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Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty.  In some ways debating these people reminds me  of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views.  And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.

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Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.

Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully.  It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.

So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty.  Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.

At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:

“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”

The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.

However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.

First, read the bit from her memoir again.  Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?

Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.

Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time.  This is not a one time test.

Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam.  I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.

Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers.  During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development.  Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.

In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.

Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC  bar exam again.  I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.

Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this.  Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.

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The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi.  Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.

Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video.  They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.

Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.

Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.

Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear.  In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.

Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists.  Well, that brings me to fact five.  Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed 65989-56396responsibility for the attack.  This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter.  However, this group later retracted their claim.

 

Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack.  I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time.  Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.

In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor.  A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.

So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack.  However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack.  Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.

Memory is not a fixed thing.  Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen.  This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved.  Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.

In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar.  In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.

Perhaps a simple example would help.  This is something that happened many years ago to my father.  He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away.  When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run.  My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.

Now, do I believe that one of them was lying?  No.  One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory.  In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.

The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar.  That applies to my father and his friend,  to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that.  For that matter, it applies to all of us.

Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother,  Mrs. Smith, are lying.

 

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Now, we come to my mea culpa.  The point at which I defended that which I should not have.  A lie of Hillary’s.  This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.

Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress.  My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.

What? I can hear you say.  This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying.  And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails.   The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.

What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified.  Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.

In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.

As he said, this was sloppy and careless.  However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail.  At that time, she believed she had not.

An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified.  Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material.  This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department.  This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.

However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations.  And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.

She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved.  Not quite.  And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it.  So, today she is lying.

And this is what I tried to defend.  I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.

So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.

Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths.  This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it.  The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.

Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her.  As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.

In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie.  It is an integral part of being a politician in a tumblr_m5hfehtGNj1r7wa9pdemocratic system.  I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.

However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.

As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t.  On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury.  But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.

Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians.  According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).

And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person.  I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system.  Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so.  But more on that in a later blog.

 

I am getting freaking fed up with the amount of digital thinking I am seeing today.  I have never been a fan of it and argued against it, but now I am also seeing it creep more and more into the political arena with possible disastrous consequences for the United States.

 

First though, what do I mean by digital thinking?  Actually this is a term I use that conflates two closely related mistakes in reasoning.

One such mistake is the all or nothing fallacy one is either one thing or the other.

The other mistake is the belief that if one part of something is wrong then the whole of it is wrong.

These are known by several other names in works about logical fallacy, but I like the term digital thinking.  Both assume a binary sort of thinking – something either is or is not.  Something is either red of white.   Something either is a democracy or not (my latest interesting discussion).

However, most of life, and especially our social structures and personal lives are analogue.  There is a continuum of possibilities.  In fact, often it is more than one continuum as one possibility branches off and creates its own continuum.  It is why life is often so complex and messy.

For example, in regards to red and white, there is pink.  In fact, there are a range of pinks ranging from more red than white to being almost white, with the dividing line between red/pink/white being a very subjective judgement.

In evolution, a scientific finding that the evolutionary tree of man was incorrect and that this species actually was not our ancestor or that this one was does not disprove evolution.  Evolution consists of multiple strands of evidence with some strands being of more importance than others.  It is not either all correct of none of it is correct.  Changing our views on who our ancestors were based on new fossil evidence is not critical to the fact of evolution since it is so well supported by thousands of other strands of evidence.  Nor was unexpected finding of dinosaur proteins fatal to evolution as some creationists assumed.  It showed, instead, that our ideas of proteins and fossilization was wrong; there was actually very little evidence for our ideas about the possibility of finding proteins in ancient bones whereas there is a great deal of evidence for how ancient those bones were.

The same is true with Climate Change.  Those who deny it like to point to the Antarctic actually growing instead of melting as evidence that climate change is wrong.  Their thinking is that if any part of it is wrong then the whole is.  Which ignores all the other evidence that strongly supports the theory of Climate Change. Part of it can be wrong, but the whole still be correct.

It is not only in the sciences you find this.  You also find it in conversations and judgements about our government and social issues.

To some, if you argue for gun control then you must be for banning all guns and confiscation of such.  All or nothing.  Similar arguments for the other side.  The same holds true for anti-vaccers, GMO, and other issues.  Usually you can find examples from both sides of the issue engaging in this digital sort of thinking.

However, as this is getting longer than I intended, let me cut to the chase.  Hillary Clinton.

I am so freaking tired of having people point to her speeches to Wall Street companies and the donations she gets from big business and say “See, she is not really liberal.  She is no different from Republicans.  From Trump.”

As if her prior actions as Senator and as first lady and throughout her life as well as the positions she takes doesn’t matter in evaluating her.   For the digital thinker, if she takes big business money in any way, shape, fashion, or form then she is like the Republicans.  Digital thinking at its finest – which is not a good thing.

Or they point to  her e mail and say “See, she is not honest, not trustworthy.  Just like Trump.”

As if something is either a lie or the truth with nothing in between.  As if there are no variations of lies and truths, no gradation of truth.  Yet these same people understand perfectly fine when a fact check was mostly true, or partly true or pants on fire.

They act as if there exists a politician who has never spun the truth, emphasizing part of it while ignoring the rest.  Such an art is a necessary part of being a politician and always has been.  To damn Hillary for it but excusing Trump, to damn Hillary saying that her doing so makes her just as bad as Trump without checking how often and how badly – that is digital thinking at its finest.  And that is not good.

As if Hillary’s rating from different fact checking organizations showing she has been the most truthful presidential candidate either Republican or Democrat during this campaign, and one of the more truthful politicians overall does not matter.  She has lied, she has spun the truth, and therefor is like Trump.

As if the mere fact of her doing so makes it unnecessary to look and compare her record with that of Trump’s many problems with truth and reality.

Digital thinking at its finest.  Again so very not a good thing.

Digital thinking leads to mistakes and errors in judgment.  In believing things that are not true.  In dismissing true things as untrue.  Life is too complex for digital thinking to be anything other than an easy road to error.

Were we to follow the way of the digital we would be creationists, we would deny global warming and go full speed ahead on mining and burning coal and to hell with renewable energy.

And it may give us a Trump presidency if we are not careful.

Obviously, this is aimed primarily at Bernie supporters who say that Hillary is as bad as Trump and they are not going to vote for either. And this is where another aspect of digital thinking comes in – wanting it all at once, I can’t get all I want at once so I am not going to do anything at all.

However, progress rarely happens all at once.  It is incremental and gradual.  It has compromises and half measures.  Until such a time as enough changes have accumulated that sudden progress can be made.  Progress is rarely digital.  It is analogue.

No, Hillary cannot give you all you want, but she can take some steps down the path you want.  She has done so in the past.  Her policies for the future contain much of what you want, and the seeds for more to eventually flourish.  She will not give you all you want, no one could given our current political realities.  However, she can give some.

Trump however will  not even take a step down that path he will destroy the path.  He will uproot any seeds for future change that might be planted.  And this is something Bernie Sanders recognizes and why he is supporting Hillary.

I hope that enough of his followers give up their digital views and do the same.

 

 

By the way, as far as I know I am the originator of this term.  If it turns out that I am not, that someone has already used this term in this way, then don’t tell me.  There are times my ego needs a little harmless stroking.

Trump World

I watched part of Trump’s speech on Thursday. Read about the parts I did not see, or saw some video clips. The thing that struck me most forcefully is the picture of America that he painted. Let’s call it Trump World to distinguish it from the real world.

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In Trump world crime is rampant in America and no one can walk the streets safely anymore.

In Trump World America is facing an imminent existential threat from ISIS and terrorism.

In Trump World America’s economy is collapsing and almost totally destroyed.

In Trump World America is despised and loathed not respected even by our allies.

In Trump World America is on its last legs and gasping out its last strangled gasp.

But, that is Trump World.  One that he created out of words; short words, dramatic words, emphatic words, words of lies, of falsehoods, twisted words depicting a twisted reality.  All spouted with vim and vigor and certainty. Words rooted loosely in some bits of reality, but made huge, made big, made worse, made lies.

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Trump World is not the America that I see. It is not the America that is see in the numbers, in the statistics, in my daily life, in reality.

Yes, we have problems. We always have. With countries as with life, there are always problems.  And yes, some of those problems are serious. That too is a constant with countries.  At no time in our history have we not been faced with problems. Serious and numerous problems.  Out time in that regard  is no different than other times.

The fact that there are serious problems facing our nation is nothing new.  Nor is it cause for despair and doom.  The problems we face today, while serous, are not even close to being the worst we have ever faced.

I think of the time I grew up in, the 60s and 70s. While today there are definite and serious issues with our justice system being able to dispense justice impartially and being blind to a person’s race, our racial problems when I was growing up were worse.  Much worse.  And what it took to correct many of those problems entailed more violence, more riots, more disruption even to the extent that the National Guard had to be called to escort children to schools just because they were black..

Compared to racial discord at that time, what we face today is civil. And, like it was then, this discord today is necessary. Yes, it is not comfortable and yes it is at times divisive.  And yes, there is violence when there shouldn’t be, and pain and suffering of victims and their families. But that is part of change. It was when I was growing up and it is now.

Yes, we have blacks being unjustly treated and killed too often. We have police being murdered on the streets. Yet, the number of police killed is down from past years. And although we desperately need to correct the unequal justice we still have, it is better than when I was growing up. And Black Lives Matter a far more peaceful group than many others that existed when I was growing up.

Further, there is more and more dialogue between groups that has resulted in change. Not enough yet, but still there.

And yet Trump would have you believe otherwise.

Our economy is among the strongest in the world. We have recovered from the great recession faster and better than most other nations. And our economy is growing. It is not growing for all, but it is for most. It is also not growing as fast as we would wish, but it is growing.

It is also changing, changes that are the result of our growing technology. And change is painful. But, we are not in danger of economic collapse. Indeed, the world thinks we are a rock of stability that they invest in during times of trouble by buying US bonds. Our currency is the bedrock currency of the world because of their regard for our economy.

Yes, our economy has problems. But we are nowhere near economic collapse as Trump would have you believe.

Crime, crime is not running rampant. Our crime is the lowest it has been since the 60s. There has been an uptick in some cities, but if you look at trends you see ups and downs due to a variety of reasons. The uptick in some cities is not enough to say crime is running rampant, or at least not to say it truthfully. Especially since even counting the uptick, we are still far below the levels of the 90s. As for crime, we have rarely been so safe. But not to hear Trump talk.

ISIS and terrorism. Yes, they are serious challenges. But they are nowhere near an existential threat to the US. ISIS is losing ground in the Middle East. The country they said they were going to create is being whittled away. Their idea of a  powerful global caliphate is being destroyed before it is even created. Which is why they are changing their nature to one like other terror groups. They are changing because we are winning there, so they have to change the battlefield.

But the nature of the threat here in the US has not been direct action from ISIS. Nor has it come from immigrants or refugees. Instead it is the lone wolf terrorist, someone who is acting on their own and who has become radicalized. In fact, most of the attacks both here in the US and in Europe are from citizens. Not outsiders, not immigrants, and not refugees, but citizens.

As for the US terrorist attacks, while horrific and we need to take what measures we can without losing who we are in doing so, they are small scaled, especially when you look at what happens in Turkey, Iraq, and other places.

Yes, terrorism and ISIS is a danger. But not one that is going to destroy us unless we let unreasoning fear guide our actions.

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In other words, America is actually in good shape. Not perfect. There are flaws and problems, some of them being severe. We have many challenges and problems that need to be worked on. And the working out of them is going to be accompanied by pain and sorrow, suffering and hurt. But also by joy as we do solve them and then move on to the next set of problems that our solutions will inevitably create.

I do not recognize the America Trump has created. I look at our past and see the present America in largely better shape than our past. I look at the world, and I see the US holding its own with any other country.

And as for respect, respect for the US is up and strong in most of the world.

When I was growing up we had riots and demonstrations and blood being shed over the war in Vietnam, over the accumulated weight of hundreds of years of racial injustice, over women finding their voice and their power.  Presidents fell.  And yet the United States continued on and did not collapse.

And my times were  far from the most challenging the US has ever faced.

I can only conclude that Donald Trump must believe that the United States has become a wimp if the challenges we face today are going to lead to its imminent collapse.  But then, I don’t really think Trump believes this.  He has created Trump World not because he believes it to be real but because he believes he can profit from it.

Trump’s America is not the one I see or live in. It is a fear plagued vision created by him in order to use fear and anger and hatred to win first the Republican nomination and now trying to win the Presidency. Trump World has very little contact with reality.

I wrote this first as a posting on my Facebook page, but decided to revise it for a blog.  The reason is that Trump World bothers me.  In fact, it frightens me. Actually, it is the fact that so many are starting to live in Trump world instead of the real one that frightens me.  The actions needed to solve the irreality of Trump World would only create a true existential crisis in the real one.

Let me just end this with the fervent hope that we will reject fear, reject anger, reject hatred and reject Trump’s vision of America for one of hope, respect, and reality.

 

Black Live, Blue Lives

DISCLAIMER

Since I have in the past, and will probably again despite this statement, been accused of excusing the acts of individuals by looking at why they did what they did, let me state unequivocally, absolutely and sincerely that those who have recently shot and killed police in Dallas and in Baton Rouge are and should be held responsible for their own actions.  Had they survived their encounter I would have fully supported going after the maximum sentence possible short of the death penalty (which I oppose).   They deserve our utter condemnation for their brutal and inexcusable actions.

Sigh.  I am pretty sure this disclaimer won’t make a lick of difference, but there you go.

 

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There is a relationship between the Black Lives Matter Movement and the recent shootings on police officers.  However, it is not the nice and tidy narrative that many people, especially conservatives, believe.

It is not that there is no problem with racial inequality in either our legal system or in our law enforcement.

It is not that any racial unrest is being fomented by Black Lives Matter/ liberals/Obama/ Hillary or a host of other liberal rabble rousers.

It is not that this is something that can be solved solely by condemning these murderers and cracking down on law and order.

No, that is not the relationship.  Instead, the true picture is something more complex.

The first relationship lies in the fact that there really is a problem with our justice system and law enforcement system in regards to racial equality.   Instead of going into all the data and make this blog way too long, let me refer you to a recent and excellent blog by Libby Anne titled “The White Invisibility of Racism”.

Let me though show this video of two police officers serving an arrest warrant for a man named Michael.  The only problem is that the man they arrest is named Patrick.

Now, to be fair, the police say that this video has been deceptively edited.  They have released the full 30 minute video of this incident.  You can view them here.

A few take aways from this.

First, Patrick did identify himself as Patrick.

Next, although later in the video the officers say they asked for his ID three times, they never did.  They assumed that he was lying and acted on that assumption without asking for his ID.

Ask yourself, would this have been as likely to happen with a white person?   Statistics strongly say no.

The next take away is that they arrested him and took him in even though he was not the person they came to arrest.  Now, this man who had committed no crime, will now have to post bond.  Given that I doubt they have a lot of money, this plays into creating a hardship on them.  If it takes some time to arrange bond and get him out, he could miss work and wind up losing his job.  As I discuss later, this is a domino effect that plays out all too often in the black community.

Statistics show that if he had been white, this probably would not have happened, and if it did there would have been no arrest.

And now that I am thinking about it, there is another take away.  The fact that the police department thinks that there is something in the complete video that vindicates the actions of  these officers.  Since the differences occur after they did not ask for his ID, did not show him the warrant as he requested, and had tased him twice, I think the police are really reaching with that.

I also found the discussion at around the 28:28 mark, between one of the officers and another black man who was trying to explain how their approach instilled fear and helped give rise to some of the actions of Patrick, who was thinking about losing his job and such due to being arrested, informative.  Especially when the police officer says that if he had done nothing wrong he would have nothing to fear.

And this is the issue in a nutshell.  The officers are unaware of their own actions and how they are perceived by the black community.  They honestly thought they had asked for ID when they had not.  And they did not see themselves as being threatening to anyone who had done nothing wrong.  Yet do not see the irony of Patrick having done nothing wrong but being arrested anyway.  And they do not seriously consider the black man’s statement at all about blacks being afraid of police and instead blow it off.

 

When watching this, ask yourself, what do you think would have happened if Patrick had been white?  Would the police have been less likely to do strong arm tactics?  When he said he was Patrick and not Michael would they have been more likely to ask for his ID?   While in some cases they may have acted the same.  In all too many though, they would not.  Being white makes a difference.

And what makes this so “invisible” as Ms. Anne puts it, is that these reactions are unconscious.  These officers did not say lets go harass a black man today.  Instead it is a matter of who they find more threatening.  More suspicious.  Who they find more resistant and how they feel they should deal with that resistance.

This is what causes a black person to be treated differently from a white person on average.

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The other point from Abby’s blog that I liked was that Black Lives Matter was sparked by more than just police shootings of unarmed blacks.  That is only the tip of the iceberg of a full weight of grievances and injustices.

I think about all of this when I hear white people claim that if black people would just comply with police they wouldn’t get in trouble. This isn’t just about black people killed by police. It’s also about all of the times black people are stopped and asked for their ID for no reason whatsoever, all of the times black people are treated by police as inherently criminal, all of the times when black individuals are given longer sentences than white individuals accused of the same crime. It’s about black parents having to give their sons “the talk” to ensure they won’t end up killed by police, and about a population that feels under siege every single day.

As she also states in her blogs, it is the constant being pulled over for no reason.  It is being used as a money stream for cities despite being usually the poorest community, as happened in Ferguson.  It is being followed in a store when whites are not.  It is the accumulation of thousands of grievances.

 

Or consider the case of Philando Castile, the black man who was shot and killed in St Paul Minnesota, who had been stopped by police at least 46 times (of which only six were items the police would notice from outside the car).   His life is a perfect example of how this system harms blacks in several regards – emotionally, always being suspected, being harassed, the one who gets caught and fined due to the color of your skin.  And then the financial impact, the always having to find money to pay fines, not being able to afford insurance because of this and then being fined again.  Losing your job due to lost time due to being in jail for not being able to pay your fine.

As in Ferguson, this was a money stream for the city based upon those who could least afford to pay.

From the NPR story on this, “The Driving Life and Death of Philando Castile”.

This week, the St. Anthony Police Department released statistics on its traffic stops. They show that officers issue citations at the same rate as neighboring suburbs, but police disproportionately arrest African-Americans.

About 7 percent of the residents in the area patrolled are African-American, but this year they make up about 47 percent of arrests. The data show that since 2011, African-Americans have been making up a larger percentage of arrests.

………..

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University and the author of Crook County, which documents the problems in the criminal justice system of Chicago, said Castile was the “classic case” of what criminologists have called “net widening,” or the move by local authorities to criminalize more and more aspects of regular life.

“It is in particular a way that people of color and the poor are victimized on a daily basis,” Gonzalez Van Cleve said.

Many times, both Gonzalez Van Cleve and Sandvick agree, the system leaves citizens with no good choices — having to pick, for instance, whether to pay a fine or pay for car insurance.

There are three things that make this very real problem so easy to ignore and pretend that it doesn’t exist for so many.

First, as I said, it is not an explicit sort of racism usually.  It is more in the unconscious ways risks and decisions are made.  Unconscious choices that wind up benefiting the white person but harming the black.

The second issue is that this shows up in statistics most clearly.  On a day by day basis some whites, some blacks, some Hispanics and so forth are stopped, arrested, and fined.  But, at the end of the day, the ones who are stopped most often, who are fined most often are the blacks.  And they know this.  Instead of being a statistic, for them it is a frustrating reality.

Finally, the third thing that makes this so easy to ignore is that police departments vary greatly across this country.  This is a widespread problem, but it is not universal to each and every police department.  So the fact that one does well with race relations makes a convenient excuse for many to ignore the many more who do not do well.

The good news is that this is starting the change.  More and more cities are learning and establishing polices and training to improve.  Dallas has done well with this, implementing many of the recommendations from President Obama’s commission on police.  They stressed taking the time to evaluate and de-escalate situations.  They provided training on implicit biases.  They worked to establish ties to the community.  And when shootings occur they are quick to get in touch with the community and are open and forthcoming on the whats, whos and what is happening now of a shooting investigation.  Because of this, they have not experienced the riots and violent protest other places, such as Ferguson, that were not doing this.  Dallas is far from perfect and  has more work to do, but they are going in the right direction.

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In fact, before the tragic shootings in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers, many of the Black Lives Movement and the police were taking pictures together and talking.

And this is the first relationship between the Black Lives Matter movement and police.  It was the inequalities in our system, most especially in our justice and law enforcement ones, that created the need for Black Lives Matter.  The very public shootings of unarmed blacks by police was the spark but the tender had been accumulating and building for decades and longer.

Black Lives Matter is needed to keep this issue front and center because so many deny implicit racism’s very existence.  Without their pressure this is a problem, an injustice, that would be remedied only with an explosion of even worse violence.  And only after more black lives have been harmed.

 

 

As for the other relationship between the Black Lives Matter and police, it inflames emotions.  This is unavoidable.  The emotions are there and for better or worse, Black Lives Matter helps provide a focus for those emotions.

For the majority this will have the result of driving them to make speeches, vote, support candidates, push for laws and policies, etc.  But, at times, for some, the rhetoric becomes too heated and slides over the line.  And then for even fewer, but too many nonetheless, it slides over to taking lethal action against those seen as oppressors.

In other words, the Black Lives Matter movement provides a focus for anger and frustration.  For most, that is good in that it calls them to take action to change things.  For a few others, it instead leads to action of another type, lethal and murderous.

Despite this, Black Lives Matter is necessary.  Just as police are despite the issues mentioned.

I do know that if we ignore its message, do not deal with the problems that created this movement, the problems will only get worse.  Today there are serious issues in regards to racial inequality, but in the 50s and 60s there were even more serious and resulted in more violence than we are experiencing today.  If we want to avoid that then we need to have politicians, law enforcement, black leaders, Black Lives Matter leaders meeting to discuss their differences and issues, and finding common ground upon which to work.  President Obama facilitated just such a meeting after the Dallas shootings.  A meeting that most say was productive and worthwhile, but whose true worth can only be determined by follow up meetings and actions.

Some of the needed actions to my mind are:

  • First and foremost, acknowledge that there are real issues with racial bias in our law enforcement system.
  • Work together with law enforcement and others to find ways to improve. There has been some good movement here and there in this regards.   But so far it is in a minority of police organizations and needs to become the majority.  For something about what Black Lives Matters is promoting in regards to change, click on this link to a good piece from Atlantic Magazine about it.  Or this piece from the Black Lives Matter site.
  • Watch the language carefully to avoid unnecessarily inflaming passions too far. And continue to condemn the actions of those who murder police, or advocate doing so.

Let me briefly mention one common argument that is used to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement.  Black on black violence, that if you are so concerned about blacks deal with the bigger issue of black on black violence.

This is something I addressed in my blog “On the Irritating Wrongness of the Black on Black Violence Counter-argument“.  Instead of rehashing all of this again, I have provided a handy little link to that blog.  Let me though just summarize the problems with this argument.

  • It assumes that you cannot be working on both at the same time.
  • It assumes that both issues are the same. They are not.  Black on black violence is indeed terrible.  But, they are not the police, not the people who are supposed to unbiasedly enforce the law equally and to provide protection for the citizens.  The former is a terrible crime.  The latter harms our societal structure.
  • Related to the above, it assumes that you cannot be outraged over unjustified killings of blacks, about the racial bias targeting blacks unless you get black on black violence down. It further assumes that there is no link between the two – poverty, lack of education, etc.
  • It assumes that no one is working on reducing black on black violence. In fact, there is much being done to decrease black on black violence, much of it successful.  This includes, by the way, sit ins and demonstrations in many different cities.  Just because they are not getting as much news coverage nationally does not mean they are not happening.
  • It assumes that there has been no improvement in regards to black on black violence. The reality is that there has been improvement.  However, in the last 20 years there has been a decrease in black on black violence.  The victimization rate has fallen from 39.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1991 to roughly 20 homicides in 2008.  And the offending rate for blacks has dropped from 51.1 per 100,000 offenders in 1991 to 24.7 offenders per 100,000 in 2008.

All of these are dealt with in more detail and with supporting links in my blog about this.  However, there is one other problem with this attempt to use black on black violence to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement.

No one denies that black on black violence exists.  No one denies that black on black violence is a real problem.  However, too many people do deny that implicit racism and institutional racism are affecting our legal system.  Too many people deny that this is a real problem.  Too many people would rather remain ignorant and let the pressure of continued injustice build.

And that is why Black Lives Matter matters.

Protection by Suicide

Republican presidential candidate Gingrich speaks at a meet and greet at the Willow Ridge Golf Course in Fort Dodge,

“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported

…………

“Look, the first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they’re doing on the internet. The third step is — let me be very clear — you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you’re not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke.” Gingrich on Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

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“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” campaign press release

 

“Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?” Yahoo Reporter

“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Donald Trump response

……….

“Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country?”  MSNBC reporter

“There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”  Donald Trump response.

 

And with these statements both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump have stabbed with intent to kill that which both have professed to love and protect – the Constitution

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 “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States..” Article 6  United States Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”  First Amendment, United States Constitution

 

An integral part of being an American is being able to live your life in accordance with the dictates of your conscience and religion.

For those Jews so inclined there are rabbinical courts.  For those Catholics so inclined there are diocesan tribunals.   For other religious groups both Christian and not, there are organizations that, for  those so inclined, will resolve marital issues, individual disputes, business disputes, rule on inheritances, and more – all based on the precepts of that religion.

All of this is allowed by the free exercise clause as long  as they meet the following standards:

  • Participation is voluntary on the part of everyone.
  • What is decided does not violate US laws.
  • What is decided does not violate the US Constitution.

This is part of what being free to live in accordance with your conscience and religion means.  It applies not to just a few, not just to some, not just to most, but it applies to all Americans.

But Gingrich, Trump, and too many others wish to deny this Constitutional right to our Muslim citizens.  They would say to these Americans,

“No, you cannot follow your religious laws under the same guidelines as others follow theirs.  In fact, you are not allowed to follow them at all.  And yes, we are instituting a religious test on who is considered a full and good citizen of the United States.

And yes, although we may deny it, in doing so we are destroying that  which we profess to love and swore to protect.

And yes, by doing so we show that our true love is to the United States as a nation first and its ideals only a distant second.  And preferably a nation of Christians with a few Jews tossed in.”

 

Oh, what joy this must give our enemies who have charged us with hypocrisy, to have their once lies now made true.

Oh, what pain it gives seeing too many of our leaders recommending suicide as a way to protect our nation.

Today in Dallas, as I write these words, at least five law enforcement officers are dead and another six are wounded.  They were targeted and murdered by what, as of this writing, appear to be black men.

This occurred at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter march protesting the needless deaths of Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul Minnesota. Two black men killed by white police officers, both seemingly victims of racial bias, whether open or unconscious.

This juxtaposition of Black Lives and of Blue Lives seems to me representative of the action  – reaction cycle that we see over and over again.

The Action

A police officer kills an unarmed or restrained black person.   An act that occurs more often to blacks than to whites.  This, along with the racial inequalities in our justice system overall, our economic inequalities, and our educational inequalities combine to justly anger the black community who then take action.  The vast majority of those actions are peaceful – demonstrations, petitions, speeches and letters, getting out the vote, and creating organizations to keep this issue before the public eye and create the needed pressure for actions to be taken to change the system.

A few individuals though take it further.  In Dallas, they killed law enforcement officers.

Let me be clear here.  This racial inequality and bias embedded in our law enforcement and legal system does not excuse their behavior.  These men are murderers and should be caught and held fully responsible for their actions.

This bias and inequality doesn’t even fully explain their actions since the vast majority of those protesting who have suffered the same bias and prejudice do not kill, do not loot, do not destroy.  But this inequality is still one of the root causes of their actions and must be addressed if we are ever to free ourselves of such crimes.

Reaction

The bias and bigotry that sits unnoticed in too many people’s minds becomes confirmed and strengthened.  Blacks are violent.  Instead of seeing the person, they see a skin color and fear and distrust it. Blacks are violent.

People walk with wary eye upon seeing blacks.  People cross the street to avoid the threat.  Police see a threat based solely on the color of a person’s skin and so react in lethal ways when lethality is not called for.  Jurors at the trial see the black skin and agree that the officer was justified in his fear.

Less lethally but more common, police go hard line when hard line is not called for, they stop persons when such stops are not called for, they follow persons when following is not called for.

A black person is unfairly treated and the resentment, the anger, the frustration grows. And with this, the cycle completes and continues.

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I opened this piece by mentioning the peaceful protest by demonstrators in Dallas.  What I would like to mention as a possibility of hope is that these protests were so peaceful that the police were posing with the protestors for pictures.   To me, these photos provide hope that we can together work out these problems, these grave problems, to create a better society.

We have come a long way since the days of the Civil Rights marches and the Civil Rights Acts they inspired.  Progress has been made.  But the easy progress is over.  Now comes the more difficult work of ridding our law enforcement and justice system, our economic and educational system, our society of the biases and prejudices that are hidden, that are unconscious.  So hidden that too many deny they even exist.

But hidden or denied, they exist and have real effects.  Effects that result in the tragedies of Anton Sterling and his family and friends, of Philando Castile and his family and friends, and of all those officers killed on the streets tonight whose names I would list if they had been released now and their families and friends.

While many things need to change to break this cycle of pain and suffering, of injustice and death, admitting the existence of these biases and then working together to rid our society of them is one of the more important and basic of those needed changes.  Without seeing the log in our own eyes justice and peace can never be fully attained.

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Today FBI Director James B. Comey said that he would not recommend indicting Mrs. Clinton over her use of a personal server for her e mails.  Predictably conservatives are hollering conspiracy, pointing to such “evidence” as  Bill Clinton’s meeting with Lynch on an airport tarmac and President Obama’s meeting with Lynch earlier this month.

However, there are several problems with this conspiracy theory.

First, there is the matter of evidence.  There is none.

Bill meeting Attorney General Lynch is interesting, but not evidence.  Those trying to portray it as so have no evidence showing what they discussed.  Only speculation, and speculation is not evidence.

Then there is President Obama’s meeting with his Attorney General.  This one holds even less water than the Bill Clinton/ Lynch one does. Lynch is part of Obama’s administration.  Periodic meetings are supposed to occur between the two.  Did these people even bother to look to see how often they meet?  Do they have a set time to meet and was this it?  Do they have a set time and never meet other than that time, or do they meet up at different times and places?   While the answers to this would not be conclusive either way, having answers showing that they rarely meet and when they do it is always at a certain day, a day other than the one they did meet on would have a least provided a bit of very circumstantial support to what is nothing more than speculation.

As it is there is no evidence of any conspiracy.  In fact, sources from the FBI said that the decision to not indict Hillary had been made before the meeting between Bill and Lynch, meaning that their meeting could not have influenced the decision.

Second, there is the character of FBI Director James B. Comey, a Republican.   He has the reputation for being a by the book sort of person, for being a person of integrity, for being diligent, and for being willing to go to the mat with anyone who he thinks is not doing it right.  As he did, for example, when he was acting Attorney General due to Attorney General Ashcroft being in the hospital.  Members of the Bush administration tried to pressure Comey to sign off on the legality of some of the central aspects of the NSA programs domestic surveillance program.   He refused.  And then he heard that these Bush administration people were going to the hospital in order to pressure a sick and ailing Ashcroft into signing, Comey went to the hospital in order to support Attorney General Ashcroft in also refusing to sign off.  In fact, Comey threatened to resign over this instead of caving in.

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Does this sound like a person who would cave in to President Obama and Attorney General Lynch?  Especially since he has stated they did not pressure him in any way.  His exact words from his statement were, “   ..I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say.”

Is this man of proven integrity now a liar and political toady?  A Republican toady to a Democratic president and presidential candidate?  Really?   Based on what evidence?   It seems to me that if he was willing to stand up to a Republican administration then he certainly would have no qualms about doing so to a Democratic one.

At the end of his statement about the e mail investigation he said,

I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation. What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.

I know there were many opinions expressed by people who were not part of the investigation—including people in government—but none of that mattered to us. Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did the investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this organization.

I believe him.

Now, I know that many believed Hillary should have been indicted, that what she did constituted criminal acts.  In fact, many are saying that the issues Comey laid out in his statement warranted an indictment.  However, that was not the conclusion of the FBI.

So the question becomes, if Hilary was not the beneficiary of a conspiracy, then what happened?  In reading his whole statement he explains why they chose not to indict very well.

In regards to the missing emails and why they are not evidence of criminal activity, the answer is simple.

  • The missing e mails were most likely a result of the common practice of “periodically deleted e-mails or e-mails were purged from the system when devices were changed”.
  • Due to Hilary using her private server there was no archiving of her emails (serious problem that I will address later).
  • The sorting of Hillary’s emails by her lawyers to separate the personal from the work related emails. Instead of reading each email, as the FBI did, her lawyers “relied on header information and used search terms to try to find all work-related e-mails among the reportedly more than 60,000 total e-mails remaining on Secretary Clinton’s personal system in 2014”.   In doing it this way it is “highly likely” that some work emails were missed.

In other words  none of the missing emails were missing due to purposeful criminal intent but rather from Hillary’s poor judgement in using a private server and then the normal process handling this high number of emails.

As Comer said, “Although we do not have complete visibility because we are not able to fully reconstruct the electronic record of that sorting, we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

The question then moves on to why, after stating:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

did they not indict based on this “extremely careless” handling of highly classified information?

The answer lies in this statement,

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

In other words, past precedent in handling this sort of case did not justify indictment.

At first I thought the precedents referred to might be that of Colin Powell who, although not using his own server did use his private email for conducting business with all the same issues that Hillary faced in regards to security and transparency.  And also like Hillary Powell did not turn over all of his official emails.

But then I thought that perhaps it was George W. Bush who used a RNC server to conduct official business and from which up to 22 million emails  may have been lost.  Emails of interest in investigating the firing of eight US attorneys in 2007.

Or perhaps …well, the list goes on.  With those as precedent the bar for prosecuting violations of email security and storage is set high.  However, I think the real precedent is that of Petraeus.

To refresh people’s memories, General Petraeus gave a dairy filled with classified information to his lover and biographer, a woman who had no security clearance.  He then lied about doing so.  In his case, the FBI recommended felony charges.  However, what Petraeus received from the Justice Department was a misdemeanor.

This precedent set the bar very high for recommending an indictment of Hillary, one she did not even come close to approaching.

Petraeus purposely gave classified information to someone who did not have the security clearance for it.

All of Hillary’s emails went to people who were cleared to read classified material.  Further, there was no intent to give this information to those who were not cleared to read it.

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Given that difference between the two, it is not really surprising that the FBI recommended not indicting Hillary.   In fact, I think that Comey said it very well when he stated in the quote above, that Hillary and the State Department were guilty of sloppy and “careless’ in their handling of confidential information.  However, while that might and should result in various types of administrative sanctions it does not rise to the level of indictment for criminal charges.

 To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

 

Completely correct and right.

 

 

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-b.-comey-on-the-investigation-of-secretary-hillary-clintons-use-of-a-personal-e-mail-system