Saturday, November 29, 2014

Safeguarding Privacy, Liberty and Individual Freedom

There are reasonable ways to safeguard privacy while maintaining security without savaging liberty. The real threat is from a police force that has zero accountability and transparency in how it exerts its power and authority over the citizens it pledges to serve and protect.

The difference between the age of Barack Obama and Benjamin Franklin is technology and data and the transferable nature of the two.

If companies and individuals can collect data, then why should the government just stand by and not protect American citizens as long as there are sufficient safeguards in place with sufficient oversight, both legislative and judicial, to ensure transparency of those mechanisms?

Is the current framework working appropriately to protect liberty and individual freedoms, to avoid overreach and violation of privacy? I would say probably not. But, to compare quotes and intentions from Benjamin Franklin to modern-day President's is really ridiculous and disingenuous to the broader implications of technology, data transfer and the threats that are manageable while maintaining liberty and individual freedoms.

Government needs reform from the top to bottom. There are interests within and witnd by and not collect data in a reasonable whout that wish to maintain the status quo to maintain power, money and influence. It will only be when rational, reasonable Americans stand up and begin to outline a rational, reasonable American reform plan that both parties and all politicians must rally behind that there will ever be real reform in America.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dropping Assumptions of Ferguson, of Each Other

Here are some new thoughts as information develops on the death of Michael Brown regarding no charges being filed on Officer Darren Willson.
The crime scene photographer arrived with a camera with dead batteries, so no crime scene photographs exist as well as no photographs of the injuries to Officer Wilson exist on site or as to Michael Brown’s blood inside the police cruiser.

People believe that the autopsy proves a wide array of stories. Autopsies prove cause of death, but can tell other vital clues as to what happened leading up to death.  Autopsies don't tell a narrative. In this case, the autopsy cannot possibly prove that Brown was running toward the officer or not. The autopsy proves that Brown was killed by gunshot, how many gun shots he had, potentially the close proximity of some or all of those gunshots and any other wounds that may have existed prior to death.

Then, many people who choose to convict Michael Brown, and thus justify his death by cop, use his criminal record to do so. This criminal record, however, was received in Ferguson by the Ferguson Police Department. There is a history of alleged harassment and abuse of the citizens of Ferguson. Keep that in mind when you consider the lengthy criminal record that this 18 year old had, which also puts in context his attitude toward the police department in this community. The fact that the public is even aware of an 18 year old male’s police record when he was a juvenile is another example of the corrupt practices of the Ferguson Police Department.

Many people have said that he charged Officer Wilson in his cruiser. Brown was alleged to have been walking down the middle of the road when Officer Wilson arrived driving his cruiser down the middle of the street toward them. Now, this is all in broad daylight. Wilson alleges that Brown told him that they were nearly to their destination when asked to move to the sidewalk. Of course, we only know Officer Wilson’s portrayal of the events.

Officer Wilson, the key living witness since no video exists of the shooting and Michael Brown is dead, was not only allowed to leave the scene of the shooting by himself, he took the weapon he discharged with him, the weapon he said that Brown tried to grab. Therefore, the weapon was never dusted for Brown’s fingerprints and Wilson’s uniform and person were never collected or treated as evidence in this incident.
Again, I have not passed judgment on Officer Wilson or on Michael Brown, as so many have already done. I am raising points that are in the public record, or that are glaringly absent from the public record. I would highly suggest that those people who would make assumptions of guilt and innocence in this case to not do so. At least become informed of the grand jury process. It is a one-sided process. If the prosecutor wants to indict, there is ample conflicting eyewitness statements in this case to get a grand jury to indict.

As the country moves forward from this, we need to actually move forward and attempt to resolve the underlying issues that create the hostility and mistrust between both police and the public, between those that seem to think they know how it is to be an 18 year old with a record to those that seem to think they know how it is to be a cop alone on a beat. It’s all the assumptions about this, about each other, the finger pointing and the blaming that is so caustic and deadly. We can all do better. We need to do better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Indictment, Ferguson Outrage, Wilson Speaks Out

The grand jury has decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. There is plenty of outrage being spread on all sides of this intensely emotional, defensively offensive issue. For some, the grand jury decision is testament to proof that the cop is innocent and justified in killing Brown. For others, the decision is tantamount to the injustice that has plagued their community’s existence for generations. For a very small group, it is all the reason they need to let their outrage that has been pent up for so long to be expressed in violence, destruction of property and rage against anything, everything and everyone in sight.

To be clear, the latter group does little to help change the debate or the mindset of the other entrenched groups. However, what could ever breakthrough all of the assumptions that both of these outrage groups hold against the other? Unfortunately, nothing much can ever loosen the grip of outrage when it has been held for so long and fed from so many sources. It takes willingness and openness to understanding and to relating with someone of a different view or an opposing perspective of your own before any progress can ever be made at bridging these massive divisions within our society.

With this particular issue, most people are more apt to defend the actions of the cop than the actions of the dead 18 year old. The cop, after all, is the only person that can tell his story. Also, cops are pledged to serve and protect, they place their lives on the line for us every time they put on the uniform and patrol our streets. This is all true. However, the way cops use their authority can determine so much for both individuals and communities, including minority groups. Mostly, cops do the most amazing service. They deescalate situations, they protect and serve, as they pledge to do for us. It is the minority of cops that abuse their authority and power to harass individuals, communities and minorities, to tear people down instead of protect them.

On the other side, we have the 18 year old black unarmed teenager. Many have issues with calling him 18, black, unarmed and a teenager. I have heard that each one of these facts about Michael Brown should not be used in the media in discussing this story. I do find that curious, as each of these are facts. It seems that each of these facts has a tendency to humanize Michael Brown. It is far easier to demonize him, which the Officer even did in his sworn testimony before the grand jury, saying “it looks like a demon,” referring to Brown. (pg 225, grand jury report)

In grand juries, there is no cross-examination of witnesses. And, eyewitnesses are known to be unreliable, as noted in this American Bar Association article.
In fact, it is only up to the prosecutor to present the case to a grand jury, there is no opposing counsel. I have actually discussed the grand jury process with many experienced police officers. It is known that if a prosecutor wants to show that they are not showing favoritism but do not want to prosecute a case, they can present a weaker case or not cross-examine key witnesses effectively. In the case here, that key witness would be Officer Wilson. This is a link on an overview of the grand jury process.

As I examined some of the leaked grand jury testimony, I found a couple of curious moments.  I also watched the ABC News Interview with George Stephanopoulos. As I watched the interview on Nightline, these were my notes:

 “Now, right off the bat, it sure sounds like a believable story. Gotta say, I was like, okay, this is making a lot of sense . . . then he gets to this point about what's going through his head during  this 10 second exchange of fists and pulling and grabbing.  ‘what provoked such an aggressive response to really nothing out of the ordinary besides a conversation’ . . . now, this is very interesting, because what Officer Wilson had said that made his story seem believable was that he mentioned this handful of cigarellos in MB's hand . . . so he thought that this was the guy on the scanner he had heard about . . . but before that, he said how these two dudes were walking down the yellow line of the street so he drives his car right at them and is still in drive facing them in their path . . . Now all of that doesn't square at all, or am I imagining that at all?

A very intricate, complicated story. Wilson fired the gun and hits Brown, then Brown and him are in shock, Brown steps back and gets angry (no shit) and then he fires the gun again and it jams, so he fires again and misses. Brown turns to flee. Then he is radioing for help but that was never received. Michael Brown was on the run, acknowledged by Officer Wilson at 30-40 feet.”

Now, Wilson is coming after Brown, and Brown stops and turns. Then he says Brown slips his hand into his waistband and his left hand is a fist (remember, one of these has been shot by this time, but no  mention of that in Officer Wilson's account here) and Brown starts to charge. ‘Is there a weapon in there? is there a knife? is there a brick?’ at this point, Officer Wilson determines that he can shoot this.

Now, I do think the way he words the questioning of himself about the weapon is the most damning of all . . . why a knife, why a brick? Why wouldn't he think there would be a gun? That just seems odd

 I’ll let the testimony and my notes of Officer Darren Wilson speak for itself, in the grand jury testimony and in the on-air interview. I do think it’s so easy to just cavalierly think the entire process has been fair and just because the perspective that you hold you feel has been proven by the lack of indictment by the grand jury, or that the eyewitness accounts corroborate your feelings about the young people or black people or anything else.

The truth here is that a tragedy has taken place. A human being lost their life. A mother and father lost their son. The truth here is that a cop took a life, regardless of it being necessary or not. That is always tragic. Officer Wilson and his family will have to live with this national tragedy for the rest of their lives. To believe that the outrage and protests are unwarranted is understandable, but that is the American way. The violence and the destruction of property are illegal and are counter-productive and have absolutely no place in moving this discussion and our country forward. However, to demonize, belittle and ridicule people that you have not attempted to relate to or to understand is a great part of the reason why that outrage and that protest is such a right and necessary action that must be witnessed and heard.

If either side thinks they have all the answers about what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, they’re wrong. No one does. No one could. If there was a video, we could at least have a glimpse, a window into those last moments of a life that was cut way too short. However, we will never know the truth here. There will never be justice here. Please remember that. Try not to scream at one another. Belittle one another. Ridicule and demean one another.

We are all in this together, whether we acknowledge it or not.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Basis for Illegal Immigration and Presidential Authority to Act


Someone questioned the authority of the President to act unilaterally on immigration.  I think that's a bit one-sided view of what President Obama has done here. If the Republicans, who will not convene until January, think they have a better option that Obama will be able to sign or that they will be able to override in the new session of Congress, they can actually cough that up right now in a bi-partisan conference with the Senate.

He's giving sitting Republicans and Democrats a chance to work together for the sake of the country about an issue that is both pressing and regarding national security, so say the Republicans with regard to border security, which I'm inclined to agree, which actually grants the Executive Branch authority to intervene without a Legislative fix.

Beyond that, if Republicans think they have a comprehensive immigration reform fix that Obama could sign, they are more than able to offer that up in January, are they not? That would negate any Executive Order by President Obama. Are they so selfish and political that they would make the entire country wait on an issue they claim, and most agree, is about national security, granting the Executive additional authority to intervene. Or, am I wrong. Are issues of national security not applicable to Executive Authority?

The President is bound by the law, but he is able to administer that law in a way that is faithful.

Article 2. Section 1. Clause 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
Article 2. Section 3. Clause 2. and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient
Article 2. Section 3.Clause 5. he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed

This is the basis of the action by President Obama yesterday. He not only recommended measures, both necessary and expedient, to Congress, members of Congress acknowledged that those measures were necessary, most notably the Speaker of the House, and that the President had the authority to act accordingly without action by Congress.

When you look at the three Constitutional clauses, with present-day Speaker of the House John Boehner's acknowledgment of Executive Authority, does not the constitutional criticism of President Obama begin to dissipate?

When you consider the above, President Obama acted in total accordance with the U.S. Constitution. He let Congress and the American people know what he was considering. There is a comprehensive, completely-not-faux bi-partisan legislation that only needs House approval to be passed.

It is only the lack of Congressional action that is allowing a potential acknowledged national security threat by at least the Republican party to go unanswered by the Legislative branch of the U.S. government. This is the opening for the Executive Branch to use it's 'executive Power' after judging 'Measures' judged 'necessary and expedient' that need to be executed 'faithfully' by the Administration.

It's not only in the black and white of the U.S. Constitution; it's in video by the Speaker of the House, half of the Legislative Branch of our government. .  . . check out 5:30  it says it all . . . but, the other 5 minutes were the talking points blaming the President for not acting, which he now, in fact, has done, which is now, what they are now outraged about.

The Basis for Illegal Immigration

Simply framing this as a bad decision to come to this country illegally with such a broken immigration system is part of the problem.

For many of these people, the broken system here is the reason they just say "screw it" and come across illegally. If the system was reformed, effective implementation of enforcement measures were not only in place, but funded and adequately manned for enforcement, then the illegals would stop coming.

Also, there are more reasons as to why this illegal influx takes place. The underlying issue is the instability in the home countries, which is in large part due to the U.S. War on Drugs . . . a highly unsuccessful endeavor that has destabilized nearly every government south of our border.

All of these problems need to be addressed. The current CIR only deals with the IR part of the problem, not the war on drugs. Not many Americans travel illegally to Mexico. This is why that direction of the border is far easier to control than the other direction, into the U.S.

Everyone that doesn't understand human behavior, thinks that humans are like rats . . . that if you just put down a gate in a maze, that the rats won't find the way around that gate if a way doesn't currently exist that the creators of the maze design.

Humans are adaptive. They don't follow rules. They resist control and abhor pain & suffering. This is what most if not all illegal immigrants are fleeing . . . certain pain & suffering for what they believe is at least the American dream of a fair chance.

When you add all that together, you have the immigration problem. It isn't clear cut; the solution isn't singular, as in border security-only. It has to be comprehensive, and it will probably never be comprehensive enough.

Republicans are rejecting reality. Fortunately, their base rejects reality. That works in mid-terms, but not so much in general elections. What is their longevity?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Immigration Reform, Executive Action, & Psychology of a President

There is much controversy over President Obama’s Executive Order expanding the existing work permit program for legal immigrants to illegal immigrants that are related to American citizens. It’s important to start out with what this program is actually doing, as those on one side frame this as amnesty of hardened criminals or of creating laws where none exists.

These work permits will only be issued to those that are here, are working, have families, extended families, and aren't committing violent crimes, are already paying taxes and are already part of America. We ultimately should give this group of people a pathway to citizenship, as they are here, are working, have blood relatives to America. That is not what President Obama is doing here. And, amnesty for all doesn't even make sense, but having a sensible, reasonable pathway that takes time, money, due diligence, perseverance to determine amnesty . . . yes, that makes sense.

This action will actually generate revenue for the government, will generate data for the government about illegal immigrants that are already here and will help the government actually be able to more clearly see the scope of the illegal immigrant worker population in the country. There will be many that won’t sign up because of fear of reprisal from the government and from law enforcement. However, it is a step that the President did not want to make.

I just don't agree that this is tantamount to being an unconstitutional act by the President. This is an ongoing, rolling crisis. Millions of undocumented, illegal immigrants working in this country is tantamount to a crisis and falls under the jurisdiction of the executive branch, especially with a vacuum of action and accountability by the legislative branch.

He has been very patient with Congress. He has given them every opportunity to act. He even paused during the rapid influx of children refugee crisis this summer, as to not inflame the situation with Republicans, and to re-gauge the situation after the Administration had a chance to curtail that influx both at home and abroad. After successfully achieving that objective, and after the election, as he communicated repeatedly to the American people and to Congress, he stated that he would act if Congress would not in order to begin to clarify and rectify this rolling crisis in our country.

Part of the impetus for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), and really the legal foundation for the Executive Action by the President, is the ongoing national security risk at the border. Part of CIR is to better fund border security, better manage border security assets and to add certainty on both sides of the border; the desired impact would be to decrease the pressure at the southern border. Until that certainty is in place, there is going to be a compelling force driving human beings from a certain terrible situation to a potential better situation.

We need to continue working to protect our borders. It is not a simple endeavor or it would have already been done. The border is a river over much of the southern border. And, the tunnels under that border make it much more difficult as well. The War on Drugs gives every incentive to keep the border porous, so we should highly consider rethinking that massively expensive disaster of a domestic and foreign policy combo. It's the War on Drugs that has destabilized many of the countries that children and families have been fleeing from in the first place.

It's a highly complex problem with both intricate domestic and foreign policy elements, but we have so many millions here right now with deep American roots. We can't possibly remove them, so we must create a way for them to make their way toward legal status. It only makes sense.

I do totally respect that this is a difficult pill for people to swallow who abhor executive authority and executive orders. However, that is why we elect a President. We also elect a Congress. We just did that, and the newly elected Congress in January can pass Immigration Reform if they so choose. The only reality though is that the legislation would need to be amenable to President Obama in order to be viable.

Basically, if the Republicans in the House want more of a say about the comprehensive package that the Senate already passed, NOW is the time that they could most affect it. Republicans could make the certainty after CIR for future illegals quite painful and severe, which would help curb future compelling reasons for the dream of a potential better situation.

About the Psychology of the President and the moment:

 I do think it is easy to assume President Obama’s ego is at work with this move on immigration.

If you recall, after the '06 Republican mid-term bloodbath, George W Bush decided to go against nearly every reputable voice and move ahead with the Surge in Iraq. That actually ended up being modestly successful, IMO. At least it allowed for our troops to leave Iraq not actively burning.

I was no George W Bush fan, but at the time I was actively attempting to generate understanding, compassion and patience for him as he was my Patient Zero. So, I believed that he really thought this was what he thought was best to do.

It certainly wasn't received by the Democrat-controlled Congress at all well. There were calls for all sorts of reactions from the fringes. I would say the reactions today about immigration are much more severe.

The difference is that the illegal immigration problem is happening on U.S. soil. This isn't a population that is out killing Americans, they are related to Americans. These aren't blanket amnesties, these are work permits to working people related to the American people.

It's not as if Obama has not allowed the legislative process many years to work. It is like there is a bi-partisan bill, and not just with a few token Senate Republican votes either, that has been sitting in the House waiting for passage. It's a real bi-partisan legislative accomplishment about a pressing American issue that has needed resolving since George W Bush was in office.

There is a small, small window for action. Probably, this lame duck Congress has less than 30 actual days for the House to vote on CIR or to go to conference with the Senate to negotiate some additional concessions that House Republicans may want in the CIR. So, why wouldn't the President do his job, make the tough call, and do the work of the American people?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Police Shootings: No Truth Now, Truth Later


There are so many holes in what happened in Ferguson, Missouri in the police shooting with Officer David Wilson and Michael Brown. We will never know the damned truth. Never.

For me, the answer to this case is for all future cases. Let's protect good cops and good citizens!

Cop Cams!

I've heard people complain about the potential costs of Cop Cams . . .



What about the cost of:

        regardless of guilt or innocence with no ability to determine guilt or innocence.

         between citizens and the police, because there is no accountability or transparency, there's not even a registry or statistics of police shootings and killings of citizens, regardless of guilt or innocence.

          many real estate deals went south in Ferguson and in areas where police shootings of citizens are common. Communities become outraged when questions inevitably go unanswered in anyway that is reasonable or ever seems complete enough to match the six feet under of their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandsons and granddaughters.

         from the lost business and the lack of trust and the loss of lives and the loss of jobs.

I could go on . . . but this is just the truth . . . we will never know the truth of what really happens in these police shootings until we have at least some video evidence from at least one perspective from close proximity. We will never know the personal account of the person that has bullets riddled in their body, regardless of that person's guilt or innocence.

The cop and the corpse are and were human beings. Since the technology exists, why are we not rectifying this? Why are we not protecting our police? Why are we not protecting our citizens? Why are we not protecting our businesses? Why are we not protecting our communities?

Why are we more concerned with being outraged and blaming someone or someone else being wrong and us being right? Why are people defending the shooting of anyone with nothing but scraps of info? Why do both sides of the media descend like vultures to raise hell and never ensure that there is ever resolution? Oh yeah, media gets paid for going on and on and on about anything 24/7.

Instead, let's RESOLVE the underlying problem. Let's find out what happens in future situations involving police shootings involving the citizens they pledge to serve and protect. The police have the toughest job. They have to get it right always, and their lives are always on the line. So are all of our lives when guns are on the streets.

So, let's be PRO-something . . . PRO-solution.

Pro-Cop Cams.