Net Neutrality: What it means to you.

Yes, I apologize, I’ve been quiet a while due to other obligations which could not be postponed. But I’m back and I have a lot of catching up to do! While there are SO MANY topics I want to cover, the most pressing today is Net Neutrality. It is has been a largely bipartisan position, until the recent descent into political hell, and the vast majority of citizens, from all political parties, support it. Why should you?

Well, some of us remember before Net Neutrality. The early days of the internet were one thing, when speed was limited to phone lines and everyone had an AOL email address. Oh yeah, it sucked. Speeds picked up, computers got faster, broadband became the norm and people began really utilizing the opportunities the internet offered. People began shopping, though still a bit awkward. E-commerce was born. Now the opponents of Net Neutrality want you to believe that it stifles innovation, but under Net Neutrality, we have seen the real explosion of innovation and connection of the internet to our every day lives. Net Neutrality made streaming of movies and television possible, not only to your home systems, but to tablets, computers and phones. You never need to miss a big game because you have to be away from home and you have an endless supply of movies to entertain your kids on car trips or at the Dentist’s office. You can stream online games on your phone. You have instant connection to anyone, anywhere through mobile technology. You can check prices, order your groceries for pick up or delivery. You can open or close your garage, lock or unlock your door, turn your lights on and off from anywhere.

Just yesterday I answered my front door and politely told a salesman I was not interested, from the grocery store. He had no idea if I was home or not. You want innovation? How’s this? I have a crock pot that connects to my WiFi which I can remotely access with my phone and turn it on or off, or change the settings.

What else has Net Neutrality opened up? Well, I can access any web pages I want. I am not restricted by my provider. This was not always the case before. In the small print of the two-year contract you had to sign, they had the right to restrict access to some sites at their discretion. And they did. Today that is not legal,  which benefits the consumer. You can comparison shop, even other internet providers. They cannot block services like Netflix or Hulu in favor of their own streaming services, or charge you an extra fee, to them, to access those services. When Net Neutrality is gone, then they can treat internet access like they do cable access, and sell you packages which are not limited to speed, but ACCESS. So, you know how a basic cable package gives you a short list of channels you can access, but if you want Disney, ESPN or even FOX News (to each their own)  then you have to upgrade your package. That is how the big internet companies want to sell you internet, because they could make a ton of money off of it.

Think about it. If you have Alexa or Google Home, consider all the apps you are running through your internet. Right now, the service provider isn’t getting a piece of that action. And they shouldn’t be. You are paying for internet and internet speed, how you use that should be up to you, not them. They want to be able to siphon off all of these applications that we use every day. Wonder why Amazon and Etsy are fighting to keep Net Neutrality? Because without it, these companies could be forced to make deals with service providers, giving them a fee or a cut of profits, just to be accessible on their service to consumers. Yeah, you read that right

In essence, Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) could charge these companies to be on their ‘network’ and then also charge their customers to access those sites. Double payday for something you just have right now. They would be converting money from nothing, (and that money comes from you) holding our access hostage and extorting from businesses and the public. Now, if you are going to have to pay an extra fee to access your apps, that could start adding up really fast. Remember, this is something you do not have to pay extra for right now. But just think, a quarter, or a dime, or even a nickel extra a month for everything you access through your internet. It adds up quick, and many things would be a lot more than a nickel. It will make people think twice about how many devices they use, how much streaming they enjoy, how connected they want their home. They could charge you per device. (Which would make you not so wiling to give your cousin the wifi access for his phone while he’s at your house.) And when people have to start thinking twice because the cost suddenly went up, that does not help the market, it stifles it. It doesn’t lead to ingenuity, it leads to stagnation.

The only benefits for removing Net Neutrality are for the large ISPs. There is zero benefit to anyone else, least of all the smaller competition. It has the potential to undermine small businesses selling online, as the ISP may require, and without Net Neutrality will have to right to demand, fees or percentages of sales from small businesses. This would be in addition to whatever sales service or software they may utilize. It is common to pay a host for a shop you open on your website, in return you get all the shop programming which makes payments and such easy, helps you set it up to look nice and professional. It is just an annual or monthly fee. But the ISP could charge you as well, in addition, for providing you with no service at all that you do not have right now. They can extort money from businesses under the threat of blocking them from the users which access their network.

Preventing this practice is just one of the many reasons we enacted Net Neutrality to begin with. It is a consumer and business protection which has allowed for unparalleled growth in the industry. ISPs are making huge profits. They see an opportunity to make more. This move would hurt our economy.

There is another issue which is concerning as well. Free Speech. These ISPs would have the ability and authority to block any site, organization or even blog that they disagreed with politically, religiously or morally. They could cater your internet experience to see only the news, sites and streams which benefit their own agenda. That means, if a large ISP wants a particular legislation passed to benefit them, they could ostensibly promote particular political views and repress opposition to help candidates who make back room deals with their lobbyists. That sounds fun and amazing, right? Of course, large corporations would NEVER shell out money or utilize their influence for political favors, right? Certainly, there are no politicians alive who would demean the integrity of their office to help out their donors, are there? So, sarcasm aside, control over the viewable content of the internet and its use by consumers, especially considering the vital role it plays in our society, by a small group of corporations is extremely dangerous to even our democracy.

So, what does Net Neutrality mean to you? Well, it saves you money. It gives you the freedom to surf the net however you like and use your access to the internet how you like, whether it is online gaming, shopping, checking out your security cameras, tossing your dog a treat while you are at work, streaming your favorite shows and movies or even turning on a crock pot. It allows you to do your banking and online bill pay with security and without an extra fee to access it. You can check all of your credit card accounts, pay your utility bills and do research for homework. You can chat, communicate and network with friends and colleges. You can video message Grandma so she can see how much the little one has grown, even when you live a thousand miles or more away. It ended long distance calling bills. You can share ideas and pictures and videos. Now how would you feel if you had to pay extra for every one of those things that you do right now without an extra fee?

The big business opponents to Net Neutrality, and the politicians they have bought, want you to believe that the rule of full disclosure is ample enough and suggests a free market without regulation will work. The problem with that is there are really only a few big companies which control the market, and they work in concert for their own, collective interest. With that much power over a billion customers, they tell the consumers what they can have. There is little competition and zero incentive to not make extra money if they can. They will squeeze everyone from every side to get every penny possible. The ‘competition’ between them will be small discounts and upgrades they offer for the same extortion packages where you pay extra for what you have right now.

I had the pleasure of contacting Rep Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd District in California. He is one of the sold-out, driving force politicians who cater to the wealthy elite. Why do I say that? Well, here is a quote from the congressman’s response to my query regarding revoking Net Neutrality. He wants to:

  • Reclassify broadband internet service as an information service and return to the light-touch regulations that were first established with bi-partisan support during the Clinton Administration. 

  • Reestablish the transparency rule from the 2010 Open Internet Order that requires internet providers to disclose to consumers any paid prioritization, throttling, and congestion management practices on their networks. 

Yes. He said that. First off, the Clinton era was the real birth of our modern information age.  The “light touch regulations” that he talks about were, in fact, the FIRST real regulations governing the internet. No one at that time could really foresee what regulations would be necessary to protect consumers and businesses, alike. Second, he conveniently reiterates exactly the point I made before, with the idea that a ‘transparency rule’ to disclose paid prioritization, throttling, etc., is sufficient to safeguard consumers. In case you are unclear what throttling is, it is exactly what it sounds like. And here is a definition to help you along:

throt·tle
ˈTHrädl/
verb
gerund or present participle: throttling
  1. 1.
    attack or kill (someone) by choking or strangling them.
    “she was sorely tempted to throttle him”
    synonyms: chokestranglestrangulategarrotegag More

  2. 2.
    control (an engine or vehicle) with a throttle.

Yeah. Nothing like the authority to throttle, just so long as they say they will be throttling somewhere in the super fine print you need a lawyer with a microscope to read and interpret for you. Exciting.

So, what does it mean when they want to throw away Net Neutrality, which has ushered in a fantastic, innovated age of information and potential? It means they want the power to throttle the internet. They want to allow their wealthy donors to choke, strangle, and gag the internet, holding it hostage unless you meet their demands. Sounds a lot like the Russian hackers who take control of businesses and demand a ransom to release it. Except for a few things, this ransom would be legalized, you never stop paying it and at least the Russian hackers have the decency to admit they are screwing you. They don’t try to pretend like they are doing you a favor. It doesn’t matter what your party affiliation is, you should be righteously pissed.

The vote is tomorrow. Make your voice heard. Your voice could actually depend on it. Your way of life depends on it. Speak out. Your wallet will thank you.

We are One Woman, One World.

photo credit: Internet for All. 

 

We are all Jane Doe

For those of us biting our nails, worried about the impact this administration will have on women’s equality in the United States, and thus its influence to promote equality around the world, the legal battle playing out over a seventeen year old, unaccompanied immigrant seeking an abortion for a desperately unwanted pregnancy while in Federal custody has been nerve-racking. The young woman, known as Jane Doe because she is a minor, is currently being held in a relocation detention center in Texas while they seek a suitable sponsor for her. She came to the United States seeking refuge from abuse and had no idea she was pregnant until the medical examination at the detention center. In Texas, a minor must obtain a court order to undergo an abortion without a parent’s or guardian’s consent. She did this. A judge gave the legal order for her to be permitted to have the abortion. She also had the money to pay for it and a court appointed guardian to escort her to the procedure. But the Federal government stepped in and stepped on the constitution in the process… not just stepped on, but did a tap dance all over it.

More than merely obstructing the court order and denying Jane access to the procedure by saying she could not leave the facility for the abortion, they forced her to attend counseling at a religious, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center. Let that sink in for a moment. They would not let her leave the premises to get a court ordered medical procedure, but they forced her to leave to attend religious counseling. Religious. As though the separation of Church and State were meaningless. They essentially denied her due process because when she used it, they refused to acknowledge it and made new rules to circumvent it. Then they shoved religious dogma, evidently State Supported Religious Dogma, down her throat. She then had to return to due process, winning again. But the clock was ticking and, all the while, she came ever closer to the twenty week cut off the state of Texas has for elective abortions.

Jane Doe did receive her completely legal abortion, much to the consternation of the Federal Government. The Justice Department, in a tizzy, has filed a petition to literally seek retribution against the ACLU attorneys representing Jane Doe for not informing them that she would be having the procedure done on October 25. First, to be perfectly clear, Doe’s procedure date was between her and her doctor. The State was aware of her appointment on that date, and only made aware because she would need to leave the facility and not out of any duty by her attorneys to make the Justice Department privy to her procedure schedule. The State made a miscalculation, believing she would need to wait at least another twenty-four hours for the abortion as Texas law requires she be counseled by the doctor no less than twenty-four hours before the procedure. But Jane Doe had already been previously counseled by the doctor performing the procedure and had no need to wait an additional day. The Justice Department complained that they should have been informed because they wanted to file another motion to attempt to delay or prevent the abortion. Think about that. They got mad because she did what she was completely and legally entitled to do and the government is angry because she and her lawyers did not voluntarily go out of their way to give the Justice Department even more opportunity to obstruct her. Now, after the fact, they want the Supreme Court of the United States to vacate the previous decision. Why? So it cannot be cited in future cases for women daring to exercise reproductive freedom.

Jane Doe is not the first young woman forced into this situation and the Trump administration and his Justice Department are hoping to intimidate and scare other attorneys from taking on these cases and, thus, fashion some sort of anti-choice victory from the ashes of their defeat. But this is just one battlefield of so many in a much larger war against women and religious freedom.

This is not just about reproductive freedom. It isn’t even just about women’s equality. It is also about religious freedom and the separation of church and state. It is all of these things and all of them are equally important because our freedoms are interlocked. Having reproductive rights is essential to the equality of women in our society. The separation of church and state prevents religious ideologies being reflected in our society as a matter of law and from any religion being given dominance over any other. The opposition to abortion and birth control is not based in science, but predominantly in religion. Religion has no place dictating any aspect of our government or laws or policies. Period.

To force this young girl to attend faith-based counseling is outright against our constitution. Before you get high in arms, suggesting she has no “constitutional rights” or shouldn’t because she is not a citizen, guess again. The constitution outlines, in this case, the behavior of our government and the constraints it must operate within, without regard to the citizenship of any individual. In other words, the government cannot advocate any religion, period, to anyone, anywhere. Demanding faith-based counseling, or in fact, any counseling which is not directed by the attending physician nor based in medicine and is not at the full and willing consent of the patient, is a violation of human rights and an attempt to impose ideologies that are not within the scope of the law. That is bad, people. Really bad. If you are an anti-choice proponent, then you may be all for it right now, because it helps you get your way, but what happens when the exact same method is used for something you do not agree with? What if women had to get counseling before they could cut their hair? Or enter the workforce? What if you had to pass a government religious test to be a single parent? There are many who believe a single, unmarried mother is an abomination and not being married is child abuse. Would you want those people dictating laws and policies?

That is the real problem with letting religion interfere with government, in any way. Religions are different. Even the same religions have hundreds of separate groups who all believe their religion should be managed differently. They all believe they are right. Most believe only they are right. Take a look at the Illinois HB6064 which was proposed in February of 2016 by the GOP controlled House. It specifically sought to exclude single mothers who either could not or would not (for whatever reason) provide the father’s name for a new-born baby from receiving a birth certificate with the intent on preventing them from ever qualifying to receive financial aid for that child from the government. While they claimed this was about preventing the government picking up the tab for children with able-bodied fathers who should be helping support their child, it certainly did nothing to harm the fathers. It targeted the mothers and the “illegitimate” child. The end result was establishing that if a child doesn’t know his or her father, then they are worthless and do not deserve things like lunches at school, healthcare, a roof over their heads or food to eat. Thankfully, due to public outcry, this bill was tabled the following April 5th. This ideology of illegitimate children having a lower social standing in our society is based heavily in religious dogma which believes sex outside of marriage is sinful and any product or offspring of such a coupling is conceived in sin.

You can also take a look at the various forms Trumpcare has taken in the GOP eagerness to throw tens of millions of people out of reach of quality healthcare. There have been too many special restrictions which are based in religion, such as making it possible for employers to restrict coverage of birth control or other reproductive services for women. There was even, at one point, a measure to allow insurance companies to deny maternity coverage if the mother was unmarried. Seriously. How is this not based on a religious idea of morality? Outside of religious dogma, people are more concerned with the health and safety of a child than they are the marital status of that child’s parents.

Now, take a look at the new attempt to circumvent abortion in the US House of Representatives: A six-week abortion ban. This is ignorance at its finest. Most women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. In actuality, they are not six weeks pregnant because the weeks of pregnancy are not counted from the point of conception (which is impossible to determine unless it happens outside the womb) but from the first day of their last menstrual cycle. Which, in the event you are a complete idiot, I will tell you, means they were almost certainly not pregnant at that time. It is possible for a woman to have several cycles even while pregnant, but that is extremely rare. For the vast majority, pregnancy occurs somewhere between two to four weeks after that date, depending on such things like ovulation, and how long it takes a fertilized egg to develop into a blastocyst, drop into the uterus and attach itself to the wall. When a woman is one day late for her period she could be actually days pregnant, or just late. It can take another two weeks to develop enough hormone in the body to render a reliable pregnancy test result. Taking the test before then can easily result in a false negative. Thus, without an ultrasound, you cannot even accurately determine pregnancy, excluding the likelihood of false negatives, until what is generally considered the six-week mark. This ban, also known as H.R. 490, is another attempt to push religious dogma into laws designed to control the population based on the religious beliefs held by some and not based in science. It is a method to control women in society and demote them to what they religiously believe is their primary purpose: to breed and be in the service of their husbands. It also gives them further dominion over legally controlling sex in society based on their religious ideologies.

You don’t believe this breeder mentality is at the core of GOP sentiment? Well, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Scott Allen had this to say,

“Labor force shortages are tied to population declines. Labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth. And limited economic growth poses a problem when government tries to pay for public services and infrastructure. In spite of this Mr. Speaker, ironically, the Democrats continue their effort to support the abortion industry.”

Uh huh. Yes. That means exactly what it sounds like. Rep. Allen suggests (and suggest is a pretty weak word for it) that abortion should be banned because we need women breeding these babies to ensure the future labor force and economic growth. I think I’ve touched on this before, the economic reasoning for the anti-choice movement, and I am thankful to Allen here for proving my point. Many of the elective abortions happen because the woman is not at a stable point in her life to have and care for a child. Having a child at that time would ensure poverty for both, leaving a single mother, without an education to scrape by at minimum wage jobs with inadequate support to help her child achieve a better life or education. This can easily become a cycle from one generation to the next of low expectations, poverty and, you guessed it, cheap labor. Millions of jobs across the country pay poverty wages. Tens of millions. More, in fact. It is estimated that 42.4% of those employed in the United States make less than $15 an hour. There are only fifteen states out of all fifty where that is a living wage for a single person. Not for a single mom to care for a child, but just one adult, and it is only within pennies of survival. In the thirty-five remaining states, $15 an hour is not enough money for even one person to live outside of poverty. If you make less that $14.26 per hour then there is nowhere in the country you can live outside of poverty. But still, more than 42% of jobs fall under $15 per hour. How do you fill that many poverty wage jobs? How do you convince that many people to accept poverty wages for hard work? Well, people born to poverty are accustomed to it. It is what they know and those wages are what they have been taught to expect. When too many people began taking advantage of higher education, the pay demands of jobs began to increase. The resounding answer was to make college unaffordable and ensure those who do graduate feel so encumbered by debt that they would accept less in their desperation. After all, they only have six months to start paying back those student loans. So, what Rep. Allen is really letting slip is that he wants impoverished babies to grow up to be desperate workers willing to accept crumbs just to try to survive. I am sure he would apply the same reasoning to birth control, since it effectively prevents far more unwanted pregnancies. They need a new crop of impoverished workers so women need to get busy breeding on demand.

The Right would have you believe they are fighting for religious liberty, frequently naming their bills and laws designed to give employers religious powers over their employees things like The Religious Freedom Act, and other misnomers. An example is taking away birth control from group health insurance plans. Another example is making it acceptable to fire or not hire women because of their choice to have an abortion or use birth control. It is also reflected in the Right’s policies that employers should have the right to not hire, fire or refuse advancement to people based on their sexual orientation or having a same-sex marriage based on nothing more than the employer’s religious beliefs, thus giving the employer religious priority over employees. In effect, this says that the government endorses an employer’s religion over that of an employee. At the moment, many far right Christians are fine with this, so long as it is their religion which gets priority. However, any time there is even a semblance of, say, an Islamic employer implementing such actions, the scream of, “Sharia Law!” is tantamount to ear-piercing. Their indignation, and hypocrisy, is amazing to behold. It shows the truth beneath the rhetoric, underlying the misnomer of Religious Freedom.

We are all Jane Doe. Men, women, children. Everyone. We all have our own, closely held beliefs, whether they are: religious, political, moral, or otherwise. Whether we believe in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, we’re an atheist, agnostic,  subscribe to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we are all Jane Doe. We each have inalienable rights that should not be sacrificed to a loud minority. More than 70% of the nations supports women’s’ rights to choice and 89% support birth control as a moral option to reduce unwanted pregnancies. 79% of the United States believe it should be easily accessible and even publicly funded. So, we are talking about a loud, religiously cultish minority, though politically powerful, imposing their beliefs on everyone else. Those beliefs are outside the Constitution of the United States and, therefore, a danger to all of our liberties. When you can toss aside any freedom, for anyone, personal freedoms, and make them subject to the whims of others, then there is no freedom at all. They will all fall like a string of dominoes. If you have ever built domino lines then you know it takes a lot longer to set them up, or reset them, than it does to knock them over. So, like Jane Doe, we need to all guard our freedoms closely and not allow them to erode. Reproductive freedom, religious freedom, the right to work, live, love, vote, receive an education, to food and shelter and accessible healthcare, no matter our gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or financial stability, these are all things worth fighting for, worth achieving and keeping.

Jane Doe fought her battle and won, albeit with help, it was still a win for all of us, that our laws mean something and, so too, does our freedom. Despite the extreme pressures placed on her by the weight of the federal government of the United States of America, she did not waver. It would have been easy to cave under such pressure, but she did not. We must all be willing to hold, steadfast, to the progress our nation has made towards equality, and push it forward, against the unrelenting current of those who enjoy and prefer power over others. Our freedom is not a gift at all. It was fought for and earned, demanded and pried from the greedy hands of oppressors. It is not a gift. it is a right.

Resist. We cannot now become complacent. Jane Doe gives us hope. We can stand against an administration seeking to be a regime. We are many and we have power.

We are One Woman, One World.

Sources:

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/3/16602662/jane-doe-trump-administration-jeff-sessions-abortion

https://www.snopes.com/single-mother-birth-certificate/

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=6064&GAID=13&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=88&GA=99

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/six-week-abortion-ban

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/how-pregnancy-happens

https://www.webmd.com/baby/understanding-conception#1

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/10/15/1433190/-Study-says-there-s-NO-state-where-a-single-adult-can-live-on-less-than-14-hr-working-a-40-hour-week

http://www.nelp.org/content/uploads/Growing-Movement-for-15-Dollars.pdf

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/03/28/how_many_workers_earn_less_than_15_per_hour.html

http://deadstate.org/gop-lawmaker-abortion-should-be-banned-because-women-need-to-replenish-the-labor-marketfbrefreshforce/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

http://news.gallup.com/poll/187955/percentage-christians-drifting-down-high.aspx

https://www.rt.com/usa/372614-roe-v-wade-support/

http://news.gallup.com/poll/154799/americans-including-catholics-say-birth-control-morally.aspx

 

 

Trump-Don’t-Care: More than a nonhealthcare plan, it’s public policy

So, yeah, of course he did. Trump couldn’t get his crappy healthcare bills passed through the legislative process because, amazingly, there are still a few Republicans who refuse to completely sell their soul to the anti-Christ incarnate residing in the White House. So, Trump did what any aspiring dictator would do, if the democratic process doesn’t work, he’ll just make commandments from his throne. So in yet another abuse of executive powers, the poor rendition of an orange Putin imposter dismantled the ACA with a stroke of a pen. He keeps claiming it will make insurance so much more affordable, despite all the numbers which say the opposite. The CBO says it will cause insurance rate hikes as large as 25% by 2020. 2020 is not that far away, people. That is literally two years and two and a half months from now. Okay, sure if you are super healthy you might be able to buy a junk policy that does basically nothing a bit cheaper, but not by much once those rate hikes hit. And then, if you actually have to use it… goodbye insurance premiums you can ever hope to afford! Trump doesn’t care if you actually have access to decent healthcare. All the best medicine and resources are commodities reserved for those who can afford it. He doesn’t care if sick children die because they are just weak links in the gene pool. If the parents wanted healthy kids, they should have been rich. He doesn’t care if poor people die because he thinks they are stupid. His logic: if poor people were smart, then they wouldn’t be poor, would they? He literally equates wealth to competence. While there may be some merit in a self-made multi-millionaire/billionaire being a pretty smart person, that does not genetically transcend through the sperm and ovaries to their offspring who hit the conception lottery. Trump is a testament to this truth.

But not giving a rat’s skinny butt about people is not isolated to the administration’s stance on healthcare. Nope. It is a general, broad-spectrum domestic policy. Just take a look at the disasters. Harvey and Irma earned a rapid and reasonable response from the administration because those are voters who are in states with people he sees as his supporters. There were also a whole lot of white people affected and wealthy people. Can’t forget the wealthy people, with whom Trump immediately likes to identify. Further, helping these people also helped his donor buddies. Lifting the Jones’ Act immediately in order to move fuel was an economic decision that was good for his cronies. If it helped out a lot of people in need, then that was a bonus good for ratings. But with Maria, a whole different scenario emerged. Now, Puerto Rico actually isn’t that far away. A two hour flight from Miami gets you there. It takes that long to fly from Dallas to Las Vegas. But somehow Trump has tried to paint the island to be hidden in the far reaches of the ocean, or “big water,” as he sometimes calls it. He wants everyone to think it is ridiculously difficult for our military, you know, like the Navy with its vast fleet of ships, to reach. Despite knowing well enough in advance to ensure a rapid response by the military, Trump did not bother to order the USNS Comfort to the island until a week AFTER the hurricane hit. He did not suspend the Jones Act until eight days AFTER Puerto Rico was demolished. And the administration had a great response, initially, as to why they did not see a need to suspend the outdated restriction on domestic shipping. They said they felt US ships could handle it fine, we didn’t need foreign assistance and that it was not economically advantageous.

But, of course, Puerto Rico isn’t full of Trump supporters and voters. It is a poor island that the US invaded and forced under US rule, subjecting the people to citizenship, thus making them eligible to be shipped off to war, and squeezing the small economy for taxes without giving them representation in congress. Trump likes ranting about Puerto Rico’s debt and claiming their real disaster is of their own making. But the truth is that the restrictions imposed on Puerto Rico, without the benefit of representation or power to vote, has placed the territory in a no-win position of perpetual economic distress. Conservatives don’t want to make them a state. They feel it would be just handing the Democrats more electoral votes because it is a minority-majority. However, if the restraints on Puerto Rico were lifted so that their economy could blossom, without the advantage of statehood, they would likely seek independence from a nation who really does very little for them. BUT- those are nuances completely lost on Trump. He doesn’t care. All Trump sees is a bunch of poor minorities and that is a perfectly good enough reason to not care if they live or die, or how they go about doing so.

We aren’t finished with disasters, however. Pop over to the West Coast and have a gander at it. Yeah, it is pretty much on fire. Over five thousand homes have been destroyed. Businesses and communities have been laid to ashes. Forty-one people are dead and hundreds missing. More than one hundred thousand people are still under evacuation orders. While the state of California battles these enormous fires to the north, more keep popping up through the state due to unusually high temperatures, low humidity and the strong Santa Anna winds which blast through the region this time of year. But not a peep out of the wanna-be president. Why? Well too many people in California don’t like him and that state didn’t vote for him. It has also been hot spot for anti-Trump protests and its metropolises are sanctuary cities in defiance of his anti-immigration policies. So, all things considered, Trump doesn’t care if California burns to the ground and everyone dies. He took days to respond to relief requests. Those days could have meant resources which might have saved lives. Just like in Puerto Rico, Trump exercises the death penalty for those who disagree with him. While he may not be putting a bullet in their head or a noose around their neck, willful, spiteful  negligence still costs lives.

So, healthcare, disasters, what ese? Hmm? How about his war mongering? Yes, Trump’s ever pulsating need to puff out his chest and demand respect he has neither earned nor deserves, has led to social media saber-rattling, publicly insulting the leaders of other nations, threats to abandon our treaties and honor our commitments, and outright bullying of smaller countries. Yeah, that sounds like leading the free world, right? Trump has done nothing to promote diplomacy around the world. In fact, he literally scoffs at it and calls it pointless. He earnestly believes might is all he needs. He chooses threats to bully the world, but is it even listening? He has systematically turned allies into wary acquaintances. He is pushing enemies to the breaking point. Why? Probably because there is no greater distraction than war. He is pushing buttons in hopes of a war, eluding to its inevitability constantly, for two reasons. First, because he believes war unites the nation behind the banner of Old Glory and no one can criticize him because he is the Commander In Chief of our brave military. He has a ridiculous number of scandals and a very uncomfortable criminal investigation festering around him at the moment, which he blames for his low approval ratings. Actually, he blames it all on fake news and says it is all made up. I’m pretty sure Mueller doesn’t have a Grand Jury for naught, however. And, well, no matter how often he tweets, Trump doesn’t act like an innocent man and his mouth is frequently his own worst enemy. Second, and truly the most petulant, Trump wants to play with his army men. He does not see our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends as people. He does not recognize that the treasure of our military is not the bombs and guns and planes and warships, but the men and women who wear the uniform. They are the national treasure. They are the measure we use to determine the need for conflict. The test for any politician should be, “is this important enough for my child to sacrifice his or her life?” Not how much money it will cost, because money is replaceable. Lives are not. Trump’s wonton and flippant march towards conflict does not ask that question. It shows an eargerness to play with soldiers’ lives like they are expendable to his whims. He doesn’t care if they die. He doesn’t care if they are injured. He doesn’t care if they are captured or tortured. In fact, he likes soldiers who aren’t captured, as he has told us. Trump doesn’t care.

Oh, we can keep going. Education? Trump doesn’t care. Environment? Trump doesn’t care. Endangered species? Trump doesn’t care. Fair wages? Trump doesn’t care. Protecting the Social Security safety net? Nope, Trump doesn’t care. Fair tax laws? Yeah right… he thinks fair equals tax breaks for him. He doesn’t care about anyone else. Equal rights for all, nope. Trump doesn’t care.

Here is the breakdown, unless your name is Trump, and you profit from it, Trump doesn’t care. That is his broad-spectrum policy on everything. Simple and easy to remember: Trump Don’t Care.

Resist. Fight. Speak.

We are One Woman, One World.

Ann Lavendar Truong

Shout out to Anne Coffer, great friend and amazing colleague and author. She has a new book out, just released, that is fantastic, Edge of Ridiculous . I loved it! Get it! Read it! Then tell her how awesome she is! 

Links: More ways to find me or colleagues of mine to check out!

AnnLavendar.com     LeeLooPub.com   Author Mishka Williams BrickWilson.com    UtimateGalacticUniverse.com

Out of sight: The voluntary blindness to racism in our society.

My heart goes out to the victims in Puerto Rico. I have been considering long and hard how to write this. I’ve been watching, waiting to see exactly what would happen. I gave this administration and our nation a chance to respond, to see how and if they would. For once, I was quiet. Well, okay, maybe not overly silent. I had a good bit of frustration and anger, some really emphatic social media posts and my poor husband heard a great many rants. Although, he didn’t complain. We share an indignant passion for people who are marginalized. He’s a good man. I’ll keep him. But, as for making an official statement, writing an article that would be tossed out to the masses, I waited. I just wanted to see what would happen and study the events as they unfolded so that I could look at it on  timeline comparable to other disasters. I gave this administration the opportunity to succeed before I condemned them. And succeed they did, though not in any manner worthy of praise.

Instead of showing any sense of compassion, Puerto Rico was met with contempt. They were treated, from the onset, like a parasite; with us but not us, sucking our energy and giving nothing in return. This is exactly how the so-called President of the United States of America treated U.S. citizens. He demeaned them. Blamed them. Insulted them. Denied them adequate relief efforts. The relief effort for Puerto Rico by the United States government was token, at best. That does not mean the people who went were not working as hard as they could. It means the administration sent way too few to help with an immense disaster. Puerto Rico is literally post apocalyptic right now. Sure, the death toll could have been worse, but we still, three weeks later, actually do not know how many have died. They can only officially report deaths confirmed related to the disaster. Since there are areas and villages still inaccessible, that count is sure to rise from the forty-five listed as of today. Oh, and people aren’t even finished dying, yet. And, there is the matter that only one agency, the  Institute of Forensic Science, can officially determine a death count, which means bodies either must be transported to San Juan or an official must travel to the location to confirm the death and that it is related. There has been some speculation that the death toll is being intentionally suppressed to paint the relief efforts in a better light. Outside estimates claim there may be between four hundred fifty to two thousand dead and counting.

Many people have died in the aftermath of the storm: in mudslides, due to the loss of medical services or equipment, and even to diseases from the tainted water. These people have not been counted. For whatever reason, their deaths were dismissed. There are reports from aid workers that the morgue in Aguidilla is closed because it is at full capacity. Those deaths have not been counted, either. Now to get a handle on that, it would mean around five hundred people, and supposedly, FEMA is aware of it, but not reporting them. The New York Daily News sent a request to FEMA to confirm this without response. I also made a request and mums the word coming out of FEMA. Nothing but a referral back to their website for updates on the situation. The Puerto Rican Newspaper El Vocero stated in a report that approximately three hundred fifty additional bodies were being held in the Institute of Forensic Science’s morgue. Those have yet to be verified or counted. My requests for information or verification of this have not been answered.

After three weeks, almost the entire island is still without power. Fuel is a luxury almost no one has. More than half the population is without clean drinking water. The tainted water is spreading disease. Most homes on the island have been damaged or destroyed. Communications across the island are near non-existent. It can take days to get messages between cities and some of the more isolated areas have yet to be reached.

The Trump administration would have you believe they have done a magnificent job in the relief efforts. In fact, Trump believes they have really done quite enough and the island needs to stop whining already. He blames them for their situation, that their infrastructure was too poor and inadequate. It may be true they had an old system in desperate need of updating, however, there is no indication that a newer system would have fared better under the extreme conditions of a large, powerful category four hurricane ripping across the complete island. A better electric system would not have stopped the winds so strong they snapped weather service wind gauges and cell phone towers along with power lines and buildings. It would not have stopped the landslides or the severe flooding or the trees being ripped from the round and turned into lethal projectiles ripping through power lines, homes and buildings. No. Poor infrastructure may not have helped much, but it did not cause the disaster.

Here is the funny thing, though; well not funny like a good joke, but funny as in peculiar, We never heard this type of rhetoric out of Trump regarding Houston. Now Houston’s civil engineering actually did hold some level of responsibility for making some very poor decisions on structuring neighborhoods in areas which should have been deemed flood zones. People’s lives were put in danger for profit, who should have been aware of the actual risk associated with the homes they bought. But not a word of dissent out of the administration. They got there and worked diligently to get people to safety. In Florida, again, no complaints towards the state or the citizens. In no instance did Trump ever suggest Floridians or Texans were just lazy and wanted everything done for them. He never belittled them. He never insulted them. He never made suggestions that the government had done enough and they should take on the rest by themselves, as he did this morning with Puerto Rico. So, we have to ask why? What makes Puerto Rico different? Well, there are several things.

First, Puerto Rico is not a state. While all the people there are citizens of the United States, they do not have the right to vote. They have no representation in the federal government with any power. Their position is that of a colony and is regarded just about as well as King George regarded New England. Actually, the comparison is solid. What brought about the American Revolution? Taxation without representation. And that is exactly the case with Puerto Rico. Most individuals do not have to pay federal income tax, though they do pay payroll taxes, social security taxes, commodity taxes, and import and export taxes. They contribute billions annually to the federal government, yet they are only allowed a single representative without voting power. Taxation without representation. Puerto Rico has been victimized for a long time, forced to adhere to ridiculous laws which keep its economy stifled and without the voting protection or voice to do anything about it. They are ruled by the United States, not governed. Their democracy is only local with very little power to effect change on any scale which would improve their situation.

And now they are being treated like the unwanted child of a mistress who a Republican Senator would have happily had aborted. They have literally been told by Trump that they are costing too much. Today he pled the argument that their situation was their own fault, so it is time for the federal government to start stepping away. Disgusting, right? But not so unexpected. We’ve only touched on the first point of how Puerto Rico is different: its lack of representation. Now let’s discuss why that is. After several referendums to become a state, the only reason Puerto Rico is not a state and entitled to representation is because the United States has failed to approve it. They like keeping Puerto Rico exactly like they are. Especially the GOP.

Why? Well, with statehood it would be an entire state of predominantly Spanish-speaking brown people. It is difficult to argue that English should be the only language when we have a state that is almost entirely Spanish-speaking. The white patriarchy would have difficulty accepting the people of this state as equals, much like they still cannot accept Native Americans as equals and continue to pilfer their lands and break their treaties.

This is the biggest difference, the reason the Trump administration doesn’t care if these people live or die, so long as Trump can claim he did something and good ratings: These are minorities. And worse, they are a majority minority.  Crippling Puerto Rico sets them back many strides in gaining representation; belittling them and making them seem like a parasite, rather than citizens worthy of equal rights and representation. This is a genocide of neglect on the part of Donald Trump and his actions should be criminal. He has literally killed people with his lack of adequate response. Lives lost that can never be returned. People are dead and they will never see their families, nor their families them, again, because he sent a quarter the resources to Puerto Rico that he sent to Houston or Florida with more than a week’s delay. His administration claimed there was “no economic benefit,” to suspending the Jones Act for the island, despite its immediate suspension after Harvey and Irma.

Thankfully congress is stepping up to at least send some sort of funding to help Puerto Rico rebuild, but that will not change the potentially thousands dead. I doubt we ever know the actual death count, but it is a sinister thought that it could be intentionally misrepresented.

In the end, this is just more about race inequality in our nation. Our racist president is ever eager to prove his white heritage dominance to the bulk of his supporters, who ironically don’t even think they are racist because they have a friend who is black or the guy who mows their lawn is Mexican. But they have an inherent disposition to believe that ‘other’ is bad. They are quick to accept that a black man is dangerous or an Hispanic man is lazy or a criminal. People of color are put in the position of having to prove themselves and overcome a negative impression that was gleaned from nothing more evident than the their skin tone.

Puerto Ricans are dying because of this voluntary blindness to the racism imbedded, systemically, in our nation.  This is the difference that matters, because this is the one killing them.

Fight. Resist. Speak for those who cannot speak any longer. Help these people, our people, our fellows, our countrymen and women. We are a nation of tragedies, so many of our own making.

We are One Woman, One World.

Updated 10/13/17 to correct Daily News to New York Daily News and to correct typographical errors without consequence to the meaning or integrity of the article.

Sources to Help the Victims of Maria

https://www.unicefusa.org/donate/support-unicef-usas-hurricane-relief-efforts-puerto-rico/32952?utm_campaign=2017_misc&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=0178/2/_Google&utm_content=PuertoRico&ms=cpc_dig_2017_misc_0178/2/_Google_PuertoRico&initialms=cpc_dig_2017_misc_0178/2/_Google_PuertoRico

https://secure.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.9535647/k.A2B9/Hurricane_Maria_Childrens_Relief_Fund/apps/ka/sd/donor.asp?msource=wexgphca0917&gclid=CjwKCAjwpfzOBRA5EiwAU0ccNyLp4AKxbuMPb7eHOBnHpufJX1s4vRLF2oXnGMTu4ha-8OQW_KnRzhoCr_IQAvD_BwE

http://www.impactnations.org/projects/puerto-rico-relief?gclid=CjwKCAjwpfzOBRA5EiwAU0ccN5dwt6ZKj0r6xaf8q_BmmxEO1ajfjTf667_A0l098KRi6gWOFPEQkRoCr50QAvD_BwE

http://www.sunglobal.org/prrelief.html

You can search for many more relief organizations.

Sources:

http://www.pr51st.com/taxation-without-representation-in-puerto-rico/

http://www.elvocero.com/

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/hurricane-maria-killed-people-puerto-rico-article-1.3558545

https://www.fema.gov/

http://oppositionreport.com/trump-announces-puerto-rico-is-on-its-own-and-his-least-favorite-mayor-responds/#

 

 

The blood on our hands…

It feels like a blink in time since I wrote Moments of Silence and posted it here.  Forty-nine people dead in a senseless tragedy with what has been lauded as a terrorist attack, but more accurately was a deranged man caught in the metaphorical crossfire between his religion and being ashamed of his sexuality, throwing in a spurned romance to the mix. Instead of facing the reality of his life, he did something he hoped would erase what he saw as his uncontrollable shame. He made a quick pledge to those who would have happily condemned him knowing his secret truth, and sought out revenge on the man he couldn’t be with, the whole society he blamed for his ‘sin’ and himself. And he did it because it was easy to do. Here in the US we practically shove guns down men’s throats creating an atmosphere where a man capable of such violence, carrying a hint of that threat, is glorified and masculine.

So, fast forward to waking up yesterday morning (it wasn’t nearly long enough, but could it ever be?) and my husband texting me to look at the news, mass shooting is Las Vegas. We have no idea why this man actually put such planning into this murderous tirade. We know it could not have been a whim. It wasn’t likely a spur of the moment decision considering his prime location to terrorize a long-planned music event. All those rooms were likely booked up months ago. I want to see when he booked that suite.

He had an enormous stockpile of weapons and explosives and ammunition. So far, it looks like all the weapons and ammunition were legally purchased, though new information is continually emerging. I seriously hope the explosives were illegal, because if not, what the hell, Nevada? What no one has been able to locate, though, is a motive. The man did not just snap that day. He was prepared. He planned it. He chose the event and the location to rain fire. He had twenty-three firearms in the suite, they found nineteen more in his home. They found thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Now let’s think about this for a moment. Let us reflect on why this matters. One man bought enough weapons and ammunition for a small militia. And nobody knew a thing. He bought multiple semiautomatic weapons, and reports that he legally purchased an automatic machine gun, as crazy as that sounds. But no red flags anywhere. He bought thousands of rounds of ammunition, but no one noticed. Why?

Because no one was watching.

Because Nevada has some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. Pretty much only the federal government has weaker gun laws. Just some common sense laws would have alerted authorities to this man’s actions. Just common sense gun laws, not designed to completely disarm the public, but as basic safety precautions that any civilization hoping to live in some sense of peace absolutely must have, would have prevented this tragedy before it ever began.

These fifty-nine people did not have to die. Five hundred twenty people did not have to be injured. This was avoidable. This is our fault for not demanding better.

The NRA is a public lobbyist for gun companies. Their interest is not in your “rights” but in sales. They want to boost the sales of guns and ammunition. Once upon a time they advocated for gun responsibility and firearm safety education. Today they are pushing bigger and more powerful guns on the public like drug dealers. They have spun an advertising campaign which has duped a large swath of the population, laughing all the way to the bank. They promote scare tactics and false flags of attacks against your freedom to encourage you to buy more guns.

Guns are not exactly a perishable item. You don’t shoot it and throw it away. How many guns does a person actually need? Maybe a handgun for self-defense and a couple of different hunting rifles, depending on what kind of game you are after, and that is it.  Then what? Who sold you on that idea of a semi-automatic? What was it for? Did they appeal to any actual purpose? And what about those enormous clips? How many times have you ever needed to shoot twenty or thirty rounds in quick succession? Honestly, if it takes you that many bullets to hit a target, you are a piece of shit shot and someone needs to take you to a firing range and give you some lessons. Who told you more is better? All these weapons weren’t always legal, you know. They weren’t always readily accessible. People couldn’t always walk through towns with semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulder. We weren’t always so afraid to walk out the door that we thought we needed a loaded weapon at the ready. The world did not become more dangerous until we became more dangerous.

Who made you so afraid? Who baited you with fear? Who told you that you should be afraid and that you couldn’t trust the police to protect you? Who made you think the government was coming after you? Who told you that gun control laws don’t work and don’t matter because criminals will get guns anyway, despite the clear data that shows gun control laws are affective? Yeah, in case you haven’t realized it, that was the NRA.

Your freedom is not tied to an assault rifle, or an assault styled rifle, or a semi-automatic any more than it is tied to a suitcase of explosives. Those explosives are illegal, but those guns are capable of killing and injuring just as many people. Want proof? Well there are a lot of video clips from Sunday you can look at.

I am sick of hearing about your “rights.” You have the right to a firearm, but not to any weapon in the world. Why? Because those fifty-nine people who will never go home had rights, too, and their rights to life and liberty were far more important than you pretending the second amendment entitles you to weapons that have no other purpose than the mass killing of people. You aren’t entitled to a bazooka or anti-aircraft missiles, either. Some things are more dangerous mixed in the public than any inherent positive value they may have. And I simply can’t find a single positive reason for these weapons to be available to the public. Saying, “It’s my right,” isn’t a reason. It isn’t even true.

We failed these people, just like we failed Orlando, just like we failed Sandy Hook. We have a lot of failures under our belt. We have a lot of blood on our hands.

I offer my deepest sympathies for the victims, their families, friends, and a city recovering and in shock. But I will give no more moments of silence. I will not be quiet. I will not wait on grief to subside before I attack this beast, because the dead are not coming home. Because every day of inaction is a day lost. I am going to fight to help prevent this type of tragedy shattering any more lives. So I encourage you, don’t be silent. Be the voice which breaks the silence; be rallying cry as we charge this beast.

We are One Woman, One world.

Ann Lavendar Truong

Attack of the Zombie no-Healthcare Bill:

Seriously? Are we doing this AGAIN? That was rhetorical because, obviously, if I am here writing about it, the answer is a most depressing, “Yes.” The GOP is at it again. It is apparent they are not playing baseball because you would think after the first three strikes they would be out and the nation could move on to the next ridiculous and dangerous agenda we all have to spend our time off protesting. But no, the GOP appear undeterred by the outrage of a nation. I’d like to think they are just naively oblivious to the fact that they are throwing their own constituents under the bus because, you guessed it, this new bill affects pretty much everyone who isn’t wealthy. Every piece of repeal legislation they have introduced has gotten progressively worse… Hey! Look! They do know how to be progressive! [yes, that was sarcasm.] But no, I’m afraid they just relish in the idea that healthcare is a privilege bestowed upon those fortunate enough to have a fortune.

The new and improved anti Healthcare legislation called the Graham-Cassidy Bill (Trumpcare 4.0) combines all the worst elements of its predecessors into one American Horror story that, if passed, will be far from fiction. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 32 MILLION citizens would lose access to affordable healthcare should this atrocity pass. It eliminates protections for pre-existing conditions, de-funds planned parenthood, eliminates the Medicaid expansion, eliminates required coverage for many basic healthcare needs, allows insurance companies to raise your rates if you get sick, reinstates lifetime policy caps, and allows insurance companies to charge you more the older you get. If you don’t have an extra $150,000 a year to spend on healthcare, then you might want to skip out on getting metastatic cancer, because, yeah, we know that is choice, right?

The good news is that most of us still have our signs from the last go the GOP had at us. But I find myself asking another question. The GOP was supposedly going to work bipartisanly to fix the problems we all know do exist in the current system. Then, whoosh! Suddenly that is no longer an option and they have the most horrendous bill yet. I mean, if the nation rose up against the others, you’d think the GOP had a good idea no one wants healthcare based entirely on the size of their bank account. So why introduce something they KNOW no one will want? Something they already know will attract the worst of attention and anger the masses? Hmmm.  Could this be a GOP attempt at distraction?

With so, so, so, SO many things happening in rapid succession regarding Mueller’s investigation into Trump and Russia, could it be that the GOP is using the abolishment of reasonable access to healthcare to somehow divert our attention? Or could this be just a last ditch effort to get something they want before Trump and his entire administration is carted off in handcuffs?

There is growing potential of the election itself being challenged depending on what the investigation reveals. Would that be difficult on our country? Yes. It would. But it would be better than allowing interference, corruption, and treason to prosper. However, even if it is not challenged, Trump’s likely criminal activity is nearing extreme exposure to a scale even the GOP will not be able to ignore without condemning themselves as complicit. They will throw Trump to the wolves to save themselves, and quickly.  So, there is some merit to the argument that they just want to get anything out of the administration while it lasts.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter WHY the GOP is targeting healthcare. Whether they are distracting the public or they just like the idea of the poor and middle class dying, we still must oppose them. We still must rally together, call our senators, march, protest, write letters and carry signs. What we cannot afford, however, is tunnel vision or protest fatigue. While they seek to steal affordable healthcare from tens of millions with one hand, we must watch whatever they are trying to slip past us with the other. Watch for the slight . They may think they are great magicians, but we already know this trick. We are prepared to fight more than one battle at a time, if needs must.

Resist. Your life might depend upon it. Many lives do.

Ann Lavendar Truong

Police State

So, maybe you think BLM is anti police and that all these people calling for better training, less violent reactions, and fair treatment from law enforcement agencies are all a bunch of people who hate authority, don’t appreciate the difficult job officers do, or just want to live in lawlessness, maybe just not wanting to take responsibility for their own actions. Oh, I am sure there are a few people on the fringes who think that way. There is always the weirdo in the pack. But what BLM and other protesters are bringing to the fore is a consistent abuse of power, systemically, across the nation throughout law enforcement agencies all the way from federal to local levels. That is not fiction. It is substantiated by government assessments and studies, which I outlined in a previous blog post. (click here to check that one out).

A study done by the US Justice Department in 2000 states 84% of law enforcement officers admitted to witnessing excessive force used against citizens and abuse of power. It also states that 64% of those officers do not report the abuses they witness. It is more important to protect fellow officers than to protect the citizens who were victimized. Even though we have known this for the past seventeen years, there have been only minor gains to resolve this problem, and not as a result of the study, but due to public outcry against injustice.

Everywhere you go today, there is likely to be a camera at the ready to record every possible situation which might arise. In many places, officers are being required to wear body cameras. Social, civil rights movements, such as Black Lives Matter, have risen as a response to the injustice we have seen portrayed repeatedly in these frequent videos. While the black communities in our nation are the hardest hit by these abuses of power, they are the faces of a much larger problem: systemic abuse bordering on a police state mentality.

Yes, a society needs laws and those which help keep the laws to sustain a peaceful environment. But citizens, all citizens, in our nation, are afforded with rights and special protections are even given to the accused. No matter how guilty an officer believes a suspect to be, even if the officer witnessed the crime, the suspect is still considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Officers have zero authority by their mandate to punish anyone. Force is only acceptable under specific conditions and deadly force under the strict confines of imminent danger. Yet we have seen those boundaries blurred through testimonies of officers falsely claiming suspects were armed when they were not, or state they were resisting arrest when video footage only show the suspect attempting to protect themselves from the unlawful assault of an officer. We have seen men shot attempting to comply with an officer’s demands and the excuse, “I thought he was reaching for a gun,” used as a blanket justification for actions which could only be described as murder.

But most every one of us have witnessed a police officer, at one point or another, abuse his/her power or authority. How many people driving sports cars have had officers follow them blocks on end looking for any minor infraction to pull them over?  How many people have been pulled over and told they were speeding when they were not? How many have had officers search their vehicle under the threat of impounding their car if they do not comply, despite there being no probable cause? I personally was driving late one night and an officer followed me through town. I sneezed, which may have made me wobble in my lane a fraction -I did not cross the lines even remotely-  and the bored officer pulled me over and then forced me to perform a sobriety test. The problem? I was nine months pregnant and huge. I could not even see my feet and certainly could not place one in front of the other. He laughed while I tried to do it, even asking me to stand on one foot. I was livid, but not complying meant he would arrest me. I did make a complaint, but the person taking the complaint actually found it humorous as well and even said he was just probably having fun. Is that serving the public? That was an abuse of power since he could plainly see I was not intoxicated. Making citizens jump through hoops for their enjoyment is wrong and abusive.

But I grew up around officers and that was far from the first abuse I had seen, though not usually directed towards me. I have known them to use their system to run plates or get information on people such as ex wives/husbands or ex boyfriend/girlfriends, people they have had disagreements with, the new wife/husband of an ex and similar scenarios. I’ve known them to use their position to make demands of others for personal gains and to cover up illegal behavior and crimes committed by officers or their families. But what is the most disturbing is this sense among them that they are entitled to respect and honor and obedience.

Here is what we are actually fighting for: better education, restrictions on violence, absolute no-excuses accountability for abuse of power, better training and better psychological screening and background checks for those applying to law enforcement. The ridiculous exploitation of black communities only highlights and personifies an enormous problem. If you feel like it doesn’t impact you because you are neither black, nor any other minority, nor do you live in a neighborhood which may be affected (basically, you are white and live in a nice middle class neighborhood) then you are wrong. If you think you can’t be affected because you are always polite and respectful to the police and you follow the law, think again. When an officer feels those around him or her should comply with his or her wishes simply because they demand it, then you never know when a perfectly normal day, with you doing exactly what you are supposed to do, could lead to an entanglement with the law. Most especially when officers believe their commands should trump the actual law.

Case in point is a nifty article in the Washington Post, published September 1st highlighting a burn unit nurse doing her job precisely by the law and an officer demanding she break the law, and hospital policy which is based on the law, simply because he demanded it. When she refused his request, she was assaulted and arrested. See that story here. It is also sourced below. There is a nice video to go with it so you can see the incident for yourself.

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In short, the officer wanted to take blood from an unconscious burn patient who was not the suspect of a crime, without a warrant or probable cause to obtain a warrant and without the patient’s consent. In fact, the patient was a victim of the deadly crash resulting from a police chase. The nurse correctly refused the officer access to draw blood from the patient as he was unconscious and unable to give consent. She advised they would need a warrant to obtain a blood sample with a patient in that condition. Instead of following the law and respecting a citizen’s rights, he further demanded access and threatened the nurse would be arrested for obstructing an investigation if she did not (illegally) comply with his request. Let us not forget that she could lose her job and her nursing license for willfully violating the law and neglecting the patient’s rights.

Hmmm. Now think about that. This officer was not even put on administrative leave until after this video was made public. He was just taken off blood collection duty. Shouldn’t a police officer face at least the same repercussions for willfully violating the law and abuse of power as a nurse? This was a nice woman, a former U.S. Olympian I might add, going about her day, doing her job. She did not wake up thinking she wanted to thwart authority figures that day. She didn’t have an agenda of hating the police and wanting to see their demise. She was, in fact and by all video accounts, very professional, polite and respectful. However, she was put in a position she would not have been had the police officers not been comfortable with abusing their power and authority. The officer made it very clear he was used to getting his way in this. So he was used to being a bully and it working. That is abuse of power and an admission it was not a singular incident.

That is what this video and the subsequent failure to fire every officer involved denotes: comfort with abuse of power. When people who have some level of authority find comfort in abusing it for any reason, the system is broken and needs repair. This is what creates a fundamental distrust, and for good reason. When this is allowed to continue unchecked through any community, it is a disease which spreads outwards, eventually affecting all communities. The actions of this officer are ones which reflect a Police State, where failure to comply with their wishes, legal or not, yields punishment for them not getting their way. Citizens’ rights must be paramount. There must be a zero tolerance for this behavior at any and all levels. Officers who behave in this manner do not deserve the protection of their fellows, they deserve scorn for disgracing their mandate and undermining the integrity of what their uniform should mean. They are traitors to their brothers and sisters in blue, not comrades-in-arms.

When other officers circle the wagons and protect these traitors instead of  repudiating and ousting them, then they become complicit in those crimes and the abuses become systemic and acceptable behavior. Yes, there are more good cops than bad ones, but tell me, how good a cop can you be if you allow citizens to be abused in any way by another officer without intervening? How are you not, in some way, complicit in that abuse by allowing it to continue? How do you protect and serve your community if you place the value of abusive officers above those of the citizens you are sworn to serve and protect? How good is an officer, really, if he or she finds any level of abuse of authority acceptable?

In these last questions we find the real problem. The entire fellowship must be erased and rewritten. The most sacred part of an officer’s duty is to the citizens, not to another officer. Sure, you want to protect one another from harm in the line of duty, but when a fellow crosses the line from protecting and serving to abuse and self-interest, they are no longer a fellow. They have betrayed the citizens they swore to protect and every one of their colleagues. They are without honor and deserve the repercussions which come as a result of their actions and choices.

In short, because law enforcement is given responsibility and authority, they must be held to a higher accountability than others. We are seeing, far too often now, where officers are being given more leniency due to their position rather than the swift, apt justice they deserve. This is why there is so much distrust. This is why abuse of power is still a problem. This is why people are still dying, still being assaulted, being threatened with unlawful arrest. This is what we are fighting to change so that we all can trust our law enforcement and have faith that they are the best among us, rather than being allowed to act like thugs with badges bullying citizens to get what they want. We are fighting the Police State mentality.

Resist.

We are One Woman, One World.

Ann Lavendar Truong

 

Sources:

Washington Post Story

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