Monday, May 18, 2015

Unpacking Ferguson
Here is a powerful, detailed, analysis of how Ferguson came to become the 'Ferguson' in the news we all know today.  Highly recommended.


"We flatter ourselves that the responsibility is only borne by rogue police officers, white flight, and suburbanites’ desire for economic homogeneity. Prosecuting the officer who shot Michael Brown, or investigating and integrating Ferguson’s police department, can’t address the deeper obstacles to racial progress."

This is analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.  There was also a short version that appeared in the magazine American Prospect.

This analysis can help us find ways to get out of the straight-jacket that is our current conversations about race...


Tuesday, May 12, 2015



Rethinking the History of the Present
Just read a deeply saddening story in Salon where local Democratic Party leadership early in the 20th century looks a lot like Republican Party leadership today. 

The author argues persuasively that in Baltimore (Ferguson, Cleveland…) “the protests are not really (or primarily) about policing,” so even praise-worthy proposals for policing reform are likely to have far less impact than even progressive reformers might hope.

And there are other parts of the story that link our history to our present.  The analysis of how the mayor used health inspectors as agents of the law enforcing segregation is mirrored in widely-praised aspects of community policing today that include police problem solving partnerships with probation and parole officers, health inspectors, and INS agents.

“In 1925, 18 Baltimore neighborhood associations came together to form the “Allied Civic and Protective Association” for the purpose of urging both new and existing property owners to sign restrictive covenants….” 

Again, approaches to community policing usually seen as innovative include bringing together the local business and property owning community to provide additional surveillance, share information, raise money for the police or to put up signs (one in a Seattle neighborhood read in huge letters: ‘Illegal Activity in this Area Strictly Prohibited’), and provide an army of letter writers ready to speak at city council meetings in support of aggressive preventive patrol.

One idea in the piece strikes me as in need of push back, however.

“Baltimore’s ghetto was not created by private discrimination, income differences, personal preferences, or demographic trends, but by purposeful action of government in violation of the Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments.”

While I support the overall point in this piece, because it is critically important for us all to remember that WE did this—that is, the government acting in our name.  And more importantly that those among the WE with the most power made it happen.

However, the WE doing this is only partially you and I, only indirectly average Americans.  The WE is much more so elites…including—at the center of the equation—private sector elites.  So, this quote, in my view is both accurate and misleading.

Government agents, acting in the name of those with the most influence on government actions (business elites), made this happen…in our name, but the ‘in our name’ part has to also be unpacked. 

Not to erase our own culpability.  Not to ignore the fact that (returning to the quote) that our own individual and shared ‘private discrimination and personal preferences’ are part of what made, and continues to make, this happen. 

But to avoid playing into the hands of the far right by suggesting big government is the primary and most notorious problem here.

For instance, the piece later notes that “Restrictive covenants were not merely private agreements between homeowners; they frequently had government sanction.”  This is true…but these were also (and primarily) private agreements between property owners.  That part is not only not trivial, but it is the source of the most powerful forms of agency in this equation.

And I did not know the George Romney story…an action his son would likely consider the worst form of ‘socialism’ today.  And…this is the first (and I suspect the only) time I will say I agree with Spiro Agnew!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cavs-Bulls
Never really blog about sports, because I experience it as a distraction from things to think (and therefore blog) about.  But I am feeling an itch in need of scratching.


The Cavs just lost Kevin Love for the remainder of the season.  He is 1/3 of the 'Big Three.'  And I hope that (should he return next year) he will emerge as 1/3 of the big three.  For the most part this season, he played more like a solid starter with promise, but one who always seemed a bit out of sync, maybe even too soft.  I hope he emerges next years.  What about this year?

Losing KL will mean more minutes for Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert for sure.  Likely also more minutes for James Jones, Shawn Marion, and Mosgov as well.

Putting aside the question of how to balance first and second units (needs to be one--I trust Blatt to figure it out), more minutes from Thompson and Shumpert right now, with this team, is a very good thing.  That is an upgrade.  Once JR returns, a significant upgrade.

If James Jones can hit threes without being a black hole in every other way (maybe he can focus on getting some rebounds?), his additional minutes will be a wash.  Not a loss; not a bonus.  Just holding steady.

But more offensive rebounds and defense from Thompson and Shumpert, plus Shumpert can hit threes and drive to the hole if the D does not take him seriously...this will improve the Cavs.  And more from a well-rested Shawn Marion might be an upgrade as well; certainly will not be a downgrade.

For the first two games we will lack depth.  This means more minutes for Delly and maybe Mike Miller.  But I hope not.  For the first two games give the extra minutes mostly to Thompson, Shumpert, and Marion with some for Mosgov and Jones (depending on how he plays).

I like a starting five like this:

Kyrie and Shumpert
Mosgov, James, and Jones (or start Thompson)

But if Jones starts, he only comes back on the floor if he shows us something.  Otherwise, his minutes go to Marion or Shumpert or Thompson after the first quarter.

Second quarter unit:

Integrate in lots of Thompson (whether he starts or not), and then second most of Marion and then some Delly and Perkins to rest Kyrie, James, Shumpert and Mosgov at different times.

In the second half...likely more Thompson that Jones with first unit.

I like how these guys play:  Kyrie, James, Shumpert, Movgov, Thompson...so even if this is not your starting unit, this is your best unit.  Then Marion and Delly and Perkins and Jones are (in descending order) solid contributors...to rest others and spread the floor.

Fun to write, but now I know why I do not (and should not) blog about sports.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making the Implicit Explicit
White flight, tax base disappears, state and federal funding shrinks dramatically, schools turn into prisons, policing reduced to managing the consequences of malign neglect...and then Fox News blames the rioters for the decline of the city.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Disrupting History
This is the work of Titus Kaphar. Check out more of his paintings here.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Limited Government
We really do have deep disagreements on what this shared value means.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Libertarian Thinking Reveals

Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune self-identifies as a libertarian, so his hesitation on Rand Paul is instructive in a commentary reprinted in the Akron Beacon Journal today. 
In fact, exposing ourselves to libertarian thinking is usually good for us, as individuals and as a body politic, since only libertarians preserve in 2015 aspects of our framers perspectives on politics that are too disruptive or uncomfortable for either Democratic or Republican party insiders to make salient.
Try this short quiz, called the World’s Shortest Political Quiz, created by libertarians and experience the category disrupting power of engaging with this perspective on politics. 
Chapman’s analysis of Rand Paul highlights both the ways that Paul will inject game-challenging ideas into any debate and the ways Paul has already moderated his views to reduce his disruptiveness (or, as some see it, to pander to constituencies who do not share his views). 
Chapman starts by listing his libertarian credentials as a ‘strong preference for free markets, civil liberties, personal autonomy, limited government and a foreign policy of restraint,’ in order to conclude that he…
‘…should not be a tough sell for Paul. He sounds pretty libertarian when he says, in reference to the National Security Agency, “the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business.” He shows a refreshing open-mindedness on criminal justice by envisioning an America where “any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed.”'
Then Chapman notes that Paul’s audacity includes statements designed to court new voting blocks, to broaden his appeal by attempting to expand the scope of libertarian thinking to include ideas Chapman argues are less about being libertarian and more about winning an election.  He notes, approvingly, that Paul challenges far right Christians on the one hand, but then panders to them on the other.
‘…He dared to tell a Faith and Freedom Coalition audience, “I can recall no utterance of Jesus in favor of war or any acts of aggression.” 
But Paul sometimes sounds anything but libertarian. He rejects same-sex marriage, which he attributes to a “moral crisis.” He denounced the DREAM Act, which offered citizenship to some young foreigners brought here without authorization as children, as “the Washington elitists’ roundabout way of giving amnesty to illegal immigrant students.”’
And then Chapman provides us with some analytical insights worth thinking about…in relation to Rand Paul, but also to help us better understand politics in general.  He concludes that the strategic posturing (bullshitting?) that he observes in Paul (which is not unique to Paul) is an attempt to ‘balance his commendable pronouncements with lamentable ones.’ 
For Paul, Jesus is the Prince of Peace and there really is an (unjustifiable) elite war on Christianity and needs to be a (justifiable) war on Islam.  Paul calls for deregulation and debt control by willfully misinterpreting both scientific and budgetary data—commendably standing for libertarian principles of limited government...framed lamentably to attract the attention of far right Republican activists.
Then another powerful insight occurs.
‘Paul’s casual regard for facts is an admission that the truth does not adequately vindicate his views.’
This is why both the liars and the bullshitters in (or seeking) power today are so dangerous.  This is why education matters.  It is not always easy, in an age where highly paid PR experts craft messages that mislead by design, to sort out who to believe. 
So, Chapman hits on the bedrock principle we cannot lose sight of:  when we do see elites demonstrating a ‘casual regard for the facts’ this tells us something important about their enterprise and their willingness to be phony despite the consequences for democratic decision making…and we need to make sure this is salient in our evaluations of elites.  It tells us that the data—whatever it is, whatever it says—does not adequately support the perspective being articulated.
Chapman closes out this exemplary commentary by noting that wisdom, meaning here good leadership in a democracy, is grounded in our capacity to challenge our own assumptions as vigorously as we challenge others, particularly as new information becomes available (which is all the time in politics). 
It is ironic that democracy depends on good leaders who are willing and able to see conflicts as the crucible, engaging alternative perspectives with curiosity and creativity, with the open mind and open heart of one driven to understand the real world we all live in together.
‘Paul’s casual regard for facts is an admission that the truth does not adequately vindicate his views. It also reflects a tendency, common to the fervent ideologues, of ignoring evidence that undermines cherished beliefs. 

There is nothing wrong with adopting a broad outlook that incorporates certain basic principles for their inherent value or practical utility. Ideology can be a useful framework for making sense of how the world works. 

The trouble comes when it hardens into dogma. Wisdom requires a continual willingness to question one’s assumptions in light of new information. The alternative is what Karl Rove celebrated when he mocked a White House colleague for being “in what we call the reality-based community,” which Rove says is made up of those who imagine that “solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” 

Paul has never given the impression that his convictions are susceptible to refutation. He comes across not as someone whose judicious study of discernible reality led him to his political philosophy, but as someone who first found a political philosophy and then learned only enough to confirm his chosen views.’