Transparency: Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Monday night’s first Presidential Debate between Secretary Clinton and billionaire tycoon Donald Trump is in the books. It has been deemed the most watched tete-e-tete in the history of Presidential Debates, with an estimated 84 million viewers, according to CNN. There will be two more debates between the duo competing to become the 45th President of the United States. So while a number of polls, analysts, as well as men and women on the street assessed Clinton to be the winner of the contest, it is worth recalling that Mitt Romney took sitting President Barack Obama to the woodshed in their first debate in 2012, and yet POTUS rallied to prevail in the next two meetings, and to recapture the Presidency.

Meanwhile, it’s been a tough week in my adopted hometown of Charlotte. While the entire state is reeling from the consequences of standing foursquare behind HB 2, familiarly known as the “Bathroom Bill,” in Charlotte, two black men were killed on successive days last Tuesday and Wednesday, civil unrest erupted as protests ensued, Governor McCrory declared a State of Emergency and called out the National Guard, numerous protesters were arrested, and just yesterday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was forced to evacuate due to a bomb scare. Suffice it to say, in any number of realms, there is a lot to hold our attention, a lot about which to be concerned, and most certainly, a lot worthy upon which to focus a blog post.

I considered all of the above, and after doing so, I opted to spend a few moments elevating another topic that I believe is critical, or at least should be, to all people who consider themselves concerned about truth, justice, and the American way, particularly as it is practiced in The Old North State (North Carolina, in case you are unfamiliar with the appellation). At a time when African Americans in particular, seem to be under siege and threat of death by what should often be the most routine of police encounters, North Carolina is joining a number of other states in enacting a dubious law, HB 972, that will limit citizens’ access to police video.

The new law goes into effect in North Carolina October 1st (Saturday). In a seemingly ironic twist, a number of states, most importantly (to me), North Carolina among them, have opted to respond to a growing outcry in the wake of black men shot and killed by police by dramatically tamping down public access to police initiated video, including video from dash cameras, and from body cameras. That the official enactment follows so closely the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer simply added more fuel to an already active debate. That debate was further stoked by Chief Kerr Putney’s initial position that he would not release video related to the Scott shooting. In a community with already frayed relations and fleeting trust between community and police, the mere prospect that the Chief would run out the clock until the new law took effect upped the ante and heightened the tension as the protests continued day after day.

To provide some idea of how…and more importantly why concerned citizens have every right to be (concerned), the short title for the law primarily sponsored by Representatives Faircloth, McNeill, Boles, and Hurley is Law Enforcement Recordings (Body-Worn & Dashboard Cameras)/No Public Record. The phrase to the right of the slash, No Public Record pretty much says it all. The idea behind body and dash cameras was that they would help provide a record of law enforcement’s actions when interacting with the public, and establish a basis for ensuring that the rights of citizens engaging law enforcement officers are not abrogated. This new and very unimproved law effectively disconnects the utilization of cameras from protecting the rights of citizens. In effect, in the prevailing environment when citizens are demanding transparency, accountability, and protection of their rights, they will now be thrust into an environment that looks and feels a lot like life before video cameras.

Upon signing HB 972 into law in June, Governor McCrory justified the law by insisting that body-camera footage, along with footage from dash cameras can “mislead and misinform” the public.” In an amazing display of disregard for other peoples’ common sense, the Governor added that the new law, as configured, will actually “ensure transparency.” Of course it will!

The operational framework of HB 972 is stated thusly:


As you can see, in addition to cameras, the law also covers a hypodermic syringe and needle exchange program. The combining of the very unrelated matters appears to be a function of one of those ploys legislators with competing interests use; adding item B as a condition of getting item A. I will not address the syringe/needle portion of the law.

Not surprising, there are those who disagree. Count me among them. According to the tenets of the new law, footage resulting from cameras will be categorized as personnel records. As a result, the only people who are allowed to see the video are those in the video and their relatives. In order for journalists and the public to access video footage, they will have to secure a court order. Even police departments that wish to release video footage on their own aegis will have to seek approval to do so from a state superior court judge. Also, police departments are authorized to deny access to video if they determine that footage will damage an officer’s reputation, harm an investigation, or jeopardize an individual’s safety.

I cannot close this post without including a disclaimer. There are phenomenal men and women in our nation’s police departments. I not only believe that, I know a number of them. Having said that, the rules have been revised to make it much more difficult for the public to benefit from tools that were originally put in place with them in mind.

So why is this matter important…to me personally? Race is pivotal in police shootings. Body cameras and dash cameras are a vital tool in addressing this matter. According to the Washington Post, although black men account for 6 percent of America’s population, they accounted for 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by police in 2015. Interestingly, the majority of instances in which police shot and killed someone with a weapon or who brandished a gun, the person was white. Conversely, a tremendously disproportionate number, 60%, of people killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic. So aitch yes, I am concerned about, for all practical purposes, taking cameras out of citizens’ equation for interacting with police. It’s pretty much abracadabra, “Transparency: Now You See It, Now You Don’t”

I’m done; holla back!

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Tragedy in Tulsa…This Time!

It’s time to Break It Down!

This past Friday evening the paths of a Tulsa police officer and an unarmed black man crossed. A short time later, Terence Crutcher was transformed.   He was no longer a stalled motorist seeking help on a Friday night in Oklahoma. No, he was the latest member of one of the most ill fated clubs of all, an unarmed black man, killed by a police officer.

The result was another absolutely harrowing, totally inconsolable and irreparable, yet all too familiar consequence. Most of us have had life altering experiences. Mr. Crutcher, abruptly and I’m fairly certain, unexpectedly, faced the ultimate, a life-ending encounter. Experiences such as his are at the crux of one of our most volatile contemporary national conversations. Similar experiences spawned the Black Lives Matter Movement (#BLM), which in turn served as a catalyst for the Blue Lives Matter Countermovement, which led, indirectly, to the Colin Kaepernick inspired “Not standing for the National Anthem” protests.

This story, like each of those that preceded it, has it’s own specific details. Moreover, every person’s life is indubitably unique and demands its particular solemnity. Yet, it must be said, this tale is merely the next sequence in a continuing saga; a sorrowfully pathetic narrative that we should all find offensive.

So what happened to Terence? Here’s what we know. Allow me to fast forward and begin with the end. A police officer feared for her life. That most often really is the end of the story, an officer in mortal fear. While we do not yet know what the final determination will be, as it relates to this particular installment, we do know that magic phrase is very often a get out/stay out of jail card on par with Dorothy clicking her heels three times and riffing “No place like home, no place like home, no place like home.”

I will not regale you with all the details; here are a few of the pertinent ones as reported by ABC News:

  1. Police received a call regarding a stalled vehicle.
  2. The responding officers did not know whether the driver was armed.
  3. Crutcher’s most recent court records were for traffic violations over 10 years ago.
  4. Since 2007, Tulsa’s officers have been involved in 24 fatal shootings (according to the newspaper Tulsa World).
  5. Officer Betty Shelby, whom police say shot Crutcher, was one of several officers on the scene with guns drawn.
  6. Scott Wood, Officer Shelby’s attorney, said the officer “believed” Crutcher was armed when she shot him.
  7. Officer Shelby’s husband, also a Tulsa police officer, was above the scene in a (police) helicopter, a fact police deemed “a happenstance.
  8. Chief Chuck Jordan called the shooting “very difficult to watch” and has sought an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
  9. Police spokesperson Jeannie Mackenzie told reporters Mr. Crutcher “refused to follow commands given by the officers.” She added, “They continued to talk to him. He continued not to listen and follow any commands. As they got closer to the vehicle, he reached inside the vehicle and at that time there was a Taser deployment, and a short time later there was one shot fired.”
  10. Officer Tyler Turnbough, also white, used a stun gun on Mr. Crutcher. It is unclear why one officer drew a stun gun while another drew a handgun against an unarmed man. It also remains unexplained why Mr. Crutcher was considered a threat to multiple armed officers.

Video and audio documentation related to the events leading to Mr. Crutcher’s death were released Monday. Prior to releasing that information, Chief Jordan announced that Mr. Crutcher had no weapon, neither on his person, nor in his vehicle.

The best of the video, taken from a helicopter above the scene, shows Mr. Crutcher walking toward his vehicle with his hands in the air. When he reached the vehicle, he placed his hands on top of his SUV. Dashcam video also appears to corroborate his hands were on top of the SUV. Based on the audio recording, a voice from the helicopter says, “Time for a Taser.”

Another voice can be heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude too. Probably on something.”

The video does not appear to show what might have validated those perceptions. I will decline to speculate whether any of those voices, or the views that accompanied them, came from Officer Shelby’s husband, who as mentioned earlier, was in the helicopter.

What the video does show is that there were three officers standing in a line behind Crutcher, and at least one more standing several feet behind them. As the tape continues to roll, Mr. Crutcher can be seen falling to the pavement. As blood pooled around his body, approximately two minutes appear to pass prior to anyone checked on him.

Danny Williams, a U.S. Attorney indicates there will be a Department of Justice civil rights investigation of the shooting, separate and apart from that conducted by local authorities. He noted:

“The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of force by law enforcement officers and will devote whatever resources are necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated.”

Looked at from a variety of angles, and from different cameras, of course, the video appears to show the same disturbing fact pattern. “Yet another” unarmed black man walks down a road, this time in Tulsa, with his hands in the air. Police follow behind him closely until he reaches his vehicle, where he stands momentarily. Then, he falls to the ground after one of the officers pulls the trigger.

As for Attorney Wood’s assertion that Officer Shelby feared Mr. Crutcher was reaching for a gun inside the car, Benjamin Crump, a member of the Crutcher family’s legal team, observed at a news conference that, “the vehicle window was rolled up…making it highly unlikely he was reaching into the vehicle.”

This story will continue to unfold for some time. The details vary from incident to incident, for sure, but the theme is worth noting, and repeating.  I am compelled to remind all who read this post of what strikes me as a super vivid irony.  Monday Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected of several terrorist bombings in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, was captured alive and arrested…after a shootout with authorities, while Friday night, Terence Crutcher, unarmed, was killed by the officers he encountered. Today we observe, in respectful repose, “Tragedy in Tulsa…This Time!” It’s the “this time” that serves as a not subtle at all reminder, #BLM!

I’m done; holla back!

P.S. While I was writing this post, a police shooting and immediate fallout were unfolding here in my own City, CLT. It was tempting to switch horses in midstream and write a hometown story. However, the Tulsa story was further developed, and more facts were immediately available. I will say, pray for Charlotte, and especially the family of the deceased. You can check for the still unfolding details here:

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Downright Deplorable: Accompanied by the Stats to Back it Up!

It’s time to Break It Down!

On a day when the country was focused on the horrors of 9/11 and on honoring the 2,977 victims (not including the 19 hijackers), and also a day when both major Party candidates were scheduled to be off the campaign trail, it is difficult to imagine how one of them could actually go a long way toward upstaging the thematic focus of the day. But one did…and to my personal surprise, it was not one named Donald Trump. Yikes!

Hillary Clinton, who was diagnosed with having pneumonia last Friday, but instead of following her doctor’s orders to rest, opted to try to power through. A decision she has since admitted did not work out so well. Although, apparently, she was forced to make this admission only after she got “overheated” at a 9/11 event in NY this past Sunday, the 15th Anniversary of that fateful day.

I first wrote about the catastrophic details of that day on the 10th Anniversary in 2011, and reprised it in 2013 (in a post entitled “Calling All Patriots; Nine-Eleven Ten Years Later” (, when the blog posted on the Anniversary date. Today’s brief reference was intended to provide a highly appropriate nod to the seriousness of that day, to the degree to which Americans rallied after the tragedy, and to acknowledge that we continue to pay tribute to nearly 3,000 lives senselessly lost to terrorism. Mrs. Clinton’s ill-timed health scare was just an unfortunate coincidence that warranted mentioning, primarily due to the irony that she planned for it to be low key, no fuss kind of day. So perhaps it’s true, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”

Alternately, the Title of today’s post draws from a comment Hillary Clinton made last Friday at a rally in New York. According to a report from Time Magazine, she said:

Half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” views.

The statement, quite possibly made after her physician recommended rest, has sparked quite the kerfuffle. Team Trump has attempted to frame it as on par with Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe. The entire statement is:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Now, as quiet as it has been kept, that is not all she said. In that Time Magazine story it was also noted that she said:

“The other half of Trump’s supporters feel that the government has let them down” and are desperate for change. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

I like the Trumpsian spin. There are a couple of reasons why I like this move. First, the facts justify the remark. Admittedly, it was impolitic for Clinton to say it. However, that doesn’t make it a false statement. What’s wrong with a little truth telling? After all, isn’t it Trump and his supporters who are always railing against political correctness?

Let’s attempt to put this in some degree of context. Mr. Trump has:

  • Called Americans stupid
  • Called for a Muslims ban
  • Called for monitoring Mosques
  • Called for a Wall separating Mexico from the U.S.
  • Called Mexicans rapists (while stating maybe some are good),
  • Asked blacks what the hell have they got to lose
  • Praised Putin
  • Praised Saddam Hussein
  • Assailed a “Mexican” Judge, who is actually American, because of his heritage
  • Offered to pay legal fees of supporters who attacked protesters at his rallies
  • Taunted a journalist with disabilities
  • Conveniently failed to remember who David Duke was after choosing not to run himself as a member of the Reform Party…because of David Duke’s involvement
  • Acted as Birther-in-Chief; insisted President Obama was not born in America
  • Implied President Obama is a Muslim
  • Accused POTUS of having founded ISIS/ISIL

*Refused to apologize for any of the above…in fact, tried to spin much of it as logical, normal, or otherwise, perfectly reasonable

So if Trump, who appears to have winked and nodded at David Duke and his ilk, in an effort to curry favor with that segment of the electorate, chooses to insert himself into the conversation about deplorables, he must at some point accept the role that he so expertly defined for himself. Well, the truth is he doesn’t really have to accept it, but if the voters are paying any attention whatsoever, they will see it for themselves, which is more important anyway.

The second reason I like Mr. Trump’s protestation is because a number of journalists are finding their voices and pointing out the obvious; the Trump campaign has consistently stoked, promoted, and yes provoked the flames of anger, blame, hatred, bigotry, and racism that a number of Americans, mostly white, coincidentally, harbor. One of those journalists, Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank, framed it thusly:

“As a matter of statistics, it is probably true that people expressing racist sentiment … constitute more than half of Trump supporters,”

In an interview with on CNN’s “Newsroom,” Milbank effectively told Brook Baldwin that, half, the only aspect of the comment that Clinton apologized for, was likely understating the case. About that he said:

“More than half of Trump’s supporters display racist or bigoted tendencies”, according to data collected by the American National Election Studies. He went on to add, “You actually can unpack those numbers. It’s really quite shocking. Something like 62% of white voters have these sorts of sentiments, and by better than two-to-one, they vote Republican.”

I understand very well, no one wants to be called, thought of, or in anyway characterized as racist. I suppose that is especially true of Trump supporters, since he has directly appealed to their sense of righteous indignation over the Clinton comments. That is all well and good. It would be a considerably more compelling argument if Team Trump were as diligent in distancing itself from some of its many statements and actions of record. Unfortunately, in the America that Trump and many of his supporters harken back to in order to make America “Great Again,” we would return to the pre-civil rights era when the Constitution and the rights it ensures were largely deemed the sole province of white men.

In addition to Mr. Milbank, a number of journalists of color have also weighed in on the deplorable state of Trump backers. The list of luminaries includes Ta-Nahisi Coates of the Atlantic, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, Charles Blow of the New York Times, Bakari Sellers of CNN, Juan Williams of Fox News, and James Boule of Slate. Boule in particular had this to say on “Face the Nation:”

“But ‘half’ wasn’t wrong. ‘Half’ wasn’t a gross generalization at all. ‘Half’ was by all indications close to the truth. . . .”

“I’m inclined — so I’m inclined to see it as strategy and not so much as a gaffe because when I heard the remark, my first question was, well, is this true, right? Regardless of how it sounds or what it looks like, is it actually — what is the case about Donald Trump’s supporters?”

“And if you break down the numbers and you look at the Real Clear Politics average and that gives Trump about 43 percent of the registered voters. It was about 30, 31 million people. Compare that to polls that show 65 to 70 percent of all Republicans who say that Barack Obama either wasn’t born in the United States or is a Muslim. You look at pilot data from the American National Election Study and it shows upward of 40 percent of Republicans saying things like, blacks are more violent, blacks are lazier, Muslims are more violent, Muslims are lazier.”

“Among Trump supporters in particular, 60, 50, 70 percent of them agree with statements that political scientists categorize as being explicitly racist. So I’m — I’m looking at Clinton’s statement and half, which is about 31 million people again, doesn’t really seem that out of bounds. Forty to 50 percent of Republicans I would say, looking at the full spectrum of data, agree with beliefs that we would categorize as explicitly prejudiced. So regardless of whether or not Clinton needs [to] walk it back or not, I think she’s being correct and accurate. . . .”

I have previously written about the pretzel-like contortions many Republicans have resorted to, ostensibly because of Trump. A number of prominent members of the GOP have called Trump’s words or actions deplorable, or worse, or words to that effect. Yet, they still find themselves locked into a position of saying they will vote for him, either in an effort to save the GOP Congressional majority, salvage their own re-election bids…or both. That’s politics; I understand. But none of that does anything to make Hillary’s “Basket of deplorables” any less real. An that is, Downright Deplorable: Accompanied by the Stats to Back it Up!”

I’m done, holla back!

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Labor Day – Three Years Later, Actually Five Years Now

It’s time to Break It Down!

(This post appeared originally in this space on August 31, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented again September 3, 2014. Today, September 7, 2016, it has been edited and updated to reflect the most recent unemployment data.)

Monday was Labor Day.  At its core, According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day in the United States was designed to commemorate the creation of the labor movement; dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  The holiday focuses on contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.

First observed in September 1882, the event has always been observed on the first Monday of the month.  Initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York, the celebration became a federal holiday in 1894.

In addition to its formal structure and purpose, Labor Day has a number of symbolic associations.  It is considered:

  • The unofficialEnd of Summer
  • The last 3-Day warm weather weekend for vacationers
  • By High Society standards, the last day for which it is appropriate for women to wear white
  • The beginning of the College Football Season (the preceding Saturday)
  • The start of the NFL Season (typically the following Thursday; this year, the previous)
  • The conventional kick-off of hard core political campaign season (which this year includes a Presidential Election)
  • Backto-School shopping

On the formal side, while the Labor Department’s blurb omits any reference to it, Labor Day also validates and recognizes an often controversial mechanism that frequently divides American opinion; the labor union.  Scorned by many who fancy themselves as Free Enterprise Capitalists, unions and their members have not only been actively involved historically, in debates that framed public policy for American workers, they have won or forced hard-earned concessions that in the shimmering glow of reflective perspective, must be considered to have fundamentally altered the playing field (known as the workplace), including:

  • Pensions
  • Health Care Benefits
  • Paid Vacations
  • Equal Pay to women
  • The Development of Child Labor Laws
  • The 5-Day Work Week
  • The 40-Hour Work Week
  • The 8-Hour Work Day
  • Worker’s Compensation benefits
  • Female Flight Attendants permitted to marry

These and many other important cherished and effective employee rights are attributable to the efforts of the American Labor Movement.  But, this is not an ode to Labor UnionsUnions also have downsides.  They create or contribute to:

  • The potential for strikes
  • Additional costs to all employees (membership dues; whether a member or not)
  • Loss of individuality (ability to represent one’s self in a grievance)
  • Subject to fines & discipline by the Union
  • Disincentives to productivity and competition
  • Lack of promotions
  • Burdensome salary demands (relative to the market)
  • Loss of profits (and/or pay) due to strike
  • Inefficient & ineffective contracts
  • Increased unemployment due to failure to reach agreement w/management

The first Labor Day celebration was led by a Labor Union.  The history of the Day has been linked, inextricably, with Labor organizations, ever since.  But if it is the American Worker the Day was intended to commemorate, Labor Day 2011 was set in an auspicious and trenchant backdrop:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported to be 9.1% in July 2011
  • The economy added only 117,000 jobs in July (154,000 in the private sector, -37,000 government jobs lost); better than expected, but still a dismally low number
  • Businesses are stockpiling $2 trillion in cash

Three years hence, the picture, thankfully, was much improved:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U. was reported to be 6.2% in July 2014
  • The economy added 209,000 jobs in July 2014
  • (August2014 employment data will be released the first Friday in September)


In 2011, President Obama, announced after the Debt Ceiling Deal on August 2nd, that he would present a jobs proposal for Congress to consider, and was set to do so, after Labor Day, (on September 8th).  The proposal included a combination of tax cuts, spending on infrastructure, and measures designed to assist the long-term unemployed, while bolstering certain sectors of the economy.  This potion sounds eerily similar to the ideas Democrats proposed when negotiating the Debt Deal.

Republicans were lined up to oppose the plan, suggesting instead, among other things, a Balanced Budget Amendment; a balm the GOP/Tea Party also suggested during the Debt Deal negotiation.  In short, there was little expectation for significant movement, or the adoption of sweeping legislation to address the lack of jobs in America…and there wasn’t.  What we had instead was, déjà vu…all over, again!  Then, I was compelled to ask, “Labor Day: Where Is The Celebration?” Fast forward three years, and the truth is the labor dynamics in this country have improved appreciably. However, our country is still beset by challenges.

Each day we are faced with a series of old, and it seems developing challenges abroad. Syrian, Iraq, the Ukraine, Russia, North Korea, China, Somalia, are all global hot spots, just to name a few. Then of course, there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the burgeoning by ISIS/ISIL, also known as the Islamic State. And oh yeah, we are still winding down in Afghanistan.

In the August 2016 Jobs Report, issued September 2, 2016, the nation’s Job’s Report has continued to improve:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported at 4.9%
  • The economy added 151,000 jobs in August 2016
  • Paychecks grew 2.4% compared to a year ago
  • Jobs Growth record extended to 78 consecutive months

August job growth is historically volatile, and is the slowest month for job growth since the Reports have been published. The increase in jobs was notable, but not as substantial as the 275,000 in July. While the number was disappointing, it was not surprising, given the trend for the month of August.  Moreover, the number more than doubles the 5-year average for the month of August, which is 71,000. It is also important to add, the Unemployment Rate remained below 5%.

Unlike in 2011, in 2014, and again Monday, in my opinion, Labor day brought us more of a day of respite and reflection in honor of our country’s Labor Movement. On top of all that don’t forget, as the sixth bullet from the top advises, the conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season is upon us. The General Election is just 62 days away, and with it, the selection of our next President just nine weeks from yesterday. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote.

It’s “Labor Day – Three Years Later, Actually Five Years Now,” and while we’ve got plenty of issues to temper our celebration, we should indeed celebrate America’s phenomenal Labor Movement. I’m done; holla back!

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