Sunday, July 5, 2020

Trump's Virus is Spreading and the Economy is Stalling


Paul Krugman

Just over two weeks ago The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Vice President Mike Pence titled “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave.’” The article was supposed to reassure the nation.

What it provided, instead, was a clear illustration of the delusions and magical thinking that have marked every step of the Trump administration’s response to Covid-19, producing an epic policy disaster.

Put it this way: By now, according to Trump officials and sycophants, we were supposed to be seeing a fading pandemic and a roaring recovery. Instead, we have a fading recovery and a roaring pandemic.

About the pandemic: The Pence article cheerily declared that “cases have stabilized,” with the daily average number of new cases only 20,000. Even that figure, as it happens, was five times the number in the European Union, which has a third more people than America does. Since then, however, new cases have soared, hitting more than 50,000 by some counts on Wednesday.



Indeed, at this point Arizona, with seven million people, is reporting around as many new cases each day as the whole E.U., with 446 million people.
Paul Krugman’s Newsletter: Get a better understanding of the economy — and an even deeper look at what’s on Paul’s mind.Sign Up

Some Trump supporters are still trying to dismiss the upswing in cases as an illusion created by more testing. But it isn’t. Cases have grown far more than testing has. Hospitalizations have shot up in Arizona and Texas, which are at the leading edge of the new surge; in both states, hospitals are in crisis mode. (Florida, which is probably in the same situation, hasn’t been releasing hospitalization data.)

The one piece of slightly good news is that deaths from the coronavirus are still falling, in part because the new wave of infections is hitting people younger than the first wave did, in part perhaps because doctors have gotten better at treating the disease. But Covid-19 can be debilitating and cause long-term damage, even when it doesn’t kill.

Also, deaths are a lagging indicator. In Arizona, where the jump in cases began about two weeks before the rest of the Sunbelt, deaths are rising.


The thing is, Covid-19’s resurgence was utterly predictable — and predicted. When Donald Trump declared that we would “transition to greatness” — which is to say, rush to reopen the economy despite a still-rampant pandemic — epidemiologists warned that this could set off a new wave of infections. They were right.

And economists warned that while relaxing social distancing would lead to a brief period of job growth, these gains would be short-lived, that premature reopening would be self-defeating even in economic terms. They were also right.

Don’t be fooled by the big jobs number in Thursday’s employment report — a number that still left us down almost 15 million jobsfrom February. The report was a snapshot of the economy during the “reference period,” basically the second week of June. So it’s telling us what was happening before the Covid-19 surge became apparent.

We don’t have official data for what has happened since then, but a variety of real-time indicators suggest that the recovery has stalled or even gone backward. Indeed, things started falling apart even before states began reversing some of their previous moves to reopen. Fear of infection will do that: Many people will avoid going out whatever their governors may say.

As a result, unemployment, still in double digits, probably won’t get much better for a long time.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Trump May Lose- Lets Help Him


David Dayen. the American Prospect
Plenty of leaders have failed during the pandemic. But I think we can agree that a president has more agency than anyone else in moments of national crisis. From the very beginning, Trump tried to push off that responsibility to the states, because of his aversion to being blamed for anything. But responsible he is, in numerous ways.

Trump’s CDC so botched testing that hundreds of thousands of Americans were infected before we had the information. He’s admitted to deliberately slowing testing at key points to make the numbers look better. He actively cheered reopening way too soon and offered no federal support for states to prepare. The FEMA program of commandeering and shuffling personal protective equipment was the work of a criminal gang. His attitude toward the virus was to dismiss its grave implications, 
even now amid the unending first wave. His campaign manager is in quarantine, and advance staffers have contracted the disease; his approach is crumbling around him. And the continual pronouncements of the great job he’s doing, amid 125,000 deaths and untold long-term damage to people’s lungs and their livelihoods, recalls Nero and the fiddle.

Americans habitually reject incompetence in their leaders. Before being feted as a kindly painter, George W. Bush was the most loathed man in the country, because he got us bogged down in a war based on lies, let an American city drown, and presided over a crushing financial crisis. He was bad at his job, in public. Herbert Hoover was bad at his job as millions suffered during a presidency shaped by the Depression. The nation rejected them. They’re in the process of rejecting Trump.

There’s a way for a hypothetical president to succeed in the next four months and eke out re-election: universal masking, massive support for testing and army field hospitals and contact tracing where needed, a wide-open money spigot to individuals financially affected. It’s actually a pretty simple formula.

Trump won’t do it. He’s taken the position that everything’s fine, and thinks that moving off that would show weakness. And even if he wanted to do what might seem simple for a replacement-level president, he’s so far below that standard as to make such steps impossible. This is why he should, actually, resign, 
as Chris Hayes called for yesterday. Instead we’ll have to settle for him being snubbed at the polls in four months.

Trump’s entire political career has been built on hucksterism and grievance. You can fool people with hucksterism for a long time, but not 
once slapped by reality. Then the sheen wears off. BSing his way through served Trump well in business, which we’re discovering is much more forgiving than government. But you can only whine for so long, as Biden noted yesterday, before it becomes pathetic. Trump can’t figure out how to attack the coronavirus, and without doing that work he cannot attack Biden. He knows he’s going to lose (Biden “is going to be president because some people don’t love me, maybe,” Trump said to Sean Hannity on Friday), because he’s incapable of the governing that would prevent it.

This is the important point. A president has to be president, not just play one on TV. They cannot just express competence, but actually succeed. The difficult truth is that Trump is carrying on a tradition. We’ve done very little to arrest our long-term crises for several decades. The next president needs to actually deal with them. FDR’s descendants 
wrote an open letter to Biden, urging outsized ambition to fill in the existing cracks exposed by this crisis. Passivity—at income and wealth inequality, at unequal treatment, at structural racism, at a raging pandemic but also the everyday failures we faced before—will only lead to disapproval and decline.

So when Biden wins, he needs to salve the festering wound that is American government, or we’ll get another in a series of wave elections that haven’t really ended since 2006. Trump’s humiliating defeat sets the course for Biden’s presidency: tangibly govern.


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/opinion/trump-coronavirus.html?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Trump Is Feeding America’s Coronavirus Nightmare
“It’s going away” only in the president’s delusion.
Opinion Columnist
·      June 24, 2020
·       
o                 
U.S.  red.
European Union   grey. 

U.S. Fails to Flatten Curve. 

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The Revolt of the Cities—Again.

The Revolt of the Cities—Again.: New York’s primaries confirm a major new reality of American politics: Our cities are turning overwhelmingly left.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

"Rise" | June 20th Poor People's Campaign Promo

JOIN THE MOVEMENT ON JUNE 21: The Mass Poor People's Assembly and Moral March on Washington is a 2.5 hour program that will be broadcast on Sunday June 21 at 6PM EST/ 3PM PST, right here at June2020.org. Join us!!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Trump Rally 2020


In the United States, where the world’s largest known outbreak has infected more than 2.2 million people, several states repeatedly set record daily highs for new cases. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Defund, Dismantel, Sacramento County Jail system










For months now our County Board of Supervisors have failed to implement any way for our community to be heard in their decision-making process (outside of submitting e-comments), so we hope you can join us on Monday for a community-created space for public comment so that they can hear us well before they make their decisions on Tuesday.




Why must we pressure Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to defund law enforcement, in addition to the City Council?


- Sacramento County is the body that approves the budget for the Sheriff’s Department and its operations of our two jails — the Main Jail downtown, and RCCC jail in Elk Grove.


- All local law enforcement agencies (CA Highway Patrol, City Police Departments, and Sac County Sheriff's Deputies) incarcerate community members in Sacramento County jails, as the first stop post-arrest and pre-trial, and conditions inside are known to be some of the worst in the state. Defunding police on the County level also means defunding cages.


- Sacramento Sheriff’s Department currently receives over $372 million dollars every year, and over one third of the entire budget, and their budget increases every year.


- Sacramento County recently approved a $7 million dollar design/build contract to begin designing a new jail tower behind the Main Jail downtown. This is just the beginning of what we know will be an extremely expensive project, with devastating human and financial costs. We demand the Board of Supervisors cancel the contract and invest the $7 million in community-based resources.


- Sac County’s jail population was reduced by over 30% due to COVID-19 related releases, and the County should be focused on continuing down this path by investing in housing, mental health care, diversion and re-entry efforts led by impacted people — not giving more money to the Sheriff’s or Probation Department.


- Sacramento County has been given $181 million through the CARES Act, which needs to be spent by December 2020. These funds have not yet been allocated to anything in particular, and we need to remind our representatives that none of this funding should go to the Sheriff’s Department, the DA, or Probation. These funds should be allocated to support Black communities, affordable and permanent supportive housing, mental health care, and community-led public safety programs.

See also: https://sacramento.newsreview.com/2020/06/11/economic-justice-on-hold/


Decarcerate Sacramento supports the demands put forth by Black Justice Sacramento and 8 To Abolition, which are based on the understanding that the only way to diminish police violence is to reduce contact between the public and the police, and to shift resources away from law enforcement entirely.
1. Defund the police
2. Demilitarize our communities
3. Remove police from schools
4. Free people from jails & prisons
5. Repeal laws that criminalize survival
6. Invest in community self-governance
7. Provide safe housing for everyone
8. Invest in care, not cops
Even the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Association blatantly admits that Sacramento funds law enforcement at the expense of almost everything else, and their mentality is to protect their money and power, not us.
Check out this quote from Kevin Mickelson, the Association president, talking about why the Sheriff’s Department makes campaign donations to pro-law enforcement candidates:
“Every budget cycle, the sheriff’s department is the largest item that the board has discretionary powers over. If there are any other hot button topics that people are going to want to fund, there’s really only three places that they can take that money from: the district attorney, the probation department or the sheriff’s department.” 

And that is what we intend to do. 

DETAILS FOR MONDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE/PUBLIC COMMENT EVENT:
To participate in person:
- Meet at 700 H Street @ 10AM (side of County Administrative building closest to H Street). 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Civil War Never Ended !



The Civil War That Never Ended. Today, in a superb column, my colleague Bob Kuttner writes of how our nation has descended into a kind of civil war, whose front lines are those of the protesters confronting the police. In its current form, this conflict has been building ever since the Republicans became the party of the white South, in a historic switch inaugurated by Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and his nomination later that year as the Republicans’ candidate for president.

In the Prospect’s pages, I’ve been comparing our condition to the Civil War for quite some time—finding similarities to the Confederacy in the Republicans’ current war on black voting; noting the echoes of the antebellum South’s drive to extend slavery into the free states in the spread of right-to-work laws from Southern states to Northern ones—Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana—when they fell under Republican rule during the past decade; and equating the efforts of city and state governments under Democratic control to create sanctuaries where undocumented immigrants could be safe from ICE arrests to the efforts of Northern cities to hinder the seizure of former slaves and free blacks by Southern “slave hunters” under the Fugitive Slave Act.

Now, the video showing Minneapolis cops murdering George Floyd seems to have had a political effect somewhat akin to the South’s unprompted attack on Fort Sumter, which enraged the North and propelled the nation into open civil war. What united the North was not only an immediate sense of outrage, but also a sense that by the nation’s breaking apart, the very idea of a democracy would be threatened (that’s pretty much what Lincoln said at Gettysburg). Also uniting the North was a long-simmering anger at the South’s dominance of the federal government and its policies—a belief held even by many white Northerners not yet committed to emancipation.

Today, rather than seeing the murder of George Floyd as some outrageous one-off, the vast majority of Americans see it as a continuation of a national pattern of racist and brutal policing. A number of polls, including one in today’s Washington Post, reveal a public that has clearly been moved—even mobilized—to actions that curtail racist practices. According to the Post, 69 percent of the public see the murder as part of a broader pattern, 74 percent support the protests, while just 10 percent blame the protesters for the violence that occurred in the protests’ wake (14 percent blamed the police, 66 percent blamed “other people acting irresponsibly”). Fully 61 percent disapprove of Trump’s response to the protests, while just 35 percent approve it—a figure that reveals even some cracks in the Republican base.

So add to my friend Bob’s observation that we’re engaged in another civil war one further observation: As in 1861 (and 1865), a clear majority of Americans are with us. Today, they view Trump and Trumpism, as 1861 Americans viewed secession, as a threat to democracy itself. Today, a majority favors ending Trumpian and Republican (which is to say, white Southern) rule, as 1861 Americans favored an end to the slaveocrats’ control of the government.

To which all I can add is: To the barricades—not just the streets, but the voting booths (well, voting booths by mail) come November!

HAROLD MEYERSON

Monday, June 8, 2020

Armed Militia Protects Oakdale from Oakdale

Members of the self proclaimed  California State Militia stand outside the H-B Saloon on Highway 120 in Oakdale, Calif., on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Andy Alfaro  AALFARO@MODBEE.COMtion

The Oakdale Police Department on Sunday addressed the presence of armed militia at the downtown location of a rumored Black Lives Matter demonstration that never materialized Saturday. 
In anticipation of the protest, members of the all-volunteer armed citizens group, the California State Militia, and a little more than a dozen counterprotesters showed up to stand on the sidewalk at a boarded-up business. Photos from the militia company’s Facebook page also show members on an Oakdale rooftop.
“We have received multiple inquiries and heard from many concerned residents about a group of people dressed in camouflage or ‘militia’ at a downtown business during yesterday’s demonstration,” the post on the OPD Facebook page says. “We want to set the record straight. The group wearing military attire were not members of the U.S. National Guard and they had no affiliation with the Oakdale Police Department or any of our partner agencies.”
        There were unconfirmed reports that the militia members had escaped from a nearby  sanitarium. 
Police Chief Scott Heller told The Bee by email that the armed men did not reach out to Oakdale PD about their plans to turn out Saturday. “We became aware of their presence that afternoon,” he said. “At that point, we immediately went to the business to investigate and discovered the business owner retained the group to provide security for their facility. The business owner also owns the building that houses several businesses.”
The chief said Monday that his department is not going to release the business owner’s name, “as we are continuing to look into this matter.”
Members of the group were told by officers that the OPD was prepared to handle any circumstances that might arise from demonstrations, Heller said.

OAKDALE POLICE OFFER A RESPONSE

The understanding was that the men would stay in the immediate area of the business, he said. Open carry of firearms is not allowed in public spaces or property in California. Members of this group were within the confines of private property when police met with them, Heller said.
Later, his officers learned the men were carrying their weapons as they walked around public spaces. “Photos that are being circulated on social media of this group being armed on public property came to our attention only after our meeting with them,” the chief said. “Again, after our discussions with the group, the members left.”
Heller said that while the group may have been well-intentioned, its presence caused more confusion and raised tensions within the Oakdale community. “They also distracted our officers from our primary goal, which was to provide a safe space for a potential demonstration at the community center. We have repeatedly stated that Oakdale PD, along with our partner agencies, is prepared and ready to handle any unforeseen circumstances and turn of events.”
The camouflaged men are members of Echo Company, Second Infantry Regiment, California State Militia, which on Saturday morning gathered in the parking lot of Road Dog Cycle in Denair.
Company commander Capt. Tim Brown, who according to the Echo Company website is an Army veteran, told a Bee reporter Saturday at the Denair event that his men have been monitoring demonstration activity up and down the Highway 99 corridor for about five days. He said he let area police chiefs, sheriff’s and mayors know they can call on the militia were problems to arise and their resources were stretched. 
Sheriff Jeff Dirkse told The Bee on Saturday that he got an email from the militia early in the week but did not reply. He would not call upon it for aid, he said. “If I need assistance, I will call other law-enforcement agencies or the National Guard.”
On one of his Facebook pages Sunday, the sheriff said more, including this: “This ‘militia’ has no official standing, no authority and their presence was counterproductive to keeping the peace in the City of Oakdale. Their activities were a drain on law enforcement resources and did nothing to protect the city. Neither I nor any member of my staff interacted with this group. I have never met or corresponded with their leadership.”

MODESTO POLICE CHIEF WEIGHS IN

Read more here: https://www.modbee.com/news/local/oakdale/article243352451.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, June 5, 2020

Economic numbers- and a fig leaf

David Dayen, The American Prospect 
First things first: these are legitimate numbers (What Paul Krugman tweeted was insane and he’s now apologized). They don’t seem to square with the weekly unemployment claims numbers, which puts those collecting unemployment benefitshigher than the unemployment rate for the first time in history. You can get unemployment benefits through the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program even if you work part-time, but that doesn’t explain this discrepancy.
However, in a long note at the bottom of the BLS report, the bureau explains their difficulties with data collection, as well as a quirk in the data: “there was also a large number of workers who were classified as employed but absent from work.” Those were supposed to be marked as on temporary layoff, but they’re listed as employed. If that was corrected, “the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported.” BLS didn’t change that because they have a strict rule to accept the data as recorded.
Long story short, BLS is telling us that we’re at 16 percent unemployment. And while that’s better than the nearly 20 percent (if you include the misclassified) in the April jobs report, it means we’ve only brought a small sample of those workers back. The level of employment remains sharply reduced from the pre-pandemic months; we’ve maybe brought back a little over 10 percent of the jobs.


But the topline numbers don’t say 16 percent unemployment, they say 13 percent. And this report, which in a vacuum looks pretty good, is being taken inside the Trump administration as a declaration of victory, that their policies worked, and as the country reopens no further support will be necessary. Trump scheduled a hastily arranged news conference to tout the comeback. “It takes a lot of the wind out of the sails” of continuing economic relief, White House economic advisor Stephen Moore told the Washington Post’s Jeffrey Stein. “There's no reason to have a major spending bill. The sense of urgent crisis is very greatly dissipated by the report.”
That couldn’t be less true. This bounce-back is meager in real terms and tied to the direct funding of payrolls through the PPP, which only lasts eight weeks. That means PPP funding will cover the next jobs report in June and then will be gone. By July, state and local government cuts will kick in, as they’ve already been doing: the April and May jobs reports showed a combined loss of 1.5 million state and local jobs. 
Many states have fashioned their budgets with a “trigger,” expecting federal aid and building that into their budget profile. If this jobs report means that no such help will arrive, the triggers will be breached, and the deeper cuts will ensue.
We haven’t yet seen in this crisis the feedback loop of economic depression, where job loss leads to lower incomes, which leads to less spending and consequently more job loss. That’s entirely because of temporary government action sufficiently filling the hole from layoffs, from one-time stimulus checks and boosted unemployment insurance. But no extension of these efforts would mean that enhanced unemployment would run out in July with nothing in its place. That would seriously contract incomes, precisely at the time that PPP funding runs out. Then you definitely could get that feedback loop going, bolstered by state and local government employee layoffs. And once you’re in that undertow, it’s harder for policymakers to pull out of it.

Close to one in four workers are either on unemployment benefits or are waiting to receive them: Congress must take action

Close to one in four workers are either on unemployment benefits or are waiting to receive them: Congress must take action



Note the details.  The Trump press release includes dubious figures.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A conversation with President Obama: Reimagining Policing in the Wake of...





Start at 9 min.

Sending In the Troops: A Brief History

Sending In the Troops: A Brief History: It’s been done for good reasons and bad—but never before for such crass electoral posturing.

WE can do this. Unite to Defeat Trump

WE can do this.  Unite to Defeat Trump

Protests are continuing and they are increasingly peaceful, except for police violence. Protest leaders are working with local governments to contain both police rampages on the one hand and provocations and opportunistic looting on the other.

More than at any time since the civil rights era of the 1960s, white America has some compassion for pent-up black frustrations. A majority of Americans approve of the demonstrations and reject police violence. And 55 percent of white Americans tell pollsters that black anger is fully justified.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps revealing what he is made of, and his own support keeps dropping. And Joe Biden has found his inner Bobby Kennedy and made his best speech ever. I don’t care who wrote it; Biden gave it.

The focus of the election, increasingly, will be Trump’s callous and opportunistic use of a crisis that required healing. He is setting himself up for a landslide repudiation, well beyond the Republican margin of theft.

Also encouraging is the united response of governors and mayors. Trump may have the power on paper to call in the Army and the National Guard. But that is no match for the combined power of an aroused citizenry and resistant local officials. His troops can’t occupy the whole country by force.

We will see more mass demonstrations. They will be peaceful except for the efforts of rogue cops and Trump’s storm troopers to inject violence. And by fall, the consequence will be a mass revulsion against Trump.

As Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, one of America’s finest, wrote in concluding an eloquent New York Times op-ed piece:

Let us vote against state-sanctioned violence, vitriolic discourse and the violation of human rights. In memory of George Floyd and all the other innocent black lives that have been taken in the recent and distant past, let us commit to registering black people, especially black men, to vote.

America is stronger, better, wiser than Trump. And America will survive Trump. Then the real work can begin.
ROBERT KUTTNER 

On the Need to Dismantle the Racism that Plagues Our Communities


Statement from the CWA Executive Board on the Need to Dismantle the Racism that Plagues Our Communities


Friday, May 29, 2020


As we reach a tragic milestone of 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19, we find ourselves confronting the other plague that has been rampaging through our communities since long before the pandemic: Racism. Compounding the devastation of a global pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black communities, Black people in America continue to face threats, brutality, and death for going out jogging. For being poor. For sleeping in their own bed. For watching birds in a park. For being Black.


The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the blatant display of racism in the Central Park incident with Christian Cooper demonstrate, again, this grim reality. These names are not the first, and without a profound change in ourselves and this country, they will not be the last.


The CWA Executive Board is committed to moving beyond an endless string of reaction statements and demonstrating our continued commitment to justice for Black people through our organizing, representation, political, and movement building work. We commit to creating dedicated spaces for open dialogue on race for our members and leaders to determine outcomes and clear steps the union must take to fight racism in the union, within the industries we represent and the community at-large.


There is no in-between. There is no neutral option. The only real way to dismantle racism and build the working-class power we seek is for every worker to take on the struggle for justice for Black people in this country as their own and to embrace the actions that "an injury to one is an injury to all" demands of us.


It is not enough to punish the perpetrators who have taken these Black lives. It is not enough to simply identify a "few bad apples" to fire or prosecute - a course of action which our deeply flawed legal system makes difficult to pursue. We must also do the hard, transformational work of rooting out racism in America's consciousness and the institutions that uphold it.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Trump Weaponizes Racism and Uses the Military and the Police To Advance His Authoritarian Agenda.




Chaos outside the White House on Sunday.Credit...Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Paul Krugman, NYT 
Last fall Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis police union, appeared at a Trump rally, where he thanked the president for ending Barack Obama’s “oppression of police” and letting cops “put the handcuffs on criminals instead of us.”
The events of the past week, in which the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody led to demonstrations against police brutality, and these demonstrations were met by more police brutality — including unprecedented violence against the news media — have made it clear what Kroll meant by taking the handcuffs off. And Donald Trump, far from trying to calm the nation, is pouring gasoline on the fire; he seems very close to trying to incite a civil war.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that America as we know it is on the brink.
How did we get here? The core story of U.S. politics over the past four decades is that wealthy elites weaponized white racism to gain political power, which they used to pursue policies that enriched the already wealthy at workers’ expense.
Until Trump’s rise it was possible — barely — for people to deny this reality with a straight face. At this point, however, it requires willful blindness not to see what’s going on.

I still see occasional news reports that describe Trump as a “populist.” But Trump’s economic policies have been the opposite of populist: They have been relentlessly plutocratic, centered largely on a successful effort to ram through huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and a so far unsuccessful attempt to take health insurance away from poor and working-class families.
Nor have Trump’s trade wars brought back the good jobs of yore. Even before the coronavirus plunged us into depression, Trump had failed to deliver major employment growth in coal mining or manufacturing. And farmers, who supported Trump by large margins in 2016, have suffered huge losses thanks to his trade wars.
So what has Trump really offered to the white working class that makes up most of his base? Basically, he has provided affirmation and cover for racial hostility.
And nowhere is this clearer than in his relationship with the police.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Lets Get to Work - Barack Obama



Barack Obama 

As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.
Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.
First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.
On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.
Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices— and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.
Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

I Can't Breath