Sunday, August 17, 2014

Everyone law-abiding benefits when police wear cameras

I had an essay planned about the slaying of an unarmed Michael Brown by a Ferguson, MO police officer, the hypermilitarized repression of peaceful protesters by the Ferguson "police department," against peaceful protesters, the apparent Omerta surrounding Brown’s killer and his colleagues and the disgusting character assassination of Brown by that department. But it’s going to take a while to put that essay together and I’m not sure when I’ll have time.
Right now, we don’t know what happened. Brown is dead. The Ferguson PD has little credibility left, for reasons which extend far beyond Brown’s killing. Brown himself is not alive to give his side of the story. Brown’s killing is a great illustration of why law enforcement members should wear cameras, at least while on patrol. Then we would know what REALLY happened.
Some departments do and their use has been shown to reduce incidents of conflicts between police and citizens, presumably because both know they’re being watched and recorded.
It’s a shame that many police and sheriff departments  resist this. It offers a layer of protection to the good cops (which is most of them) and provides video evidence to help ensure anyone who assaults them is convicted. 
Unfortunately, the reputation of all cops – including the good ones – is harmed when bad cops get away with crimes. When good cops reflexively oppose accountability for bad ones, it sends a message that they feel their profession is above the law. This tarnishes them all.
Any time any Muslim anywhere in the world does something bad, every Muslim in America is expected to immediately stop what they’re doing and immediately denounce it. Anyone who doesn’t – say because they have ordinary lives to live or because they don’t feel that every Muslim acts in the name of all Islam – is automatically denounced as sympathetic to terror, guilty by association. But most Muslims in America went out of their way to denounce the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks as a perversion of Islam.
The situation in Ferguson is a pretty significant event. And it’d help their own credibility if police organizations came out in favor of the increased transparency in their own ranks that wearing cameras would bring.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to talk about suicide

In the wake of Robin Williams' death, suicide hotline interventionist Hollis Easter wrote a really important piece about how to talk to people who may have suicidal thoughts. Please take a few minutes to read it here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Four things you should never say to a non-car owner

Not owning a car is a very non-conformist decision in most of America. Here are four things you shouldn't say to someone who's made that choice.

1) "Have you ever considered getting a car? I can't imagine not having one." 
Seriously? Any licensed driver in the US has spent many years living in this car-obsessed culture whose infrastructure is designed almost exclusively for motor vehicle. They've spent years navigating an infrastructure designed to ignore pedestrians and bicyclists and is, in many places, outright hostile to them. Do you seriously think it hasn't crossed their mind? Is it possible that they do a cost-benefit analysis every so often and conclude that it just doesn't make sense to them? Oh and by the way, you're not the only person in the world. Just because you can't imagine not having a car doesn't mean others can't and don't make it happen. You don't condescend to me about having to biking in the rain once in a while and I won't say anything when you're bitching about how much you spend to fill up your gas tank. Deal?

2) "I'd love to not have a car but (insert 20 reasons why they do)." 

I say this with the deepest respect: No one cares. You don't have to explain your personal decisions to me, so long as you don't expect me to explain mine to you. You obviously feel a little guilty about it or else you wouldn't have felt the need to go out of your way to justify yourself. But unless you want the non-car owner to help you figure out how to change it, don't bother me with it. Not interested. Unless the non-car owner is a priest; then maybe he can absolve you.

3) "Oh you're finally getting a car? Congratulations!"
If a long time non-car owner who finally gets a car, there's a good chance he's doing so reluctantly. Besides, it's silly to congratulate him over something like this. It's not like it's splitting the atom.

4) "Oh you're finally getting a car? Don't do that. It's (20 reasons why it's a bad idea)."
Please see 1) and 3). If he's doing so reluctantly, this comment will make him feel like crap. And again, do you think he hasn't seriously considered the pros and cons?