Having grown up in Birmingham, Ala., when civil rights demonstrators were attacked by police dogs, I have always had a particular opinion about the police. It changed some when one of the guys who lived down the street from me became one of the first black officers on the force. But I still harbored some reservations about the police, and over the years have seen or heard about enough incidents to almost instinctively believe allegations of police officers’ abusing their authority.
For me, there is no surprise when I hear of tragic deaths like that of Eric Garner, who died in a New York policeman’s choke hold, or Michael Brown, who was shot six times by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer who had stopped Brown and a companion for jaywalking. Too often, the police officers accused of excessive force are assigned to low-income, higher-crime, mostly minority neighborhoods where they act more like prison guards than public servants.
Their behavior reminds me of a scene in the film based on the book “The Reader” in which a former Nazi concentration camp guard says during her trial for war crimes that she didn’t unlock the doors of a church during a fire because the Jews being held captive would go free. Similar to that concentration camp guard with her Jewish prisoners, some police officers no longer see humanity in the faces of young black men in urban neighborhoods. They only see criminals or potential criminals.
Two visiting journalists from Ukraine quickly schooled me when I referred to the conflict in their country as a “civil war.”
Yulia Pankova is an investigative reporter for the NTN television station in Kiev. Maria Usenko does investigative stories for Slidstvo.Info, also in Kiev. During a visit Tuesday with the Inquirer Editorial Board, they said Americans need to understand that this is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine. They said Russian sympathizers are fighting for the Russians, but that is not the same as a civil war.
Through an interpreter, the journalists said they are worried about the hardships that the people of their country are enduring as a result of the war. They want the United States and Europe to continue putting economic pressure on Russia to stop its attempts to annex Ukrainian territory.
Having suggested that Sen. Bob Casey lacked a spine earlier this year, when he seemed to bow to pressure in failing to support an imminently qualified candidate to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge his backbone’s reappearance. The Catholic, antiabortion Democrat put those credentials at risk by voting for a bill that would have overturned the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which exempted some family-owned businesses from offering employees a full-range of contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans if they had religious objections.
The court agreed with the owners of the Pennsylvania cabinet-making company that several specific birth-control methods are considered by some religious groups to be the equivalent of abortion. But Casey told The Inquirer, “I’ll go with the scientists on what contraception is, rather than a religious viewpoint of what science is.” He also said he was worried that the court ruling would allow company executives to use their religious beliefs to restrict access to other types of health coverage.
The bill was voted down Wednesday by the Senate. But at least Casey took a position that he believed was right despite the potential political damage. He has done that before -- including in 2012 to support new gun laws after the Sandy Hook School shootings, and last year when he endorsed same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t take a similar risk to support Debo Adegbile’s nomination to the Justice Department post. Critics misrepresented Adegbile’s role with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it provided legal counsel to Mumia Abu Jamal, who was convicted of murder in the 1982 shooting of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Instead of being a voice of reason, Casey joined the emotion-driven, anti-Adegbile throng.
Our quote of the day comes from none other than Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
After a long contentious battle over school funding, where Philadelphia Democrats begged Harrisburg to enact a $2-a-pack tax that would be levied only against city smokers, a no-brainer in any other political climate, the House finally passed the measure late Wednesday. This came after Corbett said over the weekend, "I would encourage the delegation, the Democrat delegation, from the city of Philadelphia ... to give the votes to get a pension bill done so they can get a cigarette tax done so they can get additional funding for the school district of Philadelphia," adding "It's in their hands." The statement was met with outrage and derision by the Philadelphia delegation and Mayor Nutter.
On the day a Pennsylvania Turnpike toll plaza is attacked by 40,000 bees, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announces resumption of a sting case. Coincidence or natural phenomena?
Robert Devoe, Philadelphia
The National Liberty Museum is seeking nominees for its Awards of Valor ceremony, which takes place on October 1.
The Awards of Valor, presented by the local Chevrolet dealers, honors extraordinary living police and firefighters from the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas who protect us all with their bravery, valor, and spirit. The Awards of Valor recipients have stories that are gripping and inspirational, representing the very best of what Chevrolet considers “Everyday Heroes.”
The community is invited to share the stories of their local heroes so that they have a chance to be recognized at the ninth annual Awards of Valor ceremony. To nominate a police officer or firefighter go to www.libertymuseum.org. The deadline for nomination is July 22.
For low-income Philadelphians, the proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works is one of the most important decisions City Council has been called to make in many years, so Council should resist any call to move forward before all the facts are in (“Don’t let a ‘fix’ nix PGW sale,” May 29).
The publicly-released PGW sale agreement provides no assurance that the city’s most vulnerable families will not be harmed by the potential sale of PGW. Its only specific terms addressing existing programs for low-income families are confusing at best. At worst, the agreement commits the buyer, UIL Holdings, and the city only to include existing programs in their initial filings with state regulators, rather than a guarantee that existing programs will be maintained.
Unaffordable PGW bills will have a ripple effect, since families struggling to maintain service will do so at the cost of other necessities. A loss of essential heating service creates an immediate health risk, and resorting to unsafe fuel jeopardizes the safety of others. Housing abandonment further impacts neighborhoods struggling.
Rumors of KYW’s and the industry’s demise are greatly exaggerated and misleading ("KYW ratings plunge," May 15).
It is not accurate to suggest that our numbers “went right through the floor.” On the contrary, the drop off from winter to spring is quite normal, seasonal and well within our historical range. Listening to news and talk radio is always driven by weather and current events.
There is no question that the Delaware Valley sustained unusually severe weather this year and as a result, KYW’s ratings went up; in fact, we enjoyed the highest share of audience of any major market news radio station in the United States.