There's only one thing that's clear today about Doug Hughes, the 61-year-old mail carrier who flew a gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in a political stunt yesterday: He's lucky to be alive. When Hughes breached the no-fly zone around the key government buildings in Washington, he was met by agents with their assault weapons drawn, and some officials wondered why he wasn't brought down with lethal force.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who never met a war he didn't want to start or a terrorism suspect he didn't want to detain or execute without a trial, said this: “He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky. I don't know why he wasn't, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our home land. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already."
Yo...to paraphrase another famous aviation incident, the Hindenburg crash, where is the humanity? What Hughes did was certainly foolhardy on some levels -- he was fully aware that he was potentially committing suicide-by-National-Mall-cop, and others could have been hurt in the crossfire. Personally, I'm happy that Hughes is alive, happy his mission ended without violence. Graham's comments suggest the greatest threat to America remains his own rich inner fantasy life of Muslims under every bed.
So Tuesday was celebrated across the nation as Equal Pay Day, the day into this not-so-new year that an average female has to work to make as much as the average male worker did last year. Yes, it's a complicated problem, but yesterday was a pretty good day to talk about the all-too-real issues that women face in the American workplace. But apparently the stagecoach carrying news of this event has yet reach to reach the denizens of a backwater town called Harrisburg, Pa.
You see, few problems weigh more heavily on women and their efforts to stay afloat on the job than the lack of guaranteed sick time. Like most things in 2015 America, it's a dilemma that a lot of folks who work in glass office towers or suburban office parks don't even know exists, but it devastates neighborhoods where people work in certain low-wage industries where sick days are a distant dream.
Single moms trudging to work when they're seriously sick, for fear of losing income for the week or losing their current job for good. It's one of the factors that gives Philadelphia the highest rate of deep poverty of any major U.S. city. Not to mention a reason why female pay lags.
You really can buy anything in America in 2015 -- even things you would never guess in a million years that someone wanted to buy. Who knew, before this weekend, that if you donate enough money you can even become a quasi-cop and go chasing down criminals and assorted poor people in your spare time?
That's what was going on in Tulsa, where a 73-year-old reserve sheriff's deputy named Robert Bates now faces manslaughter charges for making the mistake of a lifetime -- literally the lost lifetime of his 44-year-old victim, the late Eric Harris. Harris was the target of a sting operation for allegedly illegal firearm sales, although he was unarmed at the time of his attempted arrest. He initially ran from the lawmen who wrestled down and subdued him, only to see Bates shoot Harris to death after thinking his loaded gun was a Taser.
It turned out that Bates had spent only one year as a professional lawman, on the Tulsa city police force way back in 1963-64, when America's new president was Lyndon Johnson. Since then, Bates became a successful insurance agent and, in the words of the New York Times, a "civilian police enthusiast."
Much of America's history has been defined by the quest to determine and then extend our civil rights. In my lifetime, that effort has including pushing for equal schools and for racial integration of public facilities, for the right of every qualified citizen to vote, for equal rights for women, for the disabled, and for gay people, among others. Big issues, big struggles.
The right to breathe seems like a no-brainer.
But recently I'm starting to wonder. Across America this winter, marchers took up the cry of "I can't breathe" when a police officer on Staten Island used a banned chokehold to kill a suspect whose primary offense was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Now, there's an uproar about a shocking case (OK, many not shocking...there's been so many like this) in Oklahoma in which a part-time deputy reached for a Taser and pulled out his gun instead, shooting a criminal suspect to death. As the man lay dying on the pavement, he told deputies that he couldn't breathe.
I can't remember exactly who, when, or even what channel it was the other day when I heard them talking about Hillary Clinton running for president. Heck, if they moved all the talking heads talking about Hillary on the airwaves to just one 24/7 cable news channel, that would drastically reduce the air time now given over to rumor, idle speculation and the occasional rare nugget of factual information about the woman who would be our 45th president. Anyway, one of the professional pundocrats was arguing that the Democratic frontrunner faces tough sledding -- that she was derailed in 2008 because she represented the past in what became "a change election," and now the 2016 election will be about change all over again.
If you think like a TV pundit racing from Green Room to Green Room, that actually makes sense. In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, just 32 percent of the nation thinks that America is on the right track, a number that's held fairly level through most of the last two presidencies. The public rates its leaders poorly as well -- Congress has approval numbers lower than pretty much every group besides ISIS, and the flood of folks volunteering to join the Islamic State makes me wonder even about that. (Has anyone ever gone on Twitter and pledged allegiance to Congress?) President Obama's supporters do a jig when his numbers eek up to 50 percent. Beyond the numbers, many have given up on the American Dream. The nation, outside of its trusty hedge-fund operatives, hasn't seen a raise in close to a generation, and breaking the career circle of life for the 99 Percent seems based more on who you know than what you can accomplish.
Still, having said all that, I don't think 2016 is a "change" election, not at all. In fact, if Obama could run for a third term, I think he'd win and get the same 52-53 percent that he got the first two times, maybe even slightly better as the nation's demographics continue to evolve. I just don't see much evidence that the American voter is looking for change next year.
My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be cause for the taking of another life.
This is what they mean by closing the loop. The circle starts with this quote from an open letter written by Sen. Edward Kennedy to the Los Angeles district attorney on May 18, 1969 -- pleading for the life of Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating his brother Bobby Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign.
That episode is actually one of my earliest political memories. I was 10 years old at the time, and I was having a hard time reconciling what I was learning every week in Sunday school -- that it was a sin to take another life -- with the notion that society still executed criminals. The grace and compassion of the Kennedy family -- affirming what they believed was morally right, even when it involved avenging the death of a beloved family member -- was something that really made an impression on me at that young age.
This was the day after the shock video of the killing of Walter Scott -- the unarmed, black South Carolina man whose death that was captured on a smartphone -- that led to a rare murder arrest of the officer who shot him. And our leaders seemed to grasp for their dictionary of cliches
It was "awfully hard to watch," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest -- a comment that I've heard or read a lot in the last 24 hours. Another one I heard -- from the mayor of North Charleston, S.C., where the shooting occurred, and from others -- was along the lines of, "I watched the video, and what I saw sickened me."
I get it. It is hard to find the right words when you watch a man -- a guy with four kids and a fiancee -- shot in the back and then handcuffed while he bleeds to death. But it would be nice if someone high up the political food chain said something like, "Things need to change in this country. We all need to try to make sure this kind of thing never happens again!"
Here are some things that we know about Walter Scott.
Scott was a 50-year-old black man, pulled over on Saturday in North Charleston, S.C., by a white member of that city's predominantly white police force, for driving with a broken tail light.
He was not armed.