in policing today. Let’s take a look at the killing of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago.  As we all know, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, an action that seems to have at least contributed to his death if it wasn’t the actual proximate cause. For this action, Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and third-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were involved in this incident, and they’ve all been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin in both of those felony crimes. The other three officers are Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung, and Tou Thao. We’re going to talk about hierarchical structures in police work so it’s important to understand who was in charge of whom on this crew of four officers. And, unfortunately, that’s not entirely clear. What is clear is that Derek Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene with almost nineteen years of service. Tou Thao had eight years on the job, and Keung and Lane were both rookies, with six months or so on the job for Keung and apparently only four days for Lane. What’s interesting is that there seems to be some real discrepancies here, particularly with regard to Keung and Lane. There are conflicting reports about Keung’s time of service, with some reports that he was hired in February of 2019 but that he graduated the academy in December 2019, though his lawyer has made the claim that this was only his third week as an actual patrol officer. No matter what’s true here, there’s no doubt he was a rookie with no more than six months on the job. The real issue is that all reports I’ve read from the city and from the prosecutor’s office, including the charging documents for all four officers and the probable cause statements indicate that Keung and Lane were patrolling together in the same car when they responded to the initial call. The records also indicate that Chauvin was Keung’s training officer, but nobody seems to know who Lane’s training officer was. It seems clear from the video evidence and written reports that Derek Chauvin arrived in the car with Tou Thao several minutes after Keung and Lane had arrived and had already taken Floyd into custody. None of that makes any sense whatsoever. There’s literally no department ever that would have two brand-new rookies riding in a car together with their training officers in a different car, and there’s zero indication that Lane, who was on his FOURTH DAY ON THE JOB even had a training officer on the scene. It’s really bizarre, but we’ll just have to ignore this unexplainable phenomenon until MPD decides to clear it up for us.

None of the officers were official supervisors, that’s not in doubt. There was no sergeant or lieutenant on the scene when the incident occurred. When there are no supervisors on a scene, the most senior officer is almost always the one who has tactical command of the scene. Even in departments where this isn’t the case, Lane, with four days on (if that’s indeed correct,) and Keung with six months on (same caveat) would have deferred to Chauvin. Even Thao with eight years on the job would have possibly deferred to him, though certainly to a much lesser extent. Eight years on the job makes an officer “experienced,” “a veteran,” and Chauvin and Thao would have likely considered each other near equals in the scheme of the hierarchy. For Lane and Keung though, this would definitely have not been the case. Those two would have deferred to either of the others and would have followed orders almost blindly. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re not Nazis in Hitler’s military and wouldn’t have pulled out their pistols and executed all Jew witnesses on Chauvin’s order, but they would have followed all “lawful” orders, and would in fact have been expected to do so, under the implied threat of punishment up to and including suspension or termination.

Police departments are quasi-military organizations with full command structures. Things like insubordination, lying, failing to follow orders, violating grooming standards, malfeasance, failing to adhere to uniform standards, failing to follow protocol, disrespecting a senior officer, are all grounds for discipline up to and including termination. On the Hofstede PDI scale, while the United States is a low-end 40, police departments themselves would be well over 100, just below actual military ranks. Senior police officers have the authority to give orders to junior officers, and junior officers are required to follow those orders—as long as they’re reasonable and lawful—without questioning them. Obediently and blindly. This is especially important in police departments when they’re on an active scene or a call. This obedience is drilled into recruits right from the beginning.

When a police officer applies for the position, they go through a battery of tests and background checks often performed by specialized cops. Interviews with an oral board and with senior command, polygraph, medical, psychological testing, all conducted with superiors who expect the recruit to treat them deferentially, with “yes, sir,” and “no, sir,” responses. When the academy starts, students are expected to adhere to a rigid set of guidelines that include saluting the flag as well as instructors, and jumping to attention whenever anybody who might be even a lowly rookie commissioned officer steps into their presence. They’re required to maintain perfect grooming standards with regular inspections for meticulously ironed and creased uniforms and shoes polished to a mirrored finish. They’re required to stand for inspection with yelling officers routinely, and to maintain a perfectly organized dorm room at all times. Everything from the very beginning of the training is highly militarized and hierarchical, and any sort of rebellion is quashed immediately. This is done under the umbrella of the importance of (almost) blindly and obediently following supervisors’ orders during an active, high-pressure scene where lives are on the line. And, there’s certainly some justification for this rationale. There is no democratic process during an active scene, and trainees are taught to obey orders immediately and ask questions later. Asking why a given order was made during a debriefing is thought of as a good learning experience—a training opportunity—but it’s never allowed in the moment.

If a superior officer tells a junior officer to “arrest that man,” the junior officer will put the man in handcuffs without having any idea why he’s doing so. This is absolutely compulsory. Officers are taught to trust their superiors, and even to trust their partners of similar or even lesser status. If Officer A tells Officer B to arrest a subject, Officer B trusts that Officer A has probable cause for the arrest, regardless of his experience, and even if Officer B doesn’t know what that probable cause is.

This can even extend as far as applying force against a suspect, up to, and even including deadly force. I happen to know that there are training officers in academies who suggest that if your partner fires his weapon at a suspect, you should fire yours at him as well, because you should trust that your partner saw a valid reason to shoot. This is pretty atrocious, but it has been taught. A more plausible scenario, and one that gives cops nightmares because of the potential ramifications to blind decision-making, is what if your partner yells at you, “Shoot him! Shoot him, he’s got a gun!” What do you do then, if you don’t see a gun? What if its your sergeant or your training officer who’s yelling that to you? What if you’re a rookie, on your fourth day on the job, and you hear that order? What do you do? Are you willing to put your career, your freedom, your house, your family, maybe your life on the line because of pure trust that a fellow officer has made a good observation and a good decision? There is no clear answer to this, and no training can prepare you to make decisions like this. You are forced to make a snap judgement call in a situation where either decision might end in a fatality at your hands.

Back to the death of George Floyd. Charging documents indicate that on two occasions, Officer Lane asked Derek Chauvin if they should ease up on Floyd and roll him to his side. Here’s an excerpt from the probable cause statement for the charging document for Officer Lane:

You can see that Lane is concerned. He’s aware of the dangers of excited delirium, a condition that can cause death after vigorous, strenuous, or stressful exertion in combination with drugs or medical issues. He’s probably also aware of positional asphyxia, a condition where a person may not be able to breathe while flat on their stomach. He asks Chauvin, a training officer with 19 years on the job, if they should roll him to his side. He mentions excited delirium. Chauvin assures him that he’s considered that possibility and having Floyd on his stomach is the best position. Lane is presumably fresh out of the police academy where he has learned all about excited delirium. He has been taught that when excited delirium is a concern, the subject should be placed on their side. But now Chauvin is telling him that he’s keeping Floyd on his stomach precisely because of concerns over excited delirium.

Nobody but Lane can know what he’s thinking right here, but we can speculate. When a police recruit graduates the academy and hits the streets with the training officer, its very common for the training officer to make some sort of statement along the lines of, “You’ve learned how police work should be done by the book, now you’re going to learn how its ACTUALLY done.” It seems likely that Lane is running his mind back to what was probably about a 15-minute slide show or lecture on excited delirium. 15 minutes out of 800-1000 hours of training. He’s thinking to himself, “Damn, am I wrong? I thought they said put him on his side, but maybe it was leave him on his stomach.” More importantly, he’s got a 19-year officer telling him that they’re doing the right thing, and Lane has been on the job FOR FOUR DAYS!

This is a tough position for a rookie to be in. Don’t get me wrong, at some point Lane should have INSISTED that they roll him, ease the pressure holds on him, and even start life-saving measures like CPR. Particularly when Officer Keung checked for a pulse and COULDN’T FIND ONE! Their failure to step up here is a truly massive breakdown of civic and legal responsibility. They deserve some blame for this. However, THE SYSTEM also deserves blame. Although officers are taught that they have a “Duty to intercede” in training, this mandate is often in conflict with their duty to follow orders. It’s rarely black and white, particularly when an order seems like it might be dangerous but maybe doesn’t rise to the level where duty to intercede would be invoked.

What Officer Lane did was to make MITIGATED STATEMENTS to Officer Chauvin, just like the junior pilots did in all of the Korean Air flights that crashed. “Should we roll him onto his side?” is a suggestion. It’s a mitigated question designed to express concern while remaining deferential to the superior knowledge and tactical awareness of the much more experienced officer. This is the same thing as, “Boy, trying to deice these wings seems like a losing battle sometimes,” that the pilot of the doomed Korean airliner said to his captain. “I’m concerned about excited delirium or whatever,” was his next statement. Note the “or whatever.” This is mitigation in its extreme form. He’s telling the superior officer that he’s concerned, and he knows he’s already expressed that concern once, so this feels like escalation to him. He’s uncomfortable with escalation so he mitigates it with the “or whatever.” Now he’s expressed his concern twice and he’s been overruled both times. It’s expressly because of the inflexibly rigid structure of command hierarchy drilled into them throughout their training that Lane and Keung did not feel as if they could override Chauvin’s decision. This is why Lane stopped at his two mitigated statements. This is why Keung stopped at his single mitigated statement, “I couldn’t find one,” in reference to having checked Floyd for a pulse.

Its frustrating as observers to see these officer stop here, knowing that had they taken action at any point in here, Floyd would be alive today. And while they have a huge share of the blame here, perhaps even the lion’s share, I can’t help but assign a large portion of blame to the system that drilled this culture of mitigation into them.

Crew Resource Management in the airlines has forced a cockpit culture that has eliminated these types of problems, and an unknown but significant number of lives has certainly been saved because of it. Pilots are allowed one mitigated statement of concern. If the senior officer doesn’t act on that first statement, they are required to forcibly state their concern and the remedy they deem necessary. If the senior officer STILL doesn’t act, the pilot is required by policy to physically take control of the aircraft and make the necessary correction. If police officers had a policy like this, Officer Lane would have felt comfortable changing his second statement to a more forceful, “Hey, Derek, get your knee off his neck and let’s roll him, I think he’s actually in serious trouble here.” Had Chauvin still refused to move his knee, Officer Lane would have been fully justified and confident in physically shoving him to the side and taking control of the situation.

With the current training, there was almost no chance that was going to happen. And that’s tragic, as we all know from not just George Floyd’s death, but from the disastrous aftermath. Lane made the best decision he could with the training provided to him. It’s his training that was lacking. Officer Lane’s attorney agrees:

“I’m not claiming that he was following orders,” (Lane’s attorney,) Gray said in response to a question from CNN’s Josh Campbell. “I’m claiming that he thought what he was doing was right. Because he asked a training officer: ‘Should we roll him over?’ Twice. You’ve got to have criminal intent for second-degree murder. And, frankly, this is bullshit.”

There are other problems with officer training that I’m going to spend time discussing later, but I want to move on for now and discuss the great divide in this country between police supporters and Black Lives Matter supporters who seem to be completely at odds with one another. A line has been drawn in the sand, and it has never been more defined or sharper. You either side with the cops or you side with BLM, and there is no middle ground. If you side with the police, BLM supporters brand you a racist. If you side with BLM, police supporters dismiss you out of hand. If you try to straddle the line, or try to articulate support or criticism of both sides, or try to claim you’re neutral on the issue, both sides will ridicule you. It is, however, without question the fringe left that is the most vitriolic with their criticism of dissenting opinion. If you try to bring logic, reasoning, rational thought, or science and data into the argument with someone from the far left, you’ll be told in no uncertain terms to shut your racist mouth. You’ll be told that you’re white, brimming to overflowing with the privilege that comes with your skin color, and that your opinion has no place in these discussions. The country has descended into irrational madness driven by the spurious screaming of the culturally woke, and there is no room for logical, fact-based argument. Well, I for one do not accept this. I do not conform to what I view as a massive competition to prove who can show the world that they’re the least racist person out there. All information has become weaponized. Confirmation bias is destroying objectivity. When logic, science, and data are discarded for emotion-based irrational and unending action, then we find ourselves teetering on the brink of a chasm of destruction, and rational voices are necessary to pull us back.

In order to make things right in this country, it’s going to require the cooperation of the police, the African American community, and society in general. A three-pronged approach, and I’m not talking about the approaches that have already been tried and have failed. I’m talking about a new approach, one that has never been implemented. One that will be incredibly difficult to actualize partly because of the extraordinary community cooperation required, but mostly because of the anarchical barbarians of extremism who have deluged both the mainstream media news cycle and social media with their irrational and preposterous screaming.

In the next article, I’m going to talk about the role of police departments, Black Lives Matter, and society using a social model known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. Read part two by clicking HERE: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-xI

Is Elon Musk really a Bastard?

Elon Musk is a bastard.

At least, that’s what Robert Evans, the host of Behind the Bastards thinks. Behind the Bastards is a podcast that focuses on the worst people in the history of mankind, both present-day and historical. Their tagline reads, From Hitler’s love of YA fiction to Saddam Hussein’s shameful romance novels, this podcast sheds new, weird light on history’s monsters. The format is simple; Evans, teamed up with some random comedian, spends from one to four hours, often split over two shows, trouncing an either well-known, or somewhat obscure person from history who Evans feels is deserving of the title “Bastard.”

“Wait,” you’re probably asking. “Elon Musk made that list? The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, the man who’s going to take us to Mars and back to the moon, the only person to ever successfully make a viable, affordable, and desirable fully electric car?”

Yup.

In the eyes of Robert Evans, Elon Musk is apparently on equal footing with bastards like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Rodrigo Duterte, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Epstein, cocaine queens, child molesters, and Harvey Weinstein.

You’re probably thinking, “How can this be?” and I was asking myself the same thing, which is why I decided to take three-and-a-half hours and listen to the latest Behind the Bastards drop, “I do not like Elon Musk very much.” Now, I listened with quite an open mind. After all, I don’t know Elon. I have—or had—little knowledge of his background, his lifestyle, his personality, his leadership style, or his ethics. I only know that his companies are among my favorites and that he has accomplished some absolutely incredible, jaw-dropping, world-changing things in science, business, and philanthropy. I follow him on Twitter, and I watch nearly every launch of SpaceX with utter fascination. I’m a huge fan of Tesla, both the company and the car, and someday I hope to actually be able to afford to own one. But, if he is truly a bastard, I kind of want to know. I mean, I sort of idolize the guy, at least as much as it’s possible for me to actually idolize a living person, and I hate to be duped.

So, I listened to the podcast with an open mind, prepared to have my image shattered of the man who I truly feel is changing the world for the better.

The guest comedian for this episode is Sofiya Alexander, someone who I knew absolutely nothing about, and the producer, who seemed to chime in often, is someone named Sophie, so with a Sofiya and a Sophie, it tended to get a bit confusing who was talking, though it didn’t much matter in the long run as they all seemed to share the exact same sentiments with no dissenting opinion.

The podcast literally starts with Robert yelling “CUCKKKKK!!!” to open the show. He then goes on to explain that Producer Sophie decided that Elon was a cuck before they started recording. No explanation is given as to why Elon was called a cuck, and no apology is given for using such a preposterous invective, but Robert then says that he hates “cuck” as an insult because the worst people on the internet use that term and Nate Silver (of fivethirtyeight.com fame I’m guessing) is one of the worst people on the internet. Again, there is no accounting for this slanderous statement, the listening audience is left wondering just what in the world is going on, and this podcast is not off to a good start.

 

The underlying theme of the premise that Elon is a bastard is apparently that “It’s bad to be a billionaire.” This is a ludicrous premise of course. There are obviously bad billionaires but being a billionaire doesn’t automatically make you evil, despite the far-left socialist narrative that would have you believe this blanket characterization.

Robert goes on to say, without apparently even recognizing the carelessly prejudicial nature of the statement, “I will try to be scrupulously fair as I outline why he’s a piece of shit.” He says the main source material for this episode is a book called “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” by Ashlee Vance. This mention then becomes quite memorable as Robert and Sofiya spend the next 3+ hours quoting from this book that Robert allegedly studied, while referring to Ashlee Vance dozens of times as “the woman,” “her,” and “she.”

Ashlee vance is a man. And not the kind of man who uses alternative pronouns.

What’s especially humorous about this gaffe, is that they use a passage from Ashlee Vance’s book to try to suggest that Elon is exhibiting some sort of sexist behavior in his interview with the man that they think is a woman:

 

It’s apparent that this negligent blunder is brought to Robert’s attention sometime between the drop of part one and the drop of part two a couple of days later. He has his producer, Sofie, edit in a blurb at about the eight-minute mark of part two where she passes along Robert’s apology for calling Ashlee a female. He does not have Sofie apologize for his failure to perform even the most basic of research into the author of the primary source material for his podcast. I checked Robert’s Twitter account to see if he bothered making a public apology to Ashlee for such a blunder, and though it may be hidden in the thousand or so tweets he’s sent in the last two weeks, I was unable to find any actual apology from him. He did, however, find time to apologize to a woman at the Portland riots whom he referred to in Tweets as “her” and “she” before finding out that she uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” so it was apparently more important for Robert to apologize for calling a woman “she” instead of “they,” then it was to apologize for calling a man “she” instead of “he.” Makes sense, right?

Sofiya Alexandra took it a step further when she was informed on Twitter that Ashlee was a man.

Yes, that’s right, Sofiya apparently found this lack of research integrity to be funny, and actually blamed Ashlee for having his name end with ee. As if he had a choice in the matter of his naming? As if it would have been much easier to discern his sex if he spelled his name Ashley? As if it was impossible to consider that Ashlee may be a sort of portmanteau of Ash and Lee? As if it’s his fault that the two of them couldn’t even bother to flip the book over and read the back of it, with the picture of Ashlee and his biography, or to type the name of the author of their primary source material into a simple Google search to check his background, even if to just make sure he was actually a credible source? Complete disgraceful social and journalistic behavior on both their parts, and definitely not a good way to convince their audience of the reliability of their premise.

Part one of I do not like Elon Musk very much is all about Elon’s childhood and upbringing, with an emphasis on the amount of abuse and bullying that Elon was subject to as a withdrawn and socially awkward youngster. Elon grew up bullied, beaten regularly and often severely, a loner, an outsider, mocked and ridiculed at school before going home to a dysfunctional family and a dad who was a terrible person. In an era where such kids sometimes decide to shoot up their schools and murder their classmates, are we seriously going to trash Elon for what he made of himself?

Apparently so.

Robert directs the narrative to Elon’s familial history, discussing his namesake grandfather’s decision to move the family from Canada to South Africa. The stated reason by Grandpa Elon was that, “he felt the moral character of Canada had started to decline.” Robert makes a strong implication that this statement meant that Grandpa Elon was a raging racist, saying, “He thought Canada was too immoral in 1950 and moved to South Africa. Do some math.”

There’s no doubt that South Africa was smack in the middle of it’s brutal Apartheid in the 1950s, however, there are probably a few alternative reasons other than rampant racism that might incentivize a man to move his family from Canada during this time period. To draw the conclusion that grandpa was an unrepentant racist based on nothing more than this life decision to change his residence, in what’s becoming a theme of unremittent speculation by Robert Evans is a blatant violation of journalistic ethics.

Grandpa Elon was a pilot, and he ends up dying when our Elon was a baby. Here’s how Robert describes that:

“He died when Elon was like a baby. In a plane crash, because he hit some shit, because he was flying like an asshole, I guess.”

It’s probably safe to speculate that the cause of Grandpa Elon’s death was that he “hit some shit,” as that is the ultimate cause of most plane crash deaths, however, the journalistic integrity hole continues here as he adds that Grandpa Elon was, “flying like an asshole, I guess.” Because, obviously a suspected racist could never have an airplane crash caused by anything other than flying like an asshole, right? Not satisfied with the speculative nature of his racist assignation of Elon’s maternal grandfather, Robert makes several further utterances to make sure that the audience knows that he thinks Grandpa Elon was a racist, calling Elon’s mother, Maye Musk, “Elon’s mother, and obviously that cool, probably a gigantic racist plane dude’s daughter.”

Robert goes on to discuss Elon’s father, Errol, who, by all accounts, including Elon’s, is not a good dude. Elon himself claimed in an interview that his father has committed every crime on the books and that he’s evil. Robert, of course, can’t help but add a racist slant to the shadowy story of Errol by completely making up facts, albeit with the disclaimer that he’s making them up:

 

Robert isn’t a dummy; he’s just completely lacking in ethics. He knows that by stating the three men Errol killed were probably black, the sentiment of racism will be instilled into the listener and will contribute to the subconscious idea that if Elon’s entire family is racist, it’s likely that Elon himself is as well. Now, I have no idea if Grandpa Elon was a racist who came to South Africa to become part of the Apartheid movement. I have no idea if Errol is a racist who killed three black men under the guise of home defense. The point is, that Robert doesn’t know this either, and to insinuate such is abhorrent behavior, particularly on the part of a professional journalist. To continue the theme of racism in the Musk family, and to further insinuate that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Robert ends part one with a statement about Elon being on President Trump’s economic advisory council in 2016:

 

He’s criticizing Musk’s decision to leave the advisory council after Trump removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, stating that Elon drew the line in the sand with this climate-change denying decision but didn’t draw a line on what Robert felt were racist decisions by the Trump Administration on the southern border, separating Mexican illegal immigrants from their families and “putting children in cages.” His premise is that Elon, as an immigrant to the United States, should have left the council at that decision point instead of waiting. He barely notes that Elon spoke out loudly against both the immigration policies and the climate change denial that he felt was rampant in the Trump administration.

Part one is terrible, and certainly doesn’t in any way make listeners think that Elon is a bastard deserving of the company of the subjects of Robert Evans’ other podcasts, but he assures the listeners that he’s just getting started, and that we’ll feel differently when we hear part two. Okay.

Part Two

Interrupted awkwardly by the post-edit interjection of Producer Sophie at the eight-minute mark where they acknowledge they’re now aware that Ashlee Vance is a male, part two of the podcast starts off with complete nonsense that somehow made it past the less-than-stringent cutting room floor at Behind the Bastards Podcasts. By the time they get back to the actual subject, Elon Musk, I was rapidly hitting the “forward 30 seconds” button and growing rather frustrated.

When they finally roll around to Elon, they start with his first business endeavor, a partnership with his brother Kimbal Musk called Global Link Information Network, a name they eventually change to Zip2. Sofiya, who, as seen with Ashlee, apparently loves to utilize the comedically genius strategy of making fun of peoples’ names, has some input on this name change:

 

To Elon Musk fans, the romanticized nature of his business background has its roots in this first company, Zip2. Elon and his brother started this business from scratch, and they worked incredibly hard, spending days straight without leaving the office, ordering in food and not showering as they coded through the long hours. Robert, of course, makes fun of this and attempts to delegitimize Elon’s auspicious beginnings by quoting the debunked statement from Elon’s estranged father that Elon started the business with a $28,000 loan from dad. Robert tries to make us think that this is an enormous amount of money:

 

First of all, as anybody who has actually started a business could have told him, $28,000 is nothing. If you try to start a business any more ambitious than a snow cone stand in your front yard with $28,000, you are going to definitely be on a shoe-string budget and you’ll be constantly one mistake or poor decision from bankruptcy. In addition to this obvious fact, Elon didn’t actually get any such loan from his father. Elon debunks this in a Rolling Stone article that I know for a fact Robert Evans read as he himself quotes from it several times in the podcast. Here’s the quote from Rolling Stone:

After Musk became successful, his father even took credit for helping him – to such a degree that it’s listed as fact in Elon’s Wikipedia entry. “One thing he claims is he gave us a whole bunch of money to start, my brother and I, to start up our first company [Zip2, which provided online city guides to newspapers]. This is not true,” Musk says. “He was irrelevant. He paid nothing for college. My brother and I paid for college through scholarships, loans and working two jobs simultaneously. The funding we raised for our first company came from a small group of random angel investors in Silicon Valley.”

Now, since we know that Robert read this but chose to ignore it because it didn’t fit into his narrow narrative and this correction does in fact undermine his thesis that Elon’s past is shadowed in hyperbole and overstated anecdotes, we can ascertain that Robert Evans is a terrible journalist who’s astonishing willingness to completely negate the concept of integrity in journalism in the name of entertainment is a stain on the industry. Robert’s underlying theme of this podcast is privilege. He’s convinced that Elon was able to succeed because he grew up wealthy, and the fact that he fled that wealth to start with nothing is irrelevant. He wants to convince us that despite Elon being broke at this time, he was never at risk because he could always flee back to his wealth, and this type of privilege makes what Elon achieved almost insignificant. How did Elon succeed? He knew how to talk to investment bankers and financiers. How did he know this? He grew up privileged, in a rich household, surrounded by his father’s banking buddies.

Not convinced that Robert is wrong? Okay.

Robert next decides to take on the entire field of tech engineering and to broadly mischaracterize them as disgusting pigs with the following statements in regard to Elon’s work ethic at Zip2 that resulted in him showering at a less than optimal frequency. Robert says:

“I’ve read a lot of biographies about a lot of tech guys and they all smelled terrible, and so did their little offices. They were all fucking nasty. It’s not hard to shower once a day, guys.” “They get their best ideas by forming a, like a fucking crown of scrotal sweat around their fucking drawstring pants.” “There’s a smell that engineers have, we all know that. Its engineer stank.”

If this characterization isn’t bad enough, Robert and Sofiya spend an inordinate amount of time discussing Elon’s passion, work ethic, and dedication to his goal. They quote Elon during one of his early investor pitches:

“My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku then fail.”

Robert and Sofiya find this incredibly funny, and they spend some time laughing and making fun of Elon for this statement. Here’s an audio clip where they make fun of his work ethic:

 

If I’m an investor and I’m considering putting my money into a start-up company, this is the mentality that I want my horse to hold. The seppuku quote is sentiment only, obviously, and not to be taken literally, but this must-succeed attitude is what makes Elon so special and so undeniably successful. This is how you’re going to show us that he’s a bastard?

In February of 1999, Elon and Kimbal sold Zip2 to Compaq for $307 million and Elon himself walked away with $22 million. Robert makes a big deal about how Elon left the company immediately instead of staying on to run it, adversely stating that Elon obviously only cared about the money and not the company itself. Okay, so what? It should be obvious to all that Elon had bigger fish to fry than staying on to run an online advertising company for another owner. He wanted to use his money to do bigger things, and that’s supposed to be bad?

Elon spent $1 million dollars and bought a McLaren F-1 sports car, one of only 62 in the world. Three years earlier, he had been (not often, apparently) showering at the YMCA and sleeping in his office, and suddenly, he’s a kid with $22 million in the bank. Yes, objectively this is an ostentatious purchase, and an incredibly irresponsible amount, both in actual dollars, and in percentage of wealth to spend on such a ridiculous display of prosperity. However, Elon was 27 years old. Who among us can say we were fiscally responsible at such a young age, particularly with such an incredible influx of previously unknown wealth, the culmination of incredible discipline and determination? I have no doubt that Elon is probably embarrassed by this video showing a young and objectively immature Elon Musk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3tlVE_QXm4

Here’s the clip where Robert and Sofiya make fun of Elon without regard to the circumstances surrounding this purchase:

 

Within months of selling Zip2, Elon invested the vast majority of his newfound wealth into X.com, an online bank that eventually merged with Paypal. Robert and Sofiya spend a lot of time making fun of Elon for the name X.com, and discussing the takeover that got him ousted and Peter Thiel installed as the CEO of the merged companies. This is mostly nonsensical background that does nothing to further the thesis that Elon is a “piece of shit,” so I won’t go into all of the obtuse takes they come up with in this segment.

In July 2002, Ebay purchases Paypal for about $1.5 billion, and Elon walks away with $250 million, a more than 12x return on his investment in just about three years. Now, this is the point where many people would and have simply walked away from the business world to retire in extravagant luxury. $250 million is an enormous amount of money that allows living in comfort on the interest alone without ever touching the principal. Elon didn’t do this though, and this is what makes him special. He took the money, $180 million after taxes, and invested nearly all of it in three companies:

$100 million into SpaceX

$70 million into Tesla

$10 million into Solar City

With additional investments in other, smaller projects, Elon took the vast majority of his wealth and spread it around into businesses that he felt were going to change the world. Robert and Sofiya spend a lot of time complaining that Elon gets credit for starting these businesses when, particularly with regard to Tesla, they were actually started by others, but what they choose to ignore is that Tesla was almost certainly doomed to failure without the drive, vision, ambition, and capital funding that Elon brought to the table. Here’s a quote from Robert:

“What’s not debatable is how fucked up it is that Elon Musk gets credit for building all these wonderful devices that he did not build. A January 2020 Fortune article got the title, “How Elon Musk built a Tesla factory in China in less than a year.” Obviously, he didn’t, he’s never built a factory in his life.”

Robert is saying that Elon has never physically built a factory. That he’s never operated a welder, poured concrete, installed windows. He’s taking the “built a Tesla factory” literally and taking the stand that Elon shouldn’t have gotten credit in the title of the Fortune article because he didn’t LITERALLY construct the building! It’s incredibly hard to imagine how obtuse this line of thinking is, but Robert somehow gets there. He continues:

“Musk gets a lot of credit in general for the wonders that his companies have produced.”

Seriously, no kidding? The CEO and in many cases founder, innovator, designer, decision-maker, and engineer of a company gets a lot of credit for the wonders that the companies produce? This is supposed to be some kind of revelatory statement that’s supposed to make me feel that Elon is a bastard of history?

Robert triples down on this idea by quoting this passage from the Rolling Stone article:

But what he has done is something that very few living people can claim: Painstakingly bulldozed, with no experience whatsoever, into two fields with ridiculously high barriers to entry – car manufacturing (Tesla) and rocketry (SpaceX) – and created the best products in those industries, as measured by just about any meaningful metric you can think of. In the process, he’s managed to sell the world on his capability to achieve objectives so lofty that from the mouth of anyone else, they’d be called fantasies.

Robert adds: “That’s frustrating to me because he did jump in without any experience…but he didn’t create those fucking products.”

It should be obvious that people who start companies with hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of employees do not necessarily “create” the products they deliver. What people like Elon do is bring people together, design a vision, implement the strategies and procedures to recognize that vision, and inspire and drive their employees. When all of these things come together and a brilliant product is created, the credit goes to the person who made all of that happen, and this is Elon Musk. Yes, credit needs to go to the engineers and the line workers and the architects, the team that actually builds the product, but Susie Samsonite pushing the button that activates the robotic arm that attaches the brake calipers on the Tesla Model 3 is not going to get recognized by Rolling Stone magazine, and to suggest that she should is completely ludicrous. To further suggest that Musk is a bastard for accepting this credit is asinine.

Now, Robert and Sofiya make a tremendous effort to get us to hate Elon by claiming that he assigns blame when things go wrong, and accepts credit when they go right. As evidence, they cite the explosion of SpaceX’s first rocket, Falcon 1 shortly after launch from Omelek Island in March 2006:

 

While it might be true that Elon and SpaceX did assign blame to the tech at the time, the idea that Musk didn’t accept the blame is not entirely true. Once again, Robert fails to show any sort of journalistic integrity by presenting both sides of the equation, but rather, only cites from the source that casts Elon in the worst light possible. A simple Google search brought me to a video where Elon accepted full blame for the failure of all three of the first Falcon 1 launches, and where he discusses that had the fourth launch failed, that very likely would have put SpaceX into bankruptcy and there would be no SpaceX today. This is Elon explaining his role in those failures to the International Astronautical Congress:

“And the reason that I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer, was not because I want to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So, I ended up being that by default. And I messed up the first three launches. The first three launches failed. Fortunately, the fourth launch which was – that was the last money that we had for Falcon 1 – the fourth launch worked, or that would have been it for SpaceX.”

You can view the full video of his speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdUX3ypDVwI&t=12m04s

Robert goes further in his efforts to convince us that Elon is a terrible manager. He decides to quote a section of Ashlee Vance’s book that talks about Elon’s firing of his secretary Mary Beth Brown. Robert says that Brown asked for a pay raise and Elon told her to take a vacation and he would do her job then decide if she was worth it upon her return. When she got back, he told her she was unnecessary and fired her without ceremony.

Sofiya Alexandra chimes in on this: “I remember reading about that and being like, that is the most insulting way to fire someone that’s given so much of their time and life to you. To just make sure that they know that you think they’re worthless before you let them go. That is so shitty for no reason.”

The problem here is, this fable is probably not even true. Here’s an article where the story originated. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/elon-musk-assistant-fired-pay-rise-ask-took-job-tesla-mary-beth-brown-biography-ashlee-vance-a7888061.html

Elon addressed this in a series of Tweets to Business Insider: “Ashlee Vance’s biography is mostly correct but also rife with errors and never independently fact-checked, despite my request that he do so. Of all the bogus anecdotes, this one troubles me the most. Ashlee never actually ran this story by me or my assistant. It is total nonsense. Mary Beth was an amazing assistant for over 10 years, but as company complexity grew, the role required several specialists vs one generalist. MB was given 52 weeks of salary and stock in appreciation for her great contribution and left to join a small firm, once again as a generalist.”

His mother, Maye Musk, also joined in the conversation on Twitter and added: “I agree. Some of the facts were glaringly wrong, but altogether the “bio” was interesting.”

It would seem that once again Robert Evans has chosen to cherry-pick his anecdotal evidence to fit the narrative he’s trying to front. To my knowledge, Mary Beth Brown has never stepped forth to either confirm or deny these claims, and Robert Evans certainly made no mention that he made any effort to contact her before simply spewing out the slanderous claims without regard for any dissenting evidence. It seems incredibly unlikely that Elon would take a public stance that this story isn’t true unless he was being honest, afterall, it would be incredibly embarassing to him if Brown came forth and confirmed it.

Despite wanting to continually deride Elon Musk, at a few points they can’t help but allow the deeply suppressed admiration they hold to shine through. Robert talks about how Elon had enormous input on the development of the Tesla design, saying that one of his big contributions was insisting that the door handles on the Tesla pop out, which he calls “Silly and unnecessary but cool as hell and that it makes people happy and loyal to the product because it delights them.”

Sofiya then says, “My husband has a Tesla and he fucking loves it. The amount of joy he gets from driving it, I’m like, this is stupid but it is cool.”

This is absolutely laughable. They are trying to deride a man who creates a product they both agree is incredibly innovative and cool. Robert goes on to compare Elon to Steve Jobs, saying that he understands what people want and he puts out a product that delights people. This is an incredible talent and Robert can’t help but recognize that. Robert also mentions that Elon insisted that SpaceX create the vast majority of their rocket components inhouse rather than using external suppliers. This allows them to bypass the bloat that a lot of the heavily regulated space industry has. Robert admires this, calling it a “good idea” and “a policy that was successful in reducing the cost of shooting shit into space.” His issue is that Elon gets too much credit and uses the world-saving goals of his company to treat his employees like shit whenever they get in his way, sentiments that don’t seem to be supported by the evidence presented.

Next, Robert and Sofiya move on to Elon’s personal relationships, trying to show the world what a scumbag he is because of the way he treated his wives. They point to an article in Marie Claire magazine written by Elon’s first wife, Justine, titled, “I was a starter wife.”

https://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/a5380/millionaire-starter-wife/

Robert reads from this article, pulling passages that attempt to fit his narrative while ignoring the passages where Justine praises Elon and states her lack of regrets. One passage he pulls is this one:

After graduation, he’d moved to Silicon Valley. He was sharing an apartment in Mountain View with three roommates and building his first dot-com company, Zip2. I soon flew out for the first of many visits. One night, over dinner, he asked me how many kids I wanted to have. “One or two,” I said immediately, “although if I could afford nannies, I’d like to have four.” He laughed. “That’s the difference between you and me,” he said. “I just assume that there will be nannies.”

This despairingly poorly edited podcast then skips backward a few minutes to repeat a previous story about Justine and Elon dancing at their wedding, before it skips forward again to this story about him assuming they’ll have nannies. Robert and Sofiya spend some time implying that he’s a scumbag for assuming they’ll have enough money to hire servants as if that kind of financial dreaming is nothing but thinly veiled satanism. They then make fun of Elon asking Justine to dye her hair:

And no matter how many highlights I got, Elon pushed me to be blonder. “Go platinum,” he kept saying, and I kept refusing.

Sofiya chimes in sarcastically about this passage: “It’s hot when someone you love just tries to change you all the time. I love it. It’s completely healthy and dope…People just want to be told that they’re garbage and they need to change.” So, Elon wanting his wife to change her hair blonde is somehow evil? This is the best you guys can come up with? Well, they go on to discuss how Elon tricked Justine into signing a postnuptial agreement that obliterated her rights.

Elon disputes many of the statements and claims in Justine’s exposé, particularly those about the postnuptial agreement, with an article in Business Insider. Once again, Robert chooses to completely ignore any evidence contrary to his thesis in what seems to be a routine lack of journalistic integrity: https://www.businessinsider.com/correcting-the-record-about-my-divorce-2010-7?IR=T

Elon says, “Given the choice, I’d rather stick a fork in my hand than write about my personal life. Unfortunately, it seems that I don’t have any other option. Several awful things have been widely reported that are simply false, but a falsehood uncorrected may as well be truth.” Justine tried to dispute the separate property agreement that we signed in March 2002. This agreement said that any separate property we created would remain separate property, so the novels she wrote would be hers and any companies I created would be mine. We began negotiations two months before marriage with separate legal counsel and an independent mediator drawing up the agreement, and signed it six weeks after marriage.” According to multiple reports, Justine got $2 million cash, $6 million for child support and $80,000 per month for alimony, plus 10% of his SpaceX stock, along with a Tesla Roadster.

After divorcing Justine, Elon met and quickly proposed to Talulah Riley, a British actress. She is 14 years Elon’s junior, 22 years old to his 36 years at the time they meet. Sofiya is, of course, appalled by this:

“Ugh, so gross and just like cliché, I’m like dude come on.”

Quoting again from the Rolling Stone article by Neil Strauss who wrote “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” they discuss Elon’s emotional turmoil over his recent (at the time of the article) breakup with Amber Heard. Musk tells Strauss that he’s lonely and afraid of being alone, and Strauss suggests to Elon that he might want to work on the reasons for why he exhibits what he says is clear co-dependent behavior.

From the article:

I explain that needing someone so badly that you feel like nothing without them is textbook codependence.

Musk disagrees. Strongly. “It’s not true,” he replies petulantly. “I will never be happy without having someone. Going to sleep alone kills me.” He hesitates, shakes his head, falters, continues. “It’s not like I don’t know what that feels like: Being in a big empty house, and the footsteps echoing through the hallway, no one there – and no one on the pillow next to you. Fuck. How do you make yourself happy in a situation like that?”

Robert and Sofiya somehow find humor in this sad and honest introspection. They even go on to suggest that Elon find a sex worker to comfort him instead of looking for a relationship. These people are sick:

 

Another four-minute editing blunder where the recording loops makes listening to this professional podcast excruciating, but it’s almost over and I power through as Robert goes into the closing Anecdote of the podcast, how Elon Musk destroyed the small town of Boca Chica, Texas. This section is based on an Esquire article which is found here:

https://classic.esquire.com/article/2020/3/1/the-day-the-rocket-came-to-boca-chica

Robert and Sofiya discuss how Elon came to town with the intention of launching SpaceX rockets from the beach near this small town with only two permanent residents and a few dozen snowbird part-time residents. In an effort to make sure nobody was killed in a devastating rocket explosion, SpaceX attempted to buy up everyone’s homes, offering three times the market value and attaching a deadline to the offer, the unexpressed and underlying threat of Eminent Domain backing the offer. Although there’s no question that Eminent Domain seizures suck from the perspective of the homeowner, they happen, and they are historically necessary for the good of the country. Regardless of how you might feel about such an action, there’s no doubt that an offer of three times the market value was a generous offer, particularly if the backup to such an action is an Eminent Domain seizure. Robert and Sofiya disagree of course, and they make several very unfair assessments of the situation. They also choose to completely ignore any contrary evidence even from the very source they’re citing. As the author of the article, Rachel Monroe, states:

And so when I returned to Boca Chica in late December, I imagined I’d find a depressed, depleted place. Instead, after a tumultuous year, the community seemed infused with a fresh spirit. Residents seemed to have come to terms with SpaceX’s presence, for better or worse. The rocket might be intrusive, but it was their neighbor, and unlike them, it was here to stay. For some, that was an incentive to hash out an agreement with the company.

Sofiya, of course, sinks to crudity reminiscent of how they started the episode when they called Elon a cuck: “What’s a few hundred thousand, however many people in pursuit of one man’s, probably with a tiny dick’s, dreams.”

Robert chimes in: “We’ve all become worse because of our exposure to Elon.”

This podcast was filled with crude name-calling, ad hominem attacks, half-truths, and flat-out fabricated nonsense in some perverted desire to disparage a man who is openly trying to save humanity, a man with lofty goals of elevating our species to the stars, halting global warming, and safely guiding us into the future with a carefully planned immersion into creation of artificial intelligence. Along the way, he has risked everything, succeeded through determination, hard work, excellent ability to surround himself with great people, and certainly a decent amount of luck. Although I tried to listen to this podcast with an open mind, it didn’t take long to recognize this for exactly what it was; a hatchet job perpetrated by a man with a desire to espouse the evils of anyone who has risen to a success he’ll never achieve. Perpetual desire to bring attention to articles spouting statistics that have been debunked for the simple fact that people may remember only the debunked fact as opposed to the truth is beyond wrong, it’s abhorrent.

I have no doubt that Elon Musk is not a perfect man. I don’t doubt that he has occasionally screwed people over, acted inappropriately, impetuously, and petulantly. Name one person who has achieved Elon’s success who hasn’t occasionally acted in these ways. That Elon is socially awkward is obvious. That he has repressed resentments from childhood that affect his relationships and decision-making is probable. Are these reasons to call him a bastard? Are these reasons to disparage him, mock him, and scorn him? I heard a quote once that at a certain intelligence level, this world is mostly unbearable and the IQ level where that sentiment manifests is not really that high. Elon Musk is uncommonly intelligent, and I suspect he mostly finds this world oppressive and intolerable. The fact that he navigates it so successfully is admirable and laudable.

Robert ends the podcast by quoting an article that said Elon Musk hates the color yellow and that he won’t allow yellow safety lines to be painted in the factories, an obsession that has caused dangerous conditions to exist. This is something that is simply not true, and it was debunked thoroughly, something brushed off by Robert in his quest for complete disinterest in impartiality or objectivity. Robert Evans is either incapable or uninterested in critically evaluating some of the negative, slandering propaganda that has been published about Elon, rather choosing to add to the sewage and filth with a three-and-a-half-hour podcast full of gossip-rag worthy faux journalism, disinformation, and fabrications.

Robert Evans should be ashamed. Actually, he’s kind of a bastard.

 

8 minutes and 46 seconds that changed the nation?

On May 25th, 2020, at approximately 2025 hours, George Floyd, an African-American citizen, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The incident was captured on multiple cell phone videos and body-worn cameras and widely distributed. The images are disturbing: Officer Chauvin with his knee pressed on the back of the neck of Mr. Floyd while Mr. Floyd moans and complains that he can’t breathe, begging the officers for relief.

In an incredibly swift and judicious action, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Derek Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene the very next day. This wouldn’t be enough to mollify the public though, as rioting, looting, and burning would commence that night and for the next several nights, turning downtown Minneapolis into a war zone, protestors even capturing and burning the MPD 3rd precinct where the four officers were assigned. Protests and riots would spread across the country in cities large and small. The protestors’ demands? The arrest and charging of the four officers involved.

The clear video and facts of this case are indisputable. Or are they?

On May 29, 2020, four days after the killing, former Officer Derek Chauvin was finally arrested by the BCA—the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, an agency with which fans of novelist John Sandford will be very familiar. The BCA is a state police force, tasked with investigating the actions of the officers involved. In addition to the BCA, the FBI and the Justice Department are running parallel investigations into potential federal charges under the “color of law” statutes.

The charges filed against Chauvin are: 1) Murder – 3rd degree, and, 2) Manslaughter – 2nd degree. The charges were filed by Michelle Frascone, a Special Agent with the BCA, and Amy Sweasy, a prosecuting attorney for the State of Minnesota.

Upon filing the charges, the public erupted in anger once again, insisting that the charges were too lenient, in what would seem at first glance to be a rather humorous flip of the normal complaint that prosecutors tend to overcharge suspects.

Was the charging appropriate? Let’s take a look at the specific Minnesota statutes involved here.

609.195 MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE.

(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.

At first glance, this seems a completely appropriate charge. I had to look up what “evincing a depraved mind” means because I’ve never heard that term, however, it’s apparently a fairly common term in several Midwest states. Here is what it means, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court: “The phrase “evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life” as used in these instructions means conduct demonstrating an indifference to the life of others, that is not only disregard for the safety of another but a lack of regard for the life of another.”

There is little doubt that Officer Chauvin’s actions showed a complete indifference to Mr. Floyd’s life, as we’ll see a little later, so after some review, this charge seems completely appropriate. As a prosecuting attorney, you definitely want to charge as high as possible. This gives you maximum flexibility, lending strength to your negotiating platform for plea bargains, and giving juries and judges maximum flexibility during sentencing. When the arresting officer and the prosecutor decide on charges, even though this charge seems to fit the crime, they definitely want to take a look at the next higher charge to see if that one might possibly fit. So, let’s take a look at the statute for Murder – 2nd degree.

609.19 MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

Subdivision 1. Intentional murder; drive-by shootings.

Whoever does either of the following is guilty of murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years:

(1) causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation; or

(2) causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit a drive-by shooting in violation of section 609.66, subdivision 1e, under circumstances other than those described in section 609.185, paragraph (a), clause (3).

Under subsection (1) we see that the key word “intent” comes into play once you charge murder in the 2nd degree (as well as murder 1st degree.) Subsection 2 doesn’t apply here, obviously, nor does Subdivision 2 which deals with protection orders and other felonies, but you can read them HERE if you’d like.

So, the question becomes, did Officer Chauvin intend to murder George Floyd?

Despite the outrage of the public, despite mayors, governors, and dozens of other elected officials calling this murder, implying or outright stating that this was blatant, intentional murder, objectively this seems absolutely ridiculous. In order to believe that Chauvin intended to murder Floyd, you would have to think that a cop—someone who ABSOLUTELY, DESPERATELY, under all possible circumstances wants to avoid the inside of a prison, where really bad things tend to happen to cops, decided, with multiple cameras rolling, in broad daylight, “Fuck it. I’m just going to go ahead and murder this dude right now.” This seems so completely implausible that it’s laughable, yet that is what “intent” would require. Even if you’re somehow allowing emotion to cloud your judgement and you think that’s exactly what happened, as a prosecutor, you still have to PROVE this in a court of law. You have to prove that Officer Chauvin thought exactly that, that his full intention was to murder. A defense attorney would have a field day with this charge, and the prosecutors know it, so it would seem that Murder – 3rd degree is absolutely the appropriate charge.

Now, prosecutors like to stack charges, and they like to be comprehensive and thorough, so they also tacked on the charge of Manslaughter – 2nd degree. Let’s take a look at that statute:

609.205 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:

(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; 

Culpable negligence. Negligence that is deserving of blame. Negligence that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death to another. Yeah. I think this is pretty clear, and the video would seem to indicate that Officer Chauvin definitely acted in this manner. So, Manslaughter – 2nd degree seems like a good charge, particularly if Murder – 3rd degree doesn’t end up holding up. By charging both, prosecutors can hope for a conviction on Manslaughter if the defense gets an acquittal on Murder. Could they have charged Manslaughter – 1st degree? Let’s take a look at that charge.

609.20 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.

Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both:

(1) intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation;

(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;

(3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the actor is coerced by threats made by someone other than the actor’s coconspirator and which cause the actor reasonably to believe that the act performed by the actor is the only means of preventing imminent death to the actor or another;

(4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V; or

(5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.377 (malicious punishment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.

As used in this section, a “person of ordinary self-control” does not include a person under the influence of intoxicants or a controlled substance.

None of these sections would seem to apply to this scenario save section (1). You might be able to argue that Mr. Floyd’s actions provoked Officer Chauvin in such a way that it caused him to retaliate by maliciously killing him. However, this is a slippery slope for the prosecution. This argument would require the prosecution to shine Mr. Floyd in a negative light, something that would be detrimental to the prosecution and favorable to the defense, so this seems like a poor prosecutorial strategy. Which means that Manslaughter – 1st degree would be a poor choice of charges, which means that it seems they charged appropriately here as well.

Let’s go back to the statement above that shining Mr. Floyd in a negative light is detrimental to the prosecution. This seems really obvious, right? The prosecution should be attempting to downplay his criminal background, his crimes at this scene, his efforts to resist arrest. The defense will want to bring all of these things up; it will be their job to paint Mr. Floyd in as poor a light as possible, to vilify him in subtle ways that may turn jury opinion to the favor of the defendant. This is super clear to everybody, right? Apparently it’s not that clear to the Minnesota Prosecutor’s Office.

Let’s take a look at the Probably Cause charging document for the arrest warrant for Officer Chauvin.

This document was likely prepared as a coordinated effort between the prosecutor, Amy Sweasy, and the BCA agent, Michelle Frascone. They should be stating the facts of the case and establishing probable cause for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Chauvin. That’s it. This document does not need to be lengthy. Extraneous information is not necessary. It needs only to establish probable cause.

So, what does it say? Let’s pull a couple passages from the document. You can read the entire thing HERE if you choose.

BWC (this is body worn camera) video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female was sitting in the backseat. As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands in the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.

Here, prosecutors are laying out the facts of the case. They’re using footage not yet available to the public to establish their PC. At this point in the document, Officer Chauvin hasn’t even arrived onscene. So, why are they describing actions taken by other officers prior to his arrival? Why are they outlining that another officer, Officer Lane, drew his gun and pointed it in the direction of Mr. Floyd, in a document to establish probable cause for the arrest of Officer Chauvin? This is extraneous information. It’s irrelevant to the probable cause. The only purpose that I can ascertain for its inclusion would be to shine the light that Mr. Floyd was a dangerous subject, whose very presence, or the nature of his crime, or actions in the vehicle caused enough alarm in Officer Lane that he felt the need to draw his weapon. This is a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause statement. It would seem to be something the defense would draw attention to during trial, actions they would be trying to get included in their evidence, actions that the prosecution might object to on the grounds of relevance since the defendant wasn’t even present at the scene at this point. Why is it included in the probable cause document?

Let’s look at another section.

Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd became compliant and walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane’s direction. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lang asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Lloyd if he was “on anything” and explained that he was arresting Mr. Lloyd for passing counterfeit currency.

Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car (MPD 320) at 8:14 p.m. Mr. Floyd stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.

MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thoa then arrived in a separate squad car.

The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side.

Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.

In the first paragraph, the state points out that Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd (sic for the original) if he was “on anything.” Again, the defendant, Officer Chauvin is not even on the scene at this point. Why is the prosecution establishing a basis for the defense to argue that Mr. Floyd may have been acting under the influence of drugs? This is such a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause document that is supposed to be concise and brief. In the last paragraph, the prosecution points out Mr. Floyd’s resistance to being placed into the patrol car. This is not that unusual as they’re establishing a basis for him being proned out on the ground where the incident occurred. What is odd though, is that they describe him as “over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.” Why are they including this line? Once again it seems like they’re trying to establish a basis that the officers’ actions were appropriate, that they were dealing with a large, strong, bull of a man, and that they had no choice but to elevate to the level of force they used. This is such an odd description to put in the PC document. It seems like a point the defense would want to make at trial, not something the prosecution would want to point out, and certainly not something necessary for the establishment of probable cause for Chauvin’s arrest.

The rest of the PC document is very telling. It describes how Chauvin refused to turn Mr. Floyd onto his side, even when Officer Lang suggested they should do just that. It describes how he kept his knee on his neck through multiple pleas that he was suffering. This plea is not too terribly unusual, by the way. Defendants often complain they can’t breathe, even when they can clearly breathe. However, positional asphyxiation is incredibly dangerous, and I suspect that Mr. Floyd could breathe just fine, however, he could feel the asphyxiation building, and that was the feeling he was trying to describe when he used the term, “I can’t breathe.”

The most sickening part of the PC document is this paragraph:

BWC video shows Mr. Floyd continue to move and breathe. At 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, “want to roll him on his side.” Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, “I couldn’t find one.” None of the officers moved from their positions. At 8:27:24, the defendant removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.

At 8:24:24, BWC video shows that Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At this point, how does Chauvin keep applying a neck hold to him? The suspect had quit resisting many minutes earlier. The neck hold should have been released at the latest when the resisting ended. De-escalation as the suspect de-escalates is just as critical, lawful, and important, as appropriate escalation is. Officer Lane again asks to roll him on his side. Apparently, this again doesn’t happen. Officer Kueng checks for a pulse and can’t find one. What do the officers do at this point?

“None of the officers moved from their positions.”

WHAT? They can’t find a pulse and Chauvin (I’m done using the title Officer Chauvin here, he doesn’t deserve it) continues to use the knee to neck hold??? Nobody starts CPR? Nobody takes responsibility for a suspect in their custody who doesn’t have a pulse?

At 8:27:24, exactly three minutes after he stops moving, Derek Chauvin finally removes his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. Why? Because an ambulance has arrived and it’s time to roll him onto a gurney.

This video, and the statements in the PC document that describe video not yet released, is sickening. It’s so disturbing. As a former cop, I’m appalled and saddened. As a human, I’m disheartened and repugnated. The actions of Chauvin in particular, and the other officers in general, are vile, abhorrent, and so unworthy of the badge that so many officers take so much pride in.

So, what will happen to Derek Chauvin? You’re not going to like this…

I don’t think he will be convicted of either of the crimes to which he’s charged. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll outline a few:

For starters, as I have shown in the PC document, it really seems that the fix is in here. The statements made by the prosecution in that warrant application are bizarre, and I’m struggling to find a beneficent reason behind their inclusion. Additionally, neck holds are authorized uses of force in the Minneapolis Police Department. This will change obviously, and probably like next week, but as of this moment, they are completely legal holds. From that point of view, Chauvin did nothing wrong by applying the hold. Where he went wrong was the length of time he applied it, and his wanton disregard for the life of Mr. Floyd. But this is going to be so difficult to prove. Once the defense is granted a change of venue, away from the jury pool immersed in this scene, once they go through a rigorous voir dire process, where they will weed through jury members who might have any knowledge of the incident, once enough time has passed for people to forget, years down the road, they will be able to argue so many points in their favor. They will be able to include Mr. Floyd’s criminal record, his history of resisting arrest, his size, his demeanor. By the time they’re done, they will make him look worse than Hannibal Lector. They will make it seem as if extraordinary measures were necessary for the safety of the police officers and the public. They will villainize Mr. Floyd and elevate Chauvin to the status of guardian hero. They will point out Chauvin’s commendations and his awards. They will exemplify his nineteen years of service to the community.

Here is the second to last paragraph in the Probable Cause document, in my opinion, the biggest smoking gun for my theory that the prosecutor really doesn’t want to try this case and is simply acceding to public pressure:

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. The full report of the ME is pending but the ME has made the following preliminary findings. The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.

What?? Why is this paragraph in a document whose sole purpose is to establish probable cause for the arrest of the officer? THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF PROBABLE CAUSE! THIS SAYS THAT IT REALLY WASN’T CHAUVIN’S FAULT AT ALL! Once again, this seems like ammunition for the defense. It feels like the prosecution is trying to help them make their case! I have NEVER seen a statement like this in a probable cause document. With this statement in the PC document, I’m kind of surprised the judge even approved the warrant!

The prosecution is always facing an uphill battle when they charge a police officer. When they start that battle in what seems to be a completely half-hearted, almost seditious manner with the most simple and basic of documents, it feels like they will completely blow the prosecution, intentionally or apathetically.

Don’t be surprised if Derek Chauvin ends up being convicted of some lessor charge. Something like Assault in the third degree, or Misconduct of a Public Officer. When this happens, get ready for cities to burn again. Because if this happens, they should burn. We need change, and there’s another article coming sometime soon that will describe what I think needs to happen to effect that change.

Let’s hope George Floyd’s death has meaning. Let’s hope his 8 minutes and 46 seconds of suffering results in meaningful change. Let’s hope America can finally rise to the challenges of racism and brutality. Let’s hope police departments can throw aside the heavy net cast upon them by the tiny percentage of officers who give all the good ones such a bad name. Let’s hope Derek Chauvin gets a fair trial followed by swift and appropriate justice. Let’s hope this never happens again.

How about some good news on the Covid-19 coronavirus front?

The last time I teased this there was actually no good news, but this time there really is just a small glimmer of hope for the near future, as well as a couple of benefits to our current, abysmal state of affairs. Let’s start with a couple of the beneficial results of this forced lockdown.

Currently, somewhere around 90% of Americans are under some sort of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place lockdown order. With a population of about 330 million, that’s 297 million people. According to data provided by the NHTSA, in a normal year, Americans drive an average of 13,500 miles, which equates to about 1125 miles per month. Now, April and May tend to be slightly higher than average driving months, with the summer months significantly higher and the winter months significantly lower than that average. We’ll call a typical April average to be about 1150 miles.

The United States has approximately 685 drivers for every 1000 people, a number that is decreasing from the last report due to the prevalence of ride sharing. In a typical recent year, those drivers would clock up 3.223 trillion miles on U.S. roads. Obviously right now, that number is significantly less.

If 90% of people are under orders to stay home, and 90% of them are following those orders at least 90% of the time, taking into account trips to the grocery store, the doctor, driving aimlessly around, and just plain idiocy that is occurring on a daily basis, that means that Americans are currently driving only about 27% of the miles we would normally drive. That means, if this were extrapolated to a full year, we would drive 873.4 billion miles. Obviously, this isn’t going to last for a year, but let’s take a look at just the month of April.

In a normal April, we would drive approximately 270 billion road miles, but this April, Americans will probably drive closer to 73 billion miles. We are most likely going to drive around 200 billion fewer miles for every month this goes on. A reasonable time estimate for analysis would be mid-March to mid-May, so we’ll call it two months of basic lockdowns, and 400 billion fewer road miles driven.

Where am I going with this?

The death rate from all automobile accidents in this country is right about 1.13 deaths per every 100 million miles traveled. With 400 billion fewer miles traveled, that results in right around 4500 fewer deaths over these two months. That means that there are 4500 people walking around this country right now who would already be dead, or would have been dead in the next six weeks or so, who now won’t be. And these are, for the most part, young, healthy Americans who would have died tragically. Many of them would have been children; in fact, about 20% of them on average would have been fourteen years old or younger.

That’s 900 children walking around this country right now who would have been dead by Mother’s Day were it not for Covid-19.

Now, I know that we’re going to lose more than 4500 people from the coronavirus; probably a lot more if the models hold true. If you’re looking for a silver lining though, this is a pretty good one to grasp onto. Most of the dead from Covid-19 are the elderly and infirm. If you were God, what multiple would you allow for the deaths of those aged 70+ in exchange for the lives of those aged under 14? This is a tough, tough question, and impossible to answer outside of the abstract as no two lives have the same meaning, and a value is very difficult to assign. There are some who would say that all lives are equal, and others who would probably say that a young life is worth at least ten elderly lives. I don’t know the answer, but, again, the silver lining is there if you choose to see it. This year, we very well might see the fewest traffic-related fatalities in this country since the 1940s.

Another statistic in the same vein as lives saved due to fewer auto-related deaths, is those that will be saved due to decreased level of noise pollution from both vehicles and airplanes. This is a tough one to nail an exact number to, but it may surprise you to learn (it certainly surprised me) that the World Health Organization has calculated that at least one million healthy life-years are lost every year in western European countries because of environmental noise, with cardiovascular disease contributing to the vast majority of these deaths. In America, that number may be even higher. Most of those deaths are the result of high blood pressure, heart attacks and coronary heart disease. It is thought that continuous noise, even at a low level, triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which damages blood vessels over time.

The decrease in noise pollution for those who live near busy roads or in crowded cities may save thousands of additional lives, or at the very least extend those lives by orders of magnitude longer than the shutdown will last.

A third benefit is the amazing things happening with air quality right now. Take a look at this chart of air quality levels a month ago, when most of China was still in shutdown and most of the rest of the world was still living normally.

And now look at the air quality readings today.

You can see that in Asia, air quality has decreased tremendously today with China ramping back up in its major cities, air quality there going from only a few areas of moderately unhealthy, to many areas of extremely dangerous: the orange spots to the maroon colored spots. In America, most of the country is in the green, with the yellow, elevated risk levels switching away from the coasts in March, to the center of the country in April, with the coastal states shutting down and quite a few southern interior states continuing life as normal.

Earth observing satellites have detected a significant reduction in nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere, and this reduction is a direct result of drastically lower emissions from automobiles around the world. Not only does this make breathing—something we all enjoy—much more pleasant, but it is also going to save a lot of lives. How many? Well, according to at least one analyst, Marshall Burke, a professor in Stanford’s Earth-system science department, a pandemic-related reduction in particulate matter in the atmosphere has probably saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in China over the two months they were shut down. He thinks that worldwide, around twenty times the lives lost as a direct result of the Covid-19 virus will be saved by the decrease in air pollution, at least in those areas where air pollution is typically at its worst. The article linked above is pretty fascinating to read.

In addition to the lives that will be saved, the doubling time of the fatality rate seems to be slowing in many parts of the world, the United States included. Take a look at this chart:

This is the linear line of fatalities as of yesterday when the United States ended the day with 8451 total deaths, an increase of 1350 from the previous day. As bad as that is, projections from just last week showed that we were on track to hit 10,000 deaths by the end of the day on April 4th. We’re probably going to hit that repugnant number tomorrow, but adding two days to the doubling time is a really good thing. It means—cautiously speaking—that the pandemic may be slowing.

Although it’s difficult to see the decreasing rate from the severely vertical fatality line in the above linear chart of fatalities, let’s look at the logarithmic chart.

This chart shows a track of fatalities on a logarithmic scale. Basically, this is a convenient way of looking at the doubling rate of the deaths. A 45-degree line from left to right would be true doubling, meaning that it would take the same number of days to go from 1000 to 10,000 deaths and from 10,000 deaths to 100,000 deaths as it took to go from 10 deaths to 100, or from 100 to 1000. We don’t want to see a 45-degree or sharper angle to the line when we look at this chart.

As you can see, while we did see a line that was very close to 45-degrees between 100 and 1000 deaths, right here near the top, circled below, over the last four days, this line has really flattened out. I am cautiously optimistic here. Cautious because four data points is not very many from which to draw any real conclusions, and there are many signs that point to things getting worse in the days to come. However, if we’re looking for encouragement, this is it.

When we do hit 10k deaths tomorrow morning, what will be very telling will be the time it takes to reach 20k deaths. If that doesn’t happen next week, we will be able to say with a much better sense of certainty that we have reached the peak of this pandemic in the United States. Let’s hope that’s true.

Until then, give your kids an extra hug tonight. Thanks to the shutdown, 900 of them who were supposed to be dead, will instead be around for Mother’s Day this year.

A look at the current status of air travel

With all of the stay-at-home and quarantine orders around the world, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Flightaware.com and see what the sky looks like from a worldwide air traffic control standpoint. Here’s what Los Angeles International airport looks like right now.

The GREEN planes are all the flights that are currently in the air having departed LAX. The BLUE planes are all the flights currently inbound to LAX. This might look like a lot of flights, but it’s not even close to the volume that would be seen at one of the busiest airports in the world on a typical Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Even more noticeable is the lack of international flights, both arriving and departing. There are only four flights in the air right now inbound from Europe, two of which are coming from the United Kingdom–one Aeroflot flight from Moscow, and one Air France flight from Paris. I’m not sure why those last two are still flying when Trump has shut down all travel from Europe outside of the UK, but there they are.

Even more interesting is this look at Las Vegas’s McCarran International. On a typical Saturday morning, LAS would be swamped with arriving and departing flights, with a multitude of international flights as well. As we know, all casinos in the state are closed, along with most of the hotels attached to them. This makes Las Vegas decidedly undesirable. Here’s what LAS flights look like.

Again, green planes are outbound from LAS (fleeing the wasteland of a city that offers nothing at all when things are closed.) and blue planes are inbound to LAS. (I’m assuming mostly empty flights?) This is a pretty amazing look at the real status of things. There are around 25 flights inbound to Vegas, and the same number outbound. Normally right now there would be hundreds. Those hundreds would typically be completely full flights as well, and from what I’m hearing, many of the flights you see in the air right now are only flying to fill an FAA slot, operating at a big loss.

One thing you can see here is that there are no international flights save two from Mexico, one commercial flight from Guadalajara, and one private flight from Los Cabos. That’s it, everything else is domestic.

Looking at international flights, let’s take a peek at the normally jammed North Atlantic flight corridor between North America and Europe:

This is every flight in the air over the Atlantic right now. Normally, this area would be a huge mess of planes looking like an almost solid line of traffic going both directions. There are still plenty of flights traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Great Britain, but most of the other traffic is completely gone. It will be interesting to see what effect this travel ban ends up having on the total carbon emissions in the upper atmosphere, particularly if this ends up lasting for months.

Maybe at least something good will come from this?

What are Germany and Switzerland doing right in the fight against the coronavirus?

I want to get right into this one and take a look at some of the numbers behind both Switzerland and Germany’s apparent success in controlling coronavirus fatalities. This has been all over the news lately, with a lot of people trying to figure out what it is that those countries are doing right. Let’s start by taking a look at mortality growth rates for Germany and Switzerland, as well as some of the countries around them, with the United Kingdom and the United States also thrown in for comparison.

Germany

First recorded fatality: March 9th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 9 13 17 26 28 44 68 84 94 123 159 206

 

As Europe has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, Italy’s fatality rate hovers around 10%, France’s is around 5%, and yet right next door, Germany’s fatality rate from COVID-19 has remained remarkably low since cases started showing up there more than a month ago. As of March 25, there were 206 deaths and 37,323 cases, representing a fatality rate of .55%. Of course, this number is fairly meaningless, but it’s one being heavily quoted by those trying to figure out what Germany is doing right.

“I believe that we are just testing much more than in other countries, and we are detecting our outbreak early,” said Christian Drosten, director of the institute of virology at Berlin’s Charité hospital.

Drosten reported that Germany’s low fatality rate is because of his country’s ability to test early and often. He was part of a team that developed the first public domain Covid-19 test, and he estimates Germany has been testing around 120,000 people a week during the monthlong period from late February to now. That’s significant. It means that they are testing a significant number of the country’s youth, those much more likely to survive the coronavirus infection.

“We have a culture here in Germany that is actually not supporting a centralized diagnostic system,” said Drosten, “so Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So, we had an open market from the beginning.”

One of the problems with these low numbers is that they are likely to result in false premises and increased infection rates as people ignore lockdown orders because of a lack of awareness of the dangers. Just three days ago, on the 22nd of March, Germany finally implemented a national curfew, well behind those issued by most surrounding countries.

It was President Trump’s travel ban of March 11th that was actually the first wake-up call to Germany, surprising them and putting them into a scramble to catch up. It wasn’t until the 16th of March that the first German state (Bavaria) declared a state of emergency to be put into place for the next 14 days. Restrictions on restaurants began that same day, but were quite lax, just limiting dine-in options to any time after 3pm with five feet required separation between diners.

Bavaria was the first German state again to implement a curfew, this happening on March 20th.

It wasn’t until March 22nd, just three days ago, that Germany began forbidding group gatherings and closing businesses.

 

Switzerland

First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 13 14 19 27 33 43 56 80 98 120 122 153

 

Switzerland has the second-highest rate of coronavirus infection per capita in the world, after Italy. However, this is incredibly misleading as a stand-alone stat because they’re also testing more people than any country except South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway.

There’s no doubt that they have a very low death count at a current 153, but that is also very misleading. This is the problem with death counts by country. They don’t take into account so many factors, which I’ll go into in just a bit.

What steps has Switzerland taken to control the spread of the virus? The government has issued a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home, especially the sick and the elderly. It has announced a countrywide ban on gatherings of more than five people. An “extraordinary situation” has been declared, resulting in a ban on all private and public events and closing bars, restaurants, sports and cultural spaces; only businesses providing essential goods remain open. Schools are closed nationwide. The measures are in force until April 19. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/covid-19_coronavirus–the-situation-in-switzerland/45592192) Entry into the country was effectively banned starting just today. Only Swiss citizens, Swiss residents, those entering the country for professional reasons (e.g., those who work there and have a permit to prove it), and those transiting through, can enter. Even foreign partners of Swiss citizens, who do not have a right of residence in the country, will be turned away at the point of entry.

Fairly severe for a country that has only 153 fatalities.

One of Switzerland’s biggest problems is that there are only 1000 ventilators in the entire country. At a critical infection rate that is probably 5%, that means with just 20,000 infections, their ventilator capacity will be at maximum. And that’s assuming some aren’t already in use by people with other illnesses, which obviously is not the case. In fact, a large number of their ventilators are likely already in use. Switzerland currently has about 11,000 cases of Covid-19, which means they’re about to be in trouble if they can’t get more ventilators. And those aren’t too easy to find these days.

 

Spain

First recorded fatality: March 3rd

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
#of deaths 196 294 342 533 638 831 1093 1381 1772 2311 2991 3647

 

Most of daily life in Spain was fairly normal from the first fatality on March 3rd, until they reached almost 200 just a week-and-a-half later. On Saturday the 14th, Spain instituted a national quarantine. Everybody was ordered to stay home for the next two weeks. Things started to move quickly. All land borders were closed the next Monday, the 16th. Fines were implemented for quarantine violators. One person was interviewed by NPR about the restrictions. “Starting Monday, starting yesterday, we could face fines of more than $1,000 for not cooperating. And there are already – already seeing police all over the country patrolling streets, telling people to go home, to hurry up and, you know, when their dog does their business, to go back home immediately.” https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/817021997/spain-hard-hit-by-coronavirus-pandemic-shuts-down

Things are pretty rough already in Spain. There are reports that the Spanish military—who have basically taken over law enforcement duties there—have found older residents of some care homes completely abandoned and even dead in their beds. Defense Minister Margarita Robles told television reporters that soldiers disinfecting homes and providing emergency health care services to residential homes across the country are finding dead bodies. She was unable to give an exact figure for the abandoned dead, but it sounds nightmarish. (https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/24/820711855/spanish-military-finds-dead-bodies-and-seniors-completely-abandoned-in-care-home)

Here’s a report from Madrid of one elder care home where twenty people were left abandoned and dead by health care workers. It’s not a pretty picture in Spain, and it’s only getting worse.

France

First recorded fatality: February 15th (This seems to be an anomaly though, so we should use the date of their second fatality, February 26th for comparison purposes.)

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 91 127 148 175 264 372 450 562 674 860 1100 1333

 

On Saturday, March 7th, 3550 people in France set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of Smurfs. Yeah, those Smurfs, the blue little creatures from the old cartoons. While the rest of the world looked on in shock, French Smurfs were being interviewed at the gathering.

“We figured we wouldn’t worry and that as French people we wouldn’t give up on our attempt to break the record, and now we’re champions of the world!” One attendee told the AFP news agency.

“There’s no risk — we’re Smurfs! Yes, we’re going to Smurfize the coronavirus!” said another.

“(This) was more important. The coronavirus is no big deal, it’s nothing,” another said.

Some people in France finally got it when the first actual lockdown and movement restrictions were put into place on Saturday, March 14th. Unfortunately, some people—probably the same ones from the Smurf gathering—decided to flood social media with videos of themselves out and about in parks and squares and plazas on Sunday the 15th. That forced the French government to institute even stricter rules starting Monday the 16th. Today, anybody outside their home must have a signed document detailing their reasons for being out. French police drones fly overhead monitoring the quarantine orders. Exercise is allowed only as long as you remain within one kilometer of your home and you only do it for one hour maximum, one time per day. Many southern French cities have curfews in place that completely restrict movement during hours of darkness. Fines are progressive, starting at €135 and going up to €3700, with 4-time violators heading to prison for up to six months.

Sound severe enough? These restrictions are quite an upgrade from just a week or so prior when 3500 alleged adults put on blue paint and danced in a square. You think maybe, just maybe, France is regretting their flagrant little Smurfcapade? How many people will die in the chain-reaction of Smurfpidity that led to that gathering? Why didn’t anybody listen to any of the hundreds of Papa Smurfs, who surely could have told them all what an abso-smurf-ly stupid endeavor this world record attempt was? I know I’m being tough on them for this, but there’s no nice way to put it. And this is not hindsight. I tweeted about it and I talked about how dumb it was in an article the day after it happened. This was stupidity on the highest level possible.

If they held this rally today, I have a feeling there would be a disproportionate representation of Sneezy Smurf and Respiratory Failure Smurf in the group.

 

Italy

First recorded fatality: February 21st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 1441 1809 2158 2503 2979 3405 4032 4825 5476 6077 6820 7503

 

A lot has been written about Italy, so I’m not going to go into detail here. They are immersed in an absolute disaster right now, the worst in the world. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world isn’t too far behind.

 

United Kingdom

First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 21 35 55 71 104 144 177 233 281 335 422 466

 

In the UK, fatality rates are increasing at an alarming rate in relation to their population. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has only recently come to this realization, just a few days ago taking steps to close all of the UK’s bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, and schools. Why did it take so long for him to act, with the very obvious troubles the world was facing? According to this article in BuzzFeed, there were dayslong “heated” and “extremely difficult” arguments between top British scientists and high ranking members of the government over what steps needed to be taken to get control of the infection.

While the scientific debate raged between experts, officials, and ministers, Johnson’s government was publicly insisting that the scientific advice showed the UK did not yet have to bring in more stringent measures to fight the virus. They realized how wrong they were when this chart was published showing a comparison of the path of infections in the UK and the very obviously hellish conditions in Italy:

This is pretty unequivocal evidence that the UK is headed right into an Italian-level crisis and Johnson finally took steps to stop it. Within the next few days, we’ll see if those steps are going to be successful. It’s almost certain they won’t be.

United States

First recorded fatality: March 1st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 57 69 87 110 150 206 255 301 414 555 780 1042

 

The United States hit 4-digit death numbers today and is clearly following a doubling path that is three days or fewer. I had somebody ask me today what I thought of the over/under on maximum number of U.S. deaths in any one day would be, with the total being set at 1947 deaths. I would never bet on such a thing, but, if I was going to, over. Way over. I’ve written plenty about the state of the coronavirus in the U.S., and don’t want to rehash it, but with 362 deaths yesterday, it seems we are only two weeks away from days of 5000 or more deaths, and we are nowhere near reaching the peak of our mortality rate curve.

***

As you can see in the above charts, both Germany and Switzerland would seem at first glance to be doing something correctly. There have been many explanations for this, from a younger population, better quarantine procedures, better and more readily available testing, and better medical care. The problem with just looking at the total fatality numbers though, is that they don’t tell the whole story. We really need to look at a bunch more numbers in order to determine if the fatalities in these countries are truly better than they are in others.

One of the things that many people point to when they laud Germany and Switzerland for impressively low fatality rates, is the actual Case Fatality Rate (CFR). This does indeed appear to be very low in these two countries when compared with Italy, for example. In Germany, the CFR is just under .5%, whereas in Italy it is over 10%. This number is basically meaningless though, without knowing the demographics of everyone being tested. If you want a good primer on CFR, check out this article. Obviously, if Germany is testing a huge percentage of the youth of their country, and they’re finding a large number of people who are positive for Covid-19, those people are going to have a low fatality rate and it will skew the number downward. Conversely, perhaps Italy is testing an inordinate number of elderly people, or an inordinate number of people (as a percentage of the whole number of tests given) who are checking themselves into the hospital, already sick. This would cause their number to skew upward in an inaccurate manner.

There’s just not enough accurate information regarding the demographics behind testing metrics for us to make any valid assumptions. For that reason, I think all numbers regarding testing and positive case numbers should basically just be ignored. Even if those numbers are accurate, they’re fairly inconsequential without knowing exactly what percentage of the population has actually been tested, and then comparing countries using those numbers.

Although we don’t have accurate information for that, we do have mostly accurate information on fatality numbers, and we have completely accurate information on country-specific demographics, so let’s take a look at those numbers.

 

  United States United Kingdom Germany Spain France Italy Switzerland
Total population 331 million 67.8 million 83.7 million 46.7 million 65.2 million 60.5 million 8,600,000
Density (per sq mi) 94 727 623 243 309 532 567
Median Age 38.3  years 40.5  years 45.7  years 44.9 years 42.3 years 47.3 years 43.1 years
Percent urban population 82.8 83.2 76.3 80.3 81.5 69.5 74.0
Percent of world’s total fatalities 4.47 2.20 0.97 17.21 6.30 35.40 0.72
Fatalities per 1 million population 2.86 6.87 2.46 78.09 20.44 124.02 17.79

 

 

It’s fairly obvious from this chart that Switzerland at least, is not doing as well as it might appear by looking only at fatality numbers. The number of fatalities is certainly low, (currently at 153) but as a percentage of their entire population, with 17.79 deaths per million citizens, they are significantly ahead of the UK, the U.S., and Germany.

Germany, however, is doing well, the lowest mortality rate on this chart while having one of the higher population median ages, and the highest total population in Europe. If one of the given reasons for Italy’s high mortality rate is their aging population at a median of 47.3 years, then Germany at 45.7 years ought to be doing nearly as bad as Italy. A year-and-a-half isn’t too far off with regard to median age. So, what is the reason for their low mortality numbers?

Germany has a fairly high density rate, and we know the virus thrives on high population densities, so that would again indicate they’re doing something right. The U.S. has a very low density rate, but that number is very misleading because huge states with small populations like Alaska, Texas, and Montana really skew those numbers. If you look a little closer at some of the worst-hit states in the U.S., New York has a population density of 421 per square mile, with New York City at a staggering 26,400 per. California is at 251 per square mile, and Washington State, the original U.S. viral epicenter has an average density of 750 per square mile in its three most populous counties where the virus has hit the hardest. Earlier, I mentioned evidence of the trajectory that the UK was on, matching Italy’s fatality chart, and so, with a population density nearly as high as the UK, and a median age even higher, why has Germany been so successful?

I don’t think they actually are. I think they’re just behind most of their neighbors through nothing more than pure variance or luck. And, I think they’re going to catch up quickly.

Germany didn’t hit 30 coronavirus deaths until March 19th. France and Spain both hit that number on March 9th, ten days earlier. A week after hitting the 30-death mark, France had 148 deaths, and Spain had 342. Today, on the 25th, a week after hitting the 30-death mark, Germany has 206 deaths, putting them right near the middle between France and Spain. The worst hit country in the world, Italy, had 30 deaths on February 29th. A week later, March 7th, they had 233 deaths. That’s very close to Germany’s 206 deaths.

Germany doesn’t seem to actually be far behind Italy or Spain, and they’re well ahead of France when looking at first coronavirus fatality to total deaths a week later, the most recent comparable figure for Germany. In the next week or so, we’ll be able to track this line further. If Germany is going to see a mortality explosion, it’s going to start happening early next week, and their fatality line will project upwards at the same rate as the countries around them. With the lack of isolation efforts and the lackadaisical attitude of a population that has been convinced by the media that they have some kind of special immunity, it’s likely that Germany is going to actually end up being the hotspot of Europe in about two weeks.

This Covid-19 virus is the same virus everywhere. The people in Germany are sick with the exact same virus as the people in Italy, as the people in China, as the people in the United States. If you see CFR numbers that don’t seem to match, it has nothing to do with arbitrary land borders. There’s usually going to be a reasonable explanation if you just look at the math and analyze the situation.

Maybe with the exception of France. Their numbers are going to be off the Smurfing charts before this is over.

Will President Trump actually decide to reopen the United States on Easter Sunday?

Setting aside the semantical difficulties of declaring a grand re-opening of a country that isn’t actually closed, the real question is, will President Trump make the decision that American lives are worth less than the economy?

And, it’s actually a legitimate question.

If you’re one of those people who says, “You can’t put a price on a human life,” please just stop reading now. This article is not going to go your way. In fact, nothing I write is going to go your way. The reason, of course, is that that line of thinking is just ridiculous. If plunging this nation into a recession, and quite possibly a depression, required signing a death warrant on one single person for example, the choice would be obvious. Bad luck for you, random person that I hopefully don’t know.

So, as long as we agree that human life does indeed have a monetary value, then we just need to figure out what that value is. I think that everyone still reading would agree—though they may not like admitting it—that if the cost of saving the entire United States economy was that .00001% of the population (33 lives) would have to die from Covid-19, we should probably get the lottery process started. So, how about .0001% (332 lives)? How about .001% (3320 lives)? How about .01% (33200 lives?) Or, how about 10% (33.2 million lives)? It’s like the old joke with the guy asking a woman if she would sleep with him for increasing dollar amounts, and when he gets up to 100 billion dollars and she finally says that she guesses she would sleep with him for that amount, he replies, “Okay, ma’am, so we’ve determined that you are indeed a prostitute, now we’re just negotiating price.”

Right now, Donald Trump is just simply trying to figure out how expensive of a prostitute he is.

At some number of lives it’s definitely time to pull the plug on this economic shutdown. You see, as dumb as he may be, President Trump certainly has the intelligence to hear the words that the experts are speaking, and the ability to interpret those words and come to the inevitable conclusion that this coronavirus is not going to be marching down the primrose path to obscurity come the completely arbitrary date of Easter morning, April 12th, 2020. No, in spite of the sunny picture he portrayed in the town hall and press conference yesterday, President Trump can’t possibly believe that lunacy.

I believe he’s actually currently trying to decide how many American lives are worth sacrificing in order to save the economy from disaster. And, more importantly, he’s trying to decide how many American lives he can sign death warrants for and still win reelection in November. Because, whatever you think about him, when it comes to winning another four years in the White House, he’s pragmatic, and let’s face it, politicians gonna politic, and sadly, reelection is really all most of them care anything about.

I don’t know at what conclusion he’s going to arrive. I’m actually really glad it’s not me that has to make that decision. Because, in spite of media reports that seem to think he truly believes things will be better by April 12th, I’m just not buying it. Basically, I’m operating on the “nobody is that dumb” principle, particularly not somebody with every available expert resource on the planet at his fingertips and his beck and call. Trump surely understands the enormity of his upcoming decision much the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the magnitude of his decisions preceding the news out of Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. Roosevelt knew that voluntarily going to war in Europe would be tantamount to signing hundreds of thousands of American death certificates. He was spared the brutal weight of making that painful decision by the Japanese forcing his hand that fateful day.

Nobody is going to be there to bail out President Trump in this upcoming, monstrous decision.

This decision will ultimately be his alone. Though governors across the nation will fight him on that decision, whichever way it falls, it will still be his call in the end. And let’s be clear, it’s not an easy call to make. Both decisions—to maintain the status quo and fight the virus through social isolation while our economy slips into oblivion—or to tap out, to retire to the corner and concede victory, hoping to recover and regroup, will result in many fatalities. People will die as we remain in isolation and our economy tumbles into the gutter. Suicide rates will skyrocket. Homelessness will soar. Jobs will be lost, some forever. Domestic violence murders will rise. There’s a real chance of civil unrest, riots, looting, murder, and mayhem. The ramifications of pulling us out of the bonds of our isolation orders are obvious.

The only decisions that land on the president’s desk are the tough ones though. When you run for the presidency, you accept that you’re going to have to make very difficult decisions. Decisions that will cost many lives.

If he does decide to “reopen” and return to business as usual, the death rate will be higher than the current 1% or so estimated fatality rate from the virus alone. Health care systems will be overloaded, even if we do get more than two weeks to prepare. Our health care infrastructure is just too decimated to handle an influx of the magnitude we’ll see with a full return to normal function. People that otherwise could have been saved had there been resources available, will instead die. It will be ugly. As if 1% of the population (3.32 million deaths) wasn’t ugly enough.

The good news behind a return to normalcy is that it’s very likely the second wave of infections that’s almost certainly coming next November will be much more controllable. Both choices are going to result in many, many deaths. Remaining in lockdown is just going to make that next viral infection surge another national emergency. And that national emergency will be much more difficult to control, with the economy already in full decimation due to the effects of this current lockdown. Not to mention, the election is next November. What chance will Trump have of winning another four years if the economy is in shambles, America is in a recession, and a second wave of coronavirus infections is decimating the population?

What’s a number that’s close to zero?

Since reelection and the economy are Trump’s primary concerns at all times, what decision will he make?

I have a feeling this lockdown is going to last exactly another 18 days. I suspect we’ll get the news on Good Friday, the 10th of April, that all isolation orders are canceled and that the population should return to a normal routine effective Easter Sunday. Possibly there will be requests for the elderly and the vulnerable to remain quarantined in place, an attempt to keep the most susceptible of our population safe. The rest of us though, will be released. I suspect this will be the decision that Trump eventually makes. You see, because as the economy goes, so does Trump’s electability. And that’s going to mean that the decision makes itself. I guess there is a bailout for him—the economy, in tandem with the election. In that case, the decision seems already made.

I just don’t know if it’s the right one.

See you guys on April 12th.

 

What the F**k is going on with Italy’s coronavirus nightmare?

Although the Covid-19 coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, and ran rampant through the entire Hubei province, it is quickly becoming obvious that Italy has overtaken China as the current viral hotspot of this outbreak. Why is this? What happened in Italy that caused this historical tourist destination full of vibrancy and joie de vivre to see a such a virulent outbreak that is decimating their country?

When a 38-year-old man with severe flu symptoms and respiratory problems walked into the emergency room at a hospital in Codogno, a small town in the Lombardy province of northern Italy on February 18th, medical professionals were not too concerned. Despite the well-documented and dangerous spread of what was then called the Wuhan Coronavirus in China, this man reported that he had not recently traveled nor had any direct contact with anybody who had recently traveled to China, with the exception of one friend who had returned from China but had already tested negative for the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, despite not traveling out of the country in recent weeks, this patient had had an incredibly busy month.

In the last couple of weeks, he’d attended at least three very social and busy dinners with numerous guests. He’d played soccer a few times and traveled with his team to different matches. In between, he had maintained an active and full social life full of meetings with friends for drinks, coffee, and lunch. When, on February 14th, he finally began developing symptoms and feeling unwell, he visited a local doctor where he was prescribed standard treatments for influenza. He resumed his lifestyle on a slightly muted level. It was later discovered that during all of this time and through all of his social contacts, he’d been Covid-19 positive and asymptomatic.

Even after his initial visit to the emergency room on February 18th, he didn’t isolate himself, perhaps lulled by the false sense of security in doctors telling him he just had the flu. He declined hospitalization and decided to get better at home. Later that same day, he was much sicker and returned to the hospital where he was admitted into a general medical ward. He was kept in close proximity to other patients and had a constant stream of nurses and doctors checking on him. Two days later, on February 20th, he was finally transferred to the intensive care unit where he finally received a positive test for the coronavirus and was put into isolation.

His wasn’t the first case of the coronavirus in Italy. On January 31st, two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive, and a week later, an Italian who had been repatriated from Wuhan also tested positive. The Italian government had already suspended all flights to and from China, and there had been an uneasy silence as the health ministry waited to see if the virus had been contained. The case in Codogno squashed those dreams quickly.

Because of his very active lifestyle, specialists began calling this man a Super Spreader. It’s estimated that he personally infected scores, if not hundreds of people prior to his diagnosis. Although identifying Patient Zero in Italy has been impossible due to open borders in the European Union, Italian authorities have determined that this man is probably Patient One in the spread chart, having likely contracted the virus from another unknown European.

Without a traceable source of the contagion, and with the incredibly high number of contacts from this patient, Italy had no chance of containing the virus.

Doctor Walter Ricciardi, the scientific adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health, said that it was incredibly bad luck that this man, the Super Spreader, lived such an active lifestyle in one of the most densely populated and dynamic areas in all of Italy, and that he went to the hospital in Codogno not once, but twice, infecting hundreds of people including many doctors and nurses. “He was incredibly active,” Ricciardi said.

On Sunday, February 23rd, just a few days after the Super Spreader was officially diagnosed, Italians watched as the number of infected clicked stealthily into triple digits and authorities began to get worried. Eleven municipalities in Lombardy province were identified as coronavirus clusters and were placed under quarantine, locked down by police and military roadblocks. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte canceled all sporting events in Lombardy Province.

Police man a roadblock in a sealed off town in northern Italy. credit…Piero Cruciatti Agence France-Presse

The next day, infections climbed over 200, seven deaths attributed to the virus had been recorded, the Italian stock market was in freefall, and PM Conte was looking for a scapegoat. He blamed the hospital in Codogno for contributing to the spread by not isolating the Super Spreader immediately, and also blamed them for instituting aggressive testing of even those patients without symptoms, something he claimed was exaggerating the severity of the problem by falsely bloating the case numbers. His concern? The economic damage to the country through what he thought was an unfair representation of the severity of the problem.

Sound familiar, Americans?

On February 27th in Milan, the largest city in the Lombardo region, only about forty miles from the center of the outbreak in Codogno, the mayor, Beppe Sala, began publicizing a campaign with the slogan, “Milan Does Not Stop.” He shared a Milan promotional video he’d had created that contained images of people hugging each other, eating in restaurants, walking in parks and waiting at train stations. The most famous square in Milan, Duomo Square, anchored by the landmark cathedral that is a major tourist destination, had been closed since the February 23rd lockdown instituted by PM Conte. Sala reopened it, declaring that the Milanese people would not let the virus interfere with their way of life. People came out of their homes and resumed their lives.

Duomo square in Milan credit Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Additionally, Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the co-ruling democratic party in Italy began his own campaign of disinformation. On February 27th, he traveled to Milan where he posted pictures to his Instagram account that showed him eating and drinking with people in Milan with the following translated slogan, “Let’s not lose our habits, we can’t stop Milan and Italy. Our economy is stronger than fear: we go out to drink an aperitif, a coffee or to eat a pizza.” On the 28th of February, he returned to Rome where he met for hours with party leaders, jammed together in a close room, shaking hands and quite possibly discussing the overreaction of the Prime Minister. On March 6th, he held a press conference about the virus in a crowded room with associates and reporters.

On March 7th, he announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be dead.

Hmmm…why does my throat feel so scratchy?

By March 8th, it was readily apparent that Italy had a huge problem on its hands. Total confirmed cases had blossomed to almost 6000. Deaths grew in a 24- hour period from 233 to 366, an increase of more than 50%. Prime Minister Conte ordered the entirety of Lombardy province and 14 other provinces in the heavily infected northern Italy to be quarantined. The news of the imminent quarantine leaked before it could be fully implemented, and thousands of southern Italians who were on holiday in the north fled in a panicked rush to their homes in the south, jamming onto trains and furthering the spread of the infection throughout the country. Holding an impromptu press conference at 2 a.m., Conte urged the population not to panic. He was optimistic about the future and the success they would have in defeating the virus. He warned them to isolate and practice good social distancing. He urged them not to be clever and look for loopholes, but to do what they must to protect their aging population.

The quarantine was instituted and the 25% of Italians were completely locked down.

Police check travel documents and enforce quarantines at a train station in Italy credit Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

It didn’t work. A day later, Italians were basically ignoring the orders and going about their business, huddled up in coffee shops and restaurants for their daily breakfast and lunch meetings, packing public squares, and hugging and kissing each other in greetings on the streets.

On March 10th, fatalities had nearly doubled from two days prior, hitting a total of 631, and Conte put the entire country into a national lockdown. A few days later, bars, restaurants, theaters, and all other non-essential businesses were finally ordered closed across the country. Conte addressed the nation and thanked them for their sacrifices in a very somber tone, far different from the earlier optimism he’d exhibited.

All the steps he’d taken had been reactionary, and those measures had lagged behind the lethal explosion of the infection rate. Italy was in a lot of trouble and Conte knew it.

“It is not easy in a liberal democracy,” said Doctor Ricciardi, at a press conference. He argued that the Italian government acted on the scientific evidence made available to it, and that they took the appropriate steps. Italy’s efforts to contain the virus were piecemeal though, shutting down first small towns, then provinces, then finally the entire country, while slowly closing businesses in the same lackadaisical manner, leaving enough loopholes to make the U.S. tax code look as sound as the vaults of Fort Knox.

All of their efforts just seemed to constantly lag slightly behind the virus’s lethal trajectory.

Sandra Zampa, the undersecretary of health in Italy admitted as much. “Now we are running after it. We closed gradually, as Europe is doing. France, Spain, Germany, the U.S. are doing the same. Every day you close a bit, you give up on a bit of normal life. Because the virus does not allow normal life.” Although she admitted they’d been constantly chasing the virus and had gotten caught in a complacency rut, she said she didn’t know what steps they could have taken differently given the difficulties faced by a democratic republic in instituting drastic and draconian measures.

Other Italian officials agreed, responding defensively to criticism, stating that they had done as much or more than any other democratic state to attempt to stop the coronavirus from spreading. They claimed they immediately acted on the advice of scientists and specialists and implemented unprecedented steps sooner than anyone. They’re only partially right of course, as the examples from earlier have shown. And the fact is, most of their drastic steps were reactive instead of proactive, and they missed many opportunities out of complacency.

And this coronavirus thrives on complacency.

In the United States, the population has much the same problem abiding by shelter-in-place and quarantine orders as Italy. In fact, it’s possible we have an even bigger problem. We’re far less family-centric than Italy, where grandparents live in generational family units and are revered. Much of the youthful population of the U.S. seems decidedly unconcerned with the effect of the coronavirus on the elderly of our community. They also seem to resent the authority of government to enforce stay-at-home orders, flauntingly ignoring the isolation pleas of governors by congregating on beaches, parks, and underground clubs. The complacency seen here in the United States seems to top that seen in Italy at the beginning of their growing struggle, and, as mentioned earlier, the coronavirus thrives on complacency.

The steps taken in Italy are arguably much more stringent than those taken in the United States. Here, we have only instituted shelter-in-place or stay-at-home type lockdowns in sixteen of our fifty states, with Washington State instituting that policy as I type this. Italy locked down their entire country. In the U.S., enforcement of the lock downs is sparse or non-existent. In Italy, travel authorizations are being checked by police at train and bus stations, and the military has been called in to support police with quarantine roadblocks around cities and towns. Will those militaristic and oppressive steps be implemented here in the U.S.? It seems really likely that our near future lies on exactly that path.

The inability of our leadership to present a unified front doesn’t help, much like it didn’t help in Italy with the Prime Minister telling people to isolate while the democratic leadership and the mayor at the epicenter of the outbreak declared, “We Won’t Stop.” President Trump tweeted the following on March 9th, just two weeks ago today, comparing the coronavirus to the flu in an insinuation that the flu was worse:

Just TODAY in a press conference to the nation, he made mention again of the death rate of the flu and even threw in the death rate of automobile accidents in order to minimize the fatality rate of the coronavirus. He also has been hinting that this lockdown will not last more than another week or so, the magical “fifteen-day” mark when he will reevaluate the impact on the economy and decide how best to proceed, hinting that he will probably choose to end the lockdown and restore the status quo. This is incredibly dangerous as studies like the one in one of my previous blogs shows. This lockdown will need to last for months, not a couple of weeks in order to be successful.

So, the real question is, what is the likelihood that we’re going to see a coronavirus path similar to the one seen in Italy? It’s a little difficult to make a true comparison because of a number of differences in our population:

  1. The median age in Italy is 47.3 years, where in the U.S. it is 38.3. Since the virus infects older people at a higher rate and more severely, it is less likely the U.S. will see the same fatality rate. On the other hand, people in Italy are generally healthier than in America, with obesity and heart disease issues significantly higher here. The coronavirus feeds on the unhealthy at an even greater disparity than it feeds on the elderly. That may mitigate the age spread factor, however, it’s impossible to do more than speculate as to how much.
  2. The population of Italy is 60.5 million while in the U.S. it is 331 million. The U.S. has about 5.5 times as many people, which means when comparing numbers, it’s necessary to multiply Italy’s numbers by 5.5 to get comparable numbers for the U.S.
  3. Although the population is significantly lower in Italy, the population density is higher. The virus spreads more merrily through a dense population, so while the results of cities like New York and L.A. may mimic the numbers of the population centers of Italy, taken as a whole for the country, it’s not likely the United States will see comparable fatality figures, especially away from the coastal population centers.

Let’s take a look at a weekly chart of cases and fatalities in both Italy and in the United States. Keep in mind that Italy was way ahead of the U.S. with regard to testing. As the U.S. finally ramps up testing, we can expect to see our confirmed case numbers explode in a way that’s difficult to compare. They’re still listed here for information, but mainly we should focus on the deaths as opposed to the cases.

 

Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in ITALY Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in the U.S.A.
February 23rd 157 cases and 3 deaths February 23rd 35 cases and 0 deaths
March 1st 1701 cases and 41 deaths March 1st 75 cases and 1 death
March 8th 7375 cases and 366 deaths March 8th 531 cases and 22 deaths
March 15th 24747 cases and 1809 deaths March 15th 3680 cases and 68 deaths
March 22nd 59138 cases and 5476 deaths March 22nd 33566 cases and 413 deaths
March 23rd 63927 cases and 6077 deaths March 23rd 43718 cases and 552 deaths

 

It’s somewhat difficult to see here on a weekly scale, but the fatality doubling rate in Italy has an average time span of about four days. The United States has about the same doubling rate. If you multiply Italy’s fatalities by a factor of 5.5 to account for total population difference, you can see that at the current number as of the time of this writing, the U.S. at 552 deaths would be equal to Italy at 100 deaths, which (not on this chart) was reached on March 4th, putting us 19 days behind them. Our death total yesterday, March 22nd, was 413, which would equal Italy’s 75 deaths which occurred on March 3rd, again, exactly 19 days behind them. Going back further, the U.S. had 68 deaths on March 15th which would equal Italy’s 12 deaths, and that occurred on February 26th, exactly 19 days earlier.

It’s impossible to say if this 19-day trend is going to continue, as there just aren’t enough data points to be certain, but the fatality rate sure seems to be following the exact path with the few data points that we have. In fact, if you look at a graph of fatality rates on a logarithmic scale, you can see that they look very similar, as you can see in this not-very-well-constructed overlay. In fact, though the comparison is not quite to the exact scale, the U.S. log track actually appears steeper, and that’s pretty terrifying.

If this rate remains identical, Italy’s 6077 deaths today, March 23rd, will mean 33,423 U.S. deaths 19 days from now, on April 11th, a number that is significantly higher than the number expected through the 4-day doubling average I observed and recorded in earlier blogs. 33,423 would represent a doubling average of about every three days instead, and the rapidly exploding numbers we’ve seen in the last five days or so would seem to support that rate.

If this holds true, it puts us on track to hit 1 million deaths here in the U.S. on April 26th, a good two weeks earlier than the mid-May timeframe I predicted for that ghastly number just two weeks ago.

This is not a prediction, it’s just simply an overview of the mathematical rate of expected fatalities, and a warning of what we might expect after analyzing what’s happening in Italy right now. It’s what we can look forward to if it is indeed true that the actions of the Italian people seem to mimic very closely what has taken place here in America. In Italy they are stacking up bodies because the morgue can’t handle the number of dead. There are reports of bodies lying in apartments for days, with nobody to pick them up to even take them to the morgue. There are reports of hospitals running out of supplies and instituting triage efforts to try to care for those they can still save. Doctors and nurses are catching the virus and dying, leading to even more desperation. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s been really bad there for at least the last 7 days.

If our infection rate and mortality path mimics theirs, it’s going to start getting really bad here about the middle of next week. That’s going to be right around the time Donald Trump is trying to get restrictions eased and isolation orders lifted. If he’s successful in that endeavor, things will be even worse.

It’s not going to be a great time to be anywhere in a major metropolitan center in America.

Let’s hope the numbers flatten out and don’t continue along this hellish and alarming path.

 

 

What exactly is MARTIAL LAW and will we see it declared during the coronavirus crisis?

There have been a lot of whispers lately about a possible declaration of Martial Law as a way of responding to the coronavirus crisis in which we currently find ourselves immersed. In order to get in front of fake news or misconceptions about what this means, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about what to expect if we do see such a declaration. Knowledge is power, and martial law can be incredibly frightening if you don’t understand what it means. Camouflaged military vehicles and armed soldiers in urban camo fatigues patrolling the streets with military weaponry is NOT something most Americans are used to seeing, and without knowing what those things actually mean, there’s a good chance that panic could erupt into chaos.

This article is going to deal with martial law as it is defined and implemented in the United States only. If you live in another jurisdiction, the implications are probably similar, particularly if you live in a democracy, but many things may be different, especially with regard to powers of the governors of the individual states here in the U.S.

Martial law is simply some form of military control over all of a country’s activities, mostly with regard to law enforcement and peacekeeping, and only during wartime or due to an emergency or widespread disaster. Martial law can be absolute, or it can also be limited in nature or scope for example, to a particular state only, or even to a county or small area within a state. Per United States law, martial law for the entire country can only be ordered by the president as commander-in-chief and must be limited to the duration of the emergency. The president has the power to use either the U.S. military to enforce martial law, or to co-opt the National Guards of each state to take control.

In addition to a full declaration of martial law in the United States by the president, governors of each state can impose full or limited martial law in their jurisdictions by utilizing the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard troops under their command to take control of law enforcement duties within their states or a portion of their states.

The reason that a declaration of martial law is needed to deploy guard or military troops is because those forces are prohibited from taking any legal action on U.S. soil or against U.S. citizens by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.  The Posse Comitatus Act was written into federal law expressly to limit the powers of the federal government to use federal troops to enforce domestic policies in the United States. Posse Comitatus applies specifically to just the U.S. Army and Air Force, which is why you see the Coast Guard, and sometimes even the U.S. Navy doing things like making arrests during drug interdiction and Customs enforcement along oceanic borders. There are some exceptions to Posse Comitatus such as the Enforcement Acts which were bills written to protect the rights of African Americans. Eisenhower used those exceptions to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to protect civil rights in 1957. A declaration of martial law in an emergency situation suspends Posse Comitatus during the time frame of the emergency.

If we see martial law here in this country, the main thing we’ll notice will be that military troops will take the place of police officers to enforce the law or to keep the peace. In most instances they will work alongside the officers, supplementing their forces, however, the civilian police officers will be subject to the orders of the military commanders in this case. They most likely will implement some sort of curfew or forced quarantine of the population as well. These things become legal, and, in fact, martial law is usually declared in order to make these things legal, because the very important thing that a martial law declaration does is suspend habeas corpus.

It is this suspension of habeas corpus that makes martial law such a daunting declaration. Habeas corpus is the basis of our rights against unlawful arrest and detention. It is in fact, one of the underlying cornerstones of our democracy and our constitution, and represents one of the fundamental rights that we recognize as American citizens. Habeas corpus is the writ of law that guarantees us protection against unlawful arrest and the right to contest that arrest in an impartial court of law. These guarantees are so important that the writers of the constitution limited the ability of the government to suspend them right in Article One, Section Nine, which reads,

“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

So basically, if martial law is declared, in addition to military troops enforcing laws, they’ll also be able to arrest and detain people for pretty much any reason they want, and there will be no legal recourse like a court hearing or trial to dispute that arrest. So, yeah, declaring martial law is a pretty big deal.

Now, that’s not likely to be what happens in such a declaration. The troops are still accountable to their commanding officers, who are accountable to the governor, and military tribunals will still be convened to deal with any malfeasance, however, this suspension of habeas corpus is what allows them to enforce things like curfews or quarantines. With a state of martial law, civilian courts are shut down and military courts take over. This means that all citizens are subject to military law and can be tried in military courts. So, if you do see a martial law declaration you might want to get those shoes shined up, soldier.

Martial law has been declared several times in this country in the last hundred years:

West Virginia Coal Wars of 1920-1921. Governor Cornwell dispatched federal troops to deal with striking miners. This was a prime example of the suspension of habeas corpus as many striking union miners were arrested and jailed without any sort of trial or court order, and without having violated any written law.

In San Francisco, California in 1934, Governor Frank Merriam placed a very limited area of San Francisco under martial law, mostly relating to the area around the docks. This was in response to the riots resulting from a dock worker’s strike. The National Guard was used in this case, as opposed to federal troops.

In Hawaii, the state was held under martial law for almost three years following the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7th, 1941. For those three years, Hawaii was effectively governed like enemy territory with the Army taking full control of all state government and law enforcement.

In Russell County, Alabama in July of 1954, Governor Persons declared limited martial law due to vast corruption by law enforcement officers in that county. The entire police force of the county, including the cities in that county were forced to stand down and the Alabama National Guard took over those duties. Major General Walter Hanna disarmed the citizenry, closed down illegal gambling establishments and businesses serving alcohol, and helped to bring about free elections, an establishment that had been corrupted for decades by the police force who were apparently all on the take from the illegal gambling rings.

So, will we see martial law declared during this coronavirus crisis?

I think the most likely scenario for a declaration of martial law would be the inability of police forces and emergency personnel to respond to developing scenarios. This could happen for a couple of reasons:

  1. The coronavirus could begin to spread through police or fire departments, cutting down on available manpower. This is a big possibility. As we all know by now, Covid-19 is highly contagious and spreads asymptomatically. If a single officer contracts the virus, he or she probably spreads that to others in his division, and those officers spread it on to still others. This could result in quarantine or isolation of huge chunks of these infected departments. We saw this in Kirkland, Washington, the epicenter of the virus in the United States. Twenty or more police officers and firefighters were quarantined for two weeks when a couple of them tested positive. We’re seeing it right now in other jurisdictions like NYPD, and in Washington D.C. where over 200 emergency personnel are currently being quarantined. If coronavirus begins to spread through large police and fire departments, the governors will have no choice but to begin sending in national guard troops to help out. This will be a limited declaration of martial law.
  2. If we start to see rioting and looting as this lockdown continues, and police forces are unable to keep up with peacekeeping, or they start to become overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities in enforcing quarantine/shelter-in-place orders in states that implement them. Currently, as of this writing, California and New York have issued such orders, and I expect we’ll see them in many more states, likely starting with Washington State and maybe Florida after that.
  3. If we start to see the health care system become overloaded and surge capacity of those systems is breached or ventilators become unavailable to people who need them. This will create panic, and guard troops may be needed to maintain order or to supplement security at existing and temporary hospitals. Presumably, the national guard medical units could also be called up to assist in providing care under a martial law declaration as well.
  4. With the borders being shut down completely as of today, there is a possibility that federal troops would be needed to supplement the Border Patrol and to help secure them. This would involve a limited federal declaration of martial law by President Trump.

I see a situation where one of these scenarios happens as quite likely to very likely. I do not foresee a total national declaration of martial law where U.S. Army troops are called in to enforce the peace, however, it seems very likely to me that governors will soon have no choice but to enforce at least limited martial law in sections of their states. It’s just impossible to stop this virus from spreading through emergency services personnel as they can’t be isolated and need to remain out in the public. When that happens, national guard troops are really the only recourse.

In conclusion, it might be a good idea to start doing some pushups and situps while you’re sitting at home. Those staff sergeants who are about to run our lives ain’t gonna put up with no slovenly behavior from the likes of you!