Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton Is Trustworthy

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
people will eventually come to believe it. -Joseph Goebbels
I read the other day that something like sixty-seven percent of Americans don't think that Hillary is trustworthy. It's the big lie that people have come to believe.
In the course of a single conversation, I have been assured that Hillary is cunning and manipulative but also crass, clueless, and stunningly impolitic; that she is a hopelessly woolly-headed do-gooder and, at heart, a hardball litigator; that she is a base opportunist and a zealot convinced that God is on her side. What emerges is a cultural inventory of villainy rather than a plausible depiction of an actual person. -Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Is Clinton perfect? No. Is she one-hundred percent honest? Absolutely not! She's a politician, after all. But the idea that she is uniquely untrustworthy is complete and utter nonsense. Stop believing it.

On the contrary, by the standards of politicians, she is quite trustworthy.


So where does all this misleading information about Clinton come from?

And who is she really?

Some essential reading:
http://www.vox.com/a/hillary-clinton-interview/the-gap-listener-leadership-quality

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/11/1537582/-The-most-thorough-profound-and-moving-defense-of-Hillary-Clinton-I-have-ever-seen

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/07/hillary-clinton-was-a-more-effective-lawmaker-than-bernie-sanders/

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1996/02/26/hating-hillary

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bipartisan-praise-for-hillary-clinton-as-she-moves-on/

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/all-the-terrible-things-hillary-clinton-has-done-in-one-big-list-2016-02-04

If you have doubts about how to vote in November, you really should give her another look.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The More You Know...

If you are repulsed by Donald Trump, but you also think that there is something so wrong with Hillary Clinton that you don't feel you can vote for her, I have something for you to think about. Please consider that the same people and the same forces that ushered Trump into a place of prominence in national politics have been relentlessly trying to malign Clinton for twenty-five years.

It could be that many of the negative impressions you have about Clinton are the product of a long-term smear campaign, and just plain wrong.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Police Thyself

The last couple of days have given Americans stark and horrifying reminders of the nexus of problems surrounding race, police brutality, and gun culture. Others have written with more force and eloquence about the issue of racism in law enforcement. I defer to them.

Instead, I'd like to focus on what might be done to transform police departments around the country. Cops have struggled with racism for a long time, and on top of that increasingly have become militarized over the last 30 years.

Today, as President Obama discussed the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, he pointed out that two years ago (in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown) his administration created a task force charged with drafting and implementing recommendations to improve the quality of policing. Honestly, I didn't remember this chapter of the story. So I looked them up. After reviewing the recommendations, I thought, well, implementing these would solve some problems, and would be a great way to improve public relations. But I also thought: what would it take to not simply fix some issues at the margins, but really transform policing into an ideal?

First, some disclaimers: I'm not a law enforcement expert. I know that there are good cops -- I've interacted with many. I'll add also that the problems so appallingly on display this week are systemic and structural in nature, and not necessarily caused by specific individuals. I know that a lot of communities are working on this topic already. I am just trying to make sense of what happened this week, and brainstorm on what else might be done.

Here is a list of principles that I'd add in order to shape the debate about what can and should be done to radically re-think and re-structure the way the hard work of policing gets done.

Profiling Candidates. Data suggests that the psych exam typically screens out only about 5 percent of those tested. That's a good start, but given the current state of policing, there is plenty of room for improvement. Identifying candidates with anger management issues, control fantasies, and white-supremacist views must be made a priority. And typically, contracts to perform psychological evaluations are awarded on a low-bid basis. That is unacceptable. There should be higher standards and a stronger commitment to weeding out those unfit for the job.

Training Recruits. Twelve to fourteen weeks. That's all that is required before a candidate is put on to the street for on-the-job training. This is an astonishingly low bar to clear for what is in reality a very high-skill, high-stress career. I couldn't find anything more current than 2006, but as of then, here is a chart of median hours spent in training. All of the hours listed are shockingly low and should be substantially increased, but I highlighted the areas in need of special attention. For example, eight hours of mediation skills/conflict management? I mean, I consider that to be one of the essential job functions of a police officer. They should spend weeks, or even months on that topic alone. Only 14 hours of domestic violence instruction? Only 4 hours of coursework on hate and bias crimes? Nothing on rape, harassment, and stalking?



Officer Residency. Less than six percent of the officers in the Minneapolis Police Department actually live in Minneapolis. SIX PERCENT. That is not a force with a personal investment in the safety and stability of our community. The national average for large cities is 40%, which is still a little low. I think a residency requirement of 1/2 or even 2/3 of the force is reasonable.

Continuing Education.
 See above.

Accountability. Body cams. Dash cams. Three-hundred sixty degree review of officer-involved shootings. Police should meet a higher standard of conduct for the use of violence, and especially deadly violence, than an average civilian. Stronger sanctions and stiffer sentencing. Independent Prosecution.

This is obviously just a rough cocktail napkin list, but the idea is to start discussion. Police violence is not only a police problem, it is a societal problem. The police are us and we are the police. And it is up to all of us to fix it. It is a long-term problem and requires difficult, expensive, multi-faceted solutions. But apart from health care and education, I can't think of anything I'd rather spend my tax dollars on than the safety and security of all citizens.

Did You Get The Email

Tuesday's announcement that there would be no indictment regarding Clinton's email servers didn't surprise me. As I wrote a few months back: "I don't have a crystal ball, and in these strange times it seems like literally anything can happen. But that said, Hillary will not be charged, much less indicted for this email 'scandal.' She simply did not do anything outside of the boundaries of what entitled, powerful people do. She did not jeopardize national security; she did not break the law. There is no conspiracy to protect her and her interests. In spite of four years of investigating Benghazi, and dozens of hours of testimony from countless people regarding this 'scandal,' no evidence of wrongdoing has been found. And I doubt there will be." I'm pleased to be vindicated, even though I was very far from the only person to make such a prediction.

I work for a large financial institution. It might be hard for younger folks to believe, but when I started here in 2001, which really isn't so long ago, executives didn't even use email -- they had secretaries to print out their messages. So it doesn't take much for me to believe that, just as smart phones were starting to become a thing, a not-very-tech-savvy, boomer-aged executive took the advice of the first person who came along and said she could keep her BlackBerry. Basically, she wanted a productivity tool for her job, and her employer could not or would not provide it, so she got it set up for herself. That is the beginning and end of this story.

It should be noted: Clinton didn't hide this! She used it openly and with the apparent knowledge (and expressed concern) of all relevant parties. So is it even bending the rules if she's doing it with the knowledge and without the sanction of the parties who oversee electronic security for the State Department? Hell, I don't know. IANAL, YMMV. But I didn't think so, and since the FBI has now confirmed that no laws were broken, at this point I really do not care.

Moreover, yesterday the State Department seemed to contradict Comey's and the FBI's contention that any classified material was sent:
MR KIRBY: Generally speaking, there's a standard process for developing call sheets for the secretary of state. Call sheets are often marked -- it's not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level -- prior to a decision by the secretary that he or she will make that call. Oftentimes, once it is clear that the secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary's use in actually making the call. The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the secretary's office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. Given this context, it appears the markings in the documents raised in the media report were no longer necessary or appropriate at the time that they were sent as an actual email. So it appears that those --
QUESTION: That the calls were already made?
MR KIRBY: -- no -- that those markings were a human error. They didn't need to be there. Because once the secretary had decided to make the call, the process is then to move the call sheet, to change its markings to unclassified and deliver it to the secretary in a form that he or she can use. And best we can tell on these occasions, the markings – the confidential markings – was simply human error. Because the decision had already been made, they didn't need to be made on the email.
(Emphasis mine.)

So what we have is yet another ginned up controversy. And that's what troubles me: this is another red herring nurtured by her political enemies. Sure: make a case that she's entitled. Make the case that she is loose with standards and regulations and with national security. But whispered notions of conspiracies and a 'rigged system' undermine your argument.

ETA: here is a good piece that further explains why this case is mostly nonsense.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Random Thought of the Day

I'm puzzled how "social justice warrior" and "SJW" ever became pejoratives. Who except a sociopath would think that fighting for social justice is a bad thing?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Awakened, As If By The Force

Note: this was written way back on 12/19/2015. Not sure why I never published it. Probably because it was incomplete and not very interesting. 

Thursday evening, I noticed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was playing everywhere already. Huh? Didn't it have a release date of Friday the 18th? And don't these kinds of premieres happen at midnight?

Since my days of seeing midnight shows are long behind me, I had paid little attention -- I planned to see it early the following week. But the idea of seeing a 9 or 10 PM show on opening night sounded do-able, tickets were available, and I was suddenly seized with the urge to see it right away. I sent a text message to a friend to see if he wanted to catch it, but I didn't hear back. Discouraged, I went to bed early. But I hadn't killed the impulse -- I thought to myself, "well, it's playing all night long, pretty much every hour. Maybe if I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll catch an early show before work."

Friday, I woke up at about 3:15 AM and went to the bathroom. It was decided - the desire to see this movie was gnawing at me, and I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. So I pulled on my pants and drove to the mall to clock in at the 4:00 AM show. Good call! There were like, 5 other people in the theater. I even answered a Star Wars trivia question and won a surprisingly nice Darth Vader bathrobe. Score!


So, much of what I said in my "pre-review" below was right: the film had a great set of diverse and interesting new characters played by charismatic young actors, the production design and action was strong, and the film had a brisk pace and style. The biggest letdown was that it is essentially a remake of the first two Star Wars movies. But the film was infused with some emotional resonance that came from an unexpected source in the main villain. In the end, it mirrored the best of its predecessors: it was an entertaining popcorn movie.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sometimes...

Sometimes, something in the background is just something in the background...




But other times, the background is significant.