I've written here many times that media passivity in the face of the boneheaded rush to war in Iraq is 2002-03 was the thing that, for better or worse, pushed me toward the blogging life. But even before the pre-war lies of Cheney, Bush & Co., my BS detector was on high alert beginning around '02, thanks to the post-9/11 law which unintentionally honored George Orwell with its name, the USA Patriot Act.
A few provisions of this bill, which passed nearly unanimously and -- as Michael Moore famously showed -- with many lawmakers not reading it, were necessary to improve areas like poor coordination between the FBI and CIA on terror cases like the 9/11 plot. But many of the powers it granted to government were sweepingly broad and prone to abuse, which of course they soon were.
Today, a mere (that's sarcasm) 14 years later, the USA Patriot Act is no more. Its measures have been ever so slightly rolled back and replaced by, wait for it, the USA Freedom Act. Somewhere up there in leftist paradise, Mr. Orwell is having a good chuckle:
Poor Lindsey Graham. The moment he's been planning for months -- the South Carolina senator's annoucement that he's indeed a candidate to become the 45th president of the United States -- hit the exact same moment as a tsunami named Caitlyn Jenner. I think the cover of Vanity Fair with Jenner is a cultural moment that America will remember for 30, 40 years. The Graham campaign may be forgotten by the 2016 general election, if not sooner.
It's just hard to take Graham seriously, even if he is the only one of 19 potential GOP candidates who believes there's a role for humans in rolling back climate change. On foreign policy, the dude still wants to party like it's 2003, in his beloved country of orange terror alerts and bad guys hiding in your shrubbery.
Graham never met a war he didn't like, and it's not clear if he wants to be the next POTUS or commissioner of the Thought Police. He once said famously: "If I'm president of the United States and you're thinking about joining Al Qaeda or ISIL, I'm not gonna call a judge. I'm gonna call a drone and we will kill you." That's the kind of thing that won't get you to 1600 Pennsylvania Aveneue. but it may net Graham a few votes in Iowa or his home base, the Palmetto State.
What do these two episodes have in common?
In the central Pennsylvania town of Hummelstown, a 59-year-old man -- driving with an expired inspection sticker and apparently, tests would later show, intoxicated -- is pulled over by the local cops. When he tries to run away, the suspect is Tasered, falls face down in the snow, and is shot in the back and killed by a female officer standing over him. The man was unarmed, and the cop has been charged with criminal homicide.
Meanwhile, 3.000 miles away in Hawthorne, Calif., a frantic woman with her 12-year-old son pulls up to a police officer and says that three armed men are chasing them; within seconds, a man with two revolvers jumps from a second vehicle, quickly fires the shot that kills the woman and draws a bead on the boy just as the officer guns him down.
One thing I'll say about the ongoing controversy about policing and race in America is that -- as a sidebar to a lot of rancor and unpleasantness -- it's produced some interesting reading. By that, I mean journalists and thinkers (occasionally those two even overlap) are producing deep dives into the real problems of law and order in American cities, and what has actually worked. I hope that presumptive (I love that word) Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney -- when he's not chatting with George Norcross about the next generation of toll takers -- is reading these and think about how to take policing here beyond simply ending stop-and-frisk.
Mayor-presumed Kenney needs to look at policing in Cincinnati, a city that 15 years ago had the same kind of problems as Ferguson and Baltimore, culminating in a wave of unrest. Then it turned things around...buit it took years of hard work. Today, Cincinnati has far fewer complaints of police brutality, but it also has a lot less violent crime:
Looking back, the results of Cincinnati’s reform efforts are startling. Between 1999 and 2014, Cincinnati saw a 69 percent reduction in police use-of-force incidents, a 42 percent reduction in citizen complaints and a 56 percent reduction in citizen injuries during encounters with police, according to a report by Robin S. Engel and M. Murat Ozer of the Institute of Crime Science at the University of Cincinnati. Violent crimes dropped from a high of 4,137 in the year after the riots, to 2,352 last year. Misdemeanor arrests dropped from 41,708 in 2000 to 17,913 last year.
You probably missed it. The TV news gave little if any news coverage to the presidential campaign announcement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ("Hey, we have 'serious' candidates like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz to deal with," I'm guessing they'd say) but the speech was definitely an organic barnburner live from Ben-and-Jerry-land. Sanders wasn't more than a minute or two into it when he belted out what should become his campaign motto:
Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that; "Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists."
Enough is enough...when it comes to yawning gap between the Super Rich and everybody else in America. It's not surprising to hear this from Sanders, the only democratic socialist (to my knowledge) in the 2016 race for the White House. But other candidates have adopted some variation on this mantra: Income inequality was the only issue that Hillary Clinton raised in her campaign announcement video and was the topic of recent speeches. Over on the GOP side, the 2012-runner-up-turned-longshot Rick Santorum has ditched the man-on-dog stuff in favor of calling for a higher minimum wage. But Sanders is hitting this the hardest, so far.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about air pollution issues at the massive Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia, and the growing fears felt by neighbors. They're probably not feeling any better about it today. PES just got dinged for violating air-pollution standards in a flare-up that spewed thick black smoke over the Schuylkill River landmark -- as reported in The Declaration -- even after officials at the refinery had assured residents there was no problem.
Oh, and then there was a new blaze at the site this weekend.
Oh, and another small fire today.
I couldn't have said this better myself (No, seriously, I couldn't have) -- the Charlotte Observer editorial page editor promised to celebrate Honesty Day by answering reader questions, so one reader in this mostly blood-red southern state wanted to know "why do you support such a liberal agenda?" Here's an excerpt:
We believe in consistency, so if you are going to drug-test recipients of public assistance, drug-test them all, including the corporate chieftains who are the biggest beneficiaries.
We believe that police officers should act professionally, under incredibly difficult circumstances, regardless of a suspect’s race.