Thursday, October 16, 2014

SEMINOLE SHAME

I worked  in Tallahassee for a time. I loved the game day atmosphere, and was in seventh heaven being the Director of Marketing of the hotel hosting the teams visiting Doak Campbell Stadium.  For a bit of trivia,  the "Tomahawk Chop " at Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chief games, mimics what Seminole fans have done for decades. 

 


To those who find the entire concept of teams named after Native Americans in this century a huge embarrassment, the fact that the Seminole tribe actually sanctions FSU's use of the name is testimony to the hold sports has on the collective  mind.  It's hard to understand how we are able to be convinced there is a justification  when it comes to offensive names and mascots.  Wikipedia notes, "The Washington Redskins use the slang term "redskin" which is currently defined in dictionaries as derogatory, while the Florida State Seminoles' use of the Seminole name is officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. "  Though there may be an ethical difference to some fans , there is something unsettling seeing 100,000 people  do the "Tomahawk Chop" while rooting for a taxpayer supported university. No matter how FSU spins it, the choice looks a lot closer to " Chief Wahoo" of the Cleveland Indians than the noble warrior imagery FSU and the Seminole Tribe seeks to be portraying.  



It does not take an excess of sensitivity to ask why the Seminole tribe should not rethink their endorsement of FSU on the grounds Indian activist Russell Means used back in 1972, when the Cleveland Indians were sued for libel, slander, and defamation from for their use of Chief Wahoo. Whatever one might think of that manner of litigation, the fact remains the most prominent name associated with the term "Seminole" nowadays is both a Heisman trophy winner and an alleged rapist. It seems as if Jameis Winston is conducting a conscious campaign to displace, spousal abuser Ray Rice, famed workplace bully Richie Incognito, and alleged human Adrian Peterson, as America's most despised athlete. With Winston as the poster child for the Seminole brand,  the party responsible for the marketing of the Seminole brand, must be speed dialling Paula Deen's team for Crisis Counselling.

Christine Brennan relates in USA TODAY, the Florida State administration, seems to be channelling Penn State's reaction to the Jerry Sandusky matter, in a manner that conceivably could make NFL Commissioner Goodell shake his head in envying disbelief.  That puts the FSU in a league with the football addled educators continuing to sell the Sandusky  memoir "Touched" in the PSU bookstore after all hell broke out. 

"The embarrassment continues unabated at Florida State, a school that has put the need to win football games above all else, including an alleged rape, a Title IX violation and, pending an investigation, an NCAA rule that some schools still actually follow" 

DEFYING GRAVITY 

The Jameis Winston saga deserves the adjective "Wicked".  Not the Broadway show with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.....


Jameis Winston is set to start the BCS consequential Notre Dame game Saturday.  His continued eligibility flies in the face of both natural (and Federal) laws. FSU Administrators and law enforcement ignored Winston's felonious acts all last year, in the service of winning the National title. Heisman trophy voters shamefully honored Winston after the iceberg's tip was revealed. Winston remains eligible despite gravity defying acts of entitled stupidity, which includes stealing crab legs from Publix, soda from Burger King,  and shooting a BB gun at his apartment complex. Suspended one game (originally one half) for standing on a table in the student union and screaming sexual vulgarities , he famously defied his coach by dressing for the game anyway. 


For the casual fan, the only thing more narcissistic than an alleged rapist standing in public and spouting misogynist smack, is someone only recently cleared of vehicular homicide executing yet another road range incident. 



There is a story breaking on ESPN about 2000 signed Winston items being authenticated by the same company involved with the suspension of Georgia running back Todd Gurley . Just when one might believe the term "character issue" could be residing in the back of Coach Jimbo Fisher's mind., we see predecessor Bobby Bowden using pigskin based local sainthood, to say Jameis simply had to grow up. " As coach for the "Free Shoes University"  (agents bought more than $6,000 worth of shoes for players) Bowden has experience in  "spin control"  for scandals.

Christine Brennan sums my feelings up brilliantly...."It must be so much fun to be a Florida State fan right now, living inside that morality-free bubble that fits so snugly over the campus in Tallahassee. Your young and impressionable football coach, Jimbo Fisher, believes every single word Winston has to say about signing autographs, because Jameis is just so, well, so incredibly believable. 

An allegation of rape? Come on. That's old news now. When you mishandle it this bad for this long, nearly two years, you might as well just forget about it entirely, right, Seminoles? Plus, that's what civil lawsuits are for.

And all those autographs Winston signed and for which he of course didn't get paid one penny? After 22 months of successfully stiff-arming scandal, why stop now? Don't be cautious like Georgia and even Texas A&M. Roll the dice. Worst case scenario, should you win another national title and have to give it up someday because Winston actually might not be telling the truth, everyone would know you won it on the field, and lost it later to the despised NCAA. So that almost counts as a win-win, right?"

THE GHOST OF JOE PATERNO

One would think that after the Joe Paterno's fall, someone at FSU would place a call to ex-Penn State President Graham Spanier. They might inquire how well similar denial strategies worked for the Nittany Lions. Bobby Bowden officially is the most victorious coach in college football history. That status is  due to the fall of Joe Paterno. In the light of that epic disgrace, its largely forgotten that in Bowden's final years, the Seminoles had to vacate 12 victories, due to an academic cheating scandal featuring athletes from the entire FSU athletic program. 


After Penn State's implosion, it's unfathomable there exists a university and community willing to defy the fates,  and become enablers for another rogue program.  While taking time from a busy schedule of "tasering" grandmothers, the Tallahassee Police Department chose to ignore serious criminal charges. Choosing not to conduct a credible investigation months ago, Florida State and Tallahassee authorities chose to kick the can down the road until FSU won the national title.  

Though the school says it's proceeding with a disciplinary hearing for Winston, it's probable his legal team will prevail stop that process given the preceding 22 months of inaction. Odds are good that substantive procedural questions will defer any proceedings until the new college football playoff concludes. By then Winston most certainly will find refuge in the league where NOW president Terry O'Neill notes, "According to FiveThirtyEight.com, the relative arrest rate of NFL players is fifty-five percent for domestic violence, and thirty-eight percent for sex offenses." Given "the shield's" outlaw culture Mr. Winston just might fit in. 

The leaders of FSU's namesake tribe must cringe each time Jameis Winston self identifies as a Seminole. 





MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE EBOLA TEA PARTY

"They have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution" 
-Pat Buchanan



As this is written, the Ebola virus is ravaging three countries - Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  In the hot zone the rate of infection is doubling every month or two. And now singular cases are cropping up in major world cities, including domestically. Even if the current pandemic is brought under control, the fruit bats that carry the virus are destined to continue to seek new habitats as climate change and the ongoing destruction of the forests continuing deforestation and natural habitat destruction in the areas where the fruit bats that carry Ebola, make future outbreaks increasingly likely. We see it with all sorts of creatures nowadays, that endless march to survive a world that keeps changing due to an increasingly hotter world, and the resultant broadening of habitats. In this time of danger and uncertainty, it is time to point at least one finger where it belongs. And it should be upraised and pointed at the junk science purveyors, that have convinced huge percentages of Americans that there is nothing to worry about. As long as the fossil fuel industry keeps enjoying the fruits of their donations. 

I usually deplore midterm campaigns, for the intemperate ads the consultants create. I rather agree with this one. It blames the ongoing antics of the Republicans in Congress for Ebola spreading. For all the sequestrations and budgetary games, have adversely affected the agencies we occasionally do need in times of crisis. Right Now. Such as the Centers for Disease Control. 


The bubonic plague killed a third of Europe's population. The flu pandemic after WWI killed nearly one hundred million people, almost 5% of the world population. Until now Ebola occurred in isolated places, and ended by infecting everyone in an area, then running out of new victims. Now that the current outbreak has spread to large population centers,  the chances of a spontaneous end to the pandemic is small. The mortality rate currently is trending to 50%. Some believe it will end up closer to 70%. 



We are told, Ebola has a three week incubation period,  where patients remain asymptomatic and, theoretically noninfectious. Some patients however, were and are asymptomatic throughout and infect others. without the high fever, nausea, fatigue, bloody stool, bloody vomit, nose bleeds and signs of hemorrhage , we are told to look for. We are told that Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the afflicted.  Among pigs and monkeys Ebola spreads through the air, and the possibility of catching as we do the flu, is impossible to discount entirely. Many of the medical staff who have been infected, were wearing protective gear, such as the nurse in Dallas.  If it is able to be transmitted through the air, the next fashion trend may have been previewed by John Travolta in this screen classic....



The blood tests for someone suspected of having Ebola, is known to produce false negatives. The current "enhanced screening," being introduced at our airports, is unlikely to stop infected individuals at the gate. The history of the TSA, includes open worrying that breast milk has a potential for explosives.  It is unclear what would guarantee that Ebola is not going to spread. Even a month-long group quarantine of those coming from the "Hot Zone" countries, could be defeated by a fast-mutating virus adapting to a longer  period of quarantine. 



The current protocol for treatment of Ebola cases, amounts to little more than hydration and palliative care. The only effective therapy currently, is the transfusion of blood from survivors. The experimental drug ZMapp has been less effective in humans, than in monkeys. Even if its production was scaled up, it will be too late to impact this current epidemic. Ebola vaccines have been demonstrated to be effective in animal trials, one has been shown to be safe in humans, but the process of proving effectiveness for humans and producing sufficient quantities,  takes far longer than it takes for the virus to infect the world. Part of the problems we face today, are due to the way our domestic political dysfunction has decimated funding for research and development for agencies such as NASA and the CDC. For the "private sector" lacks the ability to address all woes. No matter what we have heard for years from the Republican right wing, the planet is changing markedly faster than Al Gore's warnings in "An Inconvenient Truth." 



A scenario where Ebola engulfs the globe is not yet guaranteed, but neither is it an apocalyptic fantasy.  And in the worst case, Ebola could reduce the human population of the earth from over 7 billion to around 3.5 billion in a relatively short period of time. Though  a 50% population reduction is still not an extinction, the world it leaves in its wake would be like the aftermath of World War III. The living would envy the dead. 

In that worst case scenario, there undoubtedly will still be the flat earth crowd in our politics, that will proclaim a population collapse as a benign event, and, given their Social Darwinism and fundamentalism, would probably proclaim that the horror was somehow beneficial, due to its origins in the world's poorer places. Those remaining to appear on Fox News, will be answering burning questions like wealth preservation, and hedging portfolios against a 50% global population drop  Of course all currency, stocks, bonds, and any other financial instruments, would be worthless. So would commodities such as fossil fuels. and precious metals. For people cannot consume gold. Since wealthy people squandered a disproportionate amount of the world's treasure on themselves before the plague, those ascendant in the aftermath might decide to revisit the Soviet purges or the Nazi People's Courts. They might remember as well, the complacency and selfishness the world has displayed whenever it has considered human suffering in Africa. And as they curse the failed generation of leadership that ignored science and fact, in the name of votes and greed, they will reflect upon how nature ultimately exacted Pat Buchanan's "retribution." 

MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL

Thursday, October 2, 2014

THE TRAGEDY OF ALBUQUERQUE

"Breaking Bad has given me a way to explain Albuquerque without saying a word. It’s a place where we struggle with drug epidemics, extreme drought, hunger, drunk driving, gun violence (New Mexico’s gun death rate is 40% higher than the national average), and a corrupt police force. Nearly 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the crime rate is 53% higher than the national average. Albuquerque is a city plagued by mediocrity — a drying river, a losing football team (the University of New Mexico Lobos), a dearth of ambition. But it also gets under your skin and into your blood, like a drug you won’t forget and can’t explain. It will always be my home, even if I am far away.” 

Trying to explain Albuquerque to those who never lived there, inevitably brings the conversation to the place portrayed in “Breaking Bad”. And inevitably I refer them to Madeline Carey’s great piece in Time Magazine, quoted above. Ms. Carey explains the way I feel, and the reasons why the "best and the brightest" of my generation, inevitably live somewhere else. We miss our hometown desperately. Nobody plans to move back. 


On October 1st, NPR ran a piece on the ongoing saga of excessive and lethal force used in my old hometown of Albuquerque, by the police department. The lead states, “to understand the tension between the cops and some people in Albuquerque, you have to go back to a Tuesday in April.” I  respectfully disagree. Speaking as a person who was a political activist in my college days at the University of New Mexico, the “tension” has been ongoing for decades. In a place that has led the nation many years in crime rate statistics, it is a bitter irony that among the largest generators of murder and mayhem, is Albuquerque's own police department.

Many who were activists in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, tried mightily to mobilize citizens back then to act in quieter, more traditional ways. And failed miserably to get signatures on petitions for fear of the Albuquerque Police. Long before Walter White and Breaking Bad, there have been gangs of outlaws seen as willing to kill anybody, because they could. The tragedy of Albuquerque is that too many historically have been connected with law enforcement.  In most jurisdictions in America, receiving a traffic stop is an unwelcome experience. In Albuquerque, there is a higher than normal chance that an infraction can get somebody shot. Is there racial profiling in the APD DNA? Of course. But it really does not matter in police encounters. For history states, Albuquerque's finest, will bully anybody if provoked. Or not. 

The April 2014 report of the Department of Justice speaks loudly enough, "Based on our investigation, we have reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section 14141."  

If that is not damning enough , we have the following "we are not that bad" stories from Vladimir Putin's in house network, "Russia Today." 





Years ago during undergraduate days at the University of New Mexico, I quickly learned of the “tension”. It has been going on for eons, even before statehood in 1912. It has gotten progressively worse. In a place that has leads the nation many years in crime rate statistics, it is a bitter irony that one of the largest generators of murder and mayhem, are it’s own police forces. Albuquerque has been Ferguson on steroids forever, in a way that makes the Rodney King protagonists appear to be poster kids for good policing techniques. In a time where we are involved in other countries, spending the national treasury to bomb the rogue militias of ISIS, summary police executions of a sort are part of a typical week in a major American City. If there was ever a place in modern times, that lives up to the adjectives of Dr. King, "a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression", it is Albuquerque. The trailing video speaks volumes




Courtesy Of the Albuquerque Journal, here is a list and links to, stories about each victim of Albuquerque's Fatal Police shootings since 2010.  

1/9/10: Officer Andrew Cooke shoots Aaron Renfro
1/13/10: Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba shoots Kenneth Ellis III
3/29/10: Officer Kevin Sanchez shoots Mickey Owings
6/10/10: Officers Eric Brown, Anthony Sedler shoot Chris Hinz
6/14/10: Officer Aaron Zwicky shoots Julian Calbert
7/27/10: Officer Jeremy Hollier shoots Len Fuentes
8/17/10: Officer Josh Brown shoots Enrique Carrasco
10/19/10: Officers Drew Bader, Ramon Ornelas shoot Daniel Gonzales
10/31/10: Officer David Sprague shoots Alexei Sinkevitch
2/9/11: Detective Byron “Trey” Economidy shoots Jacob Mitschelen
4/12/11: Officer Christopher J. Brown shoots Christopher Torres
5/10/11: Officer Sean Wallace shoots Alan Gomez
6/4/11: Officer Matthew Oates shoots Raymond Garcia
8/30/11: Officer Jim Perdue shoots Michael Marquez
1/4/12: Officer Mario Perez shoots Mark Macoldowna
3/19/12: Officer Martin Smith shoots Daniel Tillison
3/21/12: Officer Russ Carter shoots Gary Atencio
3/5/13: Officers Perdue, Sedler and Aragon shoot Parrish Dennison
3/19/13: APD shot at Kendall Carroll, but he was killed by State Police
7/5/13: Officers Jeff Bludworth and Katherine Wright shoot Vincent Wood
10/26/13: Officer Luke McPeek and others shoot Christopher Chase
12/8/13: Officer Hector Marquez shoots Andy Snider
3/16/14: Detective Keith Sandy, Officer Dominique Perez shoot and kill James Boyd
3/25/14: Officer James Eichel shoots and kills Alfred Redwine
4/21/14: Officer Jeremy Dear shoots and kills Mary Hawkes
5/3/14: Officer Daniel Hughes shoots and kills Armand Martin
5/22/14: Officers Ryan Graves, Brian Fuchs shoot and kill Ralph Chavez
7/22/14: Officers Anthony Sedler, Ramon Ornelas shoot and kill Jeremy Robertson


"HOW CAN YOU BREAK THE LAW WHEN YOU ARE THE LAW?"

To understand the relationship between the police and community in Albuquerque, one need only stop at the real crimes website, initiated by several families of unsolved homicide victims in the "Land of Enchantment"  It’s opening title speaks volumes, quoting one member of the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department's “elite” Crime Suppression Unit, saying to his oft battered wife when she threatened to call 911: "Go ahead and call. How can you break the law when you are the law?" The narrative continues….

“ When the supervisor of the Albuquerque Police Department's Cold Case Squad criticized the mother of a homicide victim for questioning the actions of "an impeccable police department," the families of over a dozen New Mexico murder victims decided to take a long look at that "impeccable" department, as well as other investigative agencies in the state. What that group uncovered was a history of on-going corruption, involving city police, state police, and sheriff's departments, that underscored a headline in the Albuquerque Journal, "THE CITIZENS OF ALBUQUERQUE ARE AFRAID OF THEIR COPS."

The "Eye on Albuquerque" website summarizes it very simply....

"This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque.....Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach."

The sad history of APD shows, the authors are guilty of understatement. 

FINAL THOUGHTS


Occasionally, we write and forget there is often a story that illustrates a point so eloquently, that facts and links risk obscuring what the facts truly mean.  Jen Hayden in the Daily Kos has found one of these. 


Quote from Officer Keith Sandy,

"On March 16, Albuquerque police opened fire on homeless camper James Boyd in the New Mexico foothills. The entire scene was caught on video and sparked instant public outrage.

The death of James Boyd was one of many fatal shootings in New Mexico, something the Department of Justice determined was a pattern of unjustified excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.

Now a dashcam video has surfaced, which recorded audio of Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy, one of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, saying he would shoot Boyd in the penis:

Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?

Ware: I don't know. The guy asked for state police.

Sandy: Who asked?


Ware: I don't know.



Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.



Ware: You got uh less-lethal?

Sandy: I got…

Ware: The Taser shotgun?

Sandy: Yeah.

Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?

Sandy: ROP's got one...here's what we're thinking, because I don't know what's going on, nobody has briefed me...

A mere two hours later, Officer Sandy did fatally shoot James Boyd."



The Albuquerque Police Department is actually saying, that instead of saying "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second," Sandy said, "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him with a Taser shotgun in a second."

They refuse to release the official report, but have released one page from the New Mexico State Police report, which details a follow-up interview with State Police Sgt. Chris Ware, who said he "doesn't remember" what was said that day, but that he "believes" he said "Taser shotgun." Media Sources state repeated requests for comments from Mayor Richard Berry have been ignored.



Ms. Hayden relates, "This isn't the first troubling incident for Officer Sandy. In 2007, he was fired by the New Mexico State Police:"  The Albuquerque Police Department subsequently hired four ex-State Police officers who had freshly been relieved of duty from that agency because of a double-dipping scandal. She continues, "One officer had resigned from the State Police. The other three had been fired. All four faced criminal charges at one point for receiving payments from a private security contractor while on the clock for State Police, although those never materialized." Deputy Chief Mike Castro told KRQE News 13 at the time, ... “They do not carry guns, they are not going to be badged,” Castro said in July  2007... . “They’re civilian employees. They’ll be collecting evidence.”



As we have seen, they were "badged." And obviously received guns, and with it the power to wrongfully  take the life of yet another mentally troubled person. Keith Sandy is on paid leave while the "investigation" continues. 



MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL