The Frog Sings (Not)

MJF Not Singing

Just when I thought that some level of consensus had formed around the death of Eric Garner in New York, I got into quite a discussion while posting comments regarding an article someone forwarded to me.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, the author concludes that he “cannot in good conscience say there was insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Pantaleo for involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.” His conclusion is based on a standard of reasonableness as regards the use of force by the police.

So, I posted the following comment in response to the article:

“Thank you. I agree with your analysis. There was a point made on TV the other night, which is that he died as a result of the chokehold, but also chest compression from the weight of the other officers. But Pantaleo was the only one the grand jury looked at. That may be why they didn’t indict him, but it’s still a travesty. Forget, for a minute, about the reasonableness test for cops. I don’t see how anyone can watch that video, hear Garner saying repeatedly that he can’t breathe, and think that continuing the chokehold was OK. Did they think he was lying? If so, on what basis?”

Oh boy. Here’s the string of comments that ensued, along with my replies. The handles of the other posters have been changed.

Other Poster #1: “Did it occur to you that if he could talk he could breath?”

Me: “Yes, that does occur to me. I suppose he could have said “I’m having difficulty breathing.” But it wouldn’t have made any difference so far as the actions of the officer.”

Other Poster #1: “Their actions were the correct actions. He did not die as a result of any type of hold.”

Me: “Then why did the coroner’s report conclude that his death was a homicide? I don’t think the New York coroner’s office is engaging in some sort of subjective, conspiratorial scheme.”

Other Poster #1: “The coroner did not say it was due to a chokehold … And the Grand Jury found no wrongdoing on the part of police … So what would be your point?”

Me: “Homicide means he did not die of natural causes. So I guess my point is that he died as a result of the actions of the police. You can debate whether those actions were criminal, but can you at least acknowledge that their actions caused his death ( which would contradict your earlier post)?”

Other Poster #1: “I am not debating anything…if he complies he lives…he chose not to and was taken down in a very efficient manner…his bad health killed him…but it would have been so easy for him to live…the police are not the bad guys…”

Me: “Well, to me, the notion that it’s OK for the police to cause someone’s death trying to arrest them for selling loose cigarettes is debatable. I respectfully disagree with you, sir.”

Other Poster #2: “Are the police supposed to be psychic now? Were they supposed to just know that Mr. Garner was unarmed and going to have a heart-attack?”

Me: “They knew he was unarmed at the point when he was on the ground. The coroner ruled his death a homicide, which means he wouldn’t have had a heart attack at that particular moment but for the actions of the police.”

That’s the whole string. Is it just me or do these other posters seem completely out to lunch?

The Frog Sings

Michigan J Frog

When I was a kid, I saw a cartoon premised on a frog who lived in a cigar box. The frog would only sing and dance for the person who found the cigar box and opened it. The person unfortunate enough to find the frog would, inevitably, try to make money presenting the frog in theaters, but the frog would never perform in those conditions. The person who found the frog would thus be humiliated and take the frog home, at which point the frog would continue it’s act.

I imagine that people who claim they’ve been abused by the police might feel a bit like the person who found the frog, trying in vain to convince others of their experience. I remembered the cartoon when I saw the video of the police in New York trying to arrest the guy accused of selling loose cigarettes, who died of a heart attack due to his mistreatment.

For once, it seems, most everyone saw the same thing, regardless of race. There are protests going on and the protesters are a diverse group. Also, the protests have been peaceful, which lends added legitimacy.

This is progress. Let’s be happy that the frog is finally singing for a wider audience.

That’s Crazy

Choke Hold

So, this isn’t Ferguson. There are two major differences. First, I doubt that anyone will claim that the outcome of the grand jury investigation is racist. If they do make that claim, they really shouldn’t. We’re not talking about Missouri here (not to say that Missouri is racist). We’re talking about New York City, which is probably the most diverse city in the world. And in New York, when there is racism, it is overt and celebrated, as in the classic scene from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”

Second, we don’t need to guess about what happened, or rely on witness statements, or forensic evidence, or the judgement of the jurors. Why? Because there is video. Everyone can look at it and reach their own conclusion. I’ve looked at the video and it is difficult for me to believe that the officer will not be charged with a crime.

So if it isn’t a race issue, what is it? To me, it’s a broader indictment of a criminal justice system that is biased when it comes to the very people who are sworn to uphold the law.

Peter Kassig

I’ve had to think awhile to be able to write about the latest victim, Peter Kassig, shown in the beheadings that have been videotaped and posted on the internet. I’ve questioned whether to write about it at all, but this is on my mind, and it’s an important topic.

My understanding of Peter Kassig is based solely on media reports. I didn’t know him.

He was honorably discharged from the Army Rangers and then created a non-profit to provide assistance to victims of the civil war in Syria. He was abducted by terrorists while providing aid in Syria, held for over a year, then murdered. The evidence of the murder is a video recording, showing his severed head on the ground.

I haven’t viewed any of the beheading videos, and I encourage others to avoid them. Why? Because the terrorists are putting them on the internet, so, obviously, they think they gain an advantage by doing so. I make an exception for government officials and reporters. Someone has to watch it. I imagine it’s a terrible burden.

The stuff that should be on the internet is the work that Peter Kassig did before he was murdered. There are many more acts of courage and generosity that occur on a daily basis than there are acts of brutality and cruelty. I encourage the media to consider this going forward.

What if the media used the same approach as the terrorists; understanding that content has an impact? Tell Peter’s story, and people like him. By that I mean celebrate and magnify good people. It’s crazy that there are so many people who do good works, struggling in obscurity. Meanwhile, murderers have a large audience, presenting material that would, just a year ago, be unthinkable. And it should be free on youtube, as was the video created by the terrorists.

The terrorist video of Peter Kassing should not be the last comment on his life. Someone needs to produce a film about his life that lionizes him as a hero.

I’ll speculate here about the fact that the video, which I have not seen, varied from the previous videos. There is no video of him submitting to his captors and making anti-American statements prior to his execution.

One of the things that has forced me to think about Peter is the possibility that he resisted his captors, perhaps to spare his parents from the real-time act of his submission and the horror of his murder being posted on the internet.

Think, for a moment, the role his memory might play in the battle between dark and light. He is a hero.

The Drought

Drought Boat

Well, just when I was feeling upbeat, along comes the barbarian horde with a new beheading video. I’m not going to write about that today, though, except to send my thoughts and prayers to the family of the latest victim, Peter Kassig.

Instead, I’m going to talk about a relatively happy topic. See? Anything can be happy, relatively speaking.

Hopefully this winter will be a wet one, but it’s become increasingly clear that a long term solution to California’s water supply is needed. Water is the biggest issue facing the Golden State. A lot of people don’t think about it unless there’s a drought, but the issue is always there in some form. Whether it’s the push and pull between agricultural, industrial, and residential use, or the environmental degradation in the Delta, the issue never really goes away; it just goes off the radar.

My suggestion is to recycle waste water and put it back into the fresh water system. I know, I know, but believe it or not there is technology to recycle water that makes it cleaner than the water that comes out of your tap. It’s called reverse osmosis and it’s already being used in the Bay Area to provide super-clean water for the Chevron oil refinery. Chevron partnered with a water district to build the facility because the recycled water is so clean that it reduces the calcification in the pipes that cool the refining process, thus resulting in reduced maintenance costs.

Of course, the problem is that people can’t get their heads wrapped around the idea, in part because of the unfortunate phrase “toilet to tap.” Well, get over it. The water’s not going from your toilet to your tap. And if you think about it, what’s so attractive about the notion of water being stored in an unlined reservoir, with fish using it for their toilet? It reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live skit. “The fish are swimming in their own toilet! It’s disgusting!”

Yes, it would be expensive to build the facilities to recycle enough water to satisfy all the needs, but it couldn’t be any more expensive than building more dams, or that water tunnel that Jerry Brown wants to build. Plus, the voters just passed a huge bond measure to deal with water supply.

It seems like Australia is taking the lead on recycled water, due to their own periodic drought problems. So let’s take a clue from our friends down under, grow up and get over the ick factor, and deal with our water issues once and for all.