Depending upon your political bent, you either saw justice served or justice denied tonight when the St. Louis County Grand Jury returned their no-bill tonight. You’d like to think it’s more complicated than that, but really, sadly, it isn’t. The RWNJ© are all calling Mike Brown a thug and a rabid animal. The Libtards© are all screaming about lawless lawmen. Who’s right? Who knows, we will never know for sure what happened on that street corner. Well…we DO know that an unarmed young black man was shot by a white police officer. Again. We DO know that police officer fired twelve shots. Beyond that, eyewitness testimony is conflicting, as eyewitnesses are wont to do.

Yes, Mike Brown was walking down the middle of the street after having committed a crime (caught on tape) when confronted by Officer Wilson. Does that mean that he deserved to be shot to death? Not according to the laws of our land. It is an oft-quoted statement that a good attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if they really want to. But apparently they can’t get an indictment on a cop. There are laws that protect the work that cops do. These are necessary laws. It’s ugly work that they do. I don’t think I could do it, could you? However, that does not mean that peace officers should be above the law. In listening to DA Robert P. McCulloch, describe the evidence, one is struck by how all of those contradictory statements were only on the side of those people who thought Officer Wilson should be indicted. Seemingly all those who felt he acted in a justified manner were in lockstep. Odd that, isn’t it? McCulloch abdicated his duties by not presenting the case, but rather doing a data dump and letting the twelve citizens figure it out. We need to stop right now and write laws, at the federal level if need be, that state that anytime a police officer shoots a citizen there will be a jury trial. With a judge. And Prosecuting Attorneys who are trying to prosecute a crime and Defense Attorneys who are trying to defend their client. No more DAs who just dump and tell a grand jury to sift. Don’t like that idea? Too expensive? Fine. Put body cameras on every single police officer every single time they step out of the station house. If the NSA can watch what the citizens are doing, then the citizens have the right to watch what are police are doing.

Funny title that, “Peace Officers.” How many of them are really committed to keeping the peace? Well, I’d say a lot of them, otherwise our streets would run with blood. And it would be the kind of blood that some people would actually care about. You know,white blood. There is no denying that crime is endemic in the inner cities. The system is set up that way. Youth (of all colors) are warehoused in “schools” until they are old enough to leave, and then what? Even if they stay long enough to graduate, the “education” they receive is for shit. There are no jobs for which they are prepared that pay more than minimum wage. There is no family that can survive on minimum wage. One in three black men in this country will end up doing time in the pen. Are you seriously going to tell me that means that a third of all black men are criminals?This is the system we set up in 1619 when the first black slaves stepped off the boat in Virginia. It’s the system that we set up in 1877, when we, as a country, threw up our hands and decided to let the losers of the Civil War win Reconstruction. It’s the system that we set up in 1896 with Plessy v Ferguson. It’s the system that we DIDN’T fix in 1954. Or 1964. Or 1968. It’s the system that we gave up on trying to fix after 1968. We have allowed those who shout hatred to win. We have allowed those who would destroy this country to preserve white supremacy to win. Again.

What is it that the NRA and overcompensating gun-owners like to say? When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns? That would be your police forces, Fellow Americans©. Welcome to Amerikka.

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Burwell v Hobby Lobby (or Welcome to the New Regime)

You can read the full text of the decision here at MotherJones.com, including Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, which starts on page 60. The issues that have been raised in the dissent are crucial. This decision has literally opened the way for for-profit corporations to practice religious discrimination. You might say “Hey, we’re a Christian nation, I don’t have a problem with that.” But guess what, this ruling sets a precedent that singles out some religions, including some denominations of Christianity, as being more deserving of rights than others. Don’t forget, there are Christian women who can now be legally discriminated against because of this ruling. How long until it is your denomination that is no longer being protected?

But all that is really just a side show, this case really isn’t about religion, as is obvious from the fact that Hobby Lobby has no problem investing their employer-match 401k funds in the very companies that manufacture and market the contraceptives they claim to abhor. This case is about control. How much control over your life, and your own body, are you willing to cede to corporate entities? For everyone who has railed against ACA as a gross infringement of the government into their private health decisions, while waving the “Get your dirty government hands out of my health care!” placards about…well, Congratulations! You are now celebrating the government intrusion into health care. Just remember, it’s a double-edged sword.

Once Again, Entirely too Soon

We’ve lost another tremendous talent to a horrific disease. Whitney Houston died much too soon. And though the official cause of death may not be listed as “Addiction”, one cannot help but speculate that it will prove to be a contributing factor. This, of course, becomes fodder for the would-be comedians again. As someone posted on facebook today, “Whitney Houston picked a good time to die. This seems like the only was she would get mentioned at the Grammys again.” (sic).

You probably know by now that I won’t join in the chuckles. I won’t laugh, though I can’t imagine that I’ll shed many tears, either. I’ve done enough of that over the years, though to what purpose, I’ll never really know. It’s not as though I have known any of these superstars that have died too young. I have known others that shared the same fate, however.

I don’t think it’s funny when someone dies. Period. I certainly don’t think it amusing when they die of addiction.  Of course, there but for the grace of Bob, and all that…so yes, I take it to heart. The only difference between someone like Whitney and someone like me is that I didn’t have millions of people watching every time I stumbled. (Well, income differential might indicate that she had access to better drugs, but that’s neither here nor there) And I did stumble. I fell. I constantly failed to live up to any standards or resolutions that I laid down. Quit? Sure! Absolutely. Hundreds. Of. Times. What did I do to finally succeed? How did I earn the right to keep on living, when those who have so much more to give die one after another? Fuck if I know.

I also don’t know if it will ever be enough. This disease, and yes, it is a disease, so quit your morality-laden willpower bullshitting already, is never cured. I may never use again. I may never drink again. But I will ALWAYS be an addict. And if some future use doesn’t get me, it’s always entirely possible that some past use will rear its head and wipe me out in some other fashion. Don’t believe me? Ask United Health Care. I told them I went to rehab and they said “No, no, no.” As in “Your stint in rehab makes you too much of a risk for us to provide life insurance at this time.” I didn’t bother to ask when might be a better time.

Want to know the truth? Want to know how we know we have truly succeeded at staying sober? We die of something else.

Busy Signals

Mark McGuinn

Mark McGuinn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a ton of music on my computer. I love music, and listen to it while I work or play. But I have so much, it’s difficult to navigate sometimes. I rarely need to hear THAT song, so my solution is to order the songs alphabetically and play that way. Straight through, A to Z. Or A to Busy in the last couple of months in my case…I told you I have a lot of music. Playing the music in order does more than satisfy my latent OCD tendencies. It’s a way to shuffle without getting lost. I never know what I’m going to hear–reggae? classical? pop/rock? country? jazz? international? So it stays fresh, something I’ve noticed doesn’t happen with playlists. At a certain point, kind of like with most commercial radio these days, you already know what the next song is going to be.

Anyway, I bring this up, because I just heard a song–“Busy Signal” off Mark McGuinn‘s 2001 debut album–and it struck me, well, two things actually struck me: first what the heck ever happened to Mark McGuinn? but secondly, and more important for my discussion here, does anyone under the age of 30 even know what a busy signal IS anymore? It seems fairly obvious to me the answer would be a resounding no.

I would also argue that losing that busy signal has cost us something as a society. (Insert creaky gramma voice here: When I was your age…) Seriously, those of us who grew up with a busy signal learned a lesson that the subsequent generation has not. While I’m not willing to lay the death of civilization as we know it to call-waiting, there is something to be said for the power of the busy signal. First of all, it taught that the latter caller was not the end-all, be-all of the universe. Guess what? Someone else was first, you have to wait. I have noticed, over an almost thirty-year career of working with the public that this has manifested itself outside the realm of the phone. In a previous era, when engaged with one customer, the second would walk up, stop a certain distance away that let me know that s/he needed something while at the same time being a respectful distance that let me know, they were politely waiting their turn. Today? Not so much. You can be obviously engaged with a customer or employee (I’ve observed this from both sides of the counter) and another person will walk up, and without so much as a sheepish look, start spouting about their needs.

I’ve developed a way of handling this, from both sides of the counter. If I am the employee, I smile as brightly as I can and explain that I was helping this customer who had arrived first and would be with the interloper shortly. Being on the other side of the counter is waaaay more fun. “Oh, I’m so sorry, how rude of me to have been here first. That was so inconsiderate on my part. Please, by all means interrupt, I just know that YOUR time is soooooo much more valuable than mine or anyone else’s. No really, you are obviously so much more important than a mere mortal like myself, take my time and my sales associate. It’s only right.” I can’t tell you how many (not always surreptitious) high-fives I have shared with frustrated sales people.

I realize this makes me sound like a crank. I also realize that EVERY generation thinks that the one that comes after is a bunch of ill-mannered ingrates. However, this behavior is cross-generational. I’ve seen it from the X-, Y-, Z- and whatevertheheckthey’recalledthesedays-generation as well as the “Greatest” generation. It seems to have infected the society from top to bottom. Cure? Who knows…I don’t see the busy signal making a comeback anytime soon. And since we still insist on giving everyone a trophy, everyone thinks they’re special. Which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, except that even though everyone gets the same trophy, everyone still thinks that they are MORE special…