Wise words on the Garner case

Saw this on FB today from Jesuit priest James Martin.  I really love the extended caveat at the beginning because so many people have a knee-jerk response that criticizing bad policing is somehow criticizing all policing– and that is so frustrating.  Anyway, here’s the whole post— it’s great:

You can support our country’s police officers, as I do. I know a few police officers personally (as well as a former police officer) and I deeply admire them for putting their lives on the lines every day, something that I do not do. (Remember the police officers who sacrificed their lives, or who were ready to sacrifice their lives, on 9/11.) You can believe that the vast majority of law-enforcement officials are trying to do their best in often extremely complicated situations. I see that almost every day in the streets and subways of New York City. You can appreciate the sometimes nearly impossible challenges of dealing with the volatile and dangerous people they must encounter. I see that too almost every day in New York. And you can understand that many of their decisions must be made in a split second, under the kind of pressure that few of us will ever know.

You can think all those things and still be appalled by the death of Eric Garner, who died after being subdued by police officers on Staten Island. His fatal confrontation with police was captured on video and has been widely viewed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ka4oKu1jo

At the beginning of the video, Mr. Garner seems belligerent. On the other hand, he had, according to witnesses, just broken up a fight on the street, so perhaps he was still tense as a result. He was also under suspicion for selling “loosies,” loose cigarettes, which is illegal. But Mr. Garner was also unarmed, and the chokehold or “vascular neck restraint” (or whatever one calls the maneuver shown in the video) and other subduing techniques used by the police led to his death. “The compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” read the coroner’s cause of death. (The practice of using chokeholds is banned by the NYPD.)

As the video clearly shows, Mr. Garner, prone on the sidewalk, gasping for breath, chokes out the words, over and over, and calmly: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” And then he dies. I am not embarrassed to say that the video moved me to tears. The fear in his voice is overwhelming.

You can admire police officers and still admit that they made a tragic mistake. You can support the justice system and still feel that justice has not been done . You can uphold the rule of law and still feel that the law is not being applied justly.

And if Mr. Garner had indeed just broken up a fight–being a peacemaker, as Jesus called us to be–then it is an even more brutal tragedy.

I’m not a police officer, so I don’t know what that life is like. I’m not an African-American, so I don’t know what that life is like either.

But when a man says, “I can’t breathe,” you should let him breathe. And if he dies after saying it, then you should have let him breathe.

Government for the energy companies, by the energy companies

Important story in the NYT today.  Isn’t it nice to know that many Republican State Attorneys General are far more interested in making energy companies happy than actually worrying about the citizens of their state.  Some of the examples are pretty egregious:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers forDevon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oiland gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature…

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year…

The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors…

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

All in all, pretty disgusting.  But those doing so are quite convinced of their rectitude in fighting the federal government’s evil regulations to try and protect our air and water.  A very sad commentary on the state of our democracy.

Photo of the day

From a Big Picture gallery of November weather:

A view of the Alps above a blanket of fog in Hohenpeissenberg, Germany, Nov. 11. (Nicolas Armer/EPA)

Quick hits (part II)

1) Looks like those annoying captchas may be a thing of the past– hooray!  Just yesterday I proved I was human by sliding a bar on a website.

2) Nice NYT editorial on the fact that it wasn’t just the chokehold that was the problem:

The results of such abuse can be seen in the final, quiet minutes of the horrifying video of the Garner assault. This is well after the chokehold, when Mr. Garner lies on the ground as officers and paramedics — who were later disciplined for their behavior — ignore him and bystanders ask: Why is no one giving him CPR?

This was the point where Mr. Garner was dying, the victim of Officer Pantaleo, but also of bad policy, poor training and heedlessness of the basics of anatomy and breathing.

3) Meanwhile only 15% of police officers account for a majority of “resisting arrest” cases.  Quite likely these are overly aggressive cops who should not be on the force.  Rather than protected at all costs as they currently are.

4) Reihan Salam on the conservative case for reforming police.  Good ideas and a good case.  Are actual conservative politicians smart enough to get on board?

5) Scary facts if you are not getting enough sleep (and there’s a very good chance you are not).

6) Fascinating to read the New Yorker’s review of the original Star Wars from back when it came out in 1977.

7) Ken Pomeroy  brings the statistics to suggest that this will be the slowest college basketball season ever.  As a big college basketball fan, discouraging news to say the least.

8) Those who seem to think the Democrats have some sort of electoral college lock are foolhardy.  A built-in advantage– sure.  But far from a lock.  Seth Masket explains.

9) This one has been sitting in an open tab for a long time to be it’s own post, but since I never got around to it… Michael Specter on the anti-science idiocy in Europe when it comes to GMO food.

10) Really enjoyed Charles Blow’s column this week on Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

11) I love that Seth Masket posted this headline to FB with no comment needed, “Denver police captain demoted for shoving Rockies fan.”  The accompanying picture shows the white office and white fan..

12) A shot for shot copy of the new Star Wars trailer using scenes from Episode IV.  Very cool.

13) I’ve enjoyed reading The New Republic for years because they have a lot of great writers.  And you’ve probably noticed I’ve been linking them more in recent months as they’ve had an expanded and terrific web presence.  Alas, looks like the new owner is committed to ruining the place and almost all their best writers have left.  Two good takes.

14) I think I just may need this new book on the awesomeness of apples.   This fall, I’ve really been loving the Crimson Crisp that I can get from one vendor (Perry Lowe Orchards) at the NC State farmer’s market and nowhere else.  One of my favorite things about fall is all the awesome apples I am able to get now and at no other time.


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