guns

“Stakes Is High”

You ever get a song stuck in your head?

It’s usually because it’s something that you just heard. For example, I had Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” stuck in my head for a solid week. Because of this, I believe that Samsung is the Devil and I will never buy their products. That was torture.

But last Wednesday, “Fancy” was replaced by DeLa Soul’s “Stakes Is High”.

Now I love DeLa Soul and “Stakes Is High” is a ringtone on my phone. But, that’s not why it’s been on a continuous loop in my head since Wednesday.

It’s because I’ve seen pictures of a young, dead Black boy lying in the street after being shot by a cop.

It’s because he was unarmed.

It’s because he was the fourth unarmed Black person this month who came across an armed White person, in all four cases a police officer, and wound up with a tag on his toe at the morgue.

It’s because this incident has caused a suburb of a major American city to blow up and take the First Amendment of the Constitution with it, reminding a lot of people of what was going on the year I was born, 1964.

It’s because if we’ve learned nothing else from everything that’s happened since Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last Saturday, we should have learned that the stakes are indeed high.

Ferguson residents began mounting protests of Brown’s death on Sunday night. Because protests sometimes attract people who have the wrong idea of what protest is about, windows were broken, looting happened, and fires started, all stuff that can make the police kind of take a dim view of your chosen mode of expression.

But I didn’t know just how dim of a view the police were taking until I saw this on my Twitter feed on the way home from work on Wednesday:

American tank

No, you’re not imagining things. That’s two soldiers. On a tank. Brandishing semi-automatic weapons and combat gear. In a suburb in a major American city.

Not in Afghanistan. Not in Mozul. In a suburb of St. Louis. Home of the Cardinals. Not too far from where St. Louis Rams rookie Michael Sam hopes to make history as a pro football’s first openly gay player.

Kinda stops your gaze, doesn’t it?

When I came home and started seeing folks getting tear gassed, including an AlJazeera reporter doing a live shot, I kinda knew I wasn’t going to sleep. You don’t want to see peaceful protestors getting hit with tear gas, especially when they’re standing in their own front yards.

In fact, so much tear gas has been flying around Ferguson that residents have been getting advice from Palestinians on Twitter on how to handle being tear gassed.

(Use Coke or milk to clean your face. Water just makes it burn worse….)

But that this was happening is yet another example of just how badly the powers that be in Ferguson have handled this situation from the very beginning.

From not allowing medical professionals to tend to Brown quickly enough to save his life, to leaving his lifeless body to bake in the sun for four hours, to not releasing Wilson’s name or his incident report, to hiring the all-White public relations firm that just made matters worse, this has been the gang that can’t shoot straight.

And they really screwed up when they started arresting reporters. Between last Wednesday night and the time I’m writing this, 15 folks who do my job found themselves hearing the “clink-clink” sound from “Law and Order”…

(Not really…it was more like the “rippp” of a zip tie, but you know what I mean…)

Now I guess I should get to the reason why “Stakes Is High” has been stuck in my head. Why the stakes are high. Why attention must be paid and paid now.

As I mentioned earlier, Michael Brown was the third of four unarmed Black men who came upon an armed White man and ended up dead this month.

This month.

As in August.

And August isn’t over yet.

Last Monday night, Ezell Ford, 24, was shot in the back by the Los Angeles Police Department. Police say that he lunged for an officer’s gun, which kind of makes me scratch my head considering the whole “shot in the back” thing.

John Crawford, of Beavercreek Ohio, was looking at an unloaded BB gun at a WalMart in his town and got shot to death when he didn’t put it down quickly enough. Being shot while looking at a BB gun in a place that sells BB guns usually doesn’t happen, but it happened here.

And yes, I’m including Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York police officer in this. He may have died of a chokehold, but the cop was armed.

But when these things happen, another process inevitably starts, and we’ve seen it too this week:

A young, unarmed, Black man and White armed person get into confrontation.

Unarmed Black person dies.

Blacks get mad and take to the streets.

Authorities, aided by certain media outlets, take apart dead Black person’s life to find whatever can be found to try and paint this person, who is not there to defend his or herself, as a “thug”, and thus deserving of being shot to death.

(In Michael Brown’s case, it’s a combination of stolen cigars and pot in his system. And can someone tell me where folks are getting this weed that makes people violent? Most of the weed heads I know don’t want to attack anything but a cheesesteak when they get high…much less a cop…)

The trial of the person who did the shooting becomes a referendum on the “Innocence” of the person who’s been shot, and that’s only if charges are filed and the person goes to trial at all. Which leads to…

…the person who did the shooting getting off and Black parents left to give their Black male children a list of things they’re not allowed to wear or do in order to keep from being shot by people who are already so terrified by your very existence that you could be walking down the street in a suit carrying a briefcase and you still might catch a bullet.

This, of course, also leads into the whole “What about Black on Black Crime?” thing. You see, Black folks aren’t allowed to worry about the deaths of four unarmed Black men at the hands of the police and the deaths of young men in their neighborhoods at the same time. Oh, and White on White crime doesn’t exist. Or at least that’s what we get told in so many words.

Now if that’s not enough, here’s some statistics that we need to pay attention to: Ferguson is roughly 60 percent Black. Yet, the Mayor is White, the Police Department is predominately White, and so is City Council. How’s that happen in a place that’s 60 percent Black, you might ask?

Voter turnout in the last election was a lofty 12 percent.

Twelve percent.

Okay…

I wish that I could say that Ferguson’s the exception, but it’s the rule unfortunately. And because of this, Black folks, despite having one of us in the Nation’s Highest Office, are still catching Hell. We have to remember that politicians, like just about anyone else in  customer service, do their best work for the people who support them.

To make sure that you don’t have police departments that do this kind of thing and invent the kinds of cover ups that would make most novelists jealous, you have to make sure that people are accountable to you. The best way to do that is by voting.

That and following up with being a pain in the behind to the people who get elected, whether you vote for them or not.

When people believe that they can do anything they want to you, and that you’ll do nothing because you’re so distracted by reality television, or what’s going on in Jay Z and Beyonce’s marriage that you’re not paying attention, they’re going to take advantage.

And if you’re not careful, that advantage taking is going to occasionally come in the form of people getting hit with tear gas in their front yards in a suburb of a major American city.

The stakes is high folks.

It’s time we acted like we understand that.

I’ll leave you with the video for “Stakes Is High”. You might recognize some folks…

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"Who are we here to represent?"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The single most useless man in America

I know that some of you are looking at the caption under this picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and thinking “Wow! Our Mad (political) Scientist is being kind of mean here.”

Actually, the fact that I didn’t go any further than calling him useless was my being nice. If I said what I really felt about Sen. Reid, then you could call me mean. In fact, you could feasibly ask me if I kissed my late Mother with that mouth….

But let me explain why I think that Sen. Harry Reid is about as useful as a tub of jello…and why I think I may have insulted jello by saying that.

Sen. Harry Reid is the single most useless man in America because he had a public mandate to get something done about a very important issue concerning Americans and even with a majority in his house of Congress, he managed to get rolled by a special interest group.

Granted, the National Rifle Association is not your average interest group. It’s a big group with lots of supporters, some of whom supported what it was you were assigned to do. But when you allow folks like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to keep you from restoring something to the Senate that it had before you took over—the concept of majority rule—you deserve a heaping helping of my contempt.

I’ll explain.

While many of us were missing Soledad O’Brien as we watched CNN prove through its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that it’s better to be last and right than first and wrong, Congress was debating a bipartisan bill that if passed would expand universal background checks to cover gun show and internet purchases, but not purchases made between relatives.

(This had the potential of bringing a Conga line of adult adoptees into Family Courts across the nation to take advantage of this loophole, but I don’t think that anyone thought about that when they put this together.)

The compromise was brokered by two guys who had A ratings from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. This bit of Democratic (Manchin) and Republican (Toomey) partnership was designed to help the bill get one step closer to President Barack Obama’s desk and make families who had lost loved ones in mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut and to urban street violence in Chicago feel like their loved ones deaths had counted for something.

In fact, I thought that the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut would put background checks over the hump. Now let’s keep it real here: When 21 white kids get shot by an assault rifle-wielding nut job in their elementary school, that tends to lead to something getting done. I’m not being racist here, something that I need to say because some white person will swear that what I just said was racist, but ask yourself: were we having a conversation about gun control or background checks when the kids being slaughtered on the streets were Black and Latino and the streets they were being slaughtered on were city streets? No. But when it’s an issue to White, suburban families, politicians generally run over themselves to be the first to solve the problem.

Hell, to make sure that something came out of this, the NRA was even invited to the table by Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Manchin and Toomey to put in its two cents.

But while the NRA was at the table, it was also whispering in the ears of the Senators it supports, telling them to vote no on the bill.

And they listened. By a vote of 54-46, the bill strengthening background checks was defeated.

The NRA, of course, was happy. Thanks to their efforts, the Second Amendment stands to take over the rest of the Constitution. As the document’s Third Rail, you’re not supposed to even think about, well, keeping some people and a firearm from ever getting together because gun-rights folks will have a full-on, paranoid freak-out if you even look like you’re going to put the words commonsense, gun, and legislation into the same sentence.

They swear that asking for such things as making sure that you’re not allowing a murderer or a person prone to domestic violence through a background check is a slippery slope that will lead to nationwide gun registration, the government confiscating all of the guns from so-called “law abiding” gun owners, and the inevitable black helicopters of the New World Order coming to call..

(I often wonder if these folks realize that their tendency to have a full-on paranoid freak-out whenever someone puts common sense, guns, and legislation in the same sentence is probably the biggest reason why some of us want to see more gun control, not less.)
But President Obama, Vice President Biden and a group of parents including some from Sandy Hook and victims of gun violence like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left her dream job in public service after being shot in the head during a “Meet Your Representative” gathering, were less than amused with the Senate because of this. A member of one of the Sandy Hook families shouted “Shame on You!” in the Senate Chambers.

“Joe, I’m gonna need you to go and get Harry for me after this…”

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden afterward, Obama, well, let the Senate have it. Calling it “a shameful day for Washington”, a town that’s had so many of them it’s hard to keep count, Obama asked out loud what many citizens were thinking after the vote.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?”

Well, let’s see. They’re not representing the families of the murdered. In fact, some members of Congress said that bringing them into the conversation was the equivalent of “emotional blackmail.”

They weren’t representing those folks who say that closing the gun show and Internet gun sales loopholes makes sense.

And they weren’t representing those who believe that America is awash in guns and large ammunition clips designed to do nothing but kill.


The next thing that the Senate did, pass an amendment punishing states that publish information about gun owners, tells you who they represent.

The Senate, and by extension Congress, represents the NRA.

Thus, they will heretofore be known as “The NRA-Controlled Congress.”

Which goes back to my friend Sen. Reid.

Before Sen. Reid became Senate Majority Leader, you could pass most things in the Senate with a simple majority vote. There were some things that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster and end debate, but most things were majority rules.

But, as they are wont to do, the Republicans began abusing the filibuster rule. Now just about anything of any consequence requires a 60-vote cushion to even be discussed. Since Sen. Reid can’t always count on his majority to hold, certain things end up either not passing or twisting in the wind.

Sen. Reid promised that in a second Obama Administration term, he’d reform the filibuster rules so that majority would rule when it could, and 60 votes would go back to being the gold standard, not the “we’re gonna use it to obstruct” standard. 

But instead of true reform, he caved in to McConnell and didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.

Thus, you can have a majority of the Senate want to see something pass, and instead have it fail.

And with that, Sen. Harry Reid becomes more useless than jello.

My hope is that this defeat makes President Obama do something that he was kind enough not to do during his first term… decide that it might be time for a vote of “no confidence” for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. 

Because if he doesn’t what happened yesterday is going to be the rule, and not the exception…

And, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”













The "People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face" awards…

I think that this would make a good trophy, don’t you?

Because I know myself better than anyone, I decided a long time ago that I’d never buy myself a gun.

Why? Because my Jackass Tolerance has whittled down to nothing over the last 47 years and I may decide to bust a cap in a jackass when I come across one. Seeing that as a reporter I come across jackasses often, I’d probably be considered a serial killer if given a proper firearm.

But while being a reporter means that I come across jackasses often, the Torrent of Jackass has been more like a flood of late.

Between the battle over birth control, something that I thought we all had settled already, to Voter ID laws, to the very existence of Rick Santorum and the recent reminder that we all got that it’s still not safe to be a young Black man armed with a pack of Skittles in this country, I’m awash in jackasses.

But since I don’t have a gun, and for the reasons I’ve mentioned above it’s probably a good thing, the only course of action that I could see myself taking if I ran across any of the jackasses that have littered my path of late is to do what the gentleman pictured above, Muhammad Ali, was really, really good at.

In his heyday, Ali was probably one of the best at Punching People In The Face.

Now I understand that punching people in the face when you’re not in a boxing ring is illegal. And I also realize that many of the people who most deserve to be punched in the face for their actions of late have very large people that they pay for (or in the case of our elected officials, we pay for) to protect them from having folks like me walk up and, well, punch them in the face.

But if I knew that I could punch someone in the face, and not go to jail or get busted up for it, there’s a whole line of people that I’d love to take a swing at because of their special brand of red-hot ignorance… So it is in that vein that I would like to announce the inaugural People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Before we start, some caveats: First of all, the People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards are not literal. I do not now, or will ever, encourage anyone to punch any of these people in the face. This is a metaphoric designation. Secondly, this is non-partisan. There are going to be people of all political stripes deserving of a (metaphoric) punch in the face as this goes on.

And thirdly, I don’t think that I should be the only one having fun with this. If you know someone who deserves a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face designation, let me know. The Mad (political) Scientist Facebook Page will be up and running soon, so you can put your recommendations either here, on the blog, or on that page.

So now, without further ado, here is the first group of People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards….


Because I believe that charity begins at home, the first of this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

In all honesty, I didn’t know whether to nominate Gov. Corbett for his championing and signing the voter ID law that I talked about in a previous posting or for cutting education funding to the bone while allowing the Marcellus Shale drillers to make our water undrinkable for practically nothing.

But at a news conference in which he talked about how happy he was to sign a voter ID law that was totally unnecessary, Gov. Corbett was asked about yet another one of those Really Bad Ideas That Will Probably Become Law In Pennsylvania, a trans-vaginal ultrasound law.

Under this law, which has been passed in other connotations in places like Virginia, women would be forced to submit to an ultrasound featuring an internal probe before having an abortion. This is on top of the 24-hour waiting period that women are already forced to go through in Pennsylvania to obtain an abortion. His response made me say…”Wow! He should be Punched In The Face!

I sometimes wonder if the guys who come up with these laws have kids…and if so, if any of these kids are female. If you’re a dude who has female children and you can come up with some nonsense like this, I have to question how you can look these female children in the face without at least apologizing to them.

But then again, some of the most heinous of these laws that seek to take away reproductive choice have, believe it or not, been proposed by women. So what do I know?

The next recipient of a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award is another person taking on the same topic: the reproductive freedom of the women in his state.

This entry comes from Georgia and it’s from the fevered mind of Rep. Terry England. Rep. England has proposed a bill that would make women who have been informed that their child will be stillborn carry the fetus to term and deliver it naturally instead of being allowed the more humane choice of having it removed.

Now we could talk about how doing that would lead to the mother possibly dying because carrying a dead body inside of you for any length of time has to be harmful. But in the mind of this Person Who Really Needs To Be Punched In The Face, it should be okay.

I mean, livestock do it all of the time…

So let’s review: Women with stillborn children should be forced to carry those children to term because hey, chickens and cows do it…so why can’t they?

As Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does…”

But as Your Mad (political) Scientist Says, somebody needs to be Punched In The Face…


Last but not least, my last People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award “winner” is another one of those examples of why you don’t have to worry about Your Mad (political) Scientist moving anywhere below the Mason/Dixon Line.

You see, while Pennsylvania has passed some really stupid laws based on some really bad ideas, most of those really, really bad ideas have come from the American South. Among those laws is a law that allows folks to, well, be able to shoot first and ask questions never if they feel threatened by someone. Notice I say “feel threatened”. This person doesn’t actually have to do anything to you.

And it is a manifestation of what happened when one of these laws was followed in Florida that leads to my making George Zimmerman and the Sanford, Fla. Police Department the last of my  People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face.

You probably know the story now. On Feb. 24, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked to a convenience store in Sanford to get a pack of Skittles for his little brother and an iced tea for himself. As he walked down the street with his hoodie over his head, town watch person George Zimmerman observed Trayvon as he was “walking around, looking about”.

By the end of the night, Trayvon was dead by the hand of Zimmerman, who had been the subject of a complaint from other residents regarding his Town Watch approach. He had called Sanford police when he first saw Trayvon…and the police told him not to get out of the car. But Zimmerman not only followed Trayvon around, but he got out of the car, fought with him, and later shot him.

Just in case you want to hear the 9-1-1 tapes connected to this incident, here they are:

My favorite part of the whole thing: when Zimmerman says “The assholes always get away…”

Now you have stalking. You have a guy shooting an unarmed kid. You have a guy disobeying a direct order from police. So tell me again why Zimmerman isn’t occupying a cell in Administrative Detention (where they put inmates that would get beaten to death in General Population) in Sanford?

Because the Sanford Police don’t think that Zimmerman has done anything wrong. They say that he’s a good guy and that this is a clean shoot.

Shenanigans! Shenanigans, big time!

Now I understand that Zimmerman has moved from his home and isn’t taking calls because people are threatening him behind Trayvon’s death. While I don’t think that’s cool, I also don’t think it’s cool that he’s walking around after shooting a 17-year-old armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Notice that I haven’t even brought up the whole White Man/Black Kid thing…

But it’s kind of the reason why I hope the Department of Justice takes a look at this. It’s obvious to me that if we’re waiting for the Sanford Police to do something, we’re gonna have a long wait. Maybe the Justice Department will move a little faster. Or at all. That seems like the only way that the Martin family will get justice…

And that, ladies and gentlemen, ends this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Hope that you had as much fun as I did picking the winners! Remember: you can leave your own nominations on the blog here or on our Facebook page once it’s up and running. Thank you and Goodnight!